Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Humanity in a Divine Organization?

I'm struggling to come to terms with the controversies going around in the Orthodox Church. I've added links to the BLOGs on the left side of this page which show both sides. Combat and words are being thrown around that make the Calvary Chapel battles of the past 13 years seem tame in comparison.

The part that scares me is the authoritarian nature of the responses of the leadership of these churches reminds me so much of the unaccountablility of the non-denominational churches of my earlier Christianity. Calls for audits are met by denials of financial wrongdoing as well as claims that it would be a waste of the Lord's money to conduct audits. Heard this story in Calvary Chapel, the Vineyard movement and now in I am hearing it again in Orthodoxy.

How do I come to terms with an organization which has such high claims of authority and at the same time such low professional standards? There are established canons which are appealed to and perhaps are being ignored.

Clergy are mass demoted from bishops to auxiliary bishops under the metropolitan. Is the metropolitan now the bishop? How does it all work out?

Seminary students are withdrawn from Orthodox seminaries days before they are supposed to start classes and told to move long distances to other seminaries. All of this is allegedly because the Metropolitan has a grudge against the seminary because there is a BLOGger they haven't shut down. I feel this personally having taken my family across the country to go to seminary. What would it have been like for me to told I needed to undo that and move to another place days before classes were to start? With a wife days from delivering a child?

Some on the BLOGs say just to wait it out. The current head is old and will someday die. They said that about Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel some 15 years ago. He's still hanging in there at 82 years of age. Still running the show.

Others say that the Antiochians are just the wrong place to be. From what I can tell they are the best place for a convert. Did I choose wrong?

I've long ago given up on a search for the "perfect church". I haven't believed in that possibility in a very long time. Is this pragmatism or am I just disillusioned?

Is this all the fall?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Lutherans, Homosexuals, Minnesota and a Calvinist Prophet

John Piper has stated in his BLOG that the tornados that struck the Twin Cities were God's judgment on the Lutheran body meeting to decide the place of homosexuals in the ordained ministry in the ELCA church. The secular press has picked up the story.

Perpetual Virginity of Mary

The claim has been made by some Orthodox that:
For about 1,600 years the entire Church affirmed the ever-virginity of Mary. The notion that she did not remain a virgin was introduced by the Anabaptists and some Calvinists long after the Reformation was an established reality.
I don't believe that is historically accurate.

The teaching that Mary was ever-virgin is, as Michael Hyatt has noted (MP3) a major sticking point for some in conversion. For me it's the biggest theological point I have remaining. I've studied it and from what I can tell it was not the uniform teaching of the Orthodox church from the beginning.

There was a diversity of opinion about this view at the time of Origen (ca 248 AD), for instance. Origen wrote about the origin of the teaching and the diversity of opinion on the matter:
The Book [the Protoevangelium] of James [records] that the brethren of Jesus were sons of Joseph by a former wife, whom he married before Mary. Now those who say so wish to preserve the honor of Mary in virginity to the end, so that body of hers which was appointed to minister to the Word . . . might not know intercourse with a man after that the Holy Spirit came into her and the power from on high overshadowed her. And I think it in harmony with reason that Jesus was the firstfruit among men of the purity which consists in [perpetual] chastity, and Mary was among women. For it were not pious to ascribe to any other than to her the first-fruit of virginity" (Commentary on Matthew 2:17 [A.D. 248]).
Tertullian taught that Mary lost her virginity in the conception of Christ. (De carn Chr. 23.) Tertullian also believed that Mary had relations with Joseph after Jesus was born (Adv Marc 4, 19 de monog. 8, de virg vel. 6.). Tertullian also believed that the brothers were actually borne by Mary.

At the time of Jerome, there were people who rejected the view. Example, "The Perpetual Virginity of Blessed Mary Against Helvidius," ca 383 AD. Helvidius maintained that the mention in the Gospels of the "sisters" and "brethren" of our Lord was proof that the Blessed Virgin had subsequent issue, and he supported his opinion by the writings of Tertullian and Victorinus.

At the time of Augustine, there were people who rejected the teaching:
Heretics called Antidicomarites are those who contradict the perpetual virginity of Mary and affirm that after Christ was born she was joined as one with her husband" (Heresies 56 [A.D. 428]).
The Antidicomarianity and the Arian Eynomius openly taught that the brothers of Jesus were borne by Mary. Basil of Caesarea did not agree, but admitted that the view was widely held and is not incompatible with orthodoxy (Hom,. in sanctam Christi gen (PG 31, 1468 f.))..

Also, it seems to me that there are two competing and contradictory claims about who the "brothers and sisters of Jesus" were. One is that they were children of Joseph from a prior marriage. Another contradictory view is that they were cousins of Jesus. Both can't be right but both claim ancient origins.

The phrase "ever-virgin" did not come into vogue until post-Nicaea.

Chrysostom pointed out Mary was a sinner (e. g. hom in Matt 44:2, in John 21:2). In fact, at that time, only in Syria was Ephraem calling her free from every sin, like her son (Carm, Nisib 28, 8).

Hilliary denounced those who denied the perpetual virginity of Mary, demonstrating that there were people who denied it at his time (Comm in Matt 1, 3 f.).

Jerome invented the theory that the brothers of Jesus were actually cousins, not his brothers.

Interestingly the heretic Pelagius (who believed in the possibility of living a sinless life) believed that Mary lived a sinless life. Augustine agreed with Pelagius, but taught that Mary was a singularity.

The Lateran synod of AD 649 was the first to stress the threefold character of Mary's virginity.

Thus, contrary to the Council of Trent, the perpetual virginity was not a concensus of the Fathers.

Evidence of prayers to Mary in the first four centuries of the church is almost non-existent (Kelly - Early Christian Doctrines, pp 491-on).

Friday, August 21, 2009

Emergent Theology and Orthodoxy

One of the podcasts on Ancient Faith Radio concerned the four (struggling for the right word here) "angles" on the church. What surprised me was the speaker dealt with not just Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox but with the Emergent Church. I had expected interaction with the other older traditions, but to hear them grappling with the meaning of the emergent (post-modern) movement was unforeseen.

On a different podcast, Metropolitan Philip of the (American) Antiochian Archdiocese was asking questions about shape of the liturgy in the future. He asked if the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom would be used by future generations or if they would have a liturgy all their own. It is interesting to see the Orthodox dealing with the questions of cultural relevance.

The Ancient Faith

A couple of things have caught my attention recently.

Ancient Faith Radio

I've spent the last couple of days listening to podcasts from Ancient Faith Radio. Some great material on there ranging from Liturgies to seminars to preaching and teaching.

Energetic Procession

A buddy of mine, Perry Robinson, has a great BLOG on Orthodox subjects, called Energetic Procession, which focuses largely on philosophy/theology. Sometimes the intricacies of the material can be hard to follow, but if you try hard you are guaranteed to learn something.

There are a lot of different subjects discussed including free will and determinism. If I had to sum up the BLOG in one short sentence the takeaway I get is "character counts". We form what we become by our choices.