Maintaining an Undefiled Conscience in the World of Distraction–Part 4

The article continues from….Maintaining an Undefiled Conscience in the World of Distraction —–Part 3

Conclusion:

Each of us should examine our life to measure whether our values, desires and actions are in conformity to the world or in conformity to Christ. Through a regular discipline of self-examination or preparation for the Holy Mystery of Confession and reception of the Eucharist, we can come to understand the subtle and blatant influences (temptations) we are subjected to in our so called secular, politically and religiously correct and relativistic society.

We can then conform our heart, mind and deeds to Christ and measure our values and actions against Christ. In the words of St. Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians we have to attain “the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting.” (Eph 4:13–14). To clearly understand this verse from the Scripture an attempt has been made in the article by mentioning and explaining the various subjects/distractions in the world like paganism, heresies, secularism and the like. In this context the virtue of discernment has to be practiced to maintain an undefilDISCERMENTeconscience in this world of distraction.

St. John Cassian from 5th Century writes:

“Discrimination [discernment] is no small virtue, but one of the most important gifts of the Holy Spirit … [it is] … nothing worldly or insignificant. It is the greatest gift of God’s grace … the ability to discriminate between spirits that enter into him and to assess them accurately.” St. John quotes St. Antony of the Desert who considers discernment the “mother of all virtues and their guardian,” and describes what is entailed in discernment: “scrutinizing all the thoughts and actions of a man, [distinguishing and setting] aside everything that is base and not pleasing to God, [and thus keeping] him free from delusion.”

Jesus told His disciples:

“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Mt 10:16).

St. Peter of Damaskos of 8th Century tells us:

“For without discrimination nothing that comes to pass is good, even if we in our ignorance think that it is. But when through discrimination we learn how it lies in our power to attain what we wish, then what we do begins to conform to God’s will.”

St. John of the Ladder of 7th Century points out:

“Among beginners, discernment is real self-knowledge … it is the spiritual capacity to distinguish unfailingly between what is truly good and what in nature is opposed to the good.”

It can be seen therefore that the practice of discernment is an active process. It does not occur automatically, but must be done in the light of Christ which can only illumine us when prayer and His presence are cultivated.

In order to see God’s Will in all we encounter, we must have put Christ at the center of our hearts. The prayers of the Church, the Holy Traditionimages9 passed on to us, the Divinely-inspired Sacred Scriptures as understood by the Holy Spirit guided Church must be the measure of all attitudes we have, all decisions we make and all deeds we do.

This is exactly to follow the teachings of Christ: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is not sound, your whole body will be full of darkness.” (Mt 6:21–23). The illumined eye leads to an illumined heart that discerns the treasure that is of God from the treasure of this world.

To withstand the pressures of the world, St. Paul told the Ephesians (6:11–12) what to do: “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against … this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness …”

The psalmist (90:1–4) outlines for us what this entails: “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, who abides in the shadow of the Almighty, will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.’ For He will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence; He will cover you with his pinions, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and buckler.” To abide in God’s fortress, to have Him as our shield, we must have a continual sense of His presence.

We should always be aware of the reality, that humanity is placed between two HUMAN PLACEbasic relationships.

  1. To the source and ground of its being.
  2. To the created world in which humanity is placed.

This is the true Christian way of understanding reality.

 

The message of Genesis in terms of man’s relationship to the source and ground of its being (God) is that all is created by God and for God; but the account of creation goes further than this: it tells us who that God is and, by extension, what man is, for man is made in His image as in Genesis 1:26. Its fundamental message is that man was made by God to worship Him, to make good use of the Image of God in man.

Connection, relationship, unity – this is an emphatically Christian way of seeing the world. Ecology is the study of connections, relationships, how an ecosystem is a unified whole. Ecological distress results when connections are broken, relationships are severed; unity is dissolved – as when an ecosystem breaks down. Spiritual distress results when a man sees no connection between his actions and their consequences; when he lives without concern for other living things, especially human beings; when he believes salvation is private and individualized, involving spirit but ignoring matter; then that man leads a life of self-absorption that inflames the passions and damages the world. However, Greek Church Father, St. Gregory Palamas from 14th Century writes, “we are responsible for the world.”

Life for the Christian is a process of forming connections, healing relationships, and restoring unity. By simple virtue of his faith, the Christian is ecological. Like his Lord, he cares about the condition of the cosmos. But that is precisely the challenge, isn’t it? To care. Sometimes, understanding helps us care. So, let’s take a look at what might be one of God’s intentions for creation and for man’s special role as steward.

From the Genesis story we learn of creation’s “very goodness,” and of man’s responsibility to maintain it accordingly. “Then the Lord God took man and put him in the Garden of Eden to tend and keep it.” Genesis 2:15. The nuance of the “tend and keep” mandate is revealed in the original Hebrew: Adam is to ‘abad’ and ‘shamar’ the land in which he is placed. Abad, often translated as “to tend” or “to dress,” implies not mere improvement, but completion, as when seeds are carefully cultivated from planting to harvest. To abad the garden is to serve the garden so that the garden may fruitfully serve man.

To shamar or “keep” the garden is to be vigilant against anything that might desecrate that which is being tended or dressed. Loving watchfulness and parental protection are implied here. For a poignant description of how ancient Israel understood the shamar principle, we may turn to another biblical text to use the word:

“The Lord bless you and shamar you; the Lord make His face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.” Numbers 6:24

So, the creation mandate of Genesis 2:15 and Aaron’s blessing in Numbers 6:24 form a striking vision of stewardship: man is to keep the land as God keeps man. That is to say, man is to bestow upon the natural world – especially his share of it – the same good measure he receives from God – blessing, favor, grace, peace. To abad and shamar the land is to undertake its dominion lovingly, thoughtfully, sacrificially. It is to honor God Who imbued creation with this reciprocity: if man is good to the land, the land will be good to man.

Now, notice a connection. As long as man is good to the land, the land will remain productive and life-giving.  Life-giving for whom?  For all who partake of its bounty. An act of goodness toward the land, then, is an act of goodness toward every man, woman, and child who live by the land’s nourishment. Want to love your neighbor? Preserve the forests that clean the air he breathes; protect the land that grows the food she eats; purify the sources that provide the water she drinks. “God is emptied,” wrote St. Maximus the Confessor, “and descends without change to the last extremities of nature.” Love for God is love for nature; love for nature is love for neighbor.

If God is love, then God is also freedom, because love is something that can only be freely given; it cannot be forced. Love, as the Church understands it, is not an instinct; it is not implanted in us by nature. We love because we choose to. Man being made for fellowship with God and his fellow human beings is summed up in biblical language as ‘in the image and likeness of God’… The image indicates freedom and reason, while the likeness indicates assimilation to God. In short: we become like God by making the right use of our freedom and reason. This is why the Church believes so strongly in free will. Without it, we are no more accountable for our actions than animals, and can never come into union with God.

If the likeness of God is something that man had to obtain through correct use of God’s image, then it means that man had to develop. He was made perfect in the sense that he was flawless and sinless, but he had yet to attain full union with God. The likeness of God was something that man was given the potential of achieving through God’s grace and providence and man’s free will together. (Things fell to pieces when man made wrong use of his freedom).

All of humanity is responsible for the state of nature – God’s creation. Resource spiritual rebirthdepletion, and environmental pollution, amid rising world population, raise with special urgency the question of concerted efforts by all nations to preserve the variety of life, the diligent use of natural resources, and the prevention of environmental disasters provoked by human activities. Ancestral sin resulted in a distortion of primordial nature. Scripture testifies to this: “the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but by the will of him who subjected it” (Rom. 8:20). Pollution and destruction of nature is a direct consequence of human sin, its visible embodiment. Various manifestations of the sinful attitude toward nature are characteristic of modern consumer society, which emphasizes the main purpose of making a profit.  The only possibility to restore the health of nature is spiritual rebirth of the individual and society, in a true Christian, ascetic, human relation to one’s own needs, curbing the passions, in consistent self-restraint.

The Church, confessing biblical teaching about the relationship between man and the created world, is ready to contribute to the understanding of philosophical bases of environmental research and environmental performance. The Church testifies to the unity of the God-created world, and offers a complete picture of human existence. 

The Church has always responded with prayer and labor for events that required interaction between man and nature, in situations in which the elements of nature could become hostile to humanity. The Church prays daily for “seasonable weather, abundance of the fruits of the earth,” and performs special prayers for people laboring on the soil, to be delivered from natural disasters and malicious animals. In terms of environmental crisis and disasters, people are in desperate need of prayer support.

The Church maintains that a person changes the world in accordance with his inner world, therefore, the transformation of nature should begin with addressing the spiritual crisis of humanity. A real alternative to consumerism is the Christian way of life. Orthodox Christianity teaches people to cultivate moderation and restraint in the necessities of life, responsibility for their actions, avoiding excesses, including the wasteful use of food, respect for the needs of others, and understanding the importance of spiritual values ​​for each person. The Church has as its Divine mission the healing of the total person, and not only in a temporal sense. Healing ultimately leads to theosis, the sanctification of the entire person.

Clergy and laity are called to active efforts to protect the environment. This activity should first be directed to evidence that only restraint, respect for others, and responsibility for each person, based on consciously obeying commandments of God, will enable humanity to overcome environmental problems. Along with this The Church is a hospital for the healing of our infirmities and diseases. The model for the synergy of spiritual and physical healing is traced back to Christ Who is the physician of our souls and bodies, the Holy Evangelist Luke, and the physician saints of the Church, and also to mention two great Church Fathers: St. Basil of Caesarea (370–379) who was trained in medicine and was reported to have worked with the monks in ministering to the ill and infirm and St. John Chrysostom, patriarch of Constantinople (390), who used the wealth of the Church to open hospitals and other philanthropic institutions. This perspective provides the rationale for employing psychological science in understanding and healing the spiritual ‘cancer’ of secularism in the 21st century. However, the spiritual fathers did not make use of the developed terms and concepts uncovered in modern, medical-psychological scientific definitions of healing in their writings.

The need is increasingly urgent for the Christian to recover the Gospel’s cosmic vision in his heart and hand; he cannot be an integrated Christian without it. Christianity is a Faith rich in symbols. The liturgy in an Orthodox Church is not merely text but an action, to be precise ‘corporate action’. This is to say, in Orthodox Christian viewpoint of liturgical worship is the corporate worshipping action of the entire creation, i.e. in the liturgical worship the whole creation is a part. Actions, gestures and symbols too are parts of the liturgy. The symbols signify the presence of elements of eco-spirituality in the worship. The symbols and rituals used in liturgy guide us from the conceptual level to the level of personal experience. Symbols imbibe a divine reality which is beyond comprehension of the senses. During this mysterious process, the symbol and the reality merge into an inseparable single whole. The transformation of bread and wine offered through the celebration of the Holy Eucharist illustrates this mysterious identification.

The community or we as Christians that perform this act of love has three dimensions.

Firstly the liturgy (Holy Eucharist) is not a form of words but an action of the whole body of Christ that is the whole Church (where each local church is the whole church in its local manifestation) in heaven and earth— in all time and space. The commemoration of the departed and of the saints of the Church is not an optional matter in the Eucharist. It is they with us and us with them that lift up the offering, and we have to be aware of each other in the body of Christ.

Secondly the Eucharist is fundamentally a response of love and gratitude, not a means of getting something free called the grace of God. It is the response of the Creation to its Creator. It is an expression of gratitude on the part of the creation both for having brought it into being from non-being and for redeeming it in Christ, when it had moved away from being to non-being again by its own willful choice. The Eucharist is offered on behalf of all mankind, and not just Christians. Even those who are not united to Christ by faith and baptism are linked to Him by the fact of the Incarnation. It is human nature that Christ assumed and not Christian nature. The whole humanity is now linked to the Incarnate Christ, whether they recognize it or not. True, there are fundamental distinctions to be made between the relationship of Christians to Christ through faith and baptism and of all mankind to Christ. But both relationships exist, and we as Christians and human beings share in both. Our fundamental solidarity with all mankind has to find expression in the liturgy, particularly in the prayers of intercession and in the offertory prayer.

Thirdly the whole Church, the whole Mankind and the whole Creation—the three realms in which we as created Christian human beings participate, have all three to be lifted up to God in the Eucharist, along with Christ’s self-offering on the Cross. This third aspect has become doubly important in our time when the environment crisis has begun to explode. It is the fruit of the earth, wheat and wine that we offer up to God. With the elements, the whole of material and organic creation is lifted up to God. Man, Christian humanity in Christ, thus becomes the spokesman, the utterance—giver, the high priest of Creation as a whole (The Church in Christ offers the Eucharist as the mouth-piece and High Priest of the Creation).

The Eucharist is the response of the creation to her Lord. Mankind and the Church are units within the creation where the Creation has developed greater consciousness and deeper awareness. When we offer ourselves (the whole mankind and the whole creation), God again gives Himself to us in that continuing act of love called the Communion. His Body and Blood, God’s own body becomes united with us and through us with the whole mankind and creation.

HTOC_Mural

And so, it is above all at the Divine Liturgy that we truly fulfill our calling as ‘sacramental beings’. The Church calls for the grace of the Holy Spirit not only for humanity, but also for the whole world around us. The Holy Spirit cleanses, sanctifies, removes barriers and makes the love-offering possible. The Divine Eucharist sanctifies the created cosmos.

Clearly, this sacramental vision does not confuse the Creator with His creation – that distinction (between the Uncreated God and the Created world) is firmly in place. St Paul, in the first chapter of Romans, speaks for our Tradition when he cautions those who would “worship and serve the creature more than the Creator.” We are not idolaters, but neither are we dualists. No fundamental antagonism exists between spirit and matter, for both were assumed and both are saved by our Incarnate Lord. The Christian worships a God Who is utterly transcendent and presently immanent, and Who has filled His creation with astonishing lessons about Himself – if we just cared enough to look for them.

St. Paul writes in the same chapter, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.” Rom 1:20….We therefore conclude the article by the Word of God considering St. Paul’s caution directed towards each one of us through his letter to the Romans.

The same verse is quoted by St. Basil in his homily 6, an extract which we have taken as the prime subject to this article ….. As quoted below

“You will finally discover that the world was not conceived by chance and without reason, but for an useful end and for the great advantage of all beings, since it is really the school where reasonable souls exercise themselves, the training ground where they learn to know God; since by the sight of visible and sensible things the mind is led, as by a hand, to the contemplation of invisible things.  “For,” as the Apostle says, “the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made.” 

ROMANSRomans Chapter 1:18-32 speaks about the wickedness of the Nations and God’s wrath on the Unrighteous.

St. Paul addresses Judaism by proclaiming the universality of salvation for both the Greeks as well as the Jews. He does not start by exposing the evils and failings of the Jews. On the contrary, he openly and clearly speaks about the wickedness of the Gentiles. This serves as a lead into his criticism of the Jews as well. In this manner, he could condemn and answer all their claims and excuses without being accused of bias. He had been blamed as they accused him saying: “…that you teach all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs”, (Acts 21:21). This is what drove the Apostle to start by revealing the evils of the Gentiles and their responsibilities. His intention was not to despise or degrade them, but to open the door and attract converted Jews to accept the Gentiles with them as equals and members in the One Body. Therefore he proclaims that the Gentiles were prisoners to natural (physical) law (refer (Romans 2: 14-15)), and the Jews prisoners to the Law of Moses. Consequently, they all were in need of Divine intervention: they all needed to become righteous through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ who is the Savior of all mankind. This could neither be achieved through natural law nor through the Law of Moses.

In his discourse about the wickedness of the Gentiles who embraced natural law, the Apostle underlines the following: 

First: While God had entrusted the Jews with the Law of Moses, He did not neglect the Gentiles or leave them with no one to witness for Him. He had revealed Himself to them through the visible nature. St Paul explains: “For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse”, (v 20).

God has not left Himself without a witness, for ‘The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork’, (Ps 19:1). He declares His eternal power and divinity through His sublime acts of creation which He has established by His word. He did so not to display His power but to reveal the depths of His love towards us. Indeed, God’s sublime and invisible love is experienced by us through His amazing care for He has offered all this creation to cater for our well-being.

While St. Paul blames mankind for ‘suppressing the truth in unrighteousness’ images 12(v18), and for going to great lengths to invent various wicked means to suppress ‘the truth’, he indicates they do not proclaim it. God, however, proclaims His ‘love’ to us in various ways through His blessed creation which is formed by His own hands. Mankind struggles to the point of death in order to suppress the truth, whereas God is sacrificed to proclaim His eternal love! 

Augustine interprets this apostolic statement as an indication that God offers us this world as a gift for our own benefit but not for the indulgence of our desires. Through His creation, we need to see His invisible deeds, and grasp the spiritual and heavenly matters through things which are material and temporal.  

St. Ambrose comments on the words ‘his eternal power’ as follows: [Since the Lord Jesus Christ is God’s eternal power, then the Lord is Eternal].

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness. (Rom 1:18). The truth that the unrighteous suppress are the truth about God’s character (v 19-20), which they distort by idolatry (v 23).

images2In the Part 1 to 3 of this article we have looked at the various ways (like paganism, heresy, secularism etc) by which the truth about God’s character in today’s world is suppressed and how important it is that we learn to discern what is good. However, those who repent and turn to Him hear His divine voice saying: “Come, my people, enter your closets and shut your door; hide yourself for a very short while, until the anger of the Lord is past. For behold, the Lord is bringing wrath from His holy place upon the inhabitants of the earth, and the earth will uncover its blood and will not cover it’s slain,” (Is 26:20, 21). What are the chambers that are entered and which lead to the secret life with the Lord Jesus Christ? Where is this place where we can hide from His wrath and become the object of the Father’s pleasure? Concerning the words of Isaiah: “…the Lord cometh out of his place to punish…” they indicate that God wishes to remain in His place and proclaim His love and mercy but the insistence of the earth’s inhabitants to sin obligates Him to inflict punishment!

Let us look at the example of Noah. In Genesis Chapter 6:9 we read “….Noah was a righteous man, who was perfect in his generation and well-pleasing to God.” Noah’s righteous living was well-pleasing to God. Why was he well pleasing to God? Further in Chapter 6:22 we read “Thus Noah did according to all the Lord God commanded him, so he did”. Thus we see Noah was perfect through the grace of the Holy Spirit, he obeyed everything God told him to do.

What happened to the unrighteous during his time?

noahFrom Genesis Chapter 6:11-13 we understand the earth was corrupt before God and filled with unrighteousness(v.11) because of man’s willful refusal to become righteous through the grace of the Holy Spirit. (v. 12 “…..corrupted their way on the earth”). The unrighteousness was their own fault (“…through them” (v.13)), for they had every                                                                                                     opportunity to come to repentance.

In Genesis 7:1 “The Lord said to Noah “Enter the ark, you and all your family because I have seen you righteous before Me in this generation.” The Lord God made Noah righteous through faith, by which he pleased God (Hebrew 11:6, 7). Through the grace of the Holy Spirit he obeyed everything God commanded him to do. So he and his family entered the ark, which typified salvation.

From Genesis 7:2-15 we see Noah’s faith saved also the animals. The whole creation will be saved through the children of God (Rom 8:18-22).

Then in 7:16 “Then the Lord God shut him in the ark.” And in 7:23 “He blotted out all living things…” By connecting to what was said earlier in this article in Isaiah 26:20, 21 “Come, my people, enter your closets and shut your door; hide yourself for a very short while, until the anger of the Lord is past. For behold, the Lord is bringing wrath from His holy place upon the inhabitants of the earth” we note here that after the righteous Noah shut himself inside the door, The Lord God brought his wrath in the form of rain on all the livings things and destroyed all the unrighteous. Therefore we get to learn from the example of Noah, how important the virtue of discernment is….It was Noah’s discernment that helped him to be righteous and well pleasing to God. He chose to stay away from the unrighteous. Noah’s righteousness and well-pleasing life became the object of father’s pleasure and Noah entered the chamber to lead a secret life with Christ.

In another example from Exodus Chapter 12:22, 23“Then you shall take a bunch of passoverhyssop, dip it in the blood in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood in the basin. But none of you shall go out from the door of his house until morning. For the Lord will pass through to strike the Egyptians; and when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass by the door and not allow the destroyer to come to your houses to strike you. ” In v.27, This is the Paschal sacrifice of the Lord…, which saves us even today through the Holy Qurbana (Eucharist). In the Eucharist, his body and blood saves us from death. We are marked by the blood of Christ through the Holy Eucharist; the same way the Israelites were saved through the blood marked on the lintel and doorposts. Here also as in the example of Noah after the command of the Lord to shut the door of the house we see in (v. 29) At midnight the Lord struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt…(v.30) there was a great cry in all the land of Egypt. The wrath of the Lord arose a great cry throughout Egypt. Similar comparison is made here to that of Isaiah Chapter 26:20… hide yourself for a very short while. In case of Noah the short while was for 40 days and 40 nights and in case of Israelites it was until morning.

These examples from the Bible serve as an eye opener to each one of us, to practice the virtue of discernment by keeping ourselves shut inside the doors of righteousness and not allowing ourselves to fall into the distractions as mentioned under various subjects in this article and guarding ourselves from the wrath of God during these end times.

But you when you pray, enter into your closet. And when you have shut the door, pray to your Father in secret, and your Father who sees you in secret shall reward you openly” (Matthew 6:6)

quoteOur Lord Jesus is telling us to find our innermost secret room where we may learn how to pray. Our first problem is to find such a closet where we can be all alone with God. Even if it were soundproof room, clear of all material distractions other than perhaps a simple table and chair, we no sooner sit down and compose ourselves, then a dozen memories invade our minds; and we realize that our inner closet is filled with more clutter than a busy street market. Recall our Lord Jesus Himself, who made the whole barren wilderness a closet, only to be attacked by Satan. However, nothing is hopeless. With God all things are possible, even inner serenity. Besides, we have the instructions of the spiritual ascetics to help and guide us. The monks and nuns almost always begin with the above scriptural verse about the inner closet.

Personal prayer must be in secret. In the spiritual tradition of the Church, Christ’s words “go into your room” have been interpreted both, literally, and also to mean that the praying person must enter within himself, a unification of the mind and the heart, within the soul. It can be the totally silent inner attitude of the soul before God, the fulfillment of the words of the psalmist: ‘’Commune with your hearts… and be silent (Ps.4:4). Be still, and know that I am God (Ps 46:10).’’ Christ also says, “Kingdom of heaven is within you” Luke 17:21

Finally what happens when we have the remembrance of God (prayer) always in our lost coinheart (closed room)? In Luke 15: 8-10, we see the woman (who is Christ himself – portrayed as women because Church is Bride of Christ) searching for the lost silver coin with the burning candle (which is Christ’s sacrifice for Human race), cleaning the dirt (influence of the world/devil) away from floor, so that the silver coin is found… So from God’s side there is always this effort of reaching out to us by cleaning off the dirt, but we need to become like a silver coin… And to become a sliver coin, there is a process, and this process goes like this…

Scraps of silver goes into a casting furnace which is heated up to 2100 deg Fahrenheit, where due to high temperature the scraps of silver get transformed into a molten state… coin1then the molten metal is casted into a continuous bar, then this continuous bar is cut into small bars. These small bars then go into rollers, which apply up to 9 tons of pressure to make the bars into a flat shape, then it goes under various rollers to give it the right thickness needed for the coin. After this, this flat metal sheet goes into the cutting machine, where it is cut into the exact shape of the coin. Next stop for the cut blanks are the rimming machines, where the rims of the blanks get softened. Then the blanks go to a tub filled with water, cleaning solutions and steel beads. The beads act as a polishing agent, smoothening the blanks. After the water is drained out, blanks are collected and then dried. Now the metal blanks becomes brittle and may break with a strike, so the blanks go through annealing furnace at various stages, where through fire it is hardened to the required hardness. Then the coins are made one at a time at the coin press, there are two dyes per coin, one for each side, positioned above and below the blank, they strike simultaneously, not once but twice to create a high quality impression.   

And the above process to become a silver coin is the true Orthodox Christian Life, going through the tribulations and hardships of this world to be melted down, to be pressed down to a flat sheet, to be cut into shapes… The pressure of the rollers will be on us when we fix our eyes on Christ and use discernment and vigil to cut ourselves from the world. But there is also the annealing process throughout whenever the blanks become weak, so is the church through its sacraments and word of God giving us the needed strength. And finally there is the coin press which presses into the coin the image, here the image is that of Christ, the original image in which man was created, where there is possibility for each man to become like Christ, truly human and divine, hence two dyes for two sides of the coin…

When we become like the silver coin, shining in the image and likeness of God, with a pure heart, we see God. This is what great prophet Moses experienced in Exodus 33: 20 “But He said, “You cannot see My face; for no man can see My face and live.” Moreover, the Lord said, “Here is a place by Me: you shall stand on the rock, so it shall be, while My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by. Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen.”   

This is what happens when we live our life in Christ based on the True Faith, our hearts in prayer, in that stillness we encounter God. This is the fulfillment of promise, Matt 5:8, ‘Blessed are the pure at heart, for they shall see God’. And to make our Hearts clean we need to practice discernment, and become like a Silver coin, this is the key the Orthodox way of life…

Second: The Gentiles could not be saved in spite of what had been revealed to them through both the tangible nature and the recorded law. On the contrary, they adopted a resistant attitude which was evident in the following manner:

(a) Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things, (v 21- 23).

According to St. John Chrysostom, this accusation is a far more serious one than the previous one. The matter did not end with their rejection of God who had revealed His love and power through all His wonderful creation; for when they got to know Him, they neither glorified nor thanked Him. Moreover, they substituted the worship of the living God by the worship of idols. God speaks through Jeremiah and says: “For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water,” (Jer 2:13). The reason for their corruption is their dependence on their on human wisdom and their rejection of God’s assistance. Therefore, “professing themselves to be wise, they became fools…” According to St. John Chrysostom, they became like mariners navigating in unknown waters. Consequently, their boat ran into hard rocks and got destroyed. This was the result of their attempt to reach up and attain the heavens after having turned off the light within them; and of depending on the darkness of their own thoughts. 

Augustine considers that the reason for their fall was their ingratitude and insensitivity. He remarks that: [Due to their insensitivity, they became stupid. God withdraws from the ungrateful that which He grants freely (i.e. wisdom)]. He also notes that: [They learned how they should live, but they praised themselves for the insight that God had granted them. Having fallen into the sin of pride, they lost their vision and relapsed into the worship of idols, statues, and devils. They worshipped things created and abhorred the Creator].

Augustine indicates that those who had claimed to be wise and had fallen into the corrupt worship were the Romans, Greeks, and Egyptians. These had glorified themselves under the claim of wisdom.

(b) Because they had abandoned God who reveals Himself in nature, God abandoned them as well. This is what the Apostle conveys in his words: ‘Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves’ (v 24). They abandoned Him by their own free will, for God acknowledges man’s free will and honors it. Therefore He granted them their heart’s desire and relinquished them. In this manner, they indulged in their evil lusts as men and women committed atrocities that were unacceptable even by the law of nature, (v 26, 27).  

St. John Cassian considers that when a person becomes proud- even though he could be physically pure- God abandons him. As a result, he engages in physical lust that he perceives to be wrong. In this manner, he is enabled to realize the hidden pride which he could not formerly perceive.

That is why we see many youths submitting to physical lusts in spite of their regular observance of spiritual means of salvation, such as Bible study, prayers, confession, and communion…however, the main weakness and reason for sinning is the pride which governs their hearts. Pride strips a person of God’s grace which grants sanctification. Consequently, a person surrenders under the weight of the lusts and corruption of the flesh.

St. Befnotious explains that we ourselves cause this corruption and that is why God allows this kind of sinfulness. It is due to our own pride or our negligence, and he goes on to say: ‘We need to know that everything that happens occurs either by God’s will or by His permission. Everything that is good occurs by His will and protection. Everything that is contrary to that occurs by His permission ,and when God no longer protects as He abandons us due to our sins, or due to the hardness of our hearts, or due to our submission to Satan and submitting to shameful physical lusts which we allow to dominate us. The Apostle instructs us about that and confirms it in his words: ‘…for this cause God gave them up unto vile affections’ (v 25); and ‘even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting’, (v 28).

God speaks through His prophet David saying: ‘But my people did not hear My voice; and Israel would pay no attention to Me. And I sent them away because of the desires in their hearts; They shall walk in their ways of living’ (Ps 81:12 -13).

Fr. Hanna states: [‘The fairness of God’s wisdom is evident as He grants good talents to the humble, and these are withheld from the proud who are rejected and of whom the Apostle says that: ‘God gave them over to a debased mind…’ (v 28)].

This is how man, in his wickedness, chooses corruption. Therefore corruption inhabits him, and not God ‘ who is blessed forever. Amen’, (v 25). It is evident that what man practices just backlashes on him and is not inflicted by God. St. John Chrysostom accordingly says: ‘ [Just as a philosopher is unaffected by humiliating remarks of ignorant people; so- and to a greater extent- God’s unsurpassed and unquestionable glory is untouched by the arrogance of men]. 

St. John Chrysostom stops here for a moment to ask us to imitate God who tolerates the wicked and is unaffected by their evil. His nature is too sublime to be affected by them. Similarly, as we imitate Him, we are enabled to tolerate the evil of the wicked. He states: [It is appropriate for us not to attempt to flee from humiliation. Conversely, we need to tolerate the wicked, for such long suffering is an honor in itself. Why? Because it is in your power to tolerate whereas correcting others is another person’s task. Do you hear the echo of the pounding hammer as it falls on a diamond? You might say that this is the nature of diamonds. Correct. And it is within you to practice what the diamond intrinsically possesses. Have you not heard how the three youths were unharmed? And how Daniel remained safely inside the lion’s den? What happened to these can possibly happen to us for we are surrounded by lions. Lust and anger are ready to tear up those who fall victim to them. Therefore be like Daniel and remain steadfast. Do not allow reactions to tear, with their fingernails, your soul. You might think: This is the effect of grace. True, but grace springs from training the will. When we are ready to train ourselves following the model of these men, grace will flow within us. Consequently, savage beasts will humbly crawl before us in spite of their hunger. If beasts have retreated before slaves, shall they not retreat before the members of the Body of the Lord Jesus Christ (i.e. before us)?!].

(c) Some might find an excuse for their wickedness by claiming that it is the fruit of the weakness of human nature and of humans in the uncontrolled pursuit of pleasures. That is why the Apostle indicates that it is man’s wickedness that drives him to practice matters that are contrary to nature. People damage their original human nature, and this transforms their lives into torture. According to St Paul: ‘For this reason God gave them up unto vile passions: for even their women ex-changed the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one another; men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due’, (v 26, 27).

Homosexual behavior, men with men, is a vile rejection of God’s order of creation. These passions are against nature and therefore spiritually devastating. Error in above verse means ‘delusion’.  St. John Chrysostom states: St Paul speaks on behalf of the world and states that mankind could enjoy the pleasures of their nature with confidence and heartfelt joy while avoiding shameful acts. However, they do not have the determination to do so…for they humiliate Nature herself…they bring shame to Nature and trample human laws at the same time.

St. John Chrysostom finds that man has turned his life into an internal fight and unbearable torture. He explains that while God has granted men and women to be naturally inclined to marry and become one flesh, and to live in harmony as they share love and intimacy; both sexes have humiliated themselves and each has entered into an inner war. The women have sought each other and the men have acted in the same manner. As a result, human life has been transformed into heated disputes and unending inner wrangling. These conflicts do not solely arise between a man and his wife, but they also occur between same sex individuals- whether they are men or women. Consequently, they have deserved to receive ‘in themselves the penalty of their error’, (v 27). Many holy fathers have underlined that sin carries corruption within it, and ultimately pours it out on the doer. Consequently, that person bears the penalty, not only outwardly in the form of a judgment issued against him, but also inwardly as he commits that sin itself.

(d) First, St Paul presents a horrendous picture of mankind’s submission to wickedness. He reveals how men do not seek the pleasures they have been naturally granted. They have corrupted nature rather than uplifting it. Instead of progressing in the spirit to elevate his animal instincts, and so sanctify his body and instincts to the Lord; man has become an evil and destroyer of nature. He commits what beasts do not do through abnormal physical relationships which occur either between two or more women or between two or more men. Next, St Paul presents a bitter list of trespasses committed by fallen mankind. St John Chrysostom notes that the Apostle uses the following expressions in his list: ‘filled’, ‘with all’, ‘burned in their lust’. It is as though these evils are no longer temporary matters in a man’s life, but they flood his inner being and charge him fully so that he performs ‘all unrighteousness’ and not just one or two evils!

(e) The amazing thing is that sin and corruption destroy man’s inner peace and joy, yet they drive the doer to pride and arrogance. That is why the list describes them in this manner: [backbiters, haters of God, violent, boasters…v 30]. St John Chrysostom comments that [ pride coupled with sin is a great falling…a person who does a good act but is guilty of pride loses his reward, so how much greater would the sin be of someone who adds to his evil deeds the sin of pride? Indeed such a person would be unable to practice repentance].

(f) When we contemplate this list of sins and evils, we feel that humanity has subjugated itself willingly to rebellion and resistance to God who is the source of life and its sanctity. Every sin engages a person so that it delivers him into other sins, and this continues so that he becomes the laughing stock of all sins and evils. We could summarize here the order of this list in the following manner:  

* A person begins to indulge in physical pleasure so he/she surrenders to adultery (v. 29).

* As that person encloses himself within his physical pleasure, he seeks his own satisfaction though outwardly seeming to be generous and lavish. Yet he is ruled by greed and that drives him also to devious ways in order to satisfy such lusts, (v. 29).

* Greed leads to envy, separation, and slyness. These could lead to murder, (v. 29).

* This envy and slyness drive a person to conceit and haughtiness, (v.30).

* The lust for greatness leads a person to inventions and departure from truthfulness, (v.30).

* The rejection of truth drives a person to infringe on nature and to disobey his parents, (v.30).

* By violating even the simplest codes of nature, man loses his discernment (v.31), and breaks all covenants-natural or written. This ultimately leads to the loss of his natural tendency to love and to be tender (v.31). Consequently, man is guilty of a fall to which the Lord has alluded: “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold”, (Matt 24:12). Finally, men become worse than savage beasts who come together as gangs. Whereas beasts are controlled by their instincts, men are driven by their hatred towards their brothers. 

(g) This descent and fall of mankind into the lowest natural state has produced hardened hearts. Men have not only befriended wickedness, they have become supportive of those who fall like them. The Apostle states: “Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them”, (v.32).

In general, note that this Epistle speaks about the Gentiles. He therefore proclaims the role of natural law which is the Law of God (Jeremiah 31:33,”I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts”.) Therefore the Apostle states: ‘For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law …’ (2:14). 

In this chapter, St Paul speaks about nations who have broken the Law of nature and describes them as those who ‘do those things which are not fitting’ (:28). Examples of their deeds include women who ‘exchanged the natural use for what is against nature…’ (1: 26). 

Similarly the example of paganism in the article (Part-1) can be related to Romans 1:21-23…. Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things.

“The difficulties which educated men of our time experience in both public and private worship point to a deep intellectual and spiritual crisis in the total development of man. The issue goes deeper than the question of language and forms. The reality of God  is no longer obvious or sure to many. The self-evident God which many cultures too easily assumed as a projection of highest values has begun to disappear and even among the baptized, thinkers have started either to deny God altogether  alleging that he is dead, or to interpret the meaning of Gospel purely and entirely in “secular terms without any reference to the transcendent, The difficulty of worship in our time is thus the difficulty of apprehending God-which has never been easy or normal. When both faith and worship become unduly or mainly intellectual and conceptual, as happened in our time of unprecedented advancement in scientific thinking and technological practice, then new intellectual problems crop up in both faith and worship”- Dr. Paulose Mar Gregorios, from his book Worship in a secular Age.  ” When both faith and worship become unduly or mainly intellectual and conceptual, as happened in our time of unprecedented advancement in scientific thinking and technological practice, then new intellectual problems crop up in both faith and worship”… These sentences by Paulose Mar Gregorios Thirumeni highlights the example of going against natural law thus giving rise to secularism, pluralism and the like.

Therefore a Christian is required to obey the Law of Nature. Moreover, not only is he required to fulfill the Law of Moses; but he also needs to progress in order to fulfill the golden rulesublime gospel commandment. Mathew 7:12 “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the law and the Prophets”. This is the “Golden Rule”(also refer Luke 6:31). The “Golden Rule” fulfills the demands of the Law and the Prophets and is the practical application of the commandment of love one’s neighbor as oneself. St. Cyril the great remarks on this statement (“The Golden Rule”) saying “It was probable these sanctified apostles would think they did not have the ability in carrying out these commandments from mere thoughts to a practical life. Christ knew their thoughts, and He relied on the instinct of loving of one-self as a judgment among people together. He thus commanded each one to do to others what he would like them to do to him. For if we would like others to deal with us mercifully and compassionately ,then we too, have to deal with them the same way. Jeremiah prophesied previously that a time will come when believers will no longer be in need of written commandments, because this doctrine will be engraved on the hearts; for it has been said (Jer.31:33) “I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts.”

Thus God has charged His whole creation with His glory. He has endowed each human being with the privilege to tend and keep it. The Christian, who grows in theosis, in ceaseless motion toward the very likeness of God, will increasingly become a healing instrument of the Holy Spirit.

 

Maintaining an Undefiled Conscience in the World of Distraction —–Part 3

……article continues from Maintaining an Undefiled Conscience in the World of Distraction—Part 2

Secularization and Secularism

Within Orthodox Christianity, the faith is generally “encultured.” It does not exist apart from the culture, but within the culture – transforming, shaping and secularismmaking the faith of Christ incarnate in the world. Christianity first expressed this model in the context of first-century Judaism.  The disciples in Jerusalem met together on Solomon’s Porch. Small asides in St. Paul’s writings and in the book of Acts, show that despite dropping the requirement for circumcision, early Christians continued to observe many Jewish practices (St. Paul, for example took a Nazarite vow for a time Acts 18:18). The same can be said for the Church’s encounter with the broad culture of Hellenism. The Hellenistic language of Platonism provided the vocabulary (though the meanings were altered) for most of the theological expressions of the great doctrines. The vestments of the Church, and some sense of its ceremonies, clearly reflect both the Church’s roots in Judaism as well as the life of the Roman royal court [i].

This is not only how things should be, it is utterly inevitable. Our faith is not lived on a planet or world apart from the one on which we live. The language of the culture, the deeper, and unspoken ethos of the world in which we live, will find its way into the life of the Church. Normatively, the inner life of the Church finds its way into the greater culture as well. This is probably the true meaning of symphonia, the theory often used to describe the relationship between Emperor and Church (not all cultures have emperors).

The modern world presents new challenges to this model. The secular construct of the world, the hallmark of the modern age, offers perhaps the most cogent and pervasive alternative to traditional Christianity since the Hellenistic period. More complicated still, is the fact that this construct is itself a product of certain expressions of Christianity, and thus has something of an acquired immunity to classical Christianity. In the modern world, Orthodox Christianity encounters the secularized God, the secularized Church and the secularized sacraments. The tragic results can occasionally be a secularized Orthodoxy. What does this mean?

Before looking into the fact that how this secular worldview has influenced the perspective of an orthodox Christian individual or the church as a whole let us look into the fact as to how this ideology has crept into this world system.

The word “Secular”[ii] as an adjective qualifying our time connotes the presence in our age both of secularization as an accelerated process, and of secularism as a complex of assumptions.

Secularization as an English word goes back to 1706 at least, while the adjective Secular was already current in English before 1350(Seculer in Old French). Both are derived from Latin saeculum and Saecularis, the age, the world, pertaining to the world or to the age.

Secularization should be understood in its double aspect- the intellectual and the institutional.

The acceleration of the process of intellectual secularization in the west begins with the view developed by Duns Scotus and Ockham[iii] positing radical discontinuity between faith and knowledge, between revelation and reason. Others developed the line of demarcation further. While for Scotus and Ockham the emphasis was on reason[iv], for Luther it was on Revelation[v]. The cleavage grew wider in the Italian Renaissance, and the search of reason for complete freedom from revelation received further impetus from Descartes[vi], Hobbes, Spinoza and Leibniz, in their attempts to construct a rational picture of the universe based on empirical data alone[vii].

The European process of secularization has two-fold aspect- the liberation of human thought from religious presuppositions, and the liberation of human institutions from ecclesiastical control. The nature and function of the State, for example, began to be thought of in autonomous, independent, immanent terms rather than in terms of a transcendent order subsidiary to the saving purpose of God through the Church. In political terms this meant liberation from papal control, and thus national “sovereignty”.

In the English language, when the word was first used (as far as we know) in 1706, it meant “the conversion of an ecclesiastical or religious institution or its property to secular possession and use” (Shorter Oxford English Dictionary). In French and German also the word was used at this time in much the same sense, when monasteries and church lands were placed under non-ecclesiastical possession and control. In 1789, the French National Assembly placed all church properties at the disposal of the nation, and in the French language the word secularization was more or less synonyms with laicization.

In the European Enlightenment, secularization came to stand for emancipation from the overruling power of God Himself, who was till then assumed generally to have full control of everything in the universe. Enlightened European man “came of age” and accepted responsibility for running the world. In a sense this was a lay revolt against clerical domination, and the denial of the existence of God was often an effective weapon against the influence of the priest. The denial of the “other world” was only a prelude to the denial of the God who inhabited that “other world”.

The emphasis on this world led men like Fontonelle, Montesquieu, Helvetius (enlightenment philosophers) to rule out all idealism and metaphysics and deal only with the immediately experienced and the directly tangible.

The current picture of secularization in our age is quite complex, the word itself being used with a wide spectrum of meaning by different groups.

We shall mention only three groups:

(1) Those who substitute for the norm of revelation some form of normal law, usually received from stoicism- these are philosophers of secularization.

(2) those who commit themselves, without an acknowledged transcendent authority, to the ideal of using our best human efforts to achieve maximum of social justice and human welfare in this world- these may be called the prophets of secularization- and

(3) Those who seek to be as open as possible in their understanding of this world and in choosing the immediate goals to be achieved in this world by man and society. These may be named the pragmatists of secularization.

Secularism as an English word goes back to 1846, when it meant a morality based solely on the welfare of men in this world. In 1863 it came to mean taking a stand for an education which excluded religious subjects. In our time it is often used to refer to a complex of assumptions which deny all reference to any reality that is “beyond” the world of our experience. The distinction between secularization as a process and secularism as a complex of assumptions should not be pressed too far, but is discussed here mainly to distinguish between two aspects of the same secular movement of thought and action.

An Orthodox Christian’s secular worldview[viii] is one that does not deny the existence of God, but distances Him from the everyday world. Human beings are seen strictly in individualized terms, communities only existing through the sharing of ideas and practices. Religious groups can exist in abundance in such a setting, but largely as expressions of individual choices. The world (and culture) is understood to be religiously “neutral” territory – places in which the presence of religious concerns is inherently unnatural. God is a preference, a choice, but never truly integral to daily life.

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In secular cultures, Orthodoxy becomes a choice: “I am Orthodox because I like it.” This sounds perfectly normal (why else would someone be Orthodox?), but it is a subtle shift within the mind and heart of a believer. The kinds of cereal we eat in the morning, the kind of beverage we drink in the evening, are equally choices – products of our preferences. In the modern secular world, particularly in its current dominant form of consumer secularism, the believer consumes his religious preference. His God, his community, his set of practices, are subtly diminished to the set of consumer decisions. The result is often a lifestyle that is largely indistinguishable from that of other consumers. The pressure of Church on the culture of believers is rebuffed: the culture wins. It often means an Orthodoxy that is similar to surrounding secularized groups. Church attendance becomes sporadic, limited to Sunday mornings, prayers in the home diminished (if present at all), and the liturgical rhythm of the year reduced to Sundays, Christmas, Lent.

imagesCAH8VUNZThese observations are not made in order to criticize or judge. They are made in order to describe the outlines of the modern cultural challenge. The nature of all cultures is marked by their unconscious nature. If you live in a culture and are part of it, you don’t have to think in order to be at home. An unconscious Orthodoxy, in the modern context, is likely to become a secularized version. The modern culture in which we live is a secularized culture – thus we have no choice but to think about what it means for the faith and this indeed becomes a challenge for us to enculturate the faith in a culture that inherently spurns the nature of that faith.

Religious Pluralism

Unfolding within our secular culture is the ever-expanding reality of globalization that has given rise to religious pluralism. On the one hand religious pluralism is not something new. For millennia various religious groups have co- existed either as friends or as enemies in which case one group seeks to forcefully persecute, subjugate an even convert the other.

As Orthodox Christians, we peacefully co-exist with other Christians as well as with many who are not Christians. We live in a country where there is no state church. And though we are not persecuted, as were the Christians of the first three centuries, the religious pluralism of our time has more in common with the pre-Constantinian era than with the Christian empire. We live in a country where the religious makeup of its citizens is anything but monolithic. Being a small, sociologically insignificant and           poor church allows us once again to be dependent on and thankful for the gifts of the Spirit who makes possible the proclamation of the Gospel.

 

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A Practical Approach to make the Orthodox Christian Faith Firm and avoid religious pluralism

Religious pluralism can instill insecurity and  vulnerability in the minds and hearts of those adhering to a particular belief system. Comparing and contrasting one’s religion with those with which it co-exists is inevitable. Consequently, one of the greatest challenges accompanying religious pluralism in a free society is the possibility to choose and therefore the possibility to leave one religion – one creed – for another. The changing of one’s religion is often preceded by doubt brought on not only by ignorance, indifference and/or insecurity in the life and tenets of a given faith but also by what is perceived as new, challenging and vivifying in other belief systems. Doubt and change also occur when one’s religion espouses or is perceived to espouse enmity and even hatred towards a particular group or groups that question and challenge the status quo of a given faith system. The absence of dialog and the unwillingness of a given faith to re-examine or cross-examine what it perceives as its unchangeable ethos is basically an invitation for many to leave what is most loved and cherished in their lives. With this exodus one is left with two options, either to assume another religious identity or to remain outside organized religion all together.                        

Indigenization

 

Early Christian thinking on non-Christian religions was conditioned by the pagan polytheism of the Roman Empire, religious aspects of Greek philosophy and links between Christianity and Judaism; including the incorporation, not without some hesitation, of the Jewish sacred books into the Christian Bible. Some early Christian fathers, especially St. Justin Martyr (c.100–c.165) had a cautiously positive view concerning the existence of elements of truth among pagan philosophers and Jewish sages, while Tertullian (c.155–c.240) represented a less tolerant view, which became more dominant in later Christian thinking. Later in history, Orthodoxy had extensive historical experience, not entirely negative, of life as a religious and cultural minority under non-Christian regimes in Persia, the Arabic Middle East and the Ottoman Empire. For long centuries Christian communities were in a ‘survival mode’ under Muslim rule in these areas, which made theological reflection on the meaning of religious diversity in God’s plan for salvation difficult. Only in recent times have Orthodox theologians begun to reflect more systematically on the theological significance of non-Christian religions, especially as Orthodoxy is increasingly confronted with this reality both in countries of Orthodox immigration, and increasingly in countries of Orthodox tradition. Contemporary Orthodox attitudes towards religious diversity are often linked with thinking on secularism, human rights and the religious policy of the State. Several notions concerning non-Christian religions which have come down to us from the ancient Fathers are still relevant. The most important is no doubt from Justin Martyr, who applies the Hellenistic notion of the “seeds of the Logos” (logos spermatikos) in a Christian sense. Justin recognizes that pagan philosophers, especially Socrates and Plato, had a degree of knowledge of truth, but that the fullness of truth resides only in Christian revelation. He even goes so far as to refer to certain Greek philosophers and various Jewish figures as Christians:untitled4

We have been taught that Christ is the First-born of God, and we have suggested…that he is the logos of whom every race of men and women were partakers. And they who lived with the logos are Christians, even though they have been thought atheists; as, among the Greeks, Socrates and Heraclitus, and people like them; and among the barbarians, Abraham, and Ananias, and Asarias, and Misael, and Elias (Justin Martyr 1997, First Apology, l.46).

For whatever either lawgivers or philosophers uttered well, they elaborated according to their share of logos by invention and contemplation. But since they did not know all that concerns logos, who is Christ, they often contradicted themselves (Justin Martyr 1997, Second Apology, l.10).

In his polemical treatise Against the Heathen, St. Athanasius of Alexandria (c.296–373) recognizes, like Justin before him, the possibility that pagans can rise to knowledge of truth. Possessing a rational soul and free will, pagans can abandon idolatry and return to the true God:

Just as they turned away from God with their mind and invented gods from nonexistent entities, so they can rise towards God with the mind of their soul and again turn back towards him. They can turn back if they cast off the stain of all desire which they have put on, and wash themselves until they have eliminated every addition foreign to the soul and show it unadulterated, as it was made, in order that in this way they may be able to contemplate therewith the Word of the Father, in whose image they were made in the beginning (Athanasius 1971, l.34).

Other early Christian thinkers, who recognized the existence of goodness and elements of truth in pagan religions, and especially in the philosophers, include St. Clement of Alexandria (c.150–c.215), Origen (c.184–c.253), St. Basil the Great (329–379), St. Gregory Nazianzus (329–390), and Augustine (354–430). But a critical evaluation of other religions also found support in early Christianity, inheriting the negative attitude towards pagan idolatry in both the Old Testament and the New Testament.

Even though all the above Church fathers have opened a window in understanding the goodness and elements of truth in other pagan religions, the detailed theology behind this understanding is provided by St. Gregory of Nyssa (335–394) through his various writings.

Today in the 21st century also we find ourselves in the same situation as our early Christian Fathers were. We live in the midst of various religious and cultural diversities. The question that we need to ponder here is that

Are we trying to live our lives the way our early church fathers lived?

Are we reaching out to the those who are ignorant in the Truth in love like how are church fathers in early centuries reached out by being rooted in the faith of the Church or Are we mixing ourselves with the false teachings and moving away from “The Truth” ?

During the centuries the different Christian communions have developed their own traditions of historical study and their own particular ways of viewing the past. The views of the many churches and their traditions appear very differently from the one “Tradition of the Church”. To many of our contemporaries a concern with the past will immediately appear suspect, as revealing a desire for the mere resuscitation of old customs and ideas, which have no relevance for the urgent questions of our time. In this age of scientific and technological achievement many tend to regard the heritage of the past as unimportant. It is for this reason that it is important to understand “The Tradition of the Church”. This past of which we speak is not only a subject which we study from afar. It is a past which has value for us, in so far as we make it our own in an act of personal decision. In the Church it becomes a past by which we live by sharing in the one Tradition, for in it we are united with Him who is the Lord of history, who was and is and is to come; and he is God not of the dead but of the living.

Church and its Tradition are inseparable. The Tradition of the Church is not an object which we possess, but a reality by which we are possessed. The Church’s life has its source in God’s act of revelation in Jesus Christ, and in the gift of the Holy Spirit to his people and his work in their history. Through the action of the Holy Spirit, a new community, the Church, is constituted and commissioned, so that the revelation and the life which are in Jesus Christ may be transmitted to the ends of the earth and to the end of time. The Tradition in its content not only looks backward to its origin in the past but also forward to the fullness which shall be revealed. The life of the Church is lived in the continuous recalling, and transmission of the once-for-all event of Christ’s coming in the flesh, and in the eager expectation of his coming in glory. All this finds expression in the word and in the Sacraments in which “we proclaim the Lord’s death till he come” (I Cor. 11.26).

Now that we have recognized how the Tradition of the Church is important to our present and to our future… The Church is sent by Christ to proclaim the Gospel to all men; the Tradition must be handed on in time and also in space. In other words, Tradition has a vital missionary dimension in every land, as in St. Mathew Chapter 28:19, the command of the Lord is “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations”.

The emergence in our time of a global civilization, shaped by rapid technological advances, and grounded in a scientific outlook is transforming our concept of the universe. The new cosmology which is taking shape, challenges our traditional conceptions of man and of nature, both in themselves and in their inter-relationship with one another. Amid these developments, and to some degree because of them, radical changes in social structure are taking place in every part of the world.

It is in such testing circumstances as these, that the serious problems have to be faced of how the Church (we the members as each brick of the Church) may become truly indigenous, bringing into the service of Christ all that is good in the life of every culture and nation, without falling into syncretism (the union or attempted fusion of different systems of thought or belief- especially in religion or philosophy).

What is indigenization?

The Dictionary term for indigenous is defined in two ways and each deserves attention.

—existing, growing or produced naturally in a region or country, belonging as a native

—innate, inherent, inborn

An example of indigenization….Christianity, came to be called as the revelation and fulfillment of the Hebrew Scriptures. It began among the Hebrew people. The instructions revealed by God to some chosen people like Moses and others, were practiced as an indigenous religion by these people. In the present day they are living in what we call the Middle East, and practice Judaism.  In revealing Truth through Moses, God’s words were necessarily translated into the language of the people, which was Hebrew.  Although Hebrew may be the pure language of angels, conquering cultures as well as surrounding cultures and languages molded the Hebrew nation.

By the time of Christ, Aramaic, not Hebrew was the common language of these people of God. Their traders and scholars also spoke Greek, the most widely used language of the pagan Roman Empire. It is most likely that Jesus of Nazareth spoke to his followers, disciples and apostles in Aramaic.  It is also recorded that he could read and speak Hebrew even as a boy.  This is the beginning of the integration of indigenous qualities into Christianity.

Here in this example we see that Christianity is indigenized by adopting the local language.

Let us look at the important factor in indigenization[ix] by taking the example of the Eunomian crisis (a controversy between Eunomius and St. Gregory of Nyssa, the Cappadocian father, named by everyone as the “Father of Father’s” or the “Universal Teacher”).

Eunomius was a contemporary and chief adversary of the Cappadocian Fathers. He was also a Cappadocian from Oltiseris in Cappadocia on the border of Galatia. Eunomius was a son of a farmer. He learned shorthand, went to Alexandria and became the disciple and secretary of the arch-heretic Aetius (the sophist disciple of Arius). From Aetius, Eunomius learned the technology of sophistic (plausible but misleading) reasoning.  He became the bishop of Cyzicus in 360 A. D. by Eudoxius of Antioch, who was a semi-Arian himself. Eunomius had an impressive capacity for the display of dialectic that was deceptively pleasing and pernicious, and was able to make out quite a name for himself. But he could not keep up this image among people for long. Within a year he was forced by his people to resign.

Arianism had different variants like the Anhomoian party and the Homoian party. When Julian the Apostate became the Emperor (361A.D-363 A.D), the Anhomoian party of the Arians reorganized themselves under the leadership of Aetius and Eunomius. During this time, the Anhomoian party fought both the Orthodox (led by the Cappadocians) and the Homoian party of Arians (led by Eudoxius of Constantinople and Euzious of Antioch).

Around 363 A.D, when Julian died, Eunomius began organising a Church of his own, and ordained bishops of his party in various sees. Around 366/367 A.D with the death of Aetius, Eunomius became the unquestioned leader of the Anhomoian party, and moved to Constantinople as his headquarters, only to be exiled by Emperor Theodosius.

The importance of Eunomian crisis is seldom recognized by Church historians. It was as much a peril as the Arian crisis (A crisis that happened two generations earlier, with which the battle was joined at Nicea by St. Athanasius). But precisely because the Athanasian-Nicean settlement did not deal adequately with the philosophical problems involved in Arianism, it continued to survive among intellectuals and ordinary people alike. Aetius with his sharp sophist knowledge spread the doctrine far and wide. There was a new form of liberal “Christianity” developing which denied the very foundations of the Gospel, but was eminently acceptable because of its conformity with current philosophical trends.

Thus there appeared two different approaches to indigenization.

  1. Aetius and Eunomius were seeking to indigenize Christianity by domesticating it within the current and acceptable philosophical framework, also referred to as the Alexandrian philosophy.
  2. St. Basil, St. Gregory of Nazianzen and St. Gregory of Nyssa saw that the kind of indigenization that Aetius and Eunomius did, would destroy the Gospel itself which was sought to be indigenized. The Cappadocian Fathers (Basil, Gregory of Nazianzen and Nyssa) were equally or even better at home in the current philosophy when compared to Aetius and Eunomius.

It is thus of utmost importance to see the two different approaches of indigenization. All the great Orthodox thinkers of the fourth century found it necessary to compose treatises against Eunomius because of the wrong way Eunomius tried to indigenize.

 What was the essence of the difference between the two attempts to indigenize theology?

 The Cappadocian Fathers representing the Nicean Orthodoxy, indigenized by adopting secular philosophy to the Christian Gospel. Example: It’s interesting to see how St. Gregory of Nyssa accepts and radically Christianizes the basic notion of sumpnoia of the Stoics, a doctrine that states the whole universe breathed together as a single organism (This will be later discussed in another article on indigenization).

 Whereas

Eunomius, coming in the Arian-Aetian tradition, indigenized by adopting Christianity to secular philosophy (meaning Christian Gospel was changed to suit the secular philosophy).

 This is the fundamental difference, extremely relevant to the problems of theology today. What is the central criterion which is the cornerstone of our way of theological thinking? Does it come from the Christian faith or from secular philosophy? This question is basic.

For the Cappadocians the basic category is Trinity-Incarnation. untitled11For Eunomius the foundation is the unity, simplicity and absolute uniqueness of the One— a category that reigned supreme in the Alexandrian “secular “philosophical milieu.

In the Alexandrian philosophy (the philosophy sought by Eunomius) there is no room for Trinity, a distinction of persons, within the one Godhead. Neither is there room for God becoming Man. Only a created being could become Man, according to Eunomius. Eunomius states that only the Father is the absolute One without a beginning or cause and not shared with anyone else, whether Son or the Holy Spirit. He states that the Son is the created being by the Father whereas the Holy Spirit and everything else in the cosmos, is created by the Son.  That is the only way he could find to integrate the doctrine of the Incarnation within the prevailing philosophical system.

untitled12Thus it can be concluded that it is very important to be grounded in the faith of the Church for any kind of indigenization. It can be harmful, if one, who is trying to indigenize, is not striving in the path of deification and does not live in the faith of the Church. St. Gregory of Nyssa speaks of the faith of the Church as of divine origin and as the light that guides to the truth, in our understanding of Scripture as well as in our sifting of “outside knowledge (knowledge and wisdom of pagan schools)”.

Thus from Part 1 to Part 3 of the article on maintaining an undefiled conscience in the world of distraction we have seen the few of the notable distractions that are responsible for clouding the true Christian faith.

Maintaining an Undefiled Conscience in the World of Distraction —–Concluding Part 4 continues…….

[i] “The use of contextual representations and images in order to render dogmatic truths comprehensible by people with different cultural backgrounds is often not only legitimate, it is even imperative. This is a fundamental missionary and educative principle, which is deeply rooted in the History and the life of the Church. However, the use of these contextual representations and images needs to be confined, only to the morphology of the dogma, leaving its essence intact and unalloyed. This is precisely the stance that was upheld by both the Apostles and the Fathers of the Church; although borrowing virtual representations and terminology from the contextual cultural background of the Hellenic world, they nevertheless confined themselves exclusively to the morphological level and did not alter the message of the divine Revelation […]  Characteristic examples are in both the characterization of the Son of God by John the Evangelist with his Stoic or Philonian term “Logos”, as well as the usage of the Stoic perceptions of the poets Aratus and pseudo-Epimenides by the Apostle Paul during his oration on the Hill of Aries, in order to highlight the omnipresence of God and His relation to the human race.”

[ii] Source- Worship in a Secular Age by Dr. Paulose Mar Gregorios

[iii] William of Ockham (c. 1287–1347) is, along with Thomas Aquinas and John Duns Scotus, among the most prominent figures in the history of philosophy during the High Middle Ages. He is probably best known today for his espousal of metaphysical nominalism; indeed, the methodological principle known as “Ockham’s Razor” is named after him. But Ockham held important, often influential views not only in metaphysics but also in all other major areas of medieval philosophy—logic, physics or natural philosophy, theory of knowledge, ethics, and political philosophy—as well as in theology.

[iv] Reason is the capacity for consciously making sense of things, applying logic, establishing and verifying facts, and changing or justifying practices, institutions, and beliefs based on new or existing information. Reason, or an aspect of it, is sometimes referred to as rationality. Reason, like habit or intuition, is one of the ways by which thinking comes from one idea to a related idea. For example, it is the means by which rational beings understand themselves to think about cause and effect, truth and falsehood, and what is good or bad. It is also closely identified with the ability to self-consciously change beliefs, attitudes, traditions, and institutions, and therefore with the capacity for freedom and self-determination.

[v] In religion and theology, revelation is the revealing or disclosing of some form of truth or knowledge through communication with a deity or other supernatural entity or entities.

[vi] Descartes laid the foundation for 17th-century continental rationalism, (rationalism is the view that “regards reason as the chief source and test of knowledge” or “any view appealing to reason as a source of knowledge or justification”. More formally, rationalism is defined as a methodology or a theory “in which the criterion of the truth is not sensory but intellectual and deductive”.) Later advocated by Baruch Spinoza and Gottfried Leibniz, and opposed by the empiricist school of thought consisting of Hobbes, Locke, Berkeley, and Hume. Leibniz, Spinoza and Descartes were all well-versed in mathematics as well as philosophy, and Descartes and Leibniz contributed greatly to science as well.

[vii] Empiricism is a theory that states that knowledge comes only or primarily from sensory experience. Empiricism in the philosophy of science emphasizes evidence, especially as discovered in experiments. It is a fundamental part of the scientific method that all hypotheses and theories must be tested against observations of the natural world rather than resting solely on a priori reasoning, intuition, or revelation.

Empiricism, often used by natural scientists, says that “knowledge is based on experience” and that “knowledge is tentative and probabilistic, subject to continued revision and falsification.” One of the epistemological tenets is that sensory experience creates knowledge. Empirical research, including experiments and validated measurement tools, guides the scientific method.

[viii] Source- Secular Orthodoxy by Fr. Stephen Freeman

[ix] Source- Cosmic Man by Dr. Paulose Mar Gregorios

Maintaining an Undefiled Conscience in the World of Distraction —–Part 2

Continuing from Maintaining an Undefiled Conscience in the World of Distraction —–Part 1….

Heresies

We are living in an age enslaved in many kinds of deification of modern rationality, its twin product science and technology and in the midst of false teachings or doctrines. 

Before we start with our discussion on heresies let us remember and keep in mind the song we sing at every Holy Qurbana (Eucharist) of the St. James Liturgy . The song is sung before the lesson from the epistle of St. Paul, as:
Paul_4x6

Paul the Blessed Saint, the Lord’s Apostle said
If one comes to preach to you
A doctrine other than I preached to you
Be he man or angel bright,
Cursed be he in Church’s sight;
Doctrines all diverse arise;
Sprouting up with many lies;
Blest is he who first and last
Trusts God’s Truth and holds it fast.
(Galatians 1:5-9)

Every conceivable opinion, even the most absurd, even those hitherto rejected by the universal consent of all civilized people -now has its platform and its own “teacher.” A few of these teachers come with demonstration or promise of “spiritual power” and false miracles, as do some occultists and ” charismatics”; but most of the contemporary teachers offer no more than a weak concoction of undigested ideas which they received “out of the air,” as it were, or from some modern self-appointed “wise man” (or woman) who knows more than all the ancients merely by living in our “enlightened” modern times.. As a result, philosophy has a thousand schools and “Christianity” a thousand sects.

Where is the truth to be found in all this, the truth that needs to be found in our most misguided times?

St. Gregory of Palamas says:
“And not many days after,” it says, “the younger son gather all together, and took his journey into a far country” (Luke 15:13). Why did [the Prodigal Son] not set off at once instead of a few days after? The evil prompter, the devil, does not simultaneously suggest to us that we should do what we like and that we should sin. Instead he cunningly beguiles us little by little, whispering, “Even if you live independently without going to God’s Church or listening to the Church teacher, you will still be able to see for yourself what your duty is and not depart from what is good.” When he separates someone from the divine services and obedience to the holy teachers, he also distances him from God’s vigilance and surrenders him to evil deeds. God is everywhere present. Only one thing is far away from His goodness: evil. Being in the power of evil through sin we set off on a journey far away from God. As David says to God, “The evil shall not stand in thy sight” (Ps. 5:5).
A part of the quote says …The evil prompter, the devil, does not simultaneously suggest to us that we should do what we like and that we should sin. Instead he cunningly beguiles us little by little, whispering, “Even if you live independently without going to God’s Church or listening to the Church teacher, you will still be able to see for yourself what your duty is and not depart from what is good.” This is the spiders’ web the devil weaves around us that separates many of us from the divine services and obedience to the Holy teachers, as a result, falling apart from God’s vigilance and therefore surrendering to the evil of heresy.

The first Heresy in Christian church can be traced back to the apostolic times itself and is written in the Scripture. This is well documented in St. Irenaeus of Lyons’ work from 2nd Century – ‘Against Heresies’. Given below is an extract taken from this book…

“Simon the Samaritan was that magician of whom Luke, the disciple and follower of the apostles, says, “But there was a certain man, Simon by name, who beforetime used magical arts in that city, and led astray the people of Samaria, declaring that he himself was some great one, to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This is the power of God, which is called great. And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had driven them mad by his sorceries.” Acts 8: 9-11.
This Simon, then who feigned faith, supposing that the apostles themselves performed their cures by the art of magic, and not by the power of God; and with respect to their filling with the Holy Ghost, through the imposition of hands, those that believed in God through Him who was preached by them, namely, Christ Jesus–suspecting that even this was done through a kind of greater knowledge of magic, and offering money to the apostles, thought he, too, might receive this power of bestowing the Holy Spirit on whomsoever he would lay his hands,–was addressed in these words by Peter: “Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God; for I see that you are poisoned by bitterness, and bound by iniquity.” Acts 8: 20 – 23
He, then, not putting faith in God a whit the more, set himself eagerly to contend against the apostles, in order that he himself might seem to be a wonderful being, and applied himself with still greater zeal to the study of the whole magic art, that he might the better bewilder and overpower multitudes of men. Such was his procedure in the reign of Claudius Caesar, by whom also he is said to have been honored with a statue, on account of his magical power. This man, then, was glorified by many as if he were a god; and he taught that it was himself who appeared among the Jews as the Son, but descended in Samaria as the Father while he came to other nations in the character of the Holy Spirit. He represented himself, in a word, as being the loftiest of all powers, that is, the Being who is the Father over all, and he allowed himself to be called by whatsoever title men were pleased to address him.
Now this Simon of Samaria, from whom all sorts of heresies derive their origin, formed his sect.”

What is a heresy?

“The Greek word hairesis (literally choice or thing chosen) was applied to the doctrines of philosophical schools. But already in I Cor. 11.19 and Gal. 5.20 Paul uses the term in a negative sense to mean a divisive faction. In the work of St. Ignatius of Antioch (35-107), that is, even before the days of the conciliar definitions of Christian faith, it denotes theological error. Tertullian (160-225) identifies the root of heresy as the willful choice of philosophical opinion over revealed Christian truth”.
The ecclesial meaning of the term signified the sin of a person who, having been baptized and calling him or herself a Christian, denied a defined doctrine of faith even after having been formally instructed. These notions have two aspects: formal and material/concrete. In the first aspect, heresy is the persistent adherence to erroneous teaching. The second aspect, material, heresy means adherence to error, and acting upon this error, without such culpability. The definition of heresy is dependent, therefore, on acknowledged doctrine of the Church. Heresy is the dislocation of some complete and self-supporting doctrine by the introduction of a denial of some essential part therein.

To put it in simple words Heresies are the false ideas of those that disagree with the faith of the Church.

Heresies are always tend to be found at the opposite poles and end up forming their own sects. Once a separate sect is formed, they concentrate on increasing their followership, as did Simon of Samaria who formed his own sect by the name Simonians. It is not unusual for one heresy to arise in reaction to another. One heresy claims that Christ is not God, another that He is not man. One heresy condemns the veneration of the Virgin Mary as Mother of God, another makes her the Immaculate Conception. One claims that man is saved by grace alone, another that he is saved only by works, all with different doctrines ‘that was not from the beginning’, ultimately forming their own sects and each began to mass up the followership. Such extremes are not easily embraced by Orthodoxy. True Orthodoxy tends to be the middle-way between the two extremes.

It is very necessary in this context to understand the Apostolic Fathers.

Who Are the Apostolic Fathers?

By the end of the first century, all the Holy Books of the New Testament were written. But at that time, still were not all compiled into one Holy Book as it is today. However, all the churches in the world during that time accepted these Holy Books as the Pillar of Faith and the Christian life that was inspired by God through the Apostles who were the means used by the Holy Spirit. “For no prophetic message ever came just from the human will, but people were under control of the Holy Spirit as they spoke the message that came from God.” (II Peter 1:21)
From the beginning the Christian Church was more conservative in acceptance of any book as prophetic even than the Jewish Church itself. For example earlier, there were some writings found in certain manuscripts but the Church did not accept them as prophetic books, for example, very early manuscripts contained, in addition to the Holy Books of the New Testament, two books, which belonged to St. Clement, the Roman.
The era of the Apostolic Fathers began in the middle of the first century and these Fathers followed the Apostles of our Lord immediately. The teachings of the Apostolic Fathers are truly considered as a direct reflection of the Apostles preaching. The Apostolic Fathers were either directly connected to the Apostles themselves or they received their teachings from the Apostles through the disciples lives.
In reality, the term “Apostolic Fathers” was not known in the primitive church, however, it is expressed first by scholars in the seventh century and it refers to the church’ fathers who were direct disciples for the Apostles, or saw them, or received teachings and instructions from the Apostles themselves.
The writers in this era included St. Clement the Roman, St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Polycarp the Martyr, The Bishop Papias of Hierapolic, Higyspoc, Hermas author of the Didache and the author of the Barnabas Letter. Although these writings are very rare, they have a great importance. The scholars examined and studied these writings extensively regarding Theology, Liturgy, and Church Rituals. The Apostolic Writings focused on patronage in Christianity and their style, which is very similar to the style of writing of the New Testament, especially the style of the Epistles.

Remember your instructors, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the end of their life… Be not led away with various and strange doctrines. (Hebrews 13:7, 9)

“One should not seek among others the truth that can be easily gotten from the Church. For in her, as in a rich treasury, the apostles have placed all that pertains to truth, so that everyone can drink this beverage of life. She is the door of life.”- St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies, III.4
”We have learned the plan of our salvation from no one else other than from those through whom the gospel has come down to us. For they did at one time proclaim the gospel in public. And, at a later period, by the will of God, they handed the gospel down to us in the Scriptures-to be the `ground and pillar of our faith.'”- St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies

St. Irenaeus of Lyons wrote a number of books, but the most important that survives is the five-volumes On the Detection and Overthrow of the So-Called Gnosis, normally referred to as Adversus Haereses (in English, Against Heresies). Irenaeus cites from most of the New Testament canon, as well as works from the Apostolic Fathers.
St. Ireneaus The holy and glorious, right-victorious Hieromartyr St. Irenaeus of Lyons (c. 130-202) was bishop of Lugdunum in Gaul, which is now Lyons, France. His writings were formative in the early development of Christian theology. He was a disciple of St. Polycarp of Smyrna, who himself was a disciple of the Apostle St. John the Theologian. 

To support this topic on heresies let us look at the following example regarding The True Church and the Apostolic Succession from the writings of St. Irenaeus of Lyons, quotes taken mostly from the book Against Heresies written by St. Irenaeus. These are the common questions that can arise in one’s mind due to the influence of other doctrines (heresies) that is easily available around us. In the following example/case ‘Response’ is given to a protestant believer’s questions/doubts.

In short let us understand what the main doubts of a protestant believer are and what St. Irenaeus says in respect to this

A good protestant always assumes that the criteria for determining if a church is truly apostolic is to look at the doctrine of that particular church. (The answer to this is response to question #2 (How did Irenaeus propose to distinguish a truly apostolic church from their heretical counterparts?) elaborated further in the article)

The church is the custodian of the truth, but only those churches that have continuity to the teachings of the apostles qualify as being the true church. It thus turns out that the Protestant assumption was only half correct, for Irenaeus does teach that to determine if a church was within the apostolic tradition one had to look to see if the church’s theology was in line with the rule of faith that the apostles had passed down in the sacred writings. Thus, Irenaeus used Biblical exposition to show that the teaching of the Gnostic churches were incompatible with the apostles’ doctrine revealed in Scripture.
But that is only one side of the coin. Equally important in determining whether a church is legitimacy apostolic is whether the church is under a bishop that is the recipients of a chain of ordination going back to the apostles. This is because it was to be assumed that the apostles and their successors would only have appointed leaders who agreed with their teaching and also because apostolic authority was transmitted by the laying on of hands in a transfer of real divine power and authority.

Although Irenaeus did not have time “to enumerate the successions of all the churches”, he took the church at Rome as one example and traced the succession of ordinations back to Peter and Paul. This, he maintains, provides “a full demonstration that it is one and the same life-giving faith which has been preserved in the Church from the apostles to the present, and is handed on in truth.”

The doctrine of apostolic succession provided a hedge around the interpretation of Scripture, according to Irenaeus. Any church which taught private innovations different to the public tradition of the other apostolic sees, was a church teaching heresy.

Question #1: Is it correct that Irenaeus taught that a bishop derived his importance from belonging to an apostolic church?

Response:  If a protestant believer reads St. Irenaeus’ writings, he will always start out assuming that Irenaeus looked to see if the church’s theology was in line with the rule of faith the apostles had passed down in Scripture. However, the believer will soon recognize that just as important for Irenaeus was the bishop being part of a chain of succession going back to the apostles.
In the passages below Irenaeus makes it clear that he considers the Church to be the custodian of the truth.
The Church, though dispersed throughout the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and their disciples this faith… (AH 1.10; (ANF) Vol. 1 p. 330; italics added)
Nor will any one of the rulers in the Churches, however highly gifted he may be in point of eloquence, teach doctrine different from these (for no one is greater than the Master… (AH 1.12; ANF Vol. 1 p. 331; italics added)
The early Church was apostolic because her bishops were able to trace their lineage back to the original apostles. Irenaeus holds up two men as exemplars of apostolic succession: Clement of Rome and Polycarp of Smyrna. Irenaeus writes of Clement:

St. Clement of romeClement received the lot of the episcopate; he had seen the apostles and met with them and still had the apostolic preaching in his ears and the tradition before his eyes. He was not alone, for many were then still alive who had been taught by the apostles. (AH 3.3)
Note that Irenaeus does not make any reference to Clement receiving the keys to the Papacy (the government of the Roman Catholic Church; pontificate). The stress here is on his deep personal knowledge of the apostles and their teachings. In the case of his predecessor Polycarp of Smyrna, Irenaeus also stressed the personal knowledge of the apostles and their teachings.

st-polycarpAnd there is Polycarp, who not only was taught by the apostles and conversed with many who had seen the Lord, but also was established by apostles in Asia in the church at Smyrna… He always taught the doctrine he had learned from the apostles, which he delivered to the church, and it alone is true. (AH 3.4; italics added)
Irenaeus did not understand apostolic succession in terms of institutional authority but authority rooted in the apostolic Gospel. Only if he taught the true Gospel could a bishop be in apostolic succession. A bishop who altered the Gospel had abandoned the true faith and broken the chain of succession.
For Irenaeus evidential support for apostolic succession came in the form of succession lists.
Thus, the tradition of the apostles, manifest in the whole world, is present in every church to be perceived by all who wish to see the truth. We can enumerate those who were appointed by the apostles as bishops in the churches as their successors even to our time… (AH 3.3.1; italics added)

He enumerates in detail the apostolic succession for the Church of Rome as follows:
To this Clement there succeeded Evaristus. Alexander followed Evaristus; then, sixth from the apostles, Sixtus was appointed; after him, Telephorus, who was gloriously martyred; then Hyginus; after him, Pius; then after him, Anicetus. Soter having succeeded Anicetus, Eleutherius does now in the twelfth place from the apostles, hold the inheritance of the episcopate. In this order, and by this succession, the ecclesiastical tradition from the apostles, and the preaching of the truth, have come down to us. And this is most abundant proof that there is one and the same vivifying faith, which has been preserved in the Church from the apostles until now, and handed down in truth. (AH 3.3.4; ANF Vol. I p. 416; italics added)

Unlike the Gnostics who invoked a secret spiritual genealogy, the Christian church in Irenaeus’ time were able to trace their lineage back to the apostles. That this was a widely accepted practice can be seen in Eusebius’ Church History which contains succession lists for various dioceses. Protestantism’s inability to provide a similar listing is something Irenaeus would view with suspicion. The closest thing that Protestantism has to such a listing is the far-fetched claim made by the Landmark Baptists who claim a secret lineage back to John the Baptist.

Central to Irenaeus’ apologia is an apostolic church that was also at the same time a catholic (universal) church.
Having received this preaching and this faith, as I have said, the Church, although scattered in the whole world, carefully preserves it, as if living in one house. She believes these things [everywhere] alike, as if she had but one heart and one soul, and preaches them harmoniously, teaches them, and hands them down, as if she had but one mouth. (AH 1.10.2; cf. ANF Vol. 1 p. 331; italics added)

Irenaeus stresses the importance of these handed down traditions in the following words…
….if the apostles had not left us the scriptures, would it not be best to follow the sequence of the tradition which they transmitted to those whom they entrusted the churches? (AH 3.4.1; italics added)

It was not enough for a bishop to claim apostolic succession, he also needed to be in communion with the church catholic (universal). In contrast, Gnosticism was comprised of teachings that varied according to schools and geographic locations. In other words, the unity of the church catholic (universal) stood in sharp contrast to Gnosticism’s denominationalism, a case similar to today’s Protestantism.

It must be recognized that Irenaeus was one of the earliest biblical theologians. Irenaeus did not simply invoke his episcopal authority like a hammer. Instead, he exercised his episcopal authority through the exposition of Scripture. His high view of Scripture can be seen in his carefully reasoned exegesis of Scripture. He writes:
…and all Scripture, which has been given to us by God, shall be found by us perfectly consistent; and the parables shall harmonize with those passages which are perfectly plain; and those statements the meaning of which is clear, shall serve to explain the parables; and through the many diversified utterances [of Scripture] there shall be heard one harmonious melody in us praising in hymns that God who created all things. (AH 2.28.3; ANF Vol. 1 p. 400)
Irenaeus cited numerous scriptural references from Old and New Testaments to refute the Gnostics (cf. AH 2.2.5; AH 3.18.3). He sounds much like an Evangelical when he wrote: “as Scripture tells us.” (AH 2.2.5; ANF Vol. 1, p. 362) In one particular passage in Against the Heretics, Irenaeus invoked the authority of Scripture repeatedly: “We have shown from the scriptures…”; “The scriptures would not give this testimony to him if…”; “.the divine scriptures testify to him…”; and “The scriptures predicted all this of him.” (AH 3.19.2)
Does this make Irenaeus a second century proto-Protestant?

No. Irenaeus did not oppose Scripture against church and tradition. He urged his readers:
It behooves us, therefore, to avoid their (Gnostics) doctrines, and to take careful heed lest we suffer any injury from them; but to flee to the Church, and be brought up in her bosom, and be nourished with the Lord’s Scriptures. (AH 5.20.2, ANF p. 548)
Irenaeus described the church’s teaching authority in warm maternal terms and assumed the two to be mutually compatible. This stands in contrast to later Protestant views which often saw the church in antagonistic tension with Scripture. Unlike the Protestant principle of ‘sola scriptura’ which makes Scripture the supreme norm for doing theology, Irenaeus saw the traditioning process as an interlocking matrix of which Scripture was one integral component.

The answer to the protestant believer’s Question #1 is that

while the bishop derived his importance or authority from the traditioning process, Irenaeus also emphasized that apostolic succession is corroborated by the catholicity (universality) of the Faith. The authority of the bishop is not autonomous(independent) but contingent(dependent) on the faithful transmission of the Faith received from the apostles.

Because apostolicity is correlated with catholicity (universality), Eucharistic communion provides an essential confirmation of the bishop’s teaching and his pastoral authority.

Question #2: If the answer to question #1 is affirmative, then how did Irenaeus propose to distinguish a truly apostolic church from their heretical counterparts?

Response:  For Irenaeus two foremost criteria were: apostolic succession and doctrinal agreement with the church catholic (universal). A corollary of apostolic succession is antiquity. This is evident in Irenaeus’ insistence that weight be given to the earliest ꟷ “most ancient” ꟷChristian churches.
If some question of minor importance should arise, would it not be best to turn to the most ancient churches, those in which the apostles lived, to receive from them the exact teaching on the question involved? And then, if the apostles had not left us the scriptures, would it not be best to follow the sequence of the tradition which they transmitted to those whom they entrusted the churches? (AH 3.4.1; italics added)

By means of the criterion of antiquity, Irenaeus finds the Gnostics falling short. This can be seen in the phrase: “much later” used to describe the Gnostic teachings.
All the others who are called Gnostics originated from Menander the disciple of Simon, as we have shown, and each of them appeared as the father and mystagogue of the opinion he adopted. All these arose in their apostasy much later, in the middle of the times of the church. (AH 3.4.3; italics added)

In the above quote ‘Simon’ refers to Simon of Samaria who was a magician mentioned in Acts 8: 20 . And in contrast to the unity and universality of the apostolic preaching, Gnosticism was divided among the various schools of thought which resulted in doctrinal diversity ꟷ another marker of deviant theology.
All these are much later than the bishops to whom the apostles entrusted the churches, and we have set this forth with all due diligence in the third book. All the aforementioned heretics, since they are blind to the truth, have to go to one side or the other off the road and therefore the traces of their doctrine are scattered without agreement or logic (AH 5.20.1; ANF p. 547).

Apostolicity did not reside in any one particular church body but pervaded the entirety of the church catholic (universal). Using the second century Church of Rome which was known for its doctrinal conservatism, he notes that the churches in other areas would be in agreement with it (AH 3.2).

Iranaeous sums his case for the apostolicity of Rome thus:
In this order, and by this succession, the ecclesiastical tradition from the apostles, and the preaching of the truth, have come down to us. And this is most abundant proof that there is one and the same vivifying faith, which has been preserved in that Church from the apostles until now, and handed down in truth. (AH 3.3; ANF Vol. 1 p. 416)

Thus, emphasis is on: (1) apostolic succession ꟷa chain of ordination going back to the apostles, (2) apostolic teaching ꟷa body of teachings going back to the apostles, and (3) catholicity ꟷbeing in agreement with the universal church.
Irenaeus’ commendation of the Church of Rome would give rise to the respect accorded to other patriarchates: (Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem), Catholicate (India, Armenia) and Pope (Coptic) by later Ecumenical Councils.

Question #3: One of the reasons that Irenaeus taught apostolic succession is because he believed that the apostles “certainly wished those whom they were leaving as their successors, handing over to them their own teaching position, to be perfect and irreproachable, since their sound conduct would be a great benefit [to the Church], and failure on their part the greatest calamity.” If Irenaeus was correct, might it be possible that the purity of this chain of succession could expire after a time, as the link to the first apostles becomes more and more distant?

Response: Irenaeus did not envision a diminishing chain of succession. It would be like a banker entertaining the thought that one day his vault will be broken into and all his depositors’ money will be lost. Irenaeus understood tradition as a sacred deposit.
Since these proofs are so strong, one need not look among others for the truth that it is easy to receive from the church, for like a rich man in a barn the apostles deposited everything belonging to the truth in it (the church) so that whoever might take the drink of life from it. (Rev. 22:17; AH 3.4.1)

If anything, Irenaeus, like the good banker, would have been horrified at the thought of the Depositor coming back to claim His deposit and finding it gone.
That he expected the Christian Faith to be preserved against heresy and innovation can be seen in the passage below.
Having received this preaching and this faith, as I have said, the Church, although scattered in the whole world, carefully preserves it, as if living in one house. She believes these things [everywhere] alike, as if she had but one heart and one soul, and preaches them harmoniously, teaches them, and hands them down, as if she had but one mouth. (AH 1.10.2; cf. ANF Vol. 1 p. 331)

Here Irenaeus fully expects that the Church will “carefully preserve” the apostolic faith. One empirical test of this claim is the fact that the early Church was able to maintain doctrinal uniformity as it spread throughout the vast Roman Empire. One could expect that as the church became dispersed across vast distances, regional differences in doctrines would emerge.
The way of church members surrounds the whole world, contains the firm tradition from the apostles, lets us view one and these same faith with all, for all believe in one and the same God and in the “economy” of the Son of God and know the same gift of the Spirit and care for the same commandments and preserve the same organization in the church and await the same coming of the Lord. (AH 5.20.1; italics added)
In Irenaeus’ phrase “firm tradition” we get the sense that the Christian faith is stable and resistant to innovation and heretical distortion. One can innovate only by “deserting the preaching of the Church.” (AH 5.20.2; ANF p. 548)

Orthodoxy has multiple safeguards to ensure the preservation of the Faith. The most important is the fact that Tradition consists of an interlocking and mutually reinforcing matrix. One important component is the episcopacy. Elevation to the episcopacy entails not just the conferring of ecclesiastical authority but also the obligation to keep the apostolic faith intact and to guard it against change.
Nor will any one of the rulers in the Churches, however highly gifted he may be in point of eloquence, teach doctrine different from these (for no one is greater than the Master… (AH 1.12; ANF Vol. 1 p. 331; italics added)

This is a complete proof that the life-giving faith is one and the same, preserved and transmitted in truth in the church from the apostles up till now. (AH 3.3.2; italics added)

Next, there is the inscripturated word of God. Irenaeus writes:
For we have known the “economy” for our salvation only through those whom the Gospel came to us; and what they then first preached they later, by God’s will, transmitted to us in the scriptures so that would be foundation and pillar of our faith. (I Timothy 3:15) (AH 3.3.1; italics added)

In addition to the episcopal office and inscripturated Tradition is the regula fide in the form of creed. In Against the Heretics 1.10 Irenaeus writes:
The Church, though dispersed throughout the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and their disciples this faith: [She believes] in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them; and in Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who became incarnate for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit.. (AH 1.10; ANF Vol. 1 p. 330)
By the fourth century, the regula fide would be standardized in the Nicene Creed as a result of the decisions made by the first and second Ecumenical Councils. The Orthodox church’s fierce resistance to the Church of Rome’s unilateral insertion of the Filioque clause points to its taking seriously the task of preserving the apostolic deposit.

Another component is the Eucharist. For Irenaeus there is a close link between Christian doctrine and Christian worship.
But our opinion is in accordance with the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn establishes our opinion. (AH 4.18.5; ANF Vol. 1, p. 486)
The above quote anticipates the theological principle: lex orans, lex credendi (the rule of prayer is the rule of faith). Worship in the early church was liturgical. The liturgy was part of the received apostolic tradition “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took the bread;”(I Corinthians 11:23). Here the words ‘received‘ and ‘delivered‘ refer to the transmission of Holy Tradition. These words were the part of the Eucharist celebrations in the first century as it is today. It was not the result of creative expression but served to conserve the Christian faith. An examination of the ancient liturgies used by the Orthodox churches ꟷLiturgy of St. James, Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, Liturgy of St. Basil ꟷshows how much the faith of the early church lives on the Orthodox churches today. The ancient liturgies have pretty much disappeared from the Roman Catholic Church with the shift to the Novus Ordo Mass in the 1960s.
All these, however, are insufficient apart from divine grace. That is why preservation of the apostolic teaching depends on: (1) the promise of the Holy Spirit (John 16:13), (2) Christ’s guarantee of the church against the powers of Hell (Matthew 16:18), and (3) Christ’s charge to teach the nations and the promise of his presence with the church until the Second Coming (Matthew 28:19-20). The Great Commission probably has the most bearing on the protestant believer’s Question #3. The traditioning process is implied in the Great Commission ꟷ “teaching them to observe everything I commanded you” ꟷand is guaranteed by Christ’s promise to be with the Church “always even unto the end of the age.”

Question #4: Is Irenaeus’ doctrine of apostolic succession a Biblical doctrine? If so, where can we find it implied or inferred in scripture?

Response: That Irenaeus’ doctrine of apostolic succession is rooted in Scripture can be seen in the ample citations below.
Irenaeus in the Prologue to Book 3 explains how the Lord Jesus himself laid the foundation for apostolic succession:
The Lord of all gave his apostles the power of the Gospel, and by them we have known the truth, that is, the teaching of the Son of God. To them the Lord said, “He who hears you hears me, and he who despises you despises me and Him who sent me.” (Luke 10:16) (Italics added)
Another biblical support for apostolic succession can be found in II Timothy 2:2 in which Paul describes to Timothy how the traditioning process is key to the ordination to the ministry:
And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. (II Tim 2:2)
Biblical support for apostolic succession can be inferred from Titus 1:5 in which Paul gave Titus instructions on the ordination of men to the priesthood:
For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city, as I commanded you. (Titus 1:5)
The top-down approach described here is sharply different from the ordination practices of congregationalism.
Apostolic succession can also be found in Paul’s exhortation to Timothy to preserve the apostolic teaching against heretical innovations (I Timothy 6:3, 20; II Timothy 2:14, 24; Titus 1:9, 2:1). In these verses Paul stresses the need to preserve the Faith against heresy; the very same point reiterated by Irenaeus.

Question #5: If Irenaeus is correct in his doctrine of apostolic succession, which churches today satisfy the criteria for a `true church’?

Response: If Irenaeus were to examine the churches today he would be looking for the “most ancient” churches and at the “sequence of the tradition” from the apostles for those churches.
…would it not be best to turn to the most ancient churches, those in which the apostles lived, to receive from them the exact teaching on the question involved? And then, if the apostles had not left us the scriptures, would it not be best to follow the sequence of the tradition which they transmitted to those whom they entrusted the churches? (AH 4.1; italics added)
The application of these two criteria rules out all of Protestantism. That being the case, there remains two present day options: the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church.
Irenaeus had some knowledge of these two branches. In Against the Heretics 3.3 Irenaeus showcased the Church of Rome. Irenaeus’ predecessor, Polycarp, was bishop of the church in Smyrna, which would be closely linked to the Patriarchate of Constantinople belonging to the Orthodox Church. Constantinople was the capital of the Roman Empire during that time, one should not confuse Church of Rome with Roman Catholic Church which is based out of Vatican and not Constantinople.
One would think in light of Irenaeus’ high praise for the Church of Rome in AH 4.1 that he would automatically point us to the present day Roman Catholic Church. But it should be kept in mind that he lived in the second century and that much has happened over the next two millennia, most notably the Schism of 1054 A.D.

Would Irenaeus identify himself with present day Roman Catholicism?
No, for three reasons: (1) Roman Catholicism has adopted a strongly forensic approach to the doctrine of salvation ꟷsomething not found in his teachings, (2) it has superimposed Aristotelian categories on to the doctrine of the Eucharist ꟷsomething not found in his teaching, and (3) it has promoted the supremacy of the Roman papacy ꟷsomething not found in his teachings. Furthermore, Irenaeus would likely have regarded Rome’s later independence from the other patriarchates ((Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem), Catholicate (India, Armenia) and Pope (Coptic)) contrary to the catholicity of the second century church.
In Orthodoxy’s favor is the fact that it has retained Irenaeus’ understanding of salvation in terms of recapitulation, i.e., Christ through the Incarnation recapitulated the entirety of human existence (cf. AH 3.20.2; cf. ANF Vol. 1 p. 450). Also, where the Roman Catholic Church has introduced the medieval emphasis on penal substitution as the basis for our salvation, Orthodoxy, like Irenaeus, has retained the emphasis on salvation as union with Christ and theosis (AH 3.4.2; AH 3.20.2).
St. Irenaeus’ Against the Heresies provides historical evidence to support Orthodoxy’s claim that the way it does theology has deep historic roots. A close reading of St. Irenaeus will give pause to any thoughtful Protestant who base their theological method on sola scriptura. Irenaeus of Lyons stands as a valuable benchmark for determining what doctrines and practices are congruent with the historic Christian Faith.

An example of  a great heresy that we will need to look at is Arianism. This was the debate within the Church in the fourth century over the divinity of Jesus Christ. It was great because this heresy, from its beginning, changed the minds of people and urged them to understand divinity in a rational way. Since it is very difficult to rationalize the union of the Infinite with the finite, there is an apparent contradiction between the two terms ꟷthe final form into which the confusion of heresies settled down was a declaration by the Arians that our Lord was of as much of the Divine Essence as it was possible for a creature to be, but He was none the less a creature. It is very interesting how the Arian system keeps its strength after so many centuries, after so many controversies. Arius was the father of many heresies, which have grown up after him. From his roots many heresy take the saps, like the branches from the root of tree. These branches develop own systems, but checking the genesis of them we will see the old root. We will discuss more on this topic on a later date in another article about heresies.

The article continues as….Maintaining an Undefiled Conscience in the World of Distraction —–Part 3

Maintaining an Undefiled Conscience in the World of Distraction–Part 1

St. Basil’s Hexameron – Homily 1 — 6th point–

  1. Such being the different senses of the word beginning, see if we have not all the meanings here.  You may know the epoch when the formation of this world began, it, ascending into the past, you endeavor to discover the first day.  You will thus find what was the first movement of time; then that the creation of the heavens and of the earth were like the foundation and the groundwork, and afterwards that an intelligent reason, as the word beginning indicates, presided in the order of visible things. You will finally discover that the world was not conceived by chance and without reason, but for an useful end and for the great advantage of all beings, since it is really the school where reasonable souls exercise themselves, the training ground where they learn to know God; since by the sight of visible and sensible things the mind is led, as by a hand, to the contemplation of invisible things.  “For,” as the Apostle says, “the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made.” Rom. 1: 20.  Perhaps these words “In the beginning God created” signify the rapid and imperceptible moment of creation.  The beginning, in effect, is indivisible and instantaneous.  The beginning of the road is not yet the road, and that of the house is not yet the house; so the beginning of time is not yet time and not even the least particle of it.  If some objector tell us that the beginning is a time, he ought then, as he knows well, to submit it to the division of time—a beginning, a middle and an end.  Now it is ridiculous to imagine a beginning of a beginning. Further, if we divide the beginning into two, we make two instead of one, or rather make several, we really make an infinity, for all that which is divided is divisible to the infinite. On the inconceivability either of an absolute minimum of space or of its infinite divisibility.  Thus then, if it is said, “In the beginning God created,” it is to teach us that at the will of God the world arose in less than an instant, and it is to convey this meaning more clearly that other interpreters have said:  “God made summarily” that is to say all at once and in a moment. But enough concerning the beginning, if only to put a few points out of many.

Introduction:

Orthodoxy is the way of life in Christ through True Worship, where each member of the Church is set out on a journey towards deification by partaking in the Holy Sacraments, built firmly on the Holy Scripture and, preserved and handed over by the Holy Tradition. It is not a theory. In other words it is the life in the faith of the church – especially the teaching about the Incarnation of God [i.e. Jesus Christ as one and only Incarnation of God]; and the teaching about the Holy Trinity [ God- The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit worshipped as one Undivided Trinity in Unity]. Orthodox Christianity offers a fullness of truth and beauty in its quest for holiness.

Orthodoxy is established upon a sound and inviolable foundation: fidelity to the teaching of the fathers of the ecumenical councils, the age-old experience of the spiritual and grace-filled life in Christ. The Martyrs, Confessors, Wonderworkers, Holy monastics and other Saints by their God pleasing lives and righteous deaths are witness to the truth and the salvific nature of the Orthodox faith…

This is what we understand about the Orthodox faith today.

Mankind was created by God and was originally in direct communion with Him. Having forgotten God, man still longs for Him in his soul. That having been forgotten, it is still God’s will to be known by man. Therefore it is sensible, even predictable, that in every human community, society and culture throughout history, evidence can be found of man’s longing to know God, and God’s will to be known by man.

From times immemorial all through the human history man’s ignorance to know God have resulted in many religions in the world. One of the tasks of the early Church (till 5th century) was defining, and defending, orthodox theology against the battering waves of heresies. These heresies often appeared in disputes over the nature of the Trinity, or how Jesus could be both God and Man. Would the early Church identify with present day Roman Catholicism and Protestantism? This is the challenge that we face today in our quest for “The Truth”. Church Councils were called to put into words the common faith that could stand for all ages. From this time, the Church has been called “Orthodox,” which means “right belief” or “right praise.” The Nicene Creed originated at the Council of Nicea in A.D. 325, and is the central Orthodox statement of faith. Built on the foundation of Christ and His Apostles, nothing has been added or can be added to our faith. We now live in an age where lives and acts (secularism and the other ‘isms’) are contrary to this Christian heritage of Orthodox faith. As a result, many have separated themselves from this tradition, hence our perception and understanding of Christ and His Church has become clouded.

We read in Genesis 11: 1-9 the incident at the tower of Babel.

tower of babel

“Come let Us(The Holy Trinity as shown in the icon)  go down there and confuse their language”……. Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the Lord confused the languages of all the earth; and from there the Lord God scattered them abroad over the face of all earth.”

“Now the whole earth was one language and one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and dwelt there. Then they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and bake them in fire”. They had brick for stone and asphalt for mortar. They also said “Come, let us build ourselves  city and a tower, whose top will reach to heaven; and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered broad over the face of the whole earth.” But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the sons of men built. Then the Lord said, “Indeed, the people are one race and one language, and they have begun to do what they said. Now they will not fail to accomplish what they have undertaken. Come let Us go down there and confuse their language, so they may not understand one another’s speech. So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city and the tower. Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the Lord confused the languages of all the earth; and from there the Lord God scattered them abroad over the face of all earth.”

Here we learn how human race was scattered over the face of the earth because in our pride we wished to build a tall tower reaching unto heaven. The people of Babel wanted to be like God but without God or apart from Him.

Similarly according to Isaiah 14: 12-15 we read `How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, who rose up in the morning! He who sends forth all the nations is crushed to the earth. For you said in your mind “I will ascend into heaven; I will place my throne above the stars of heaven; I will sit on the lofty mountain, on the lofty mountain towards the north. I will ascend above the clouds; I will be like the Most High”. But now you shall descent to hades to the foundations of the earth.’

The `I will’ in the above verses show how Satan pursued his own will which made him go away from the “Most High God”, his pride was the reason for his fall. The pride of Adam and Eve was defeated by God when they were thrown out of the Garden of Eden.

The question to ponder here from the above paragraphs is, Are we really that different than the ancient people of Babel trying to make a name for ourselves? Let us look into history. The discussion that follows points out to certain facts that paved a way to move away from The Truth.

We take an extract from the homily 1 point 6 of St. Basil‘s hexameron which justifies the discussion below.

“You will finally discover that the world was not conceived by chance and without reason, but for an useful end and for the great advantage of all beings, since it is really the school where reasonable souls exercise themselves, the training ground where they learn to know God; since by the sight of visible and sensible things the mind is led, as by a hand, to the contemplation of invisible things.”

Taking this small extract from the homily, let us examine ourselves, in the midst of the world of distraction (the different subjects of discussion below), to make a choice whether we as reasonable souls are using this world as the training ground in doing God’s will or our own fallen will or the will of the devil. As it say’s in Luke Chapter 21: 34-36 “ But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly… Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man”

Historic paganism and neo-paganism

Early apologist, scholar and Christian synergist, St. Justin Martyr of Alexandria and Rome, made the point to the Roman government, that Christians were inherently good citizens.  Why? Because Christians believed in the Logos (Gospel of John) that is also understood as “reason.” Therefore, St. Justin explained, Christians believe in reason and therefore are reasonable people.  “Whatever things were rightly said among all men,” wrote St. Justin in his second apology “is the property of us Christians.”

St. Justin went further to say that since the demons also knew that salvation would come to humanity through Jesus Christ, they made up legends and myths of the Olympian gods that were similar to historic events, using the same (or very similar) images and symbols.  In essence, St. Justin confirmed the legends and myths were truth to a point. However, they were distorted, he said, to create confusion among mankind. 

Now looking into Historic paganism and neo-paganism, the term “historic paganism” will be used to denote the ancient, polytheistic, nature worship and fertility cults of pre- and early-Christian eras; while “neo-paganism” will be used to describe contemporary efforts to revive historic paganism in the facts described below.

Orthodox Christianity fears no slander, criticism or challenge of any sort; every variety has already been dealt with at some point. Orthodoxy zealously embraces the mystical revelation of God in Trinity, through His Son, the incarnate Sojourner among men, who appeared on earth at a specific time and place in history. At the Annunciation to the Theotokos by Gabriel, the chronological history of fallen humanity intersects with divine Kairos [interruption] i.e. God became Man to save us from our fallen state; Orthodoxy is submission to, and preservation of, this salvific opportunity as it occurred in history. The historical context of the Incarnation was not coincidence but providence. This being the case, Orthodoxy is not stumbled by such facts as that of paganism predating Christianity.  Fallen man, having forgotten God, contrived nature worship prior to God’s revelation to Moses or the salvific incarnation of Jesus Christ. Paganism’s pre-Christian existence does not prove that it is the source of Christianity but only that man’s longing for the divine predates Judeo-Christian revelations. The seemingly logical progression that pagans predate Christians, and pagan gods are myths, therefore the Christian God is a myth as well, does not hold. And yet, today, it is a popular idea to which many subscribed.

Another popular belief is that because Christian theology, worship, and mysteries share common terminology and symbolism with paganism (elementals, chant, altars, liturgy, etc.) that they must share a common origin. But again, this only demonstrates that there are metaphors and symbols that are universal to human psychology; which suggests a common origin for all men (i.e. Adam and Eve) but not for all religions. We could perhaps designate this as the law of psychological identity. Some of the sensible images or symbols, created by man to reflect spiritual truths, are indeed common to many peoples and races because their basis is the same human nature or experience. This basis of psychological identity explains many rites, words, and ideas common to Christianity and paganism.

Depending on studies done by various scholars the problems of historical, conceptual, and genetic relationships between the mysteries of the Christians and those of the pagans are breathtaking in their complexity. But Orthodox Christianity is at ease with the seemingly universal signs, symbols, rituals and even prophecies that predate the life of Jesus Christ. Mankind was created by God and was originally in direct communion with Him. Having forgotten God, man still longs for Him in his soul. That having been forgotten, it is still God’s will to be known by man. Therefore it is sensible, even predictable, that in every human community, society and culture throughout history, evidence can be found of man’s longing to know God, and God’s will to be known by man. Orthodoxy has no need to claim originality in its rites and rituals. Quite the opposite, it glories in the infinite fulfillment that Christ offers mystically to that which is already familiar; in other words, sanctification, deification, and theosis. God becoming man, that man might become god.

Lastly, regardless of the projected confidence of neo-pagans, it is a simple fact that all conjecture regarding historic paganism is made in a near void of critical data. We have extant but a few literary works dealing with the [pagan] mysteries, many scattered references, verses of poetry, fragments of hymns and prayers, mutilated inscriptions, damaged papyri, cult emblems, bas-reliefs, frescoes, painted vases, ruined chapels and temples. These are the varied and imperfect material out of which we have to attempt reconstruction. Our difficulties are much heightened by the insecurity of chronological sequence, and the uncertainty as to the particular usages or beliefs of a cult at a particular period of the long history of the [pagan] mystery religions from the sixth century B.C. to the fifth century A.D. “And the only mystery ritual which has survived in its entirety is the one belonging to the Mithraic cult.” Not coincidentally, the cult of Mithras is the only source cited consistently by those subordinating Christianity to paganism.

In contrast, consider the sheer volume of Judeo-Christian documents and literature produced from approximately 1500 B.C. to 800 A.D.: Old Testament, New Testament, Apostolic literature, the catacomb experience, Christian Byzantium, and the Holy Ecumenical councils! In light of this tremendous outpouring of Judeo-Christian literature that encapsulates the dark age of paganism (600 B.C. to 500 A.D.), one might be compelled to argue that every enduring aspect of paganism, other than its rightful claim to the Mother-Goddess of agrarian fertility worship, and the Greek philosophical terminology of the time, is in fact a borrowing from Judeo-Christianity practices.[1]

As part of the Church’s tradition, it is believed that during Christ’s flight into Egypt, statues to the native gods crumbled and fell at His presence; this led to the conversion of some of the inhabitants.

Flight of ChristGiven below are some selective acts of saints who destroyed religious images[2]

The Apostle Paul (+67 A.D.)

As recounted in the Book of Acts 19: 11-20, the miracles of the Apostle Paul led many pagan sorcerers in Ephesus to convert to Christ, whereupon they publicly burned their spell-books. Scripture concludes this episode with the words: So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.

The Apostle John (c. +97 A.D.)

Some accounts of the Life of John the Evangelist state that his exile to Patmos was a result of the Apostle causing pagan idols to fall through his prayers. In the Anglo-Saxon homilies from the 10th/11th centuries, there is an explicit mention of the Apostle John turning the idols to dust by the power of God.

Empress Helena (+ 329 A.D.)

brosen_icon_constantine_helenaThe pious Christian mother of Constantine the Great, Empress Helena is best remembered in the Orthodox Church for finding the Holy Cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified during a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. On the site of the finding she erected the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Less well-known perhaps, but no less significant, is that a temple to the goddess Aphrodite (Venus) needed to be flattened for the church to be built. St. Helena probably also ordered the destruction of a temple to Zeus (Jupiter) in order to build a church dedicated to St. Cyrus and St. John.. The finding of the true Cross is commemorated on September 14, and is one of the Great Feasts of the Church.

Nicholas the Wonder-Worker of Myra (+ 345 A.D.)

st-nicholas-destroying-the-idolsOne of the most celebrated Saints of the Orthodox Church worldwide, the wonderful feats of this miracle-working bishop abound. Among these acts is the destruction of all the temple of Diana and other pagan shrines in his city of Myra, after he was reinstated as bishop there during Constantine’s reign. Much of the demolition was carried out by his own hand, though he also had to struggle in prayer to overcome the demons that inhabited the temples. That this act of Nicholas is celebrated is evidenced in later church frescoes showing the event.

 

Martyr Mark, Bishop of Arethusa, in Syria (suffered 360 A.D.)

Under Constantine the Great St. Mark, with the help of his deacon Cyril, had torn down a pagan temple and built a church in its place. When Julian the Apostate became emperor, idol-worship again grew, and the pagans wished to take revenge upon the now elderly bishop. Beaten, slashed with knives, his ears sliced off with linen, and with his hair pulled out, St. Mark steadfastly refused to offer up any money in order to rebuild the pagan temple he had demolished. Even after the pagans kept lowering the price, St. Mark refused to pay a single coin. Exhausted, and seeing that people were converted to Christ through his endurance, the torturers let St. Mark go! St. Gregory the Theologian writes highly of St. Mark, and uses his example in his writings against Julian the Apostate.

Spyridon the Wonderworker of Tremithus, in Cyprus (+ 348 A.D.)

st spiridonA shepherd who gave all his wealth to the poor, St. Spyridon was made bishop of Tremithus after the death of his wife, under the reign of Constantine the Great. The life of the saint speaks of the amazing simplicity and the gift of wonder-working granted to him by God. Through a word of the saint the dead were awakened, the elements of nature tamed, the idols smashed. At one point, a Council had been convened at Alexandria by the Patriarch to discuss what to do about the idols and pagan temples there. Through the prayers of the Fathers of the Council all the idols fell down except one, which was very much revered. It was revealed to the Patriarch in a vision that this idol had to be shattered by St. Spyridon of Tremithus. Invited by the Council, the saint set sail on a ship, and at the moment the ship touched shore and the saint stepped out on land, the idol in Alexandria with all its offerings turned to dust, which then was reported to the Patriarch and all the bishops.

Saint Porphyry of Gaza, Bishop and Confessor (+ 420 A.D.)

porphyry-of-gazaAfter many years as a monk, St. Porphyry was elected Bishop of Gaza, a city where the Christian population numbered less than three-hundred, and idolatry was wide-spread. Discriminated against by the pagans, St. Porphyry went to Constantinople and gained the support of Emperor Arcadius and the Archbishop, St. John Chrysostom, to close down the idolatrous temples. Officials sent to close down the pagan shrines of Gaza were often bribed, and so after much laboring, St. Porphyry undertook the destruction of the temples personally with his flock of Christians. Many temples were destroyed, including those dedicated to Aphrodite, Hecate, the Sun, Apollo, Kore (Persephone), Tychaion, the shrine of a hero, and the Marneion, dedicated to Zeus. In their place, Christian churches were erected. The pagan idols were burnt, and the marble from their temples were used to pave the way to the new Christian churches, so that all Christians on their way to worship would trample upon the remains of idolatry. These acts, along with much preaching, prayer, and humiliations suffered by St. Porphyry, won the entire city of Gaza over to the Christian faith. The Life of St. Porphyry, recounting his struggles against the pagans, was written by the deacon Mark.

What to take from all these above facts from history? As with other miraculous deeds of the Saints, the destruction of the idols can be understood symbolically as the victory of right-believing Christians over all other idols, whether they be demons pretending to be gods or man-made constructs that lead our minds from the contemplation of God. This can be done without denying the historical fact of the Church’s Saints physically destroying non-Christian religious images. Of course, when considering other deeds of the Saints, we try to use their acts as an example for our own conduct. In the case of idol-smashing, most Christians today would shy away from literally following the Saints’ example, even though non-Christian idols abound. Perhaps this is wisest thing to do, though the courage of these idol-smashing Saints is certainly something worthy of imitation. In striving for this, we can pray to Christ that we may emulate the martyr’s strength.

The above information on Saints who destroyed religious images (or idols), gives a considerable list of Saints who in their lives courageously and physically confronted the practice of worshiping idols. Most of the examples come from the First Millennium A.D., which shouldn’t be surprising as this is when idol-worship was widespread in the world and at its most aggressive towards Christianity.

Looking back over so many centuries it can be difficult to imagine just what these heroic Saints did in publicly taking a stand against something so anti-Christian, yet so popular. Even in today’s times so close to ours we get to learn about a story from the life of Elder Gabriel (Urgebadze), a Georgian priest-monk considered locally to be a Saint, publicly denounced the idolatry of a people.

The article continues as…. Maintaining an Undefiled Conscience in the World of Distraction —–Part 2

[1] Alexander Schemann. Orthodox Christianity and Paganism.

[2] Source: iconreader.com

Orthodox Perspective on The Great Star and the Magi

adorationPope_Shenouda_III_of_Alexandria_by_Chuck_Kennedy_(Official_White_House_Photostream)Written by H.H. Pope Shenouda III. (117th Pope of Alexandria & Patriarch of All Africa on the Holy Apostolic See of St. Mark the Evangelist of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria. He was consecrated as Pope on 14 November 1971. During his papacy, the Coptic Church grew significantly. He appointed the first ever bishops for North American dioceses, which now contain over two hundred parishes, up from four in 1971. He also appointed the first Coptic bishops in Europe, Australia and South America. Within Egypt, he struggled for the welfare of his people and the Church. Pope Shenouda III passed away on 17 March 2012).

 

The wise men came from the East, probably from the countries of Persia. They were from the rank of princes, or scientists, or priests. They worshipped the ancient eastern gods, probably the fire; and they may have been among the followers of Zaradesht. They were experts in astronomy and in the stars. Perhaps they had heard from the Jews in the dispersion about a Saviour who will come to deliver them and to become the king of the Jews.

Saint John Chrysostom says of them:

My brothers, we urgently need long watching and many prayers in order to be able to answer these questions, and to know who those wise men are. And where did they come from?”

Satan encourages the enemies of the truth to think: “When Christ was born, His star appeared: Is this not a sign which proves that astrology is a true science? If He was born in this manner, why did He eradicate astrology, fortune-telling, and magic, and why did He render the devils to silence?

Let us then examine what was that star: was it one of the numerous stars? Or was it an alien to them, from a nature other than their nature? Or was it that only the person who looked at it thought it was a star? If we know the answer to these questions, we shall know the other matters with greater facility.

That star was not one of the numerous stars; and it is more convenient to say, according to what I think, that it was not a star. But it was one of the invisible powers, and was transformed to that aspect.

The evidence is clear:

First, from the way of its movement: there is no star that can possibly move in that manner. If you consider the other stars, you will find that their movement is from West to East. But this star went in its course from the North to the South, because that is the direction from the countries of Persia to Palestine.

Second, with regard to the time of its appearance: it did not appear by night, but rather in the daytime when the sun had risen. This appearance is neither due to the strength of a star, nor to the strength of the moon, nor was it due to all these astral bodies which hide when the sun’s rays appear. Rather, this star had overcome the sun rays by the abundance of its brilliancy, and was more visible and glittering than all the other astral bodies.

Third, this truth becomes obvious from the fact that the star appeared for some time and then disappeared. It appeared in order to show them the way to Palestine. When they came to Jerusalem, it hid itself. And when they left Herod after he had questioned them, and intended to walk to Bethlehem, the star reappeared to them again. This appearance and disappearance does not happen in the movement of an ordinary star, but it is due to a power that is, above measure, different from others. When it was necessary that they would march, it marched. And when they needed to stop, it stopped, thus controlling all the conditions of their march according to what was convenient for them. It was like the column of clouds in its conduct of the Jewish people during the time of Moses.

When the magi entered Jerusalem, the star was hidden from them, so that having lost their guide, they were compelled to ask the Jews, in order that the matter would become well-known to everybody. Thus the appearance and the disappearance of the star brought a determined providence that had a special wisdom.

Fourth, by its descending downwards: Because it was not possible to show them the way while it was high over them, the star directed them by coming downwards. While it was high over them, it could not direct them precisely to a narrow place like an inn where a small baby is lying down. We can know this from the example of the moon, which appears greater than many stars, and how it appears to all the inhabitants of the world in all its vastness, and everyone thinks that the moon is near to him, but it is actually far away.

Tell me how would the star have shown them a small place like an inn and a manger, if it had not left this high place, and come closer to the earth until it stopped over the head of the child?

That is what the evangelist indicated saying: “and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was.” (Matt. 2:9).

When the star recognized the Child, it stopped, and its stopping there, while it was descending downwards, is a great testimony.

It had a great influence upon the wise men and guided them to the worship of the Child. They did not worship Him as an ordinary human being. That is obvious from the gifts which they presented to Him, and which are not convenient for a small child in its swaddling clothes.

(Source: https://ukmidcopts.org/resources/articles-library/245-spiritual/415-the-great-star-and-the-magi)

Is Science a Laborious Vanity? — Part 3–

The article continues from…Is Science a Laborious Vanity? — Part 2

Conclusion:

From the understanding about astronomy and astrology we have read through in the previous two parts, clearly explains the deceit of the King of the world—Satan, the great deceiver.

The greatest deceit, the great victory of Satan is not that he is leading a willing world to destruction, it is that he is, sadly, often able to deceive and lead astray the Christian person who is struggling to be transformed more and more into the image of Christ (see in particular Rom 12:2). Satan deceives the Christian by convincing him to take his attention off Christ and to doubt the power and promises of God.

christ's-temptation-in-the-wildernessHow do we resist this deceit? What should be the response of the Christian person to the wiles of the Devil? The Holy Scriptures are clear. The two Epistles of St. Peter the Apostle that are contained in the New Testament are wondrous builders of faith. In the introductory notes that we find at the beginning of the Second Epistle of Peter in the Orthodox Study Bible, there is a marvelous summary of the theme of Peter’s Epistles:

“Though the world disbelieves, deceives and mocks, Christians must maintain apostolic doctrine and an Orthodox Christian way of life. We are to grow continually in holiness and virtue and pursue an entrance into ‘the everlasting kingdom’ which is to come”.

The answer for the Christian is to continually seek God and His Kingdom; to fight the deceits of the Devil, despite the pain and suffering he can cause, with a faith founded upon the All-powerful and All-loving God.

Be reliant upon God and His holiness; be close to His Church, receive often the Sacraments that he freely offers to us. Resist evil and cling only to God.

“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.” (James 4:7-8a).

Satan can only deceive he cannot pluck us out of the hand of God; he cannot send us unwillingly from the kingdom of God. If God no longer becomes the focus of our vision and life, it is not He who has moved, it is that we have taken our gaze from him!

There are three short Homilies by St John Chrysostom (the Golden-mouthed). They are entitled collectively as ‘Three Homilies Concerning the Power of Demons’. The first is referred to as being “Against Those Who Say That Demons Govern Human Affairs” and the second and third “On the Power of Man to Resist the Devil”.

St. John Chrysostom warns his listeners against this despairing because of the power of the devil.

“For he (i.e. Satan) is an enemy and a foe, and it is a great security to know clearly the tactics of your enemies … when he overcomes by deceitfulness, he does not get the better of all men … he does not overcome … by force, yet by deceitfulness” (Homily II-1).

Thankfully, Satan does not deceive all in the Church. The saints, many of whose icons are surrounding us, can be our examples of faith and Christian life because they can be our guides encouraging us to continue with our eyes fixed upon God – the one who brings salvation and life.

“The Devil is wicked; I grant this indeed, but he is wicked for himself not towards us if we are wary” (Homily III-1).

When we sin, we cannot blame Satan or another for our failing. Our sin is our own because we have committed it by the exercise of our own power and free will, or by our own lack of faith. Likewise, when one in the Church falls away from God, we cannot say that Satan’s power has taken him by force away from the presence of God. God forbid that we should allocate to Satan the power that he so desperately seeks. Our sin is our own and, likewise, our falling away is our own. We fall away because Satan has convinced us, through deceit that our place is not in the Kingdom of God.

St John Chrysostom is careful to show that Satan’s deceits are many, but his intention is one. He seeks only to make us leave the presence of our loving God and to prevent us from allowing God to guide us. Satan seeks this by either convincing us that God cannot do what he has promised, by tempting us with the pleasures of this world, or by deceiving us to think that he, Satan, has the power which he actually does not have. The power of Satan can only lead us from God if we allow him the opportunity to do so.

Some of the other great writers of the Church can be cited to give us strength against this deceit of the Devil. In these (St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures 12 15) we are exhorted to see that ‘in the sacrifice of Christ, the devil has been defeated’. Satan is vanquished already and, only by deceit, can he lead astray those who are in Christ; tempting them through promise of treasure, power or letting them fall into utter despair.

We are instructed elsewhere (St. Ignatius’ Epistle to the Smyraeans III & IV) to be firm, guarding ourselves from those who seek to influence evil upon us. Not just to turn away but even to flee from them. We must understand that Satan has enticed men and women from the beginning. It is only then that he has him in his power. However Satan is ultimately bound by the power of God. His power over man is only through delusion (St. Irenaus’ Adversus Haereses). We are to keep our lives fully in God and not to fall into the temptation that the Devil puts in front of us.

In the Gospels, Christ uses the common things of life to teach the truths of God. These well-known things are weaved by him into a story that conveys God to the hearers. The spiritual writers of our Church followed the example of our Lord. In teaching their hearers many of these writers spoke of everyday things, things like grain, fields, birds, and every day events from life. Some even used widely known stories to describe the action of Satan, for example the Fables of Aesop.

In the fable called THE DOG AND HIS REFLECTION. It goes something like this:

“A dog was crossing a plank bridge over a stream with a piece of meat in his mouth, when he happened to see his own reflection in the water. He thought it was another dog with a piece of meat, so he let go of his own and flew at the other dog to get his piece, too. But, of course, all that happened was that he got neither, for one was only a reflection and the other was carried away by the stream”.

The moral of the story is:

“Envy not your neighbors lot; and
be content with what you’ve got.”

We can apply this fable to the Church and to ourselves who see ourselves as part of it. The deceit here is the reflection that the dog saw. What he thought was real was in fact only imaginary. When applying this story to that of the human person we can ask, why do we ‘bring ourselves, by own accord, into subjection to the enemy of this life?’ What is it that encourages us to push away eternal life to fall into sin? It is Satan the great deceiver who tempts us with the imaginary security of a life of wealth, comfort, pleasure and power – a life without God.

Satan can be seen in this story of our greedy dog; he is in the stream trying to convince the dog that even though he has all he needs, there is still more. Alas, this desire is based not on what God has given us, but on what we image we can and should have. Satan cannot offer the dog a real piece of meat; he can only reflect the image of the meat that already exists. Satan’s promises of peace without God are false. He tries to convince us to take his offer by copying the things of God. However, these copies are not real; they will disappear as easily as ripples do to a reflection in a stream. Satan does not take the meat from the mouth of the dog; he does not have to. He only need convince the dog to grab at more and by doing so lose what he has already been given. He plays on the greed and pride of the dog. Greed and the constant desire to be better than those around us is a common way of the world, it is not the way of a life in Christ. The temptations of the Devil often involve what we think we should have. The grace that God has given us is enough for our needs; we should use what we have been given with thankfulness and not worry about what we do not have.

Another fable concerning a reflection in a stream (in The Stag and the Hounds):

“A stag one autumn day came to a pond and stood admiring his reflection in the water.
‘Ah’ said he, ‘what glorious antlers! But my slender legs make me ashamed. How ugly they are! I’d rather have none at all’.

The stag was soon distracted from his vain musings by the noise of huntsmen and their hounds. Away he flew, leaving his pursuers a vast distance behind him. But coming upon a thicket, he became entangled by his antlers. He struggled to free himself as the baying of the hounds sounded nearer and nearer.

‘At last’ he thought, ‘If I am meant to die at the fangs of these beasts, let me face them calmly’.

But when he ceased to tremble, he found his antlers had come free.

Immediately he bounced back, delighting in his legs, which carried him far away from danger. As he ran, he thought to himself,

‘Happy creature that I am! I now realize that, that on which I prided myself was nearly the cause of my undoing, and that which I disliked was what saved me’.

Satan again lies within the flowing stream in this fable. Previously, we saw how Satan often deceives us into desiring what does not really exist. Here the deceit differs. Here the stag is convinced that what he has is inadequate. Previously it was pride and greed that was the downfall of the dog. Now we are reminded that vanity and extreme self-resourcefulness can be fatal. The stag knew what he wanted. However, his assessment of what was necessary or adequate for him was not right.

It is rather amazing to hear many in the Church say “I would really like to contribute more to the ministry and life of my Church, but I don’t have the necessary talents to do anything”. It’s not a matter of my antlers being just right or my legs being too thin and scrawny, but it is often a matter of “it would be too embarrassing for me to contribute anything in my Church youth group”. Perhaps it is “I would really like to say something at my youth group, but everyone would think I am stupid, or pushy”.

All of us have spiritual gifts from God; they were given to us by God at our Baptism. The Church cannot function properly, especially in times of need and challenge unless all of its members use the gifts God has given them. How can we expect the Church to stand fast against a world that rejects the Kingdom of God when the very members of that Church are not completely relying upon God?

Thankfully, it is not the combined self-reliance of all the members of our Church that makes us the ‘Body of Christ’ (I Cor 12:27). It is the power and grace of God that transforms the individual members of the Church into the functioning ‘Body of Christ’ in this world.

The stag allowed his own vanity and his self-judgment to cloud his opinion of himself. Satan often deceives the members of the Church into believing that even God’s promises will not be fulfilled in them because they in themselves do not ‘have what it takes’. It is not up to us, it is up to God!

“But how are men to call upon him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? And how can men preach unless they are sent?” As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ (Rom 10:14-17).

Satan cannot defeat the Church that is filled with the purpose and Spirit of God. He will, however attempt to deceive those who are part of it. The Church cannot be the vehicle of God’s salvation in this world if those who see themselves as belonging to that Church are not going to use what God has given them because of fear of ridicule, vanity, embarrassment or pride.

Perhaps our stag should read the verse above that mentions “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news”! In the end it is the scrawny feet that saved the stag from the fangs of the hounds. So too, it is the feet that carry the preaching and the teaching and those who are living out their faith in this world that will save us from the deception of the snapping Devil – however scrawny and ugly those feet might appear to be!

One of the greatest dangers for those within the Church is what is called ‘The New Age Movement’. What has the ‘New Age Movement’ got to do with the deception of Satan? It certainly has nothing to do with us who are members of the Church! Or does it?

Sadly, the ‘New Age Movement’ in its variety of forms, has influenced all aspects of life, and even many who see themselves as members of the Church of God are so easily influenced by this great deception of Satan.

Many see the “New Age Movement” as just a way of life; living in respect of all creatures, practicing non violence, being sensitive, respecting others right to believe in their particular religion. Nothing could be further from the truth. The “New Age Movement” is in fact one of the greatest attempts at deception by Satan upon Christians today!

The “New Age Movement” is not simply some broad descriptive title for a range of unrelated philosophies or teachings. It is a highly organized and motivated movement that, in its least organized form, seeks to distract Christians from concentrating upon the things of God. At its most dangerous, it seeks to destroy Christian faith and replace the historical and theological Christ with a ‘new’ and ‘more relevant’ Messiah figure.

“According to New Age sources, the New Age Movement is a worldwide network. It consists of tens of thousands of cooperating organizations. Their primary goal or the secret behind their ‘unity-in-diversity’ is the formation of a ‘New World Order”. The Movement usually operates on the basis of a well-formulated body of underlying esoteric or occult teachings”.

A far more subtle and potentially more dangerous satanic deception lies behind the more basic unorganized expression of the “New Age Movement”. It is not the expression of ‘New Age’ in the world that should concern us, as much as its influence within the Church of God.

Sadly we can find particular ‘New Age’ practices and beliefs even with many members of the Orthodox Churches. Seemingly simple activities such as reading one’s stars, experimenting with the occult, using ‘healing crystals’, practicing eastern forms of meditation and certain ‘holistic medicine’ practices etc are expressions of what the “New Age Movement” is encouraging. These things are destructive to one’s Orthodox Christian faith precisely because they seek to take away from the uniqueness and central importance of Christ and the ‘Kingdom of heaven’. Anything that can do this will also slowly but surely chip away at the prime place of importance that Christ and the Gospel has in our lives as Orthodox Christians.

Referring to quotes from a onetime Confessor Priest-Monk from Mount Athos:

“The activity of the Antichrist and the beast, regardless of how much power they are allowed to have from God, will never acquire any authority over the souls of God’s servants. As it was with Job ‘… but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it’ (I Cor 10:13b).

“Only the conscious denial of Christ deprives man of salvation. No hidden action or symbol of the evil one can harm or have an influence on the believer.

Truly, Satan is the great deceiver because he portrays himself as having power and influence that he does not really have. He is the greatest trickster because he casts an image that strikes fear and despair even into the hearts of those touched by the power of God.

Satan deceives because he seems to appear where he really cannot be and he tries to tempt all people, in venturing where they should not go.

stock-photo-ancient-orthodox-icon-73253788“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that in due time he may exalt you. Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you. Be sober, be watchful; because your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experience of suffering is required of your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, and strengthen you. To him be the dominion forever and ever” (1 Peter 5:6-11).

Amen.

Is Science a Laborious Vanity? — Part 2 —

The article continues from….Is Science a Laborious Vanity? — Part 1

starsMany atheists arrogantly proclaim that they are more than happy to believe in God if only someone would prove that God exists. Yet it is often these very same people who are so willing to place their lives into the practice of open evilness, of destruction or hatred.

With the scientific worldview, Science has indeed become the god of our age, worshipped both by scientists and by non-scientists, everywhere.

Science of astronomy and astrology.

St. Basil talks about astronomy. He says this “far-famed astronomy, a laborious vanity.” Let us look into the science of astronomy and astrology as examples, to understand further to “Is science a laborious vanity?”

St. Basil says, “These men who measure the distances of the stars and describe them, both those of the North, always shining brilliantly in our view, and those of the southern pole visible to the inhabitants of the South, but unknown to us; who divide the Northern zone and the circle of the Zodiac into an infinity of parts, who observe with exactitude the course of the stars, their fixed places, their declensions, their return and the time that each takes to make its revolution; these men, I say, have discovered all except one thingthe fact that God is the Creator of the universe, and the just Judge who rewards all the actions of life according to their merit.”

From the very beginning of time man has been fascinated by the stars and he has always tried to find some links between them and his own destiny (which according to modern science is known as astrology). His observation of the stars and their movements gave rise to the area of study, known today as astronomy. It is considered a pure science which is concerned with the measurements of distances, the evolution and destruction of stars, their movements, and so on. Modern astronomy seeks to find answers to the still unanswered questions regarding the origin of man and the final, possible end of his existence as a member of the human race.

The latest example in the field of astronomy is the discovery of “anthropic principle”. As per this discovery it is said that there really is an infinite, or a very big, ensemble of universes out there and we are in one. This ensemble would be the multiverse. In a multiverse, the laws of physics and the values of physical parameters like dark energy would be different in each universe, each the outcome of some random pull on the cosmic slot machine. The scientists say “We just happened to luck into a universe that is conducive to life.”  There is growing and grudging acceptance of the multiverse, especially because it is predicted by a theory that was developed to solve one of the most frustrating of fine-tuning problems of all—the flatness of our universe. The urge to understand our universe from first principles and not ascribe it to some divine force compels many scientists to seek scientific explanations for what seems to be an incredible stroke of luck.

In days of old, astronomy was synonymous with astrology. The etymological meaning of the word astrology is almost the same as that of astronomy; and there was no clear definition made between the two branches until the time of Galileo. All ancient advanced civilizations (China, Central America, Mesopotamia, India,) treasured some form of astronomy-astrology. The great astronomer, Kepler in the 17th century, the discoverer of the three great laws of planetary motions, believed in and proclaimed astrology as a true science. Kepler, to whom Newton is indebted for all his subsequent discoveries, was mathematician to Emperor Rudolph II of Hungary, and in his official capacity of Imperial astronomer is historically known to have predicted to General Wallenstein, from the position of the stars, the issue of the war. His friend, protector and instructor, the great astronomer Tycho de Brahe, believed in and expanded the astrological system. He was forced to admit the influence of the constellations on terrestrial life because of the constant verification of facts. Scientists today record the periodical events of meteors and comets, and prophesy, in consequence, earthquakes, meteoric showers, and the apparition of certain stars. They are not soothsayers but learned astronomers. Its influence and scope have been brought into connection with practically every known science which has survived from the past — botany, chemistry, geology, anatomy, medicine. Colors, metals, stones, plants, drugs, and animal life of all kinds were associated with the planets and placed under their tutelage. The Zodiac was (exoterically) considered as the prototype of the human body, the different parts of which all had their corresponding sections in the Zodiac itself.

Today, there are distinct boundaries between the modern science of astronomy and the pseudoscience known as astrology.  But in ancient times, these boundaries were not so clear.  Both fields of study used a common set of astronomical observations – but for different purposes.

Long before the invention of the telescope, ancient observations and predictions could only be of celestial objects visible to the naked eye.  This restricted astronomical and astrological studies to the stars, the Sun, the Moon and five planets – Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.  (The Earth was not counted as a planet until much later).

The word zodiac comes from the Greek word “zoion” meaning animal.

There are two basic types of zodiacs. One is the zodiac defined by astronomy and the other is defined by astrology. Astrology assumes and attempts to interpret the influence of the heavenly bodies on human affairs. Astronomy is the science that deals with the material universe beyond the earth.

The practical purposes of ancient astronomy were celestial navigation and the development of calendars of seasonal dates and events (such as the flooding of rivers) for the planting of crops.  In contrast, the purpose of astrology was to interpret celestial phenomena as signs of divine communications.

Vedic (Hindu) astrology is considered to be more scientific and uses the sidereal zodiac that loosely matches modern real world sky charts. It is considered that this astrology at least knows where the stars and planets are located and places some value on modern astronomy charts.

Although astrology was not as popular in ancient Greece as it was in Egypt and Mesopotamia, belief in astrology continued through the Roman period and the Middle Ages.  Through most of its history, astrology was considered a scholarly tradition. It was accepted in political and academic contexts, and was connected with other studies, such as astronomy, alchemy, meteorology, and medicine.  At the end of the 17th century, new scientific concepts in astronomy and physics (such as heliocentrism and Newtonian mechanics) called astrology into question. Astrology thus lost its academic and theoretical standing, and common belief in astrology has since largely declined.

From the above text (as taken from different non-Christian articles) it is clear that though there is an important distinction in astrology and astronomy today; the practices of astrology and astronomy have common roots.

An example of Modern astrology:

“For the time will come when
they will not endure sound doctrine,
but according to their own desires,
because they have itching ears,
they will heap up for themselves teachers;
and they will turn their ears away from the truth,
and be turned aside to fables” (2 Tim 4:3-4).

Astrology was originally a religion. The Greeks learned it from the Chaldeans and Persians. Each planet was a god that had a divine personality and controlled the life and destiny of man. In spite of the fact that today’s astrologers generally deny that their “art” has anything to do with religion, modern astrology is nothing more than a disguised ancient pagan religion.

The average person today likes to think of himself as a product of the scientific age. He often flatters himself with the thought that he is superior to his ancestors, not standing in awe of the natural world, having no fear of the unknown, and being free from superstition. He is reluctant to believe anything that cannot be proven logically or scientifically and rejects what he often refers to as “myth” in religion: man’s creation from nothing, his fall, the promise and the coming of the Savior, salvation and life in the world to come. Twentieth-century man has been described as man “come of age”, too sophisticated and knowledgeable to accept these things as literally true and he takes this description of himself very seriously. He doubts that the Supreme Being, whoever He may be, could have any interest in or plan for man and the rest of creation. For the advocates of twentieth-century, man is entirely on his own and has to work out his own destiny and the meaning of his existence.

In rather glaring contradiction to all this theorizing and self-satisfaction of modern man and his exaggerated ideas about himself, stands one unquestionable fact: …man is as superstitious (today) as at any time in recent centuries. There are more “psychics” and “mediums”, more “seers of the future,” more “fortune tellers,” now than at any time in recent centuries. Hundreds of publications, usually available not only in newspaper and magazine stores, but even in the super-markets, carry the “predictions” of self-styled “clairvoyants,” tales of the supernatural, accounts of communication with the dead and experiences with demonology.

One of the areas in which this fact is most evident is the widespread interest in astrology. Practically all newspapers and magazines dedicate a considerable amount of space to the advice of charlatans who pretend to be experts in reading the stars. It is a million-dollar business, and hundreds of self-proclaimed astrologers, many of whom would not know one star from another, have become wealthy on the gullibility of the public. There are books and pamphlets in the bookstores, drug stores, five and dime shops, airport gift shops, and many other places, large books especially dedicated to the “virgos” and “scorpios”, and pocket-size books that treat the subject in a general way. All of this worthless “literature” is filled with platitudes that are about as serious and useful as the little bits of advice found in a Chinese fortune cookie. In fact, most of what they tell their readers could be said by anyone and applied to anyone. Imagine taking these “gems of wisdom” as revelations from observations of the movements and conjunctions of the stars: on a given day, to an Aries: “You will have new incentives given to you. Use them to your advantage;” to a Taurus: “You can profit from this day by showing your serene and happy personality;” to a Gemini: “Work out a suitable program, and plan what phase you will develop first.” And yet, millions of people apparently not only consult their horoscope daily, but base their day’s activities on what the stars supposedly tell them to do. They eagerly test all the events of a day and deceive themselves into believing that things turned out just the way the horoscope said. Many claim it is only an innocent pastime, and others see nothing in it contradictory to religion.

Evidently some Orthodox Christians do not know that the Church, in the Bible, the canons and in the writings of the Fathers, condemns the practice of Astrology.

Isaiah, for example, says (47:13-14), “Let now the astrologers, the star-gazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up, and save thee from these things that shall come upon thee. Behold, they shall be as stubble; the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame…”

Jeremiah writes: “Thus saith the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. For the customs of the people are vain…”

In Daniel (2:27-28), we read: “Daniel said, the Secret which the kind hath demanded cannot the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, the soothsayers, show unto the king; but there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets.”

In his Epistle to the Galatians, St. Paul, finding that even some who had become Christians were holding to their former practices: “But now, after ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements (the Greek word means ‘rudiments of religion’, such as astrology) whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? Ye observe days and months and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labor in vain.” (4: 9-11)

It is interesting to read what some of the Fathers of the Church have had to say about the subject.

St. Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechetical Lecture IV, 18) says: “It is not according to the date of your birth that you sin, nor is it by the power of chance that you commit fornication, nor, as some idly say, does the confluence of the stars compel you to give yourself to wantonness. Why do you hesitate to confess your own evil deeds and ascribe the blame to the innocent stars? Pay no attention to astrologers; for concerning these divine Scriptures say: “Let now the astrologers, the star-gazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up, and save thee from these things that shall come upon thee. Behold, they shall be as stubble; the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame…”Isaiah 47:13-14

St. Gregory the Theologian (Oration XXXIX, v) speaks of “…the Chaldean astronomy and horoscopes, comparing our lives with the movements of the heavenly bodies, which cannot even know what they are themselves, or what they shall be.”

St. John Chrysostom (Homilies on First Corinthians, iv, 11) shows how the faith of the Christians of his time had been weakened by the revival of this pagan practice: “And in fact a deep night oppresses the whole world. This is what we have to dispel and dissolve. It is not only among the heretics and among the Greeks (pagans), but also in the multitudes on our side (the Christians) with regard to doctrines and to life. For many entirely disbelieve the resurrection; many fortify themselves with their horoscopes; many adhere to superstitious observances, and to omens, and auguries and presages. And some likewise employ amulets and charms.”

Christians should not practice astrology nor consult horoscopes because it puts faith in created things rather than in the Creator; it thus undermines faith in God and His redeeming economy (plan) for mankind; it denies freewill and attributes all that happens to fate; it relieves man of the responsibility for his sins; it weakens and finally replaces, however subtly, the faith of the Church, which is the doctrine of Christ, with a pagan philosophy or religion.

The purpose of the coming of the Savior was to reveal the truth to man and to destroy this very kind of futile faith that people had put in the course supposedly determined for them by the stars.

      bio-orthodoxyWhat we must always remember is that, whatever its many and undoubted achievements are, science is a fallible enterprise conducted by sinful men. Therefore, scientists individually and collectively are not immune from deception, and should apply to themselves the words of the wise Solomon: I am Thy slave and the son of Thy handmaid, a man who is weak and short-lived, with little understanding of judgment and laws; for even if one is perfect among the sons of men, yet without the wisdom that comes from Thee he will be regarded as nothing… For a perishable body weighs down the soul, and this earthly tent burdens the thoughtful mind. We can hardly guess at what is on earth, and what is at hand we find with labour; but who has traced out what is in the heavens, and who has learned Thy counsel, unless Thou give him wisdom, and send Thy Holy Spirit from on high? (Wisdom of Solomon 9:5-6, 15-17). 

Is Science a laborious vanity?

The article continues……https://orthodoxchristianlife.com/2017/05/19/is-science-a-laborious-vanity-part-3/

Is Science a Laborious Vanity? — Part 1 —

This Article has three parts. Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 which is posted as three different blog posts. 

St. Basil’s hexameron–Homily 1–points 3, 4 and partly 5.

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3. Do not then imagine, O man! that the visible world is without a beginning; and because the celestial bodies move in a circular course, and it is difficult for our senses to define the point where the circle begins, do not believe that bodies impelled by a circular movement are, from their nature, without a beginning. Without doubt the circle (I mean the plane figure described by a single line) is beyond our perception, and it is impossible for us to find out where it begins or where it ends; but we ought not on this account to believe it to be without a beginning. Although we are not sensible of it, it really begins at some point where the draughtsman has begun to draw it at a certain radius from the centre. Thus seeing that figures which move in a circle always return upon themselves, without for a single instant interrupting the regularity of their course, do not vainly imagine to yourselves that the world has neither beginning nor end. “For the fashion of this world passeth away” and “Heaven and earth shall pass away.” The dogmas of the end, and of the renewing of the world, are announced beforehand in these short words put at the head of the inspired history. “In the beginning God made.” That which was begun in time is condemned to come to an end in time. If there has been a beginning do not doubt of the end. Of what use then are geometry—the calculations of arithmetic—the study of solids and far-famed astronomy, this laborious vanity, if those who pursue them imagine that this visible world is co-eternal with the Creator of all things, with God Himself; if they attribute to this limited world, which has a material body, the same glory as to the incomprehensible and invisible nature; if they cannot conceive that a whole, of which the parts are subject to corruption and change, must of necessity end by itself submitting to the fate of its parts? But they have become “vain in their imaginations and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.” Some have affirmed that heaven co-exists with God from all eternity; others that it is God Himself without beginning or end, and the cause of the particular arrangement of all things.

4. One day, doubtless, their terrible condemnation will be the greater for all this worldly wisdom, since, seeing so clearly into vain sciences, they have wilfully shut their eyes to the knowledge of the truth. These men who measure the distances of the stars and describe them, both those of the North, always shining brilliantly in our view, and those of the southern pole visible to the inhabitants of the South, but unknown to us; who divide the Northern zone and the circle of the Zodiac into an infinity of parts, who observe with exactitude the course of the stars, their fixed places, their declensions, their return and the time that each takes to make its revolution; these men, I say, have discovered all except one thing: the fact that God is the Creator of the universe, and the just Judge who rewards all the actions of life according to their merit. They have not known how to raise themselves to the idea of the consummation of all things, the consequence of the doctrine of judgment, and to see that the world must change if souls pass from this life to a new life. In reality, as the nature of the present life presents an affinity to this world, so in the future life our souls will enjoy a lot conformable to their new condition. But they are so far from applying these truths that they do but laugh when we announce to them the end of all things and the regeneration of the age. Since the beginning naturally precedes that which is derived from it, the writer, of necessity, when speaking to us of things which had their origin in time, puts at the head of his narrative these words—“In the beginning God created.”

5. It appears, indeed, that even before this world an order of things existed of which our mind can form an idea, but of which we can say nothing, because it is too lofty a subject for men who are but beginners and are still babes in knowledge. The birth of the world was preceded by a condition of things suitable for the exercise of supernatural powers, outstripping the limits of time, eternal and infinite. The Creator and Demiurge of the universe perfected His works in it, spiritual light for the happiness of all who love the Lord, intellectual and invisible natures, all the orderly arrangement of pure intelligences who are beyond the reach of our mind and of whom we cannot even discover the names. They fill the essence of this invisible world, as Paul teaches us. “For by him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible whether they be thrones or dominions or principalities or powers” or virtues or hosts of angels or the dignities of archangels. To this world at last it was necessary to add a new world, both a school and training place where the souls of men should be taught and a home for beings destined to be born and to die. Thus was created, of a nature analogous to that of this world and the animals and plants which live thereon, the succession of time, for ever pressing on and passing away and never stopping in its course. Is not this the nature of time, where the past is no more, the future does not exist, and the present escapes before being recognised? And such also is the nature of the creature which lives in time,—condemned to grow or to perish without rest and without certain stability. It is therefore fit that the bodies of animals and plants, obliged to follow a sort of current, and carried away by the motion which leads them to birth or to death, should live in the midst of surroundings whose nature is in accord with beings subject to change. Thus the writer who wisely tells us of the birth of the Universe does not fail to put these words at the head of the narrative. “In the beginning God created;” that is to say, in the beginning of time.

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The below is an extract from the above homily:
“….Of what use then are geometry—the calculations of arithmetic—the study of solids and far-famed astronomy, this laborious vanity, if those who pursue them imagine that this visible world is co-eternal with the Creator of all things, with God Himself; if they attribute to this limited world, which has a material body, the same glory as to the incomprehensible and invisible nature; if they cannot conceive that a whole, of which the parts are subject to corruption and change, must of necessity end by itself submitting to the fate of its parts? But they have become “vain in their imaginations and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools” ……..
One day, doubtless, their terrible condemnation will be the greater for all this worldly wisdom, since, seeing so clearly into vain sciences, they have willfully shut their eyes to the knowledge of the truth. These men who measure the distances of the stars and describe them, both those of the North, always shining brilliantly in our view, and those of the southern pole visible to the inhabitants of the South, but unknown to us; who divide the Northern zone and the circle of the Zodiac into an infinity of parts, who observe with exactitude the course of the stars, their fixed places, their declensions, their return and the time that each takes to make its revolution; these men, I say, have discovered all except one thing: the fact that God is the Creator of the universe, and the just Judge who rewards all the actions of life according to their merit. ……”
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When did the word “scientist” enter our vocabulary? How did science take off as the driving force of modern culture and what of the natural philosophers of old?
The word science derives from the latin word scientia meaning “knowledge”. It is used from the middle ages onwards to cover anything concerned with knowledge often bordering on philosophy. Only in the nineteenth century did the word science come to have its more restricted and modern meaning of or pertaining to the natural or physical sciences such physics, chemistry, biology and so forth.
First was a phase from Plato and Aristotle up until the 17th century where the specificity of scientific knowledge was seen in its absolute certainty established by proof from evident axioms; next was a phase up to the mid-19th century in which the means to establish the certainty of scientific knowledge had been generalized to include inductive procedures as well. In the third phase, which lasted until the last decades of the 20th century, it was recognized that empirical knowledge was fallible, but it was still granted a special status due to its distinctive mode of production.
Now from the above observation, we see that most of the early phase philosophers upto 17th century believed the laws of nature as laws of God, external and inviolable, to which the world was subjected. This religious component was important because the influence of the Church though weakened, was still far-reaching. And men such as Newton and later Pascal and Mendel, to name but a few were devout Christians. The separation of matter and spirit allowed them to keep their faith both in science and God without the risk of compromise to either. From the seventeenth century onwards, with new inventions and discoveries in the field of science, scientists subscribe to a belief system of scientific naturalism, which holds the central dogma that “only nature, including humans and our creations, is real: that God does not exist; and that science alone can give us complete and reliable knowledge of reality.”
In the educational system everywhere, from a very young age itself, learning about science has become mandatory. Before we can reason out the reality about God and his creation, we are taught by science that it has no boundaries and that all human problems and all aspects of human endeavor, with due time, will be dealt with and solved by science alone. Thus, banishing Christianity completely from the minds of “educated” men, whether or not they still call themselves “Christian”. Our reasoning is blinded by this deception.
“Scientism is a matter of putting too high a value on natural science in comparison with other branches of learning or culture.” It has been defined as “the view that the characteristic inductive methods of the natural sciences are the only source of genuine factual knowledge and, in particular, that they alone can yield true knowledge about man and society”.
The worldview with respect to scientism is the scientific worldview.
So true to St. Basil’s words , the great and Holy father of the fourth century, which is so relevant today even in the twentieth century, when he says “these men, I say, have discovered all except one thing: the fact that God is the Creator of the universe.”
He says further “seeing so clearly into vain sciences, they have willfully shut their eyes to the knowledge of the truth”

“Who” is the deciever?


editedSatan-the Great Deceiver. He is the greatest concealer, the mightiest perverter of truth, the ultimate misleader, and the most convincing fraud and liar. Satan’s goal is two pronged. He wishes to convince us that God is neither all-powerful nor all loving, and that he, Satan, seems to be something he really is not.

This article also makes a feeble attempt at highlighting the work of Satan at work around and within us by using science as an example. It is an attempt to uncover Satan like we might uncover a serpent hiding beneath a rock or expose a camouflaged insect hiding in the foliage of a tree.

What do we know of Satan this great deceiver from the scriptures?

God created spiritual beings called angels. These beings, although having no physical aspect to their being, are nevertheless real and effectual in their work in both the spiritual realm of Heaven and this physical environment of our universe. These angels have different responsibilities and actions. In many places of the Scriptures we read of Cherubim, Seraphim, angels, archangels, Principalities, Powers, Thrones, and Dominions etc. Some of the archangels are named – Uriel, Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. Just as the angels are real and significant in the Holy Scripture and in the story of God’s salvation, so too are the fallen angels, the demons and Lucifer/Satan himself.
In Jude verse 6 and 7 we read of his entry into our world:
“And the angels that did not keep their own position but left their proper dwelling have been kept by him (that is the Lord) in eternal chains in the nether gloom until the judgment of the great day; just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise acted immorally and indulged in unnatural lust, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire”. Thus from this scriptural passage we infer that God has chained Satan and his demons. They are restricted by the power of God. God will judge The Prince of evil on the last day – The Day of Judgment.
Satan was once an Archangel – The bearer of the light before the throne of God (that can be a translation for the name Lucifer). This archangel was not content with his position in the order of the spiritual world. He desired the worship that was due only to God himself. Satan and all the angels that followed him were cast down from heaven. We read this in revelation 12:7. Satan was cast out, who “deceives the whole world”.
These are important truths that need to be impressed upon us.

Satan uses this deception upon those who claim allegiance to God. Below are the examples from the Scriptures.

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1. The righteous of God can be deceived, but deception involves the will of he who is being deceived. If the righteous man stands firm in faith, then Satan has no hold over him like the lesson we learn from the Old Testament Book of Job.
• Job was an upright man who turned away from evil.
• Without doubt God is the master here.
• Though Job is a righteous man, he can still be tempted by the deceits of Satan.
• Satan, through the evil world can inflict pain and suffering upon Job, but Job is ultimately in the hands of God.
These verses illustrate clearly what God has revealed to us in his Church.
2. Satan has no control except the power of deceit. He seeks to lead us away from God; he tempts us to lose our focus like the experience of Peter in Mathew 14:30.

• Walking on the water even in the front of our Lord, Satan seeks to have us sink into our own raging sea of doubt and fear.
• We sink, not because Satan defeats God who is with us, nor because of the pain and suffering of this evil world.
• We sink because we are led to believe that God is not with us at all or that God is not what he says he is.

This is deception, deception of the greatest of tricksters.

Therefore As In:
1 Peter 5:8,
“Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour”. Satan is ‘like a roaring lion’ he only pretending to be something he is not. Satan is truly prowling around us with his demons. He seeks to influence and deceive us even here within this Holy Church.
In James 4:7
“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you”.
In Matthew 7:13-14
“Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow, and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
There is a famous illustration. It is a comparison of two scenes. In one, we find a demon playing a musical instrument to accompany countless people entering into a wide gate by an equally wide and easy road. These people walk past all sorts of buildings housing all sorts of pleasures. Sadly, even though the gate is wide and the way easy, the eventual destination is hell itself.
In the other scene there is a high wall broken only by a very narrow and low gate and into this gate squeeze only a few people carrying their cross on their journey. The road that leads from this gate is very difficult, with rocks and obstacles along the way. The path leads up to a steep mountain. The eventual destination here is heaven and a crown of glory being presented by Christ.
How does Satan deceive us?
Satan plays out his deception according to the faith and life of those that he is tempting.
Life is a journey. Here we must decide which road to take as we learn from the Scriptures. Each road is entered through a gate. One gate is wide and easy; the other is difficult and requires great effort. Each gate leads to a road, one easy and comfortable, the other hard and steep. One leads to heaven to the very person of God and reward – salvation, the other to hell and the very teeth of the person of the devil.
This illustration can teach us much.
The many people who enter into the wide gate do so because the way is easy. There is music and there is song, laughter, entertainment, comfort and no lacking of physical things. The demon playing the musical instrument does so openly. He does not seek to disguise his presence or his identity.
These people belong to the world and therefore to Satan, because they have allowed themselves to be deceived. Yet this deception is no great miracle or magic. Satan does not have to play a great ruse. He merely has to offer the temptation of comfort and pleasure without God and the world will come and take it from his very hands.
Today we will find many Satanic Churches (so called) and organisations that sought to spread the influence of Satan. These organisations practice their evil work so openly. Satan does not have to hide from the world; it is already given over to him. The world has rejected God and embraced Satan as the great redeemer.
To some who are far from God or who do not know him at all, there are no wondrous tricks, miracles or great signs and wonders; there is no need for such things.

Have you ever thought about that image of Satan that we see in advertising and in the movies, the one where he is depicted as a troublesome comical figure in a goatee beard, a red suit with horns and a pointing long tail? In his hand he holds a trident with which he pokes people in an almost amusing way. This image is ridiculous, and even we, the Christians, might see it as a harmless parody. However, the truth is that it is a depiction of Satan. He is not shown in a disguise as someone he is not. He might seem humorous and even comical, but he is still openly Satan! Satan does not have to hide from the world; he is already master of it. His deceit is an easy one.

The most cunning deception of Satan lies not through the wide and easy gate, but through the narrow gate. In Matthew 16:24, the man who is carrying his cross in fulfillment of the command of our Lord, would use his physical eyes; he would see that it is impossible for him to enter this gate even without the cross he is carrying. Common sense, worldly sense would convince him that his intended lifestyle is not achievable.
Satan is at work in our minds and hearts as we contemplate this spiritual scene. He is saying to us that not only is the Christian commitment difficult it is unattainable! Satan’s attack upon us as Christians is to try and deceive us into giving up the Christian struggle. As in Matthew 19:26, as Christians we are encouraged to believe that the improbable walk up the steep path of our Christian journey is not by our own power, but by the presence and power of God. Satan deceives by telling us that we must rely upon ourselves, and therefore Christianity is futile.
All of us claim allegiance to the resurrected and ascended Son of God. The closer one is to God and the Kingdom of heaven, the stronger and more deceitful Satan must become. In many of the spiritual writings of the Church we find accounts of Holy men and women who have been confronted with the most horrifying visions of evil.
Is Science a laborious vanity?
The article continues……https://orthodoxchristianlife.com/2017/05/19/is-science-a-laborious-vanity-part-2/

God’s Creation Vs Science/Cosmology–Part 1

This article has two parts. Part 1 and Part 2 which is shown as two blogs.

creation

The article deals with St. Basil’s homily on Creation (also called as Hexeameron) and the human world of science. In the following paragraphs, the reader gets to understand a comparison about Creation between St. Basil’s homily and science. The major findings of what science has made till today with regards to this subject is also shown to get a clearer understanding about the theology on creation written by St. Basil and how those writings are still relevant today.

The homily is shown in red color and italics; its comparison to science is shown in blue color. The part of the homily which is shown in black, has no comparison to science but is included in the article to keep the original message of the homily as it is. Some notes and sayings of church fathers are given in text boxes.

  Let us go back in time, during the early Byzantine period, the time when St. Basil lived….

On the opposite side of Emperor Julian and of the scholars who practiced astrology during the early Byzantine period, a number of Church Fathers (‘Doctors of the Church’) and bishops flourished and left a legacy in Philosophy and Science without belonging to a school, or representing one. Some of these Church scholars were educated in the neo-Platonic school of Athens and they essentially formulated the Christian dogma, representing Christianity, since the Christian philosophy of that age was shaped on the basis of neo-Platonic and Aristotelian influences.

The main representatives of this current of thought in the early Byzantine period are above all others the three Church Fathers from Cappadocia: Saint Basil the Great, Saint Gregory of Nazianzus and Saint John Chrysostom.

As per the definition in science, Cosmology is the study of the Universe and its components, how it formed, how it has evolved and what its future is. Cosmology is as old as humankind. Once primitive social groups developed language, it was a short step to making their first attempts to understand the world around them.  Modern cosmology grew from ideas recorded in history. Ancient man asked questions such as “What’s going on around me?” which then developed into “How does the Universe work?” the key question that cosmology asks. Many of the earliest recorded scientific observations were about cosmology, and pursue of understanding has continued for over 5000 years. One of the most famous and widely accepted models for the universe’s development is the big bang theory.

About St. Basil:

 St. Basil was born in Neocaesareia, on the Black Sea shore, in the year Constantinople was founded (330). His family was a pious Christian one; his father was Basil, a teacher of Rhetorics and his mother Emmeleia. His grandmother, Macrina, was a daughter of a martyr and she was taught the primal Christian theology by Gregory the Illuminator (c. 257–c. 331), the patron saint of Armenia. After he received an elementary education in Neocaesareia, Basil continued his studies in Caesareia of Cappadocia, in Antioch, in Constantinople (under the gentile orator Livanius) and in the famous neo-Platonic school of Athens, where philosophers Imerius and Proaeresius were teaching. In these student years Basil became a friend of Gregory of Nazianzus, while he also met with Julian, the subsequent Emperor Julian the ‘Renegade’ (Paravates). When he returned in his homeland, Basil followed a monastic life for quite a while. In Caesareia Basil was ordained a deacon, a priest and later on he became a bishop (370-379). After his death he was elevated to the ranks of the saints of the Church; his younger brothers Gregory of Nyssa and Peter of Sebasteia, and sister Macrina, were also sanctified.

During the several years of his studies Basil received a wide classical education. He studied Grammar, Rhetorics, Medicine, Philosophy, Geometry, Mathematics and Astronomy.

About 350 letters are attributed to Saint Basil the Great. Of special interest for those that study Theology, Philosophy and the History and philosophy of the sciences are the Nine Homilies to the Six-Day Creation and the letters, which show his broad and deep knowledge not only in Astronomy but also in Meteorology. This is mentioned by professor Κ.D. Georgoulis: “From a philosophical point of view, of special interest are the ‘Nine Homilies to the Six-Day Creation’. In these Basil has incorporated his views in Physics, Cosmology and Anthropology. He exhibits a love towards nature and he appears to be a keen observer of natural phenomena and events… Nature is esteemed as a creation that was created by God through His wisdom… St. Basil the Great in these Homilies lays the foundations for the new stance of Christianity towards the physical reality.

Let us look into St. Basil’s Homily.    

The Nine Homilies to the Six-Day Creation is a work rich in astronomical information and in the corresponding philosophical approaches of Cosmology. The Nine Homilies were translated for the first time in Latin by the Byzantine scholar and philosopher Ioannis Argyropoulos (1410-1490), who earned the seat of Greek studies at the University of Florence in 1456 and stayed there at least up to 1471.

Homily 1:

In the Beginning God made the Heaven and the Earth.

  1. It is right that any one beginning to narrate the formation of the world should begin with the good order which reigns in visible things.  I am about to speak of the creation of heaven and earth, which was not spontaneous, as some have imagined, but drew its origin from God. 

The big bang theory describes the development of the universe from the time just after it came into existence up to today. Because of the limitations of the laws of science, scientific community couldn’t make any guesses about the instant the universe came into being. This can be known from the statement that ‘A lot happened in that first second of the big bang’, which leads to fact that the existence of the universe was spontaneous. This is what St.Basil mentioned during his time, in the 4th century mentioning in his homily “the creation of heaven and earth, which was not spontaneous, as some have imagined”, showing it is very relevant today also. 

What ear is worthy to hear such a tale?  How earnestly the soul should prepare itself to receive such high lessons!  How pure it should be from carnal affections, how unclouded by worldly disquietudes, how active and ardent in its researches, how eager to find in its surroundings an idea of God which may be worthy of Him! But before weighing the justice of these remarks, before examining all the sense contained in these few words, let us see who addresses them to us.  Because, if the weakness of our intelligence does not allow us to penetrate the depth of the thoughts of the writer, yet we shall be involuntarily drawn to give faith to his words by the force of his authority.  Now it is Moses who has composed this history; Moses, who, when still at the breast, is described as exceeding fair; Moses, whom the daughter of Pharaoh adopted; who received from her a royal education, and who had for his teachers the wise men of Egypt; Moses, who disdained the pomp of royalty, and, to share the humble condition of his compatriots, preferred to be persecuted with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting delights of sin; Moses, who received from nature such a love of justice that, even before the leadership of the people of God was committed to him, he was impelled, by a natural horror of evil, to pursue malefactors even to the point of punishing them by death; Moses, who, banished by those whose benefactor he had been, hastened to escape from the tumults of Egypt and took refuge in Ethiopia, living there far from former pursuits, and passing forty years in the contemplation of nature; Moses, finally, who, at the age of eighty, saw God, as far as it is possible for man to see Him; or rather as it had not previously been granted to man to see Him, according to the testimony of God Himself, “If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream.  My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house, with him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently and not in dark speeches.” It is this man, whom God judged worthy to behold Him, face to face, like the angels, who imparts to us what he has learnt from God.  Let us listen then to these words of truth written without the help of the “enticing words of man’s wisdom” by the dictation of the Holy Spirit; words destined to produce not the applause of those who hear them, but the salvation of those who are instructed by them.

Below are the writings of church fathers on the writings of Moses.

     Saint Irenaeos (ca. 130-ca. 200), Bishop of Lyons: “The writings of Moses are the words of Christ. Christ Himself declares to the Jews, as John has recorded in the Gospel: ‘For if ye had believed Moses, ye would have believed Me; for concerning Me that one wrote. But if ye believe not the writings of that one, how shall ye believe My words [Jn. 5:46, 47]?’ He thus indicates in the clearest manner that the writings of Moses are His words. If, then, [this be the case with regard] to Moses, so also, beyond a doubt, the words of the other prophets are His [words]….And again, the Lord Himself exhibits Abraham as having said to the rich man, with reference to all those who were still alive: ‘If they hear not Moses and the prophets, they will not be persuaded even if one should rise from the dead [Lk. 16:31].’”

Saint John Chrysostom (ca. 347-407): “The Lord said to the Jews, ‘Cease thinking that I will accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuseth you—Moses, in whom ye have hoped [Jn. 5:45]. For if ye had believed Moses, ye would have believed Me; for concerning Me that one wrote. But if ye believe not the writings of that one, how shall ye believe My words [Jn. 5:46, 47]?’ What the Lord is saying is of this kind: ‘It is Moses who has been insulted more than I by your conduct toward Me, for ye have disbelieved him rather than Me.’ See how in every way He has cast them out from all excuse….‘And whence,’ says someone, ‘is it clear that Moses will accuse us, and that Thou art not a boaster? What hast Thou to do with Moses?…And how doth it appear that we shall believe on another who cometh in his own name? All these assertions Thou makest without evidence.’…Yet (Christ would reply) ‘since it is acknowledged that I came from God, both by the works, by the voice of John, and by the testimony of the Father, it is evident that Moses will accuse the Jews.’

“‘But whence doth it appear that they will believe another?’ From their hating Christ, since they who turn aside from Him Who cometh according to the will of God will, it is quite plain, receive the enemy of God….However, since the Scriptures terrified them less than Moses, He brings round His discourse to the very person of Moses, setting over against them their Lawgiver as their accuser, thus rendering the terror more impressive. Observe: they said that they persecuted Jesus through love for God, He showeth that they did so through hating God; they said that they held fast to Moses, He shows that they acted thus because they believed not Moses….If they believed Moses they ought to have done homage to One of Whom Moses prophesied….Therefore, we must cast out all wickedness from our souls, and never more contrive any deceit; for, saith one, ‘To the crooked God sendeth forth crooked paths [Prov. 21:8].’”3

        Again, Patriarch Abraham said to the rich man: “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, they will not be persuaded even if one should rise from the dead [Lk. 16:31].”Saint Gregory the Great (ca. 540-604) comments: “Abraham’s reply is fulfilled. The Lord rose from the dead, but because the Jews were unwilling to believe Moses, they refused to believe the One Who did rise from the dead.”

Note: We know that Basil studied Astronomy in Athens. Basil ended up as a very prolific author of the Church, a Father who struggled for Orthodoxy and against the heretical views of his period.

We observe that first of all, St.Basil opposes to many views of the ancient Greek philosophy that do not agree with the Christian cosmological model; in addition he strongly opposes to certain Christian heretical views that also express or imply a world model different from that of the Old Testament. For his tireless teaching and writing despite his fragile health, Basil was called by the Church ‘Great’ ecumenical Teacher.

From the science point of view perhaps one of the greatest influences on modern thought are the ideas that arose from Greek philosophy between 600 BC and start of the Roman Empire. The works of scholars from this era will influence philosophers and scientists into the 21st century and many of our modern cosmological frameworks have their root in ancient Greek ideas. While many of our first cosmologies were based on myths and legends, it is the Greek philosophical tradition that introduces an intellectual approach based on evidence, reason and debate. While many of their ideas barely qualify as scientific theories, their reliance on mathematics as a tool to understand the Universe remains to this day.

The homily continues as follows:

  1.  “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” I stop struck with admiration at this thought.  What shall I first say?  Where shall I begin my story?  Shall I show forth the vanity of the Gentiles?  Shall I exalt the truth of our faith? The philosophers of Greece have made much ado to explain nature, and not one of their systems has remained firm and unshaken, each being overturned by its successor.  It is vain to refute them; they are sufficient in themselves to destroy one another.  Those who were too ignorant to rise to a knowledge of God, could not allow that an intelligent cause presided at the birth of the Universe; a primary error that involved them in sad consequences. 
In support to the above homily by St. Basil Saint Paul says: “For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived by the things which are made, both His eternal power and divinity, so that they are without excuse, because, having known God, they glorified Him not as God, nor were thankful, but were brought to nought in their reasonings, and their heart, void of understanding, was darkened; asserting to be wise, they became foolish [Rom. 1:20-22].”

Cosmology has exploded in the last 20 years with radically new information about the structure, origin and evolution of the Universe obtained through recent technological advances in telescopes and space observatories and basically has become a search for the understanding of not only what makes up the Universe (the objects within it) but also its overall architecture. In science, the source of truth is observation and experimentation. They spawn scientific hypotheses and theories, suggest models and patterns on the basis of some observations or other, and predict the course of events, which in turn must be tested by experiment. If repeated observations do not concur with the theory’s predictions, the theory will be thrown out and replaced by a new one. Science must be based solely on unquestionable, proven facts. We observe here that St. Basil’s statement as “and not one of their systems has remained firm and unshaken, each being overturned by its successor” is true towards scientific experiments.

Some had recourse to material principles and attributed the origin of the Universe to the elements of the world.  Others imagined that atoms, and indivisible bodies, molecules and ducts, form, by their union, the nature of the visible world.  Atoms reuniting or separating produce births and deaths and the most durable bodies only owe their consistency to the strength of their mutual adhesion:  a true spider’s web woven by these writers who give to heaven, to earth, and to sea so weak an origin and so little consistency! It is because they knew not how to say “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” 

On July 4, 2012, scientists working with the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) announced their discovery of a particle that behaves the way the Higgs boson should behave. The results, while published with a high degree of certainty, are still somewhat preliminary. Some researchers are calling the particle “Higgslike” until the findings — and the data — stand up to more scrutiny.

Particle physics usually has a hard time competing with politics and celebrity gossip for headlines, but the Higgs boson has garnered some serious attention. That’s exactly what happened on July 4, 2012, though, when scientists at CERN announced that they’d found a particle that behaved the way they expect the Higgs boson to behave. Maybe the famed boson’s grand and controversial nickname, the “God Particle,” has kept media outlets buzzing. Then again, the intriguing possibility that the Higgs boson is responsible for all the mass in the universe rather captures the imagination, too. Or perhaps we’re simply excited to learn more about our world. To this St. Basil say’s “It is because they knew not how to say “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” 

Deceived by their inherent atheism it appeared to them that nothing governed or ruled the universe, and that was all was given up to chance. To guard us against this error the writer on the creation, from the very first words, enlightens our understanding with the name of God; “In the beginning God created.” 

Peter Higgs is an atheist and holds strong political views.

What a glorious order!  He first establishes a beginning, so that it might not be supposed that the world never had a beginning.  Then he adds “Created” to show that which was made was a very small part of the power of the Creator. In the same way that the potter, after having made with equal pains a great number of vessels, has not exhausted either his art or his talent; thus the Maker of the Universe, whose creative power, far from being bounded by one world, could extend to the infinite, needed only the impulse of His will to bring the immensities of the visible world into being.  If then the world has a beginning, and if it has been created, enquire who gave it this beginning, and who was the Creator:  or rather, in the fear that human reasoning may make you wander from the truth, Moses has anticipated enquiry by engraving in our hearts, as a seal and a safeguard, the awful name of God:  “In the beginning God created”—It is He, beneficent Nature, Goodness without measure, a worthy object of love for all beings endowed with reason, the beauty the most to be desired, the origin of all that exists, the source of life, intellectual light, impenetrable wisdom, it is He who “in the beginning created heaven and earth.”

The big bang theory describes the development of the universe from the time just after it came into existence up to today. It’s one of several scientific models that attempts to explain why the universe is the way it is. The theory makes several predictions, many of which have been proven through observational data. As a result, it’s the most popular and accepted theory regarding our universe’s development.  True to St. Basil’s words, here we see that science does not accept that the world was “Created” and no enquiry is made as to “who gave it this beginning, and who was the Creator”

The article continues with some selected sayings of the church fathers on “The Creator and the creation……..”

https://orthodoxchristianlife.com/2017/05/17/gods-creation-vs-sciencecosmology-part-2/