Fascination with wickedness obscures what is good, and roving desire perverts the innocent mind.
Wisdom of Solomon 4:12

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Rebuilding The Ruins!

Too often it comes as a shock to westerners that historic Christianity is a mystical religion that engages the whole person in action. Most western Christians today know a great deal about having a daily bible study and prayer time, which usually consists of reading though a book or books of the bible, followed by some extemporaneous prayers, which usually leads to general feeling of well-being after wards. For many, going beyond that approaches the two great evils: "superstition" and "works righteousness". If we insert fasting, liturgical prayers, times of silence, kneeling, genufleting, lectio divina, incense, candles, prayer ropes, and prayers of the heart into the disciplines the faith, and we the average western Christian sees another religion; a religion that seems to be overly mystical and too works focused. But, why and how did these things which have been common practices for so long become so foreign? There is a trajectory within western Christianity that has made this loss of these ancient Christian disciplines possible.

It began with the victory of Augustinian Neo-Platonism, in the 5th century. The consequence of this has left today’s Christianity thinking that the goal of a person life is to make it into heaven, rather than to become united to God in body & soul now and after this life. The long term consequence of this is a two story universe, God up stairs, & us downstairs, and our task should we choose to accept it, is to make it upstairs.

This distortion continued in the 10th & 11th century by the additions of St Anselm. By way of his orientation towards legal satisfaction, what we now have is a Christianity that is most of all concerned with how man gets off the hook for sin on light of its insult of God’s honor. Christianity lost its focus on why and how God restores humanity to our original design as Christ’s icon on earth.

Move forward to the 12th & 13th century and we find the influences of St Aquinas. His influence made Christianity something that must be explainable and definable at every point, in other words, scholastic. For many Christians today, there is no higher form of Christianity than intellectual Christianity. This is a faith that lives in the mind.

Move forward again to the protestant reformation of the 16th century, and there the west received the same authority that prior to it belonged to bishops and popes. Every individual became the protector of the faith, with the authority to keep, shed, or redesign the articles of faith as each saw fit according to their understanding of the bible.

Go forward again to the 18th century and find the great awakening; this movement in the Americas and England made Christianity something that must be the result of a personal crisis and catharsis. As a result, one must have had a moment that one can point to when they had their God experience, once having that experience of God no more was needed.

Couple this with the need to feel moral and aligned to God, the social Victorian moralism made its way into Christianity. This moralism shaped the faith into more than just something in the mind and a one time experience. However, the problem here is that there was a focus on a few select sins such as sexual concupiscence, drunkenness, and participation in the things enjoyed by the general culture.

To sum this all up; what we have in the west today is a faith that is dualistic, legal, intellectual, individualistic, based on a one time experience, and sustained by a biased moralism that focuses on avoiding a few specific sins. In short, the trajectory of the western faith has left us with a faith that has almost no relationship to the faith of the early church, and especially its mystical practices of transformation into Christlikeness.

Having exposed these foreign viruses that have attached themselves to the faith, we can see their emptiness, and our need to return to a faith that actually creates real union with God here and now. It is this need that gives the mystical historic spiritual disciplines their place of priority in the Christian’s life. My hope is that the exposure of the above along with the recovery of this ancient practice can help to rebuild authentic Christianity.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Prayer Before Reading Scripture

Illumine our hearts, O Master Who lovest mankind, with the pure light of Thy divine knowledge. Open the eyes of our mind to the understanding of Thy gospel teachings. Implant also in us the fear of Thy blessed commandments, that trampling down all carnal desires, we may enter upon a spiritual manner of living, both thinking and doing such things as are well-pleasing unto Thee. For Thou art the illumination of our souls and bodies, O Christ our God, and unto Thee we ascribe glory, together with Thy Father, Who is from everlasting, and Thine all-holy, good, and life-creating Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Journey to Orthodoxy

Before discovering Christian Orthodoxy there was always a rather large problem that I could never expunge from my mind. I could never make peace with the fact that there were a myriad of different theological opinions, interpretations, and conclusions amongst so called orthodox Christians.  I would ask myself, how can we have both Calvinists and Arminians, co-exist and not consider the others heretics? How can all the parties claim to be exegetical, but still fail to agree on things like ecclesiology, sacramentology, eschatology and all the rest? Was it possible for any group to be right about everything? Who gets to decide right from wrong?  Is ultimate truth left to the individual?  Are we each forced to be infallible popes? To sum it up, I was relentlessly troubled by the fact that in Protestantism the final conclusion over the truth is one’s own; could that be what the Lord had in mind? Could that be what Jesus meant when he said I will never leave you to his church?

In order to try to seek peace with myself I tried to find the most ancient expression of Protestantism. I wanted to be part of the true church. It was then that I found early Anglicanism; I began to seriously look into the Anglican Book of Common Prayer and its approach to Christianity, it was the most apostolic expression of the faith to be could be found protestantism. In it I saw a church with a greater fullness, yet without the many additions of Rome; and without the many subtractions of other Protestants. That was what I was looking for.

Things seemed to be fairly peaceful in my Anglican world up to this point; yet as time went by I learned of the many in consitencies within Anglicanism. I knew that it was not perfect, but what could be better? Surely not rome with all of its additions and excesses. It was then that I had a direct run in with Orthodoxy.  That encounter turned my world upside down. I was doing some research for a sermon and I ran into the orthodox teaching on Kairos and Chronos, this was something that was completely foreign to me as a Protestant. I continued to dig, and found more and more Orthodox teaching that had previously been a complete mystery to me as a Protestant. I came face to face with the content of seven ecumenical councils and their canons, single procession of the Holy Spirit, paradosis, essence and energies, theosis, synthesis, and then the answer I was seeking: the concilliar approach to truth and the church.  What I was looking for in Anglicanism, I found in Orthodoxy. There I found the fullness of the Christianity without the additions of Rome, and or the subtractions of the reformers. There I saw a sure way to determine right from wrong; there I found the one concilliar voice of the whole church rather than the ruling voice of any one convincing theologian.  There I found the church the Lord promised us, the true church without a divided mind or practice!

At that point I simply wanted to enter the Orthodox Church. However, it was not that simple. I was still responsible for the spiritual well being of my small flock.  It could not just think of myself at a moment like this. So, I chose to invest the next several years of my ministry teaching my parish as much as I could about the Orthodox faith.  During this time my own understanding and practice of the Orthodox faith grew exponentially, and this has forever changed me.  Many in the congregation that I serve have also fallen in love with Orthodoxy.  In the last several months there has been a rather strong desire to begin our move in the Orthodox direction. 

My first hope to enter into the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, the Orthodox Church, and to bring as many as will come with me. My second hope is to do all that I can to contribute to the formation of an American Orthodoxy.  May the Lord have mercy upon us, guide us, and watch over us as we move towards His church.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


From the vespers service of Thanksgiving (Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese):

Everyone capable of thanksgiving is capable of salvation and eternal joy.  Wherefore we Thine unworthy servants offer praise to Thee our Savior, for Thou hast given all things to us, even our very lives.
Thou hast poured blessings upon us though we are ungrateful and disobedient. Showing mercy rather than righteous vengeance; Thou didst even give Thyself as a sacrifice to save us.
Accept our hymns as a thank offering, and through them enable us with our whole heart; to eternally praise Thee the Creator, Benefactor and Savior of our souls.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Orthodoxy For Anglicans

  Until the eleventh century, the English Church shared more than a love of icons with the whole body of the Orthodox Church: they shared a communion of beliefs, moral practice, and liturgical life with the Church throughout the world. This lasted for centuries, but it was not to last forever.

   Even after the Schism of 1054 – the division between Rome and the rest of the Christian world – England remained in communion with the Eastern Orthodox. In 1066, the Norman Invasion, with backing from the pope of Rome, forced the submission to Frankish Rome of all English churchmen. Rome had already broken communion with the Orthodox East, and changed the Creed and the Conciliar tradition of the Church by elevating one bishop – the Bishop of Rome – above all others.

   Why did the English remain in communion with the Orthodox East? Not because the English (and the Irish, Scots, and Welsh, as we would call them today) disliked Rome. The English church was part of the Orthodox church, from its beginnings, until the purge of Orthodox bishops following the Battle of Hastings.  The English were Orthodox...  More

Time, Space, Matter, and The Eyes - Iconography

I have heard the Anglican Bishop, N. T. Wright tell a story of his experience as the chaplain in one of the ivey league schools in the UK. In that story he recounts a common event during his chaplaincy; it was his job to interview every student that came under his care when they enterd the school. Inevitably he would ask the question, "do you believe in God?"  The great majority of the students answered this way: 'Oh no, I don't believe in some angry old man, who sits in the clouds, and sends down misfortune upon anyone who doesn't please him."  To that the Bishop would answer, "Thank God, I don't believe in that God either."  After this response, most students would go into temporary shock, after all he was a bishop, he was expected to believe, and this was the only god they knew.  They knew only of a non material god, outside of time and space, who had no real inter-connection with his creation. They had no idea which god it is that Christians have claimed throughout the ages to be the God of creation.

I dont' know what bishop Wright said after that, I hope he said: "I belieive in the God of Israel, who was present with them, the God of the apostles who took on flesh in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, the God of the church fathers who was present with them while they were being tortured and burned at the stake, the God we find revealed in the bible and experienced within ourselves by way of His Spirit, the God who is first and foremost love, mercy, and compassion, and who made that love known in the peson of Jesus Christ."

Whatever else might be noted in the two different views here is that we believe in God that is both beyond us, and yet with us, & even in us. Moreover, we believe that God is forever connected to our matter.  It is for this reason that the church from its earliest days determined to employ icons as visual presentations of both the bible, and the life of the church.  Since God took on matter, He has forever sanctified it, and made  holy.

Nevertheless, as a visual representation, iconography is not static, it too has been translated into forms more understandable by the cultures where the icon seeks to materially present God.  Below are some contemporary translations of ancient iconography.

   If one views and meditates on these Americanized icons, it is very difficult  not to expereince God's presence, it is very difficult not learn something of God, and even more importantly, not expereince something of God.

More to come......

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Time, Space & Matter - Part 1

Ever since the early days of Greek philosophy, the west has found itself in a gargantuan wrestling match with the concepts of time, space, and matter.

The first concern in history was over matter. Thales of Miletus (the first official philosopher) began a school of thought that came to be called "material monism." He and the material monists who followed him derived that the entire visible cosmos came from a single thing or principle (either water, the infinite, air, fire). Their concern was with the origin, makeup, and right use of matter. These material monists also taught that motion is caused by the soul (psyche) because the soul (psyche) was the location where the gods exerted their powers. Consequently, anything that had the power to move things, such as rocks that move water, magnets that move metal, or persons that move objects all have souls; and the souls are “full of the gods.”

These precepts developed and transformed as the years went by, however they never departed the western mind. By the time Christianity came around, St. Paul knew that everyone understood that “it is in God that we live and move and have our being (Acts 17: 28).” This also meant that all matter was inescapably intertwined with God, and that there was a sense in which all things were holy! This became a central tenant of Christian thought. One of the best treatments of this topic is found in the book, “On The Incarnation,” by St. Athanasius.

Nevertheless, another kind of thinking would later trump the conviction that God is in all things. The challenge finds its origins in the influence of another pre-Socratic philosopher by the name of Heraclitus. It is by the teaching of Heraclitus that dualism was born in the sixth century BC. Years later, the teachings of Plato and Heraclitus would be merged to form the neo-Platonists, and they would forever firm up the concepts of material dualism instead of material monism.

In the early years of Christianity, neo-Platonism ruled in many corners of the Greco-Roman world. The neo-Platonists, following Heraclitus’ lead, taught that there was an anti-world unlike ours where the gods dwelt, and that was the perfect world. Consequently, this world and the things in it are not holy, nor our permanent home, “we’re just a passing through.” This kind of thinking, never again departed the western mind.

Coupled with Islamic influence, matter was stripped of its holiness. Matter and pictures began to be seen as inappropriate to represent the perfect world, and much less the perfect God thus the Christian doctrine of the incarnation was made a secondary doctrine. In summary, the iconoclast controversy in the eighth century came to represent both sides of argument. The historic Christian school argued that since God entered into matter, matter had been sanctified, and thus been enabled to represent the heavenly matter, time, and space of God. The other school taught matter is inadequate and unacceptable to make that representation, and therefore not to be done.

The iconoclasts were eventually defeated, but only to rise again after the reformation. It is for this reason that much of Western Christianity takes place in a hall with four plain walls and a pulpit. It is also for this reason that a theology of “why bother to polish brass on a sinking ship” rules the day. The task at hand for those who are paleo–orthodox (ancient-orthodox) is to reassert the necessity of God being at work in all things; as St Paul said, “it is in God that we live, and move and have our being.” This is especially true regarding those things which he calls the mysteries (sacraments) of the church.

More to come…

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

“What is God’s will for my life?”

Discerning God’s will is both extremely easy and at the same time impossibly difficult. The reason for this is the fact that certain parts of God’s will have been clearly and adequately revealed, while other parts have been left a mystery. The church has come to call these two wills: God’s hidden will and God’s revealed will.

God has not told us everything that He knows or plans. There are secrets that belong to Him alone. At the same time, the Lord has revealed certain things that are for us and our children forever (Deut. 29:29).

God’s hidden, or secret will encompasses His sovereign choices which direct all things that come to pass in creation (Ps. 33:11; Isa. 46:8–10). These choices are unalterable, and are what Scripture alludes to when it says God cannot change His mind (Num. 23:19). We cannot know these choices in advance, and they are, “none of our business.” And while God’s choices direct the courses of our lives; they in no way excuse our rejection or trespass of those things which God has revealed. God’s secret will is a mystery, and it is meant to be so in order that the just might live by faith in accordance with what He has revealed (Hab 2:4, Rom 1: 17).

God also has a revealed will, it is found first in scripture, then in the teachings of the fathers, then in the teachings of the ecumenical councils and creeds, then in the ancient liturgies, and finally in the icons. They all contain that which God has revealed to the world for our salvation.

The rub in all of this occurs when we fail to remember that His hidden will (those things which unfold in our lives) is at work in such a way that it tests our faith in His revealed will. Faith is the assurance that God has a good purpose for His people that cannot be thwarted (Rom. 8:28), no matter what may be happening in our lives. Faith then, is living according to God’s revealed will in the midst of His secret will. This is the reason that works can never be separated from faith; where there is faith there must by necessity be works (Jam 2:24), and it is for this reason that everyone will be judged by their works (Rom 2: 5-6).

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Next Christendom

Although not the first to make the point, and certainly not the last, Philip Jenkin’s The Next Christendom popularized the notion that Christianity is undergoing a metamorphosis. Jenkins, an Englishman and the Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of the Humanities at Penn State University, maintains that the heart of Christianity soon will be, if it is not already, Africa and Latin America. And the shift is not merely a demographic one, but an ideological one as well. Various African and Latin American expressions of Christianity are currently eclipsing the European version of Christianity. Read More

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Census & Signs of Western Decline

Census figures in Memphis represent a modest decline in two-parent households since 2000, when 38.4 percent of Memphis kids lived in them. They also depict a sharp contrast between the city and the rest of Shelby County, with 69.7 percent of the 76,774 Shelby County children living outside Memphis city limits residing in two-parent households. National figures from the 2010 Census aren't available yet, but statewide, 58 percent of Tennessee's nearly 1.5 million children are in two-parent homes. Researchers and area officials say the trend toward single-parent homes is highly worrisome, but not new or limited to Memphis. Many of Memphis' most difficult problems are rooted in the growing prevalence of single-parent households in the poverty-stricken inner city, said Eugene K. Cashman Jr., president and CEO of the Urban Child Institute. “The most critical years for brain development are from conception to age 3, “Cashman said. "Being in a single-family home is a stressful environment," he said. "There's undoubtedly less resources. There's less time to touch, talk, read and play with them." The educational disadvantages translate into a less-equipped workforce, which leads to diminished economic development and a continuing cycle of poverty, Cashman said. More here.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Friday, August 12, 2011

Welcome to the Orthamerica video blog

Some Differences Between East and West

The schism between the east and the west is a complex subject and should not be limited to political relations between the bishops and emperors but should emphasize the cultivating factors of the cultures at large and how the cultures infected the doctrines of both sides. One major difference between the western church (Roman Catholic) and the Eastern Church (Eastern Orthodox) is the manner of which theology is organized, taught and digested. Today, the Orthodox Church refers to nearly all western theology as scholasticism. Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos explains scholasticism as such in Orthodox Spirituality: A brief introduction:

“Scholastic theology tried to understand logically the Revelation of God and conform to philosophical methodology. Characteristic of such an approach is the saying of Anselm [Archbishop of Canterbury from 1093-1109, one of the first after the Norman Conquest and destruction of the Old English Orthodox Church]: “I believe so as to understand.” The Scholastics acknowledged God at the outset and then endeavoured to prove His existence by logical arguments and rational categories. In the Orthodox Church, as expressed by the Holy Fathers, faith is God revealing Himself to man. Read more…

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Consumerism & Contentment?

I was born on the communist island of Cuba in 1962, right in the midst of the Cuban missile crisis. It was a time when the island’s communist leadership had begun to take all private property from individuals and make them the property of the state. The new found profits were then distributed among the new elite within the communist party. All of this was done with the motto “everyone equal.” History has shown us that some were more equal than others. In any case, the drive for equality proved to be huge enough to hypnotize the population into acquiescence. The dream sold by the communists and bought by the people was one wherein everyone would be equally able to consume to the point of contentment. Obviously, that never happened. What has happened is that the Cuban economy is ruins and the people live low on the global poverty level. The dream of consuming to point of contentment became a nightmare.

As a reward for disagreeing with the new system, my parents and their children (myself included) were exiled from the Island nation. We settled in the U. S. where a totally different paradigm ruled. The American dream appeared to be one wherein a person could, if they desired work hard enough, consume one’s way into contentment. Consuming was for all intents and purposes the new path to salvation, it was that thing which would make all other things right. Now, this was obviously too crude to state outright, but it was nevertheless the reality for just about everyone I knew. And thus, consume we did. Unfortunately, it never produced the much sought after contentment, and left us with a great deal of debt. It did not take very long to figure out that something was very wrong!

The American dream has not always been to consume ourselves into contentment, nevertheless, it is not difficult to show that this has been our nation’s underlying goal since WWII; consuming has been our gospel. Nevertheless, it seems that the era of hoping for salvation through consumption may be drawing to a close. One need not have a degree in economics to note that the shifts in our prosperity are monumental, and everyone realizes something is severely wrong!

We may be entering into the most gospel hungry era in the history of our nation. Are the preachers of our nation ready for this? Are the churches ready to come out from under the yoke of consumerism, or is our gospel too contaminated with the gospel of the past 50 years? It is time that we take the words of our Lord seriously; there is no other gospel than that of Christ. There is no contentment except that which is found in the death of this world and the birth of the world to come.

Repent (metanoeo: redirect your understanding) for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (within reach).

Mat 4: 17

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A New Era

“Oh, how the mighty have fallen.”

These words were uttered by King David upon hearing of the death of King Saul. He remembered the former reign of Saul and lamented the end of an era. Of course, we now know that greater and more glorious days were close at hand. However, David had no way of knowing that even more glorious days were awaiting him. It is always this way when there is a change of eras.

However, when we compare the change that occurred between Saul’s administration and David’s, it seems insignificant in comparison to the change of an entire epoch. The last great epoch change occurred with the beginning of the modern era. Most scholars assign the birth of the modern era to the creation of the Guttenberg press. If you will recall, it was in the 16th century that both the renaissance and the reformation came into full flower. The world would never be the same after these events. The worldview, morality, and politics of the western world took a completely new direction in the modern era. Natural science became the launching pad for the modern worldview, morality became centered on the individual’s desires & freedoms, and politics took on a democratic style.

Modernity however, has for all intents and purposes crashed and burned. No one of consequence believes that we will “science” our way, or “individualize” our way out of our very real problems. Humanity is broken, our system of thought is broken, politics is broken, and most are aware enough to recognize it.

In other words, we are living in a time of epoch change. A friend and colleague recently commented that the events of 911 would go down in the annals of history as the nail on the coffin of modernity. It is here however that the Christian stands while others fall. We know that the best is yet to come; how, when, and where may all be a mystery, but the fact is that the gates of hell will never prevail the church. The most glorious days of the church are yet to come.

What then is the church to do with modernity? Are we to throw it into the junk heap of history? No; at least not all of it. There has been much good that has come from modernity, education on mass, scientific advance in areas of medicine, the suppression of despotism of all sorts. The gospel has moved forward in many ways, and these good things should be preserved.

The task at hand is not merely one of deconstruction, or undoing the errors of modernity, but it is also one of reconstruction; by that I mean retaining the best of both pre-modernity (mystery, philosophy, revelation, corporate culture) and modernity, all the while looking to see where the Lord is taking His people. In short, the church must strive towards a full blown worldview that incorporates the fullness of truth, the fullness of pre-modern Orthodoxy, medieval Catholicity, and modern Evangelicalism.

Friday, July 8, 2011

An Orthodox Anglican Conversation

It is not often that a discussion between two historic expressions of Christianity result in a pleasant conclusion. Here is one that does. In this conversation, several important topics such as conservatism/liberalism and ideology, Augustinianism and Pelagianism, higher criticism and the patrisitcs are discussed. This conversation highlights many important themes must be addressed and sorted out for the future American church.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Proud Aliens

There are many things that are quite puzzling about Christianity to those who dwell on the outside when they look in. This is especially the case when we refer to the classic and historic worship forms of Christianity.

Those of us who practice the ancient faith do strange things like: process while carrying the Bible, banners, and crosses; we light candles, & use large amounts of incense; our clergy & altar servers dress as if they were already in the heavens. And if all of this were not strange enough, we say words that were written thousands of years ago, & we sing songs that span the 2000 (to 3500) year history of the church. And we even celebrate days on a calendar that no one in our country seems to know anything about.

We obviously belong to another rhythm of time. Our worship exposes to the watching world that we are aliens. To the outside observer, this kind of experience can be very appealing or very mystifying. In either case, it is obvious to all our worship has within it many layers of meaning. Meaning which is not easily apprehended by the biblically illiterate. Historic worship requires a new mind, heart, and soul, one shaped by another world, a spiritual world where God gives himself to us. For the reason we above all people should be eager to share our spiritual culture with all who will listen.

Consequently, it is imperative that churches that practice the ancient way of worship invest deeply in the training of their people. The mission work for historic churches (& thus the churches of the future) must focus on exposing the uninitiated to that other world that we know by every means possible: we must teach the bible, the Fathers, the councils, the songs, the prayers, the iconography, & the great books. It is by passing down the one faith in its fullness (no subtractions) that the Spirit begins to have his way with us. Historic churches are not to be museums, but rahter living and active, always at work in the molding of persons into the image of the Son of God.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Is Christianity In A Tailspin?

It is inarguable that the contemporary western culture in which we live is in a spiritual tailspin. Some have labeled our era “the Post-Christian era,” others “the Post-Modern Era.” In any case, we are post, or past that which came just a few decades ago. I would assert that we are in a “The Post-Modernistic Christian Era.”

What I mean by a "Post Modernistic Christian era" is that we live in an age wherein the masses have analyzed & rejected the precepts & practices of the particular brand of Christianity that has given shape to the western mind. Unfortunately, that also means that most persons assume that they know Christianity in toto, & found it lacking.

Consequently, the western church is in deep turmoil. It is undeniable that western Christianity is experiencing a shrinking membership, & a diminishing redemptive effect on our culture; this reality stresses the fact that we cannot remain in this state.

All agree that "status quo" is not an option if we desire to survive in this new world. If we in the western church are to successfully plot a track towards the future, it is imperative that we understand how Christianity arrived at its present place. This also means that we must ask what exactly has been rejected by the masses, & why?


1- The vain God who desires nothing more than his honor.

2- The angry, yet loving God.

3- The simplistic explanations of creation, why evil exists, and right & wrong.

4- The sure versions of truth based on one individual’s view of reality.

The above rejections are completely justified, I say this because the earliest expressions of Christianity did not hold to any of those four precepts. Nevertheless, some version of these precepts listed above are alive & well in most expressions of western Christianity. It seems fitting therefore to state that one can be a Christian & yet not hold to the above objections. Moreover, it may even be said that in order for Christianity is to survive in the west, we must recover the purer Christianity that was free from these modernistic additions.

I suggest we begin by considering how & when we adopted the above points of view above as central tenets of our faith. In other words, we must figure out how these tenets got into the faith & then ask ourselves what existed prior to their entrance. What was the earlier & purer way? If there has ever been a better/purer way, then we should not only be familiar with that way, but also consider using that way as the pattern for the future.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Prophecy of Egbert

When I was being examined for my confirmation in the Anglican Church, I made several promises to God and to all who were present. One the most important promises was in response to this question, “what is your duty to your neighbor?” In response, I recited the answer placed into my mouth by the church, it began with these words. “My duty towards my neighbor is to love him as myself.”

This is perhaps the most difficult task that I have ever taken on, & yet it has been the most transformative. If for no other reason, because it regularly causes me to refrain from shooting from the hip every time someone strikes me the wrong way. I surely desire for folks to be patient with me, to hear what I am saying, and to try to get at my heart, & not merely what I am saying. Thus this promise provokes me to at least try do the same with others whom I would by nature have for lunch.

Never has this been truer than when it comes to the events of the past week. I was initially motivated to write scores of criticisms & condemnations regarding Harold Egbert Camping’s prophecies. However, I somehow (by God’s grace) remembered that promise I made long ago to love the way I want to be loved. This promise I made long ago gave me the opportunity to ask myself whether Egbert was setting out to do evil to the world? I don’t believe he desired to do evil; in his mistaken heart, he seemed to want to do good. He believes a mistaken version of the gospel that many others also believe, & he was serious about spreading it; moreover, he was even successful spreading his faith. All the while so many others who have it right will not put it all on the line to do so. Consequently, I say kudos to Egbert for his courage & willingness to put it all on the line & spread what he believed to be true. It is at that point that my charity towards Egbert stops. Why? Because he did harm the world, he dragged the name of Christ through the dirt, & made Christianity even more of a laughing stock, & he led many who followed him into ruin. Lord have mercy on Egbert.

What is it that gives a man such audacity? What gives a man such permission to see himself as the authoritative interpreter of scripture & truth? Perhaps the force that that gives an individual this kind of permission that is the true enemy exposed by the failed prophesy of Egbert. The fact is that everyone who was sure that the end of the apocalypse would not occur on the 21st of May at 6 pm is equally as guilty as Egbert. Why? Because, the church has already spoken regarding scripture on this subject.

The undivided church (not any one individual) has with one voice; the voice of the Spirit, said that regarding the last day no man knows the time or the day. This means that anyone who said to themselves, or publicly, that the world would not come to an end was equally as sure of their own prophetic capacities. The fact is Egbert was wrong, nevertheless, if the church was correct, then the end could very well have come at 6 pm on the 21st.

In the failed “Prophecy of Egbert”, as well as in the responses against him, we find the problem that the contemporary world seems totally powerless to overcome, & that is the assurance that we individuals have equal authority with the voice of the undivided church to declare dogma. Not until we learn to humble ourselves and embrace the voice of the Spirit who has spoken by His church, by means of the ecumenical councils do we even stand a chance to apprehend the truth. There is sure truth, & it is found in the voice of the undivided church, everything else that you & I come up with on your own is pure speculation & its relevance on the truth is small. It does not matter whether these speculations come to us as the voice of one man who calls himself Pope, or as the voice of another who says that it is his illumination & the authority of his bible. Both are two sides of one coin, & both find their origin in the Great Schism where one man placed himself above the church. If our voices do not match the voice of the undivided church, then it is mere speculation.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Something Is Wrong

From very early on in our human lives, we begin to develop a suspicion that all is not well. I have very early memories, perhaps from the age of 3 or 4, of the experience of fear. I can specifically remember the fear of being taken to school and being left alone there as a kindergartener. I remember having negative confrontations with others from my earliest of years; I can specifically remember a fight over a toy. All of these things and many more, made it clear that life was not as it should be. From my earliest years I knew that something was wrong with others, and I suspected that something might even be wrong with me.

The church has a name for this universal experience, and it is the term “sin”. However, at this point it is necessary that we extract the term “sin” from all of our fundamentalist western notions, and instead try to rethink of it anew. I find it helpful to try to see sin as a universal virus, a problem which the early church called a “distortion”. To distort a thing is to misshape it, and thus not allow the thing to remain in its original form, much like a virus does to our bodies when we catch it. This gets at the heart of the term sin, which literally means miss the mark, or perhaps, to miss the point of the design.

What is that point? The point or goal is a successful 3-fold relationship. It is a successful relationship with God, with others, and with our creation. Who can argue or deny that there is within us a force that distorts us so forcefully that we cannot have right relationships in these 3 areas? If we are to rediscover sin, then we must come to know it, but particularly as it is at work in ourselves.

To accomplish this we must be clued into the fact that sin is a power. It is a power that blocks our freedom to live in right relationship we know we should have; with God, with others, and with our creation. The teachings of Jesus, the apostles, and the ancient church instruct us to begin to deal with our distorting power by searching out its presence is in ourselves.

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye. Mat 7: 3-5

The truth passed down to us by the church is that we must to learn to ask ourselves; how is my relationship to God, to others, and to the creation not right? It is at that point that we can begin to rethink “sin”.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Today is Suspended Upon The Tree

Today is suspended upon the Tree, He who suspended the land upon waters.
Today is suspended upon the Tree, He who suspended the land upon waters.
Today is suspended upon the Tree, He who suspended the land upon waters.

A crown of thorns crowns Him, who is the King of the angels.
He is wrapped in the purple robe of mockery, who wraps the heavens with clouds.
He receives smitings, who freed Adam in the Jordan.
He is tranfixed with nails, Who is the Son of the Virgin.

We worship Thy passion, O Christ.
We worship Thy passion, O Christ.
We worship Thy passion, O Christ.
Show us also Thy glorious resurrection!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Rediscovering Sin

The next subject I would like tackle is the pressing need our in the contemporary west to revisit & rediscover the historic church’s view of sin.

This is obviously a highly unpopular subject, & for good reason. Much of the last several hundred years have heard sin defined by a set of truncated cultural mores. In our nation, sin has too often been forced into the shape of the mores of Victorian court, rather than the shape espoused by the undivided church. This has caused many to reject the concept of sin altogether. This rejection has lead to a free-for-all. Nevertheless, sin has not gone away, its painful consequences remain. It is still evil, it still destroys God’s beloved children, & by extension it destroys the whole creation over which we are caretakers.

Therefore, it is critically important that we rediscover what sin is, its presence, as well as its effect upon us. In this post I would simply like to offer a concise definition of sin that comes to us from the mind of the undivided church:

Sin is the seeking of one’s own will instead of the will of God, thus distorting our relationship with God, with other people, and with creation.

I will address each of these assertions in the postings to follow.

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Liturgical Hermeneutic

Thus far in this series on bible interpretation called “hermeneutics’, I have addressed the need for our western culture to relearn “humility” in bible interpretation, as well the need to focus on “obedience” as a means of better interpretation. The last point that I would make in this short series is that we also need to rediscover “liturgical interpretation.” I have found that the best summation of this approach comes from the pen of Bishop Kallistos Ware.

He writes:

“As an example of what it means to interpret scripture in a liturgical way, guided by the use of it at church feasts, let us look at the Old Testament lessons appointed for vespers on the Feast of the Annunciation, March 25th. They are three in number… All are to be understood as prophesies of the incarnation from the virgin. Mary is Jacob’s ladder (Gen 28:10-17), supplying the flesh that God incarnate takes when entering into the world. Mary is the closed gate who alone among women bore a child while inviolate (Eze 43: 1-4). Mary is the house which Christ the wisdom of God takes as His dwelling (Pro 8: 22-30). Exploring this manner of choice of lesson for the various feasts, we discover layers of biblical interpretation that by no means obvious at first reading.”

While it should never be said that the plain meaning of words: phrases, clauses, and the like are of no consequence, it should also be said that the plain meaning is simply the first layer of meaning to be explored. The reformation was not incorrect in calling for a restoration of the plain meaning of the text; that was truly necessary in its day because for the most part it had been lost to the inventions of medieval preachers. However, the sad outcome was that as the liturgies were tossed out, so were the second layers of understanding exposed in the liturgies.

The liturgical cycle of the first millennium are not a mere option, they are a real necessity because they contain within them the deepest levels of biblical understanding.

Friday, March 18, 2011

An Obedient Hermeneutic

In this next treatment of bible interpretation I would like to consider the role of obedience in our hermeneutics.

In Gen 12:1 we read, Now the Lord said to Abram…

The very 1st thing worth noting is that the church of Christ believes and teaches that it is not only possible for God to make himself known & experienced by persons, but rather that it this is precisely the thing that God loves & intends to do.

God desires a situation wherein his creation lives before him at all times, & not only with God’s awareness of the creation's presence, but with the creatures equally aware of God’s presence.

At the same time we should also note that we are not told exactly how this voice of God came to Abraham, that is a mystery.

We know this, somehow, God revealed himself, & somehow Abraham heard rightly; so let me start again from vs 1:

12:1 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

2nd, please notice that this conversation seems to be a monologue; I say it seems, but we cannot be sure that this was the whole conversation.

After all we do not know where Moses learned the content of this meeting (maybe Jewish elders, maybe Egyptian books, maybe direct revelation), however, we can be sure of this; this is the part of conversation that the Spirit wants the church to know.

The point of the conversation is that when God speaks to Abram he tells him you GO! & then as you GO, I WILL; in fact, God says I WILL 5 times.

You GO, & I WILL show you where, I WILL make you a great nation, I WILL bless you, I WILL bless those who bless you, I WILL Curse those who do not.

When God causes himself to be experienced by Abraham, & any person, he first commands a following or a work of faith, & then when we follow, HE ACTS before our eyes.

Notice what we read in vs 4:

4 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him … 7 Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.”

As Abraham went, God began to Act, & to come to Him more & more. Abram left & god reveals himself again & tells him where he is going- To your offspring I will give this land.”

And as Abraham is strengthened he turns to God more and more, now Abraham begins to go before God

So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him.

8 From there he moved to the hill country on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east.

And there he built an altar to the Lord and called upon the name of the Lord. 9 And Abram journeyed on, still going toward the Negeb.

When God speaks, if we listen, we follow, only then does He speak more, & the more He speaks, the more we can follow, & the further we are drawn into the life of God.

Interpreting the bible has everything to do with hearing God speak and following his commands so that we might further understand, no following results in no understanding.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Humble Hermeneutics

Before we begin a serious comparison between the ancient methodology of bible interpretation and that of the present, I want to emphasize the pressing need for humility in our day. Specifically, our need to rediscover humility in bible interpretation. It is due to our lack of humility that many are misled by the darkness both within us and outside of us. Thus, it is here that we might learn a thing or two from the dessert fathers.

The devil appeared to a monk, disguised as an angel of light, and said to him, “I am the angel Gabriel and I have been sent to you. But the monk said, see if you have not been sent to someone else; I am not worthy to have an angel sent to me. At once the devil vanished.

There is a tendency in contemporary bible interpretation to set aside the reality of our own limitations, and to presuppose that God is speaking to us and revealing something unique to us individually. Those two tendencies possess just enough error to be spiritually unhealthy. Surely God is speaking to us through his divine word, but never in isolation from the rest of the church. This means that whenever we deduce a meaning of a particular scripture, our conclusion cannot differ from that which others have received (all the way back to the beginning). If there is disagreement about a text, then we carefully consider the outcomes of debates, synods, councils, &C…. It may also very well be that the church has not given a strict conclusion about particular text, and we too must learn to hold a view any interpretation of those texts as private and not universal interpretations. However, when the church speaks with one voice, it is incumbant upon us to grow into that understandng and forsake our own. It is spiritual pride that leads a person to say, this has been revealed to ME, and no one else!

Like the monk in the quote above, we must learn to view our private interpretations and revelations with a great deal of suspicion, and the way to do so is by elevating the one voice of the church above our own. When we do this, those demons of interpretation quickly vanish. Those who pretend to speak with authority, yet whose voice is not aligned with the whole church (all the way back to the beginning) have probably bought into a similar false and demonic vision as that of the monk in our quote. The mindset that should prevail in us is one that sees the one voice of the church as greater than our own.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

One Word

There is one body and one Spirit- just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call- one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Eph 4: 4-6

The oneness of our faith and our God has been the main focus of every post thus far. I have stressed that there can be no internal or temporal changes within the godhead. This means that God cannot change His mind about anyone or anything, and that the persons of the godhead cannot think differently, they must all be of one mind. See: “One God, One Mind, One Mission.”

I also stressed the oneness that can exist between our One God and mankind. We saw that scriptural witness is that it is not only possible, but necessary for persons to participate in the work or energy of God, and that it is through this participation that we are restored to the image and likeness of God, see “Energy and God.”

In the next series of posts I would like to compare and contrast this one God of the ancient church, and this one salvation to that of the contemporary western church by the way that the two treat the interpretation of scripture. I intend to compare the way we in the contemporary west understand the scriptures as compared to those who came before us. My goal is to make plain the reality that scriptural interpretation is the church’s gift to mankind, and to point out what happens when individuals set their personal interpretation against that of the undivided church. There is only one God, one faith, and one word!

No prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 1 Pet 1:20-21