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

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Orthodox Church

The Orthodox Church is thus a family of self-governing Churches. It is held together, not by a centralized organization, not by a single prelate wielding absolute power over the whole body, but by the double bond of unity in the faith and communion in the sacraments. Each Church, while independent, is in full agreement with the rest on all matters of doctrine, and between them all there is full sacramental communion. (Certain divisions exist among the Russian Orthodox, but the situation here is altogether exceptional and, one hopes, temporary in character).

There is in Orthodoxy no one with an equivalent position to the Pope in the Roman Catholic Church. The Patriarch of Constantinople is known as the "Ecumenical" (or universal) Patriarch, and since the schism between east and west he has enjoyed a position of special honor among all the Orthodox communities; but he does not have the right to interfere in the internal affairs of other Churches. His place resembles that of the Archbishop of Canterbury in the worldwide Anglican communion.

This decentralized system of independent local Churches has the advantage of being highly flexible, and is easily adapted to changing conditions. Local Churches can be created, suppressed, and then restored again, with very little disturbance to the life of the Church as a whole. Many of these local Churches are also national Churches, for during the past in Orthodox countries Church and State have usually been closely linked. But while an independent State often possesses its own autocephalous Church, ecclesiastical divisions do not necessarily coincide with State boundaries. Georgia, for instance, lies within the U.S.S.R., but is not part of the Russian Church, while the territories of the four ancient Patriarchates fall politically in several different countries. The Orthodox Church is a federation of local, but not in every case national, Churches. It does not have as its basis the political principle of the State Church.

Among the various Churches there is, as can be seen, an enormous variation in size, with Russia at one extreme and Sinai at the other. The different Churches also vary in age, some dating back to Apostolic times, while others are less than a generation old. The Church of Czechoslovakia, for example, only became autocephalous in 1951.

Such are the Churches which make up the Orthodox communion as it is today. They are known collectively by various titles. Sometimes they are called the Greek or Greco-Russian Church; but this is incorrect, since there are many millions of Orthodox who are neither Greek nor Russian. Orthodox themselves often call their Church the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Orthodox Catholic Church, the Orthodox Catholic Church of the East, or the like. These titles must not be misunderstood, for while Orthodoxy considers itself to be the true Catholic Church, it is not part of the Roman Catholic Church; and although Orthodoxy calls itself eastern, it is not something limited to eastern people. Another name often employed is the Holy Orthodox Church. Perhaps it is least misleading and most convenient to use the shortest title: the Orthodox Church.

Orthodoxy claims to be universal — not something exotic and oriental, but simple Christianity. Because of human failings and the accidents of history, the Orthodox Church has been largely restricted in the past to certain geographical areas. Yet to the Orthodox themselves their Church is something more than a group of local bodies. The word "Orthodoxy" has the double meaning of "right belief" and "right glory" (or "right worship"). The Orthodox, therefore, make what may seem at first a surprising claim: they regard their Church as the Church which guards and teaches the true belief about God and which glorifies Him with right worship, that is, as nothing less than the Church of Christ on earth. How this claim is understood, and what the Orthodox think of other Christians who do not belong to their Church, it is part of the aim of this book to explain.

From "The Orthodox Church" by Timothy Ware.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Who Is The Church? Pt 2

Who Is The Church According to the Fathers?
Tertullian: Against Heresies in Ch, XVIII:

But if there be any (heresies) which are bold enough to plant themselves in the midst of the apostolic age, that they may thereby seem to have been handed down by the apostles, because they existed in the time of the apostles, we can say: Let them produce the original records of their churches; let them unfold the roll of their bishops, running down in due succession from the beginning in such a manner that [that first bishop of theirs] bishop shall be able to show for his ordainer and predecessor some one of the apostles or of apostolic men,—a man, moreover, who continued steadfast with the apostles. For this is the manner in which the apostolic churches transmit their registers: as the church of Smyrna, which records that Polycarp was placed therein by John; as also the church of Rome, which makes Clement to have been ordained in like manner by Peter. In exactly the same way the other churches likewise exhibit (their several worthies), whom, as having been appointed to their Episcopal places by apostles, they regard as transmitters of the apostolic seed. Let the heretics contrive something of the same kind.
To this test, therefore must be submitted for proof by those churches, who, although they derive not their founder from apostles or apostolic men (as being of much later date, for they are in fact being founded daily), yet, since they agree in the same faith, they are accounted as not less apostolic because they are akin in doctrine.
*Apostolic succession via paradosis is the test.
St. Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Magnesians, 6-7 (Vol., I)

I exhort you to study to do all things with a divine harmony, while your bishop presides in the place of God, and your presbyters in the place of the assembly of the apostles, along with your deacons, who are most dear to me, and are entrusted with the ministry of Jesus Christ… Let nothing exist among you which may divide you; but be united with your bishop, being through him subject to God in Christ. As therefore the Lord does nothing without the Father, for says He, "I can of mine own self do nothing," so do you, neither presbyter, nor deacon, nor layman, do anything without the bishop.
*One doctrine only is allowed and it begins with the bishop who has the task of retaining the unaltered faith.

St. Cyprian of Carthage, Letter to Magnus (Vol, V, Epistle 75)

Wherefore, since the Church alone has the living water, and the power of baptizing and cleansing man, he who says that any one can be baptized and sanctified by Novatian must first show and teach that Novatian is in the Church or presides over the Church.
For the Church is one, and as she is one, cannot be both within and without. For if she is with Novatian, she was not with Cornelius. But if she was with Cornelius, who succeeded the bishop Fabian by lawful ordination, and whom, beside the honor of the priesthood, the Lord glorified also with martyrdom, Novatian is not in the Church; nor can he be reckoned as a bishop, who, succeeding to no one, and despising the evangelical and apostolic tradition, sprang from himself. For he who has not been ordained in the Church can neither have nor hold to the Church in any way.
* There cannot be more than one church and one doctrine.

St. Irenaeus, Against All Heresies, IV, 26, 2 ( Vol. I)

Wherefore it is incumbent to obey the presbyters who are in the Church,—those who, as I have shown, possess the succession from the apostles; those who, together with the succession of the episcopate, have received the certain gift of truth, according to the good pleasure of the Father. But [it is also incumbent] to hold in suspicion others who depart from the primitive succession, and assemble themselves together in any place whatsoever, [looking upon them] either as heretics of perverse minds, or as schismatics puffed up and self-pleasing, or again as hypocrites, acting thus for the sake of lucre and vainglory. For all these have fallen from the truth.
*No apostolic continuity results in false church.

St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures, XVIII (NPNF-II, Vol. VII)

The Faith which we rehearse contains in order the following,

It is called Catholic (of the whole) then because it extends over all the world, from one end of the earth to the other; and because it teaches universally and completely one and all the doctrines which ought to come to men's knowledge, concerning things both visible and invisible, heavenly and earthly; and because it brings into subjection to godliness the whole race of mankind, governors and governed, learned and unlearned; and because it universally treats and heals the whole class of sins, which are committed by soul or body, and possesses in itself every form of virtue which is named, both in deeds and words, and in every kind of spiritual gifts. And it is rightly named (Ecclesia) because it calls forth and assembles together all men.
*One doctrine without exception of persons or race.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Is The Christian Religion Dying

Is the Christian Religion Dead?

To answer this question with any kind of accuracy, we must actually refine the question a bit. Perhaps we should ask two questions: one, “where” is the Christian religion dead or dying? And two, “what kind” of the Christian religion is dead or dying? It is here that we must turn to the experts; and there are several who have written on the topic, I commend “The Next Christendom” by Phillip Jenkins. There are many others.

The general consensus of these experts is that western Christianity; that is the religious sects of Christianity born out of the great schism (Roman Catholicism) and the protestant reformation (Protestantism) are the Christian religions that are dying, and they are dying in western Europe (where it has already died), in North America, and Australia. However there is more to the answer, the most ancient forms of Christian religion, by that I mean those closest to the religion of the undivided church, by that I mean Christian Orthodoxy, and a new form, Charismatic Christianity, are thriving in the southern hemisphere and in Asia. 

The video above allows us to peak into the most Ancient Christian religion and how it is affectingour world. In it we see quite a contrast between our dying western Christian religion and this thriving and living eastern Christian religion that dates back all the way to the apostles.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Who Is the Church?


When the church gathered in council at Nicea in 381 AD in order to discern a single creed from various creeds that she had received from the apostles and the fathers, she selected four words to describe herself: “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. "

These were, and continue to be, the defining marks of the church- sort of!  These definitions have needed redefinition throughout western history in order to allow each group to see itself within this description.

Hence, in our study we will consider the authors’ intentions when they wrote this creed, and then ask the question, “who is the church?”

The Orthodox, the Roman Catholics, and the all Protestants answer this question differently, our goal is to answer it historically; or, who was the creed referring to?

The Church Present In The New Testament

Begun in Jerusalem with Christ’s Apostles (Apostolic)

  And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.  Mat 16: 18

Built up by God the Holy Spirit (God Dwelt- Holy)

  So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied. Acts 9: 31

Re-centered in Antioch in Syria (exists in “Sees”)

  And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians. Acts 11: 26

Expanded by apostolic missionaries (Missional)

  Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews.  Acts 13:1-5

Subject to apostolic appointment (Episcopal Succession)

  And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed. Then they passed through Pisidia (Galatia) and came to Pamphylia. And when they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia, and from there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had fulfilled. Acts 14: 23-26

Doctrinally under Episcopal concilliarity (Concilliar),

   The Jerusalem council; Acts 15: 6-21

Directed by a universal Episcopal rule (Canon Law),

   Canon law; Acts 15: 22-34

Doctrinally corrected by Holy Tradition (Paradosis)

  When he had landed at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church… Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus… but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him and explained to him the way of God more accurately. Acts 18: 22-26

Doctrinally Preserved by Holy Tradition (Paradosis)

  Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. Acts 20: 28-32

In the New Testament the true church is:

ÿ       Begun in Jerusalem with Christ’s Apostles (Apostolic),

ÿ       Built up by God the Holy Spirit (God Dwelt- Holy),

ÿ       Re-centered in Antioch in Syria (exists in “Sees”),

ÿ       Expanded by apostolic missionaries (Missional),

ÿ       Subject to apostolic appointment (Episcopal Succesion),

ÿ       Doctrinally under Episcopal concilliarity (Concilliar),

ÿ       Directed by a universal Episcopal rule (Canon Law),

ÿ       Doctrinally corrected by Holy Tradition (Paradosis)

ÿ       Doctrinally Preserved by Holy Tradition (Paradosis)

Who does this describe?

Monday, January 2, 2012

Why People Become Orthodox?

Below is a post that I found on the "Glory to God for All Things" blog.

People come for a variety of reasons:

1. They believe the Orthodox faith to be the truth.This is the reason I have stated for my own conversion. After every conversation, argument, etc. After every article and book, the simple fact is that I believe the Orthodox faith, including its ecclesiology to be the truth. I am willing to defend my acceptance of that, but the only defence that matters is the one I shall have to give on Judgement Day, and I believe that I will sit before a judge who Himself is the head of the Orthodox Church. The serious question will be: “What have you done with the faith I gave you?”

2. We looked at the other “options” and found them wanting.Many Orthodox converts have looked elsewhere first. Perhaps even hoping that elsewhere would answer their questions and supercede the necessity of becoming Orthodox... More