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

Saturday, May 31, 2014


It is a natural thing among our human race to desire to fit in with the people of our surroundings. In fact, contemporary psychologists consider it a malady when a person desires not fit in.  They call it by various names, but these maladies are considered an inability to attain normal social skills. Notice that we dress certain ways for particular events, and more importantly, that we look at the way that others do things and emulate them so that we are not perceived as strange. Desiring to fit in is normal.   

At the same time, there is another principle at work within us.  It seems that those who set new and desirable trends are even more respected than those who follow the mainstream.  Trendsetters they are called. There is hardly a greater compliment that can be given to a person in our day than being a trendsetter.  This trend setting is in fact the norm in the contemporary world of music, and entertainment.  

Both of these human tendencies can be quite problematic when it comes to our relationship with God, and to the Christian life.  The questions that must be wrestled with are twofold.  One, who set the Christian trend we follow. and two, are we correct to follow it. To be more specific, could it be the we are following a trend set 1000 years after the birth of Christianity by a schismatic Pope and his followers, or could it be that we are following a trend set by a rebelling monk in the 16th century. Even more troublesome, could it that we are following be a trend set in the last 200, 100, or even 20 years.

To address this problem the Orthodox Church looks to its unified voice in the first millennium and clings to it for safety. One such voice is quoted below.

"Some one perhaps will ask, since the canon of Scripture is complete, and sufficient of itself for everything, and more than sufficient, what need is there to join with it the authority of the Church’s interpretation? For this reason,—because, owing to the depth of Holy Scripture, all do not accept it in one and the same sense, but one understands its words in one way, another in another; so that it seems to be capable of as many interpretations as there are interpreters. 

For Novatian expounds it one way, Sabellius another, Donatus another, Arius, Eunomius, Macedonius, another, Photinus, Apollinaris, Priscillian, another, Iovinian, Pelagius, Celestius, another, lastly, Nestorius another. Therefore, it is very necessary, on account of so great intricacies of such various error, that the rule for the right understanding of the prophets and apostles should be framed in accordance with the standard of Ecclesiastical and Catholic interpretation. Moreover, all possible care must be taken, that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all. For that is truly and in the strictest sense “Catholic,” which, as the name itself and the reason of the thing declare, comprehends all universally. This rule we shall observe if we follow universality, antiquity, consent."

(A Commonitory (A Reminder), Vincent of Lerins, 434 AD)

The Commonitory of St. Vincent is one of the most prized possessions that the Orthodox Church owns. It contains within it the ultimate formula for stripping the fake wool from the disguised wolves in the Lord’s garden. This claim is not easily accepted by some, especially those who know little about the consensus of biblical interpretation found in the church fathers, and less about the conciliar theology hammered out in the seven ecumenical councils. Nevertheless, Vincent is abundantly clear in pointing out that there is absolutely nothing wrong with scripture, yet, its depth is such that every heretic from Novatian to Nestorious was able to build and support their theological conclusions from the very scriptures themselves. Hence, the problem is not the scriptures, but the interpreters. This leaves a rather large and even embarrassing problem at our doorstep, and it is this: how do we know for certain, and with complete and whole certitude that our interpretation is the actual meaning that God placed on the texts of a particular scripture? The answer given to us by Vincent, our interpretation must be in accordance with that which has been believed everywhere, always, by all. He states it another way: it must be inline with the universality, antiquity, and the consent of the church. Any other kind of interpretation is not apostolic; in fact, it is a renegade approach to God’s truth, and places us in the footsteps of the heretics.

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