Saturday, January 27, 2007

Items of Interest - Week After Zacchaeus Sunday 2007

Razilaženje Restored
All posts and comments have now been migrated to the present location, and are available via the Blog Archive section of the sidebar. Additionally, there is now, farther down the sidebar, the Cloud of Witnesses, a gallery of Saints and various Christians that have particular significance for me. REMINDER TO ALL WHO HAVE LINKS TO RAZILAŽENJE: Please update your links to the new site.

Ancient ways entice Detroit Christians
Detroit Free Press article featuring the conversion of former Lutheran Priest Fr. John Fenton.

Words of Warning to the Western World.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's classic 1975 Address.

The Image of God as Man of War in the Old Testament Mystics
Alexei Somov on a much-overlooked aspect of God's self-revelation. Translated from Russian by Vladyka Seraphim (Sigrist), retired Bishop of Sendai.

The Lure of External Authority
"In Orthodoxy, there is no logical epistemology by which one may know the truth and no rational mechanism by which one may get absolute rulings on what is true and what is not."

Father Sophrony on “Dogmatic Consciousness”
"Conversion is not about learning a catechism, but about acquiring the Holy Spirit - knowing God."

Croatia's Undead: the Backlash
In last week's Items of Interest I included a link to Julia Gorin's article When will world confront the undead of Croatia? This piece, one of the first in the mainstream American press to treat Croatia's Nazi past and present with any degree of historical honesty, immediately provoked what Ms. Gorin has referred to as a "Croatian Storm". On her website, she has provided us with a remarkable glimpse of the furious, and often savagely barbaric, backlash of reaction from Croats here and abroad. The first follow-up article, Lest We Believe Mainstream Nazism be Dead, dealt with the official reaction, delivered by the Croatian Embassy's press attaché. The second, a three-part piece called Letters from a Croatian Storm (Part I · Part II · Part III) chronicles the bestial popular reaction among Croats. [A WORD OF WARNING - Letters from a Croatian Storm contains extremely graphic language and imagery, almost unimaginably vile personal attacks and racial/ethnic hatred.] This is followed by Some Curiously Less Pissed-Off Readers, which shares some more supportive correspondence (none of which, however, is from any Croatians). The latest article, Some Context, from a “not-to-be-listened-to” Serb, is particularly good and consists largely of a letter from a wonderful mutual friend, Svetlana Novko, who is a Serbian iconographer living in Canada.

The Battle of Medak Pocket Part I · Part II
Canadian video documentary on Croatian atrocities. Canadian soldiers faced combat and witnessed atrocities and the Canadian public knew almost nothing about it. Requires RealPlayer

Thursday, January 25, 2007

I Know--Let's Just Shut all the Christians Up!

by V. Rev. James Rosselli

Our new Democrat legislative majority has given us an example of what’s in store for us over the next two years. Their very first act has been to introduce legislation that would require anyone attempting to influence an election in any way to register as a lobbyist. The legislation targets “Churches and nonprofit and other organizations.” The definition of “other organizations” is nonspecific, leaving the door open for the government to target anyone they want silenced.

It is the single most brazen attack on the freedom of speech and assembly, not to mention the free exercise of religion, ever in our history. And this is only their first month!

There are laws governing lobbyists: fees to be paid, income-reporting requirements to meet, background checks to be passed, records of activities to be kept, files to be maintained, definitions to be learned and adhered to, etc. There are enormous fines for failing to register as a lobbyist, even if one is not aware he or she has been “lobbying.”

Example: Moveon.org and Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, both of them more dispensers of information to the public than winers-and-diners of legislators, were recently fined under present regulations for failing to register as lobbyists (the Swift Boat vets were fined much, much more, of course). The new regulations would literally expose everyone who expressed his opinion in any public place to the same treatment.

The result of the legislation would affect talk radio, voter guide publishers, public interest groups and church conventions. Eventually, it would affect everything and everyone—from people who make speeches before community groups to bloggers: in short, all the “alternative media” that release news and state opinions the “major media--” meaning the Democratic Party—want to keep from us.

Your kid’s conservative My Space blog would probably not be convicted in court of being an unregistered lobbying organization. The legislation would, however, leave the door open to force your family to choose between bankruptcy from either fines or legal fees, and simply shutting up.

The Senate version was defeated. There is a House version now coming to the floor. For details, go to http://www.aclj.org , and go to “A Momentary Reprieve.”

I can sympathize with people who were fed up with our useless “Republican majorities,” and wanted to send a message to the GOP by either staying home or voting for some third-party candidate—or maybe even the Democrat.

Whatever the circumstances, we are the ones who—actively or passively-- elected this new majority. We need to make it clear to them just what we elected them to do—and not to do.

The United States is the only country in the world—and in fact in the history of the world—where the sovereignty of the nation reposes in the people themselves. The government, under our Constitution, is answerable to us, and we are responsible for the direction it takes.

We, in other words, are who the Bible defines as “the king.”

We need to be aware of what our officials and employees—our elected representatives and their appointees—are doing. We need to make them aware of what we do and do not approve of in terms of their conduct of our government. Because, make no mistake about it: if we abdicate our responsibility to govern ourselves, there are plenty of people who will be happy to do it for us. This bill is ample demonstration of that.

That URL, again, is http://www.aclj.org .

Fr. Jim Rosselli is a Mitred Archpriest with the Community of the Holy Spirit, a mission eparchy in the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. Father Jim writes his “political stuff” as a private citizen, and not as a representative of his Church.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Items of Interest - 2nd Week After Epiphany 2007

More Americans join Orthodox Christian churches
USA TODAY story on the rise in American Orthodox converts.

After the Chrism Dries
David Tillman delineates some pitfalls awaiting converts to the Orthodox Church.

Secular Fundamentalists are the New Totalitarians
Tobias Jones on how militant secularists like Richard Dawkins are taking their revenge on us believers for refusing to stay in the closet.

American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War On America
Chris Hedges, a Secular Fundamentalist, mounts an eloquent and mendacious propaganda attack on the Christian Right. Scroll down for the first chapter, Faith. Note especially the opening quotation from Karl Popper, a clarion call for the repression of Christianity.

When will world confront the undead of Croatia?
by Julia Gorin. "Nazism is not 'part of the ugly past.' It was not a bout of madness that has been straightened out. The undead are among us."

Dickens and the French Revolution: Background
Peter J. Leithart examines the revolutionary and counter-revolutionary history that lies behind the development of 19th Century English literature.

“Socialism or Death” in Venezuela
Fidel's faithful disciple and his South American "Workers' Paradise".

Jimmy for Terror
A former president of the United States - a Nobel Peace Prize winner, no less - gives his blessing to wanton murder and terrorist assaults against Israel.

Carter: Morally vicious, morally unacceptable
Hugh Fitzgerald demolishes the myth of Jimmy Carter's integrity and moral uprightness.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

St. Philaret, Metropolitan of Moscow, on Justice and Mercy

Draw closer and examine the threatening face of God’s justice, and you will exactly discern in it the meek gaze of God’s love. Man by his sin has fenced off from himself the everlasting source of God’s love: and this love is armed with righteousness and judgement – for what? – to destroy this stronghold of division. But since the insignificant essence of the sinner would be irreparably crushed under the blows of purifying Justice, the inaccessible Lover of souls sends His consubstantial Love, that is, His Only begotten Son, so that He Who ‘upholds all things by the word of His power’, might also bear the heaviness of our sins, and the heaviness of the justice advancing towards us, in the flesh of ours that He took upon Himself: and, having Alone extinguished the arrows of wrath, sharpened against the whole of humanity, might reveal in his wounds on the Cross the unblocked springs of mercy and love which was to the whole land that had once been cursed - blessings, life and beatitude. Thus did God love the world.

But if the Heavenly Father out of love for the world gives up His Only-begotten Son; then equally the Son out of love for man gives Himself up; and as love crucifies, so is love crucified. For although ‘the Son can do nothing of Himself’, neither can he do anything in spite of Himself. He ‘does not seek His own will’, but for that reason is the eternal heir and possessor of the will of His Father. ‘He abides in His love’, but in it He Himself receives into His love all that is loved by the Father, as he says: ‘As the Father hath loved Me, so have I loved you’. And in this way the love of the Heavenly Father is extended to the world through the Son: the love of the Only-begotten Son of God at the same time ascends to the Heavenly Father and descends to the world. Here let him who has eyes see the most profound foundation and primordial inner constitution of the Cross, out of the love of the Son of God for His All-holy Father and love for sinful humanity, the two loves intersecting with, and holding on to, each other, apparently dividing up what was one, but in fact uniting the divided into one. Love for God is zealous for God – love for man is merciful to man. Love for God demands that the law of God’s righteousness should be observed – love for man does not abandon the transgressor of the law to perish in is unrighteousness. Love for God strives to strike the enemy of God – love for man makes the Divinity man, so as by means of love for God mankind might be deified, and while love for God ‘lifts the Son of man from the earth’, love for man opens the embraces of the Son of God for the earthborn, these opposing strivings of love intersect, dissolve into each other, balance each other and make of themselves that wonderful heart of the Cross, on which forgiving ‘mercy’ and judging ‘truth meet together’, God’s ‘righteousness’ and man’s ‘peace kiss each other’, through which heavenly ‘truth is sprung up out of the earth, and righteousness’ no longer with a threatening eye ‘hath looked down from heaven. Yea, for the Lord will give goodness, and our land shall yield her fruit’.

~Metropolitan St. Philaret of Moscow, Sermon on Good Friday (1816)

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

St. Innocent, Enlightener of North America, on Sin and Salvation

[NOTE: St. Innocent, Metropolitan of Moscow, Equal-to-the-Apostles and Enlightener of North America, penned in Aleut, in 1833, while he was Bishop of Kamchatka, the Kurilian and Aleutian Isles, one of the finest introductions to the Orthodox Faith ever written: the Indication of the Way into the Kingdom of Heaven. Though this work exists on the internet, it can be found only in a highly abridged form, edited by someone who wished to strip away the Saint's teachings on Original Sin, Satisfaction, Substitution, Gehenna, and so on, calling such abridgements "minor stylistic changes". It is my hope, ultimately, to publish the entire work on the internet, in English and without any dishonest editing. The following is Part I of the Indication, unabridged, entitled The Blessings that Jesus Christ has Granted Us by His Death. ~EHB]

Before speaking of this, let us look at the blessings that Adam had in Paradise before he committed sin, and at the evil which Adam suffered after he had committed sin, and with him all men.

The first man, being created in the image and likeness of God, until he had blurred the likeness of God by his self-will, was blessed in that very image and likeness of God. Just as God has no end and is eternal, so too Adam was created immortal. God is all-just, and Adam was created sinless and just. God is all-happy, and Adam was created happy, and his happiness could have increased day by day throughout all eternity.

Adam lived in a most beautiful Paradise, in a garden planted by God Himself, where he was content with everything. He was always healthy and well, and he would never have known any kind of sickness. He was not afraid of anyone or anything. All the animals and birds obeyed him as their king. He felt neither cold nor heat. And although he laboured and worked in paradise yet he worked with pleasure and delight, and did not find toil burdensome or work tiring.

His heart and soul were full of the knowledge and love of God. He was always quiet and happy, and he never knew and never saw anything unpleasant, upsetting, painful or sad. All his desires were pure, right and in order. His memory, intellect and all the other faculties of his soul were perfect. And being innocent and pure, he always lived with God and conversed with Him, and God loved him as His favourite son. To be brief, Adam was in Paradise, and Paradise was in Adam.

Now, if Adam had not broken the commandment of His Creator, he would have been happy himself and all his descendants would have always been happy too. But Adam sinned before God and broke His law; and the easiest law; and for that reason God banished him from Paradise, because God cannot live with sin or with a sinner.

Adam at once lost the happiness he had enjoyed in Paradise. His soul was darkened, his thoughts or desires were muddled, his imagination and memory began to be clouded. Instead of joy and peace of soul, he saw sorrow, afflictions, troubles, poverty, the most painful labours and every kind of adversity: finally sickly old age threatened him, and after that — death But the most horrible thing of all was that the devil, who is consoled by the sufferings of men, gained power over Adam.

The very elements, that is the air, fire, etc., which had previously served Adam and ministered to his pleasure, then became hostile to him. From that time Adam and all his descendants began to fee! hunger, heat and the effects of change of winds and weather. Wild animals became savage, and began to look upon people as their enemies and as prey. From that time people began to feel external and internal diseases which in course of time increased in number and severity. Men forgot that they were brothers and began to attack one another, to hate, to deceive, to torture and to kill. And finally, after all kinds of bitter labours and anxieties, they had to die; and as they were sinners they had to be in hell and to be eternally and unceasingly tormented there.

No human being by himself could or can restore what Adam lost. And what would have happened to us if Jesus Christ in His mercy had not redeemed us? What would have happened to the whole human race?

God Who loves us far more than we love ourselves, in His great mercy sent us His Son Jesus Christ to save us. Jesus Christ became a man like us, but without sin.

By His teaching Jesus Christ scattered the darkness and errors of the human mind, and enlightened the whole world with the light of the Gospel. Now everyone who wants to can know the will of God and the means and way to beatitude.

By His life Jesus Christ has shown us the way into the heavenly Kingdom which Adam lost, and at the same time has shown us how we must seek it and how to follow it.

By His passion and death Jesus Christ has redeemed us from the debts which we had to pay to God and which we should never have been able to pay; and He has made us, who were slaves of the devil and of sin, children of God. And those torments which we, as transgressors of the will of God, would have had to suffer He bore for us. By His death He delivered us from miseries, from future torment and eternal death.

By His resurrection Jesus Christ destroyed the gates of hell and opened to us the gates of Paradise which had been closed for everyone by Adam's disobedience- and He conquered and crushed the power of the devil and death, our enemies. So now those who die in faith and hope, believing and trusting in Jesus Christ, through death pass from vain, rotten and temporal life into a life that is bright/incorruptible and unending; while for the conquest of the devil and for driving him away we have the cross and prayer.

By His ascension Jesus Christ glorified the human race; for He ascended to heaven with His body which He will always carry or wear.

Finally, by the grace and merits of Jesus Christ we can now go into the Kingdom of Heaven and receive support and help along the way; that is, we can all freely and truly receive the Holy Spirit and be filled with Him. Without the Holy Spirit it is impossible to go the way Jesus Christ went.

If Jesus Christ had not been on earth, no one could have entered the Kingdom of Heaven. But now we all, each one of us, can easily enter it; but we cannot enter it otherwise than by the way Jesus Christ went when living on earth.

But what the Lord has prepared for us there in heaven, no one can tell or imagine. We can only say that those who believe in Jesus Christ and follow His commandments will, after their death, live with the Angels, the Just and the Saints in heaven, and will see God face to face. They will rejoice with pure, constant and eternal joy, and they will never know weariness, or sorrow, or worry, or torment, or suffering. At the end of the world they will rise with their bodies and will reign with Christ eternally.

All these benefits Jesus Christ will give not to any one people, but to all without exception. Whoever wants to can receive them. The way has been shown arranged and, as far as possible, smoothed and made level And besides that, Jesus Christ is ready to help us to go this way, and He Himself is willing to lead us by the hand, so to speak. It only remains for us not to oppose Him and not to be obstinate, but to surrender ourselves completely to His will. Let Him lead us where and how He wills.

You see how Jesus Christ loves us, and what blessings He has bestowed upon us? What would happen now if Jesus Christ suddenly appeared before us visibly and asked us: My children, do you love Me for what I have done for you? And do you feel in your hearts gratitude to Me? Who of us would not say: Yes. Lord, we love and thank Thee?

But if you love Jesus Christ and consider yourself grateful to Him, will you do what He orders you? Because whoever loves anyone, and whoever feels grateful, will do everything he can to please his benefactor. But Jesus Christ wants from you only one thing: namely, He wants you to follow Him into the Kingdom of Heaven.

Jesus Christ has done everything for us: cannot we do for Him the one thing He asks? Jesus Christ came down from heaven to earth in order to save us; shall we not for love of Him be willing to follow Him to heaven? Jesus Christ bore for us all torments and sufferings: shall we not for Jesus Christ be willing to suffer and endure a little?

Blessed and most blessed is he who follows Jesus Christ throughout his whole life, because he will certainly be there where Jesus Christ Himself lives.

Happy is he who cares and tries to imitate Jesus Christ, because he will receive help from Jesus Christ.

But unhappy is he who has no desire to follow Jesus Christ, and excuses himself by saying that it is difficult to follow Him, or, he has not the strength for it, because such a person deprives himself of the grace of God and, as it were, pushes away the helping hand of Jesus Christ.

But woe to the man who opposes Jesus Christ and is obstinate and, in a manner, rises up against Him. because the lot of such people is in the lake of fire burning with brimstone.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Sin and Rule-Breaking

Some thought provoking words from Fr. William Weedon, pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Hamel, Illinois.
I think too often we've conceived of sin as "breaking a rule" - in other words, it violates the rules of the game set up by the Creator. What we miss is that sin doesn't just "break a rule" - sin "breaks" a person. Sin damages us. Damages our souls. Morphs us into what God never intended us to be; corrupts and distorts. In this morning's OT reading we had Ezekiel 18: "Repent and turn from your iniquities, lest iniquity be your ruin... Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God, so turn and live!"

Why does God hate sin? Because He's ticked off that we would dare to disobey His rules? No! Because He hates this satanic damage inflicted upon the creatures He made to share in His life forever.

Read the whole post...

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Orthodox Revival: Emergence, Not Convergence

By the V. Rev. Archpriest James Rosselli

There is a stirring within Orthodoxy: a yearning for the reunion of the Churches, a longing for the centuries-old arguments that distress and discourage us to cease in a more concrete way than simply declaring they don’t exist. There is a fresh turning to God and the Power of God, to the Person of Jesus Christ, to the solid bedrock of the Bible, which God brought about to be The Canon to which His Church looks. Similarly, there is a movement within Protestantism to resolve their differences and get “back to the basics.” While both of these are without doubt the work of the Holy Spirit, the phenomenon which is occurring within Orthodoxy is different and specific.

Who is the Holy Spirit, and why is He saying these things about me?

And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams and your young men shall see visions. Even upon the menservants and maidservants in those days, I will pour out My Spirit. Joel 2: 28-29

And these signs will follow those who believe: in My Name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents, and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover. Mark 16: 17-18

There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are diversities if ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God Who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. 1 Corinthians 12: 5-12

But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. Acts 1:8

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age. Matthew 28:19-20

The Church that is described here is One Body, and that body is whole and visible, filled with zeal and Divine power born of obedience.

How much does that sound like what passes for Christianity in our own day?

Over here we have “Liberals,” over there “Conservatives.” Over here Charismatics, over there Cessationists. We have Lutherans, Calvinists, Zwingliites, Cranmerians and Wesleyans. We have Apostolic churches, Holiness churches, Apostolic Holiness churches, Evangelical churches, Free churches, Evangelical Free churches, Baptists of every conceivable persuasion and a dizzying number of “non-denominational” Assemblies, Communities and Fellowships. All of them claim unwavering fidelity to the Bible that demands of them, Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? or were you baptized in the name of Paul? and declares, I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, lest anyone should say I baptized in my own name. 1 Corinthians 1:13

There is no shortage of “movements” to respond to this. We have the Church Growth Movement, which has taught us to think of God as a product; the Seeker Sensitive Movement, which has taught us that if our ideas and tastes aren’t being catered to where we are, there’s always someplace else; the Word of Faith Movement, which teaches us actual thaumaturgy; the Back to the Bible Movement, which ignores the Apostolic Tradition and therefore removes the legend from our map; the Kingdom Now movement, which teaches us that Paradise is attainable on this earth, and hundreds of others.

All of these movements arose to try to solve the problem of a divided Christendom.

Like a denomination with its own “denominational distinctive,” they hoped to unite all Christians around a single principle that would bring them together. Their promulgators imagined that these principles were so strong, so solid, so universal, that in their light the problems posed by doctrinal differences would vanish.

Instead, all that happened was that the various denominations divided once again, into those who did and those who did not support the particular movement. Then the movements themselves, being intrinsically incapable of performing the task they had set themselves, became unbalanced and finally grotesque.

Now we have the “Convergence Movement.” What are we to make of it?

Convergence

Early in my career I became acquainted with and followed the fortunes of a Protestant denomination that was founded on the Convergence principle. They spoke of a “cord of three strands: Evangelical, Charismatic and Liturgical, that binds us together.”

It was a noble ideal. Sacramentalists and Evangelicals would yield to the release of the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives and ministries. Evangelicals and Charismatics would be deepened through Word and Sacrament. Charismatics and Sacramentalists would operate out of an attitude of Biblical fidelity and evangelical zeal. Through prayer, fellowship and the activity of the Holy Spirit they would learn from each other and grow in each others’ strengths. Originally twelve parishes, the denomination grew explosively, to over a hundred and fifty.

This denomination gradually rejected its mission, to the point that eventually their president issued a statement condemning “the three-fold cord that’s strangling us.” They lost half of their parishes in the process.

There’s a happy ending to this particular story: the denomination gradually began to re-discover its original vision, and has begun to gradually grow, again. Unfortunately, there was the usual wreckage in the meantime: burned-out clergy, discouraged and fed-up parishioners, some of whom have never darkened a church door since—and, of course, jaded hierarchs in denial about their part in the debacle, who will have to one day give an account of it before God.

The story is not a rare one. Unfortunately, it’s not even that unusual. Reliance on a “movement” is not enough to hold a denomination, or even a parish, together. The Holy Spirit works in a certain way at a certain time to provide a specific sort of help. In the process, a system of definitions develops which can provide guidance. This, not attempts at some separate institutionalization, is the real value of a “movement.”

The principle value of the Convergence Movement is that it creates opportunities to reflect anew upon the physiognomy—or, if you will, the ecclesiognomy—of the Body of Christ: to reflect that, in her wholeness, the Church is indeed Liturgical, Charismatic and Evangelical.

Doctrine and Mindset

The Convergence movement is about three things:

a) encouraging acceptance of the release of the Holy Spirit, and the manifestation of the ministry gifts of the Spirit, in Christian individuals and ecclesiastical communions; promoting a Biblical approach to the manifestation of the ministry gifts, and avoiding identifying them with any separate “ism,” including “Pentecostalism;”

b) encouraging the order and spiritual depth that can only come from participation in Liturgy and Sacrament;

c) Using these to shape individuals and congregations into a strong force for witness.

Presumably, the hope is that our yieldedness to the Spirit will give Him greater access to us so that He can “lead us into all Truth.” (John 16:13a). However, there is a problem with this: Knowledge is acquired in context. We can be given right information, but without the proper context in which to place it, we will interpret it improperly. Most Protestants are doctrinally deprived of a sense of partnership between God and man, and they are ill-equipped to deal with this.

Take, for instance, the situation of someone who has been taught all of his life that the act he identifies as “baptism” is optional, and that the thing he calls “communion” is only a commemorative re-enactment of a past event. How will the activity of the Holy Spirit lead this person into knowledge of the Sacramental life, unless he is prepared to accept it? Chances are, the activity of the Spirit will succeed in leading him into tolerance of “people who hold the Eucharistic position,” but not into actual unity with them.

The upshot of this shift is that someone who believes with all his heart that the doctrine of the Holy Eucharist is false has been led into compromise of what he believes is true. A third factor, one that now supercedes truth and falsehood, has been introduced into his spiritual life. Call it “tolerance,” “co-operation,” “unity in diversity” or whatever, what has happened to this person is that he has been taught to think of Truth in subjective terms. He has learned to think in worldly terms of what is “true for you” and “true for me,” or has been dissuaded from thinking that we can know the One Truth at all. Wrongly-informed to begin with, this person’s ability to use what resources he has to grow in holiness has been interfered with rather than advanced. The enlightening activity of the Hoy Spirit was present, but the individual’s formation did not equip him to receive it properly.

If, on the other hand, this person accepts the encouragement of the Holy Spirit to look beyond his context, he will discover a dimension that will bring his walk to a whole new level. He will be led not to his own conclusions, but to sounder formation.

It is this element, of transformation by renewal of the mind (Romans 12:2b), which is key.

Where is this going to come from? An environment where there are thousands of variations on dozens of denominational “distinctives?” Where “Christian unity” has always meant “being nice to each other, despite…?” Or will some of what the Spirit is trying to say simply be interpreted as deception? After all, perfectly conscientious teachers, steeped in bad doctrine, can warn perfectly obedient believers not to be “deceived” by what is, in fact, the actual content of the Faith.

Take, for instance, the “Oneness Pentecostals,” who warn people against the “heresy of the Trinity,” or the Adventists, who inveigh against the dangers of believing in the immortal soul. Lesser, but still Spirit-inhibiting doctrinal positions, are advanced by every Protestant observance, and they all warn their followers against being “deceived” by what is in fact the Truth.

The phenomenon isn’t just catechetical. All denominations have their own traditions, and many have martyrs who have cruelly died in the defense of erroneous ideas. That the ideas were erroneous makes the martyrdoms no less compelling nor the traditions less absorbing. Passing along these ideas makes the teachers no less conscientious nor their students less obedient. The personal virtue may be abused, but it’s there, nonetheless, and only makes the positions more convincing.

So, the Holy Spirit may lead us into all Truth, but following Him there is a whole different matter.

The “homiletic exhortation” is no less true today than it was when it was first uttered: How then shall they call on Him in Whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of Whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? (Romans 10:14).

Fullness of faithfulness to God requires access to the fullness of the Faith. Without that there is no true unity, only a community bound together by tolerance of each others’ misconceptions.

At root, Protestantism is non-definitive. It is constantly asking questions in search of answers, in its attempt to “re-discover the Faith.” Either that, or it is locked into “denominationally distinctive” limitations that prevent it from having access to the fullness of the Faith. The ultimate usefulness of the Convergence Movement, therefore, is to acquaint individuals and congregations with the ecclesiognomy of—and thereby to encourage them toward--the Ancient Faith.

Emergence

What is happening within Orthodoxy is different, because the nature of Orthodoxy is different. Whatever is sound about the multiplicity of “distinctives” of the various Denominations is already present within Orthodoxy. What’s more, they’re placed in their proper balance, and they operate from the perspectives into which the Convergence Movement is going to have to grow if it is to accomplish the task God has set it.

Orthodoxy has always been evangelical, always been charismatic, always been Liturgical. Not because she has had to discover and define them, but because Orthodoxy is the Church, and these things are intrinsic to the nature and definition of the Church.

The coming together of these "three strains" requires no effort within Orthodoxy, because they're already here. They aren't promoted, or debated or "blended:" they're simply part of things, part of the Faith in its fullness, and there is nothing into which it is necessary to “converge.”

The problem is that, while Orthodoxy contains the fullness of the Faith, much of what we do contributes to sealing the container up, away from our daily experience. So, while “convergence” is not necessary, “emergence” most certainly is.

We are a two thousand year old family, and we are human and sinful and prone to quarrels. Many of these quarrels are hundreds of years old, carried on for no better reasons than vanity, pride and the unwillingness to forgive. This quarrelsomeness has become ingrained as a habit, a crippling disease which interferes with the work of God. Its malign fruit is that many Orthodox Churches—all of which share an identical Faith--are not in communion with each other; and that among those who are, there is constant bickering and jockeying for dominance.

As well, there is the insistent and debilitating influence the “Ecumenical Movement” has had upon the Church. So diabolically powerful is it that even many Orthodox bishops have been beguiled into hailing the most craven of apostates as “Christian brothers,” refusing to offer refuge to the unfortunate souls under their malign influence. This attitude has even begun to be extended to souls languishing without Christ in the “world religions.” Say these unfortunate bishops: “Orthodox do not proselytize,” as hell rejoices.

So, we stand at a crossroads. Our hearts cry out for the healing of a broken Christendom, and both sides of the cosmic struggle respond. We can follow the vertical bar upward, toward the solutions of Heaven, or downward, to the solutions of the world; the horizontal bar to the right, to order, or to the left, to chaos.

Hell offers us compromise: a mushy, amorphous “world religion,” wherein all religions and all activities are considered salvific, and the only sin is “intolerance.” Heaven offers us Reality, salvation and the Word of God. Heaven invites us, as always, to walk away from ourselves, our preferences and our insistences upon how we will and will not permit God to deal with us. God offers us Himself, and in our earthly life experience of and interaction with Him.

Hell’s way is attractive. It appeals to the highest standards of human reasoning, empathy and compassion. As he did with the Lord, the devil challenges us to “prove ourselves” to him. To the Lord, he said, “if you are the Son of God…”. To us he says, “If you love…”.

So has it always been, There have always been “lapses in character” on the part of the Church which have bottled her up in unhealthy ways, compromising her mission on earth. At such times God has responded, acting by the power of the Holy Spirit to work in and through His Body in a way that will “uncork” the bottle, so that the part which has been bottled up will emerge.

That’s what’s going on, again, today as in ancient days: emergence.

Purpose, Context and Mission

In general terms, the Orthodox Churches need to recover the vision of the Great Commission. We need to dispose ourselves to be willing to carry out this Commission in the manifest power of the Holy Spirit. Orthodox faith and practice already dispose us to take care that we respond to the Spirit, and not try to compel Him (the mistake of many “Pentecostals”). We will receive what we need in order to see the Church renewed, if we yield ourselves to God for the task. We are beginning to see it, now.

I truly think our divisions and contentions are due in large part to having too much time on our hands. We have neglected the advancement of the interests and work of the Kingdom of God, so to fill the time we pursue the advancement of our own.,

Christ came into the world for one purpose: to save sinners.(1 Timothy 1:15). If we are not about that, what are we doing with all of our spiritual work and advancement in the knowledge of the Faith? To what end do we refine our preaching skills? In what work is the prayer of our monasteries backing us up? Are the Churches simply organizations, whose primary purpose is to exist, and to advance their interests?

Are Christians called to be outward-looking, concerned with the spiritual plight of the world and its people, or inward-looking, concerned only about ourselves and our own salvation? Are we the Church Universal, or are we a collection of insular, self-absorbed ethnic social clubs?

Where is the Church that turned the world upside down? Where is the Church that swept across the face of the earth in the power and majesty of the proclamation of the Gospel, and transformed the human experience? When did God ever tell us to stop being that Church?

The answer, of course, is that He didn’t. God is as concerned for the souls of those without Christ as ever, and is just as concerned that His Church go out and harvest fields that have never been riper.

So, what are we doing about it? Where are the newly-planted communities and monasteries? Where are the evangelists, with fire in their eyes and healing in their hands, forming home cell groups and building up the parishes? Are we too tired? too ethnic? too middle-class? Too intimidated by the whining Ottoman-era proscription against “proselytizing?”

Whatever it is, the Lord has sent the Holy Spirit to refresh us and renew us once again, as He has from ancient days when we’ve become distracted from the task of going out into the highways and byways where we belong (Matthew 22:9).

The thing about Orthodoxy is that we have the proper context within which this can all happen. All the gifts, in all their proper order, are present within Orthodoxy. The ecclesiognomy is in the proper balance. Our advantage is that, for us, the business of emergence into the ancient fullness of the Church is neither experimental nor “new.” We do not have to seek ways to “make it work,” because it is already our daily reality: good tinder, lying in neat stacks, waiting to be ignited.

The Lord is not “doing a new thing” among us. The Lord did the New Thing two thousand years ago. What the Lord does among us is old things, from ancient days. He is doing one of these things, now, in our day. All we need to do is yield to Him, and go out with the Gospel to do as He has commanded. Signs and wonders will follow.

Fr. Jim Rosselli is a priest with the Community of the Holy Spirit, a mission community of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.

Items of Interest - 1st Week After Epiphany 2007

Razilaženje Returns
The 3-week hiatus is over. Though my other two websites are still down due to certain technical issues, I have moved Razilaženje here, and am in the process of transferring over all the articles and comments.

Misinterpreting St. Paul
Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon on testing our interpretation against past teachers.

Adam and Christ
Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon on the contrast between Adam and Christ in scripture.

Faith, Logos, and Antichrist: A Post Scriptum on Regensburg
Srdja Trifkovic on the transcendent God of Islam

Will the 21st Be the Orthodox Century?
by Bradley Nassif. Fascination with the Great Tradition may signal deep changes for both evangelicals and the Orthodox.

The Humanist Manifesto II, “Democratic Society”
Lee Duigon of The Chalcedon Foundation examines militant Antichrist Humanism. Part IV of a series.

How Secular Donors Move Church Agenda
The National Council of Churches is becoming financially beholden to secular groups with liberal political leanings, according to a report by the Institute for Religion and Democracy.

Myths of the Teachers Unions
Jay Greene on the misconceptions that stand in the way of educational reform.

Jane Elliott and her Blue-Eyed Devil Children
Carl F. Horowitz on the totalitarian roots of diversity training.

Adam Smith for Dummies
Bill Steigerwald interviews P.J. O'Rourke on The Wealth of Nations.

14 Carter Center Advisors Resign Over Carter's Latest Book
"There are some things in life that you just cannot overlook. The truth is something that has got to be told. And certain portions of this book do not tell the truth."