On the Ever-Virgin

icon from Mount Tabor Studios, Raymond Vincent

icon from Mount Tabor Studios, Raymond Vincent

St. Basil the Great 330-379

For it says: He did not know her until she had given birth to her firstborn son. Now this verse has given rise to the conjecture that, after rendering pure service in accomplishing the birth of the Lord through the Holy Spirit, Mary did not renounce the customary marital relations. But in our opinion, even if none of this harms the account of piety—for virginity was necessary for service in the economy, but inquiring into what happened next out of curiosity should be avoided by reason of its mystery—nonetheless, since lovers of Christ do not accept the opinion that the Mother of God ever ceased being a virgin, we think the following testimonies suffice. Let us return to: He did not know her until she had given birth to her son. In many instances the word “until” seems to suggest a kind of temporal boundary, but in reality it indicates indefiniteness. What did the Lord mean when he said: And behold, I am with you all days, until the close of the age? Indeed, not that the Lord was not going to be with the saints after this age! Rather, it means that the promise of the present age will not be rescinded in the age to come. So we say that in this case too the word “until” should be taken in the same way. Now when firstborn is said, by no means is he the firstborn in comparison to siblings who came after him. Rather, he is called the firstborn because he was the first one to open the womb of his mother. It is also clear from the story about Zechariah that Mary was always a virgin. For there is an account, and it has been handed down to us from the tradition, that Zechariah entrusted Mary to the place for the virgins after conceiving the Lord. Then he was slaughtered by the Jews between the temple and the altar. Charges had been brought against him by the people, on the grounds that by his actions he established that incredible and famous sign: a virgin gave birth and her virginity was not destroyed. (On Fasting and Feasts, Popular Patristic Series Book 50. Kindle Locations 606-627. St Vladimir’s Seminary Press. Kindle Edition)

On Icons of the Word Made Flesh

Nativity by Gabriel Toma Chituc

          Nativity by Gabriel Toma Chituc

St. Theodore the Studite 759-826

If uncircumscribability is characteristic of God’s essence, and circumscription is characteristic of man’s essence, but Christ is from both: then He is made known in two properties, as in two natures. How would it not be blasphemous to say that He is uncircumscribed in body as well as spirit, since if His circumscription were removed His human nature would be removed also?

If things do not have the same properties, then their essences are different. It is proper to divinity to be uncircumscribable, bodiless, and formless. It is proper to humanity to be circumscribed, tangible, and three-dimensional. If, therefore, Christ is from both essences, He must be both uncircumscribable and circumscribed. If He is only one or the other, He is of only the one essence of which He has the property — which is heretical.

If Christ cannot be circumscribed, neither can He suffer; for impassibility is equivalent to uncircumscribability. But He is able to suffer, as the Scriptures say. Therefore, He is also circumscribable.

If Christ is uncircumscribable, as you say, not only in respect to His divinity, but also in respect to His humanity, then His humanity is also divinity. For things which have the same properties also have one nature. But if He is of two natures, He is therefore also of two properties: otherwise, by the removal of circumscription, the nature of humanity would also be removed.

If Christ is uncircumscribable, how can He Himself say, “They have pierced My hands and My feet; they have numbered all My bones” (LXX Ps. 21:16-17)? For that which is uncircumscribable does not have a nature to be pierced, nor to have its bones numbered. To believe these words is to confess the circumscription.

If Christ is uncircumscribable, how can the Forerunner say, “See the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world?” (Jn. 1:29) For that which is seen is not uncircumscribable, not to mention that which is pointed out with the finger. But if something should be seen and pointed out, then it would be within circumscription. Therefore, Christ is circumscribable.

If Christ is not circumscribable, He is not of two natures, divinity and humanity, since He does not have the property of each. For circumscribability is characteristic of humanity. But if He is of two natures, how can He avoid having the properties of those whose natures He has?

If Christ is not circumscribed, as you say, because He would be diminished in glory, then He was not conceived in the Virgin’s womb either, because He would have endured humiliation. But if He was not only conceived without humiliation, but even born as an infant, then He is circumscribed without shame.

Maleness and femaleness are sought only in the forms of bodies, since none of the differences which characterize sexes can be recognized in bodiless beings. Therefore, if Christ were uncircumscribable, as being without a body. He would also be without the difference of sex. But He was born male, as Isaiah says, from “the prophetess” (Is. 8:18): therefore, He is circumscribed. (Third Refutation of the Iconoclasts)

On Rock and Sand

Part 1 of an Ancient Faith Today interview with Fr. Josiah Trenham. They discuss his new book Rock and Sand – An Orthodox Appraisal of the Protestant Reformers and their Teaching, published by New Rome Press. The interview is also available in video format from Patristic Nectar Films.

St. Philaret on the Intercessions of the Saints

St. Philaret of Moscow 1821-1867

The Orthodox Church looks with sorrow on those not belonging to her who reject the invocation of the Saints, since they are depriving themselves of spiritual help which of no small importance. But to receive such people into her communion would be bringing contradiction into her midst, and opening a path for foreign opinions to weaken and change her ancient, true and salutary tradition…

If we had seen how the Apostle Peter prayed and raised Tabitha from the dead, would we not be inspired, when feeling the need of spiritual help, to say to him “Pray also for us”? Why can we not also say this to him now, when he is at a higher level of closeness to God?

According to the Creed we believe in “one Church”. Is it only the earthly Church in which we believe? According to the Apostle’s teaching, faith relates to things not seen. Is it not therefore more characteristic of faith that it should relate to the One Church of Christians, both those struggling on earth and the perfected righteous ones in the heavens? In that case, what can hinder the communion of those on earth with those in heaven? We are commanded to love one another and pray for one another; where is it said to the saints in heaven “Do not love your brothers on earth and do not wish them good things from God” or, what is the same thing, “Do not pray for them”?

In the book of the Prophet Zechariah (1:12-13) it is written, “Then the Angel of the Lord answered and said, O Lord of hosts, how long will you not have mercy on Jerusalem…?” Here you see the angel is praying for Jerusalem. “And the Lord answered the angel who talked with me, with good and comforting.” You see, the angel’s prayer is accepted.

In the book of the Prophet Jeremiah (15:1) it is written, “Then the Lord said to me, ‘Even if Moses and Samuel stood before Me, My mind would not be favorable toward this people.'” This was said in a specific instance, when the Jews had, through their inquiries, made themselves incapable of accepting mercy. Consequently, in different circumstances, the Lord would permit Moses and Samuel to stand before Him in prayer, and their prayer would be accepted unto mercy, just as he accepted and fulfilled their prayers during their earthly life.

Do not reprove the Orthodox Church for the fact that her prayerful love is widespread, and is not limited to the earth, but extends form the earth to heaven, and from heaven embraces the earth.

“The one Mediator between God and man is Christ Jesus, Who gave Himself as a deliverance for all.” But the prayers both of earth and of heaven reach out to Him, and to His intercessions before His Father. (Guidance from Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow Regarding English Converts to Orthodoxy, Reply to Question 6. Embassy, Emigrants, and Englishmen pp. 610-611)

On Salvation for the Whole Man

St. Justin the Philosopher ca. 103-165

But, in truth, He has even called the flesh to the resurrection, and promises to it everlasting life. For where He promises to save man, there He gives the promise to the flesh. For what is man but the reasonable animal composed of body and soul? Is the soul by itself man? No; but the soul of man. Would the body be called man? No, but it is called the body of man. If, then, neither of these is by itself man, but that which is made up of the two together is called man, and God has called man to life and resurrection, He has called not a part, but the whole, which is the soul and the body. Since would it not be unquestionably absurd, if, while these two are in the same being and according to the same law, the one weresaved and the other not? And if it be not impossible, as has already been proved, that the flesh be regenerated, what is the distinction on the ground of which the soul is saved and the body not? Do they make God a grudging God? But He is good, and will have all to be saved. And by God and His proclamation, not only has your soul heard and believed on Jesus Christ, and with it the flesh, but both were washed, and both wrought righteousness. They make God, then ungrateful and unjust, if, while both believe in Him, He desires to save one and not the other. Well, they say, but the soul is incorruptible, being a part of God and inspired by Him, and therefore He desires to save what is peculiarly His own and akin to Himself; but the flesh is corruptible, and not from Him, as the soul is. Then what thanks are due to Him, and what manifestation of His power and goodness is it, if He purposed to save what is by nature saved and exists as a part of Himself? For it had its salvation from itself; so that in saving the soul, God does no great thing. For to be saved is its natural destiny, because it is a part of Himself, being Hisinspiration. But no thanks are due to one who saves what is his own; for this is tosave himself. For he who saves a part himself, saves himself by his own means, lest he become defective in that part; and this is not the act of a good man. For not even when a man does good to his children and offspring, does one call him agood man; for even the most savage of the wild beasts do so, and indeed willingly endure death, if need be, for the sake of their cubs. But if a man were to perform the same acts in behalf of his slaves, that man would justly be called good. Wherefore the Saviour also taught us to love our enemies, since, says He, what thanks have you? So that He has shown us that it is a good work not only to lovethose that are begotten of Him, but also those that are without. And what He enjoins upon us, He Himself first of all does. (On the Ressurection, 8)

On the Decree of the Seventh Ecumenical Council

What the Council Decreed

The council decreed that similar veneration and honour should be paid to the representations of the Lord and of the Saints as was accustomed to be paid to the “laurata” and tablets representing the Christian emperors, to wit, that they should be bowed to, and saluted with kisses, and attended with lights and the offering of incense. But the Council was most explicit in declaring that this was merely a veneration of honour and affection, such as can be given to the creature, and that under no circumstances could the adoration of divine worship be given to them but to God alone.

The Greek language has in this respect a great advantage over the Hebrew, the Latin and the English; it has a word which is a general word and is properly used of the affectionate regard and veneration shown to any person or thing, whether to the divine Creator or to any of his creatures, this word is proskynesis ; it has also another word which can properly be used to denote only the worship due to the Most High, God, this word is latreia . When then the Council defined that the worship of “latria “was never to be given to any but God alone, it cut off all possibility for idolatry, mariolatry, iconolatry, or any other “latry” except “theo-latry.” If therefore any of these other “latries” exist or ever have existed, they exist or have existed not in accordance with, but in defiance of, the decree of the Second Council of Nice.

But unfortunately, as I have said, we have neither in Hebrew, Latin, nor English any word with this restricted meaning, and therefore when it became necessary to translate the Greek acts and the decree, great difficulty was experienced, and by the use of “adoro” as the equivalent of proskyneo many were scandalized, thinking that it was divine adoration which they were to give to the sacred images, which they knew would be idolatry. The same trouble is found in rendering into English the acts and decrees; for while indeed properly speaking “worship” no more means necessarily divine worship in English than “adoratio” does in Latin (e.g. I. Chr. xxix. 20, “All the congregation bowed down their heads and worshipped the Lord and the King” [i.e. Solomon]; Luke xiv. 10, “Then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee “), yet to the popular mind “the worship of images” is the equivalent of idolatry. In the following translations I have uniformly translated as follows and the reader from the English will know what the word is in the original.

Proskyneo , to venerate; timao, to honour; latreuo, to adore; aspaxomai to salute; douleuo, to serve; eikon , an image.

The relative force of proskynesis and latreia cannot better be set forth than by Archbishop Trench’s illustration of two circles having the same centre, the larger including the less (New Testament Synonyms, sub voce latreuo).

To make this matter still clearer I must ask the reader’s attention to the use of the words abadh and shachah in the Hebrew; the one abadh, which finds, when used with reference to God or to false gods its equivalent in latreuo ; the other shachah, which is represented by proskyneo. Now in the Old Testament no distinction in the Hebrew is drawn between these words when applied to creator or creature. The one denotes service primarily for hire; the other bowing down and kissing the hand to any in salutation. Both words are constantly used and sometimes refer to the Creator and sometimes to the creature–e.g., we read that Jacob served (abadh) Laban (Gen. xxix. 20); and that Joshua commanded the people not to serve the gods of their fathers but to serve (abadh) the Lord (Josh. xxiv. 14). And for the use of shachah the following may suffice: “And all the congregation blessed the Lord God of their fathers and bowed down their heads and worshipped (Hebrew, shachah; Greek, proskyneo ; Latin, adoro) the Lord and the King” (I. Chr. xxix. 20). But while it is true of the Hebrew of the Old Testament that there is no word which refers alone to Divine Worship this is not true of the Septuagint Greek nor of the Greek of the New Testament, for in both proskyneo has always its general meaning, sometimes applying to the creature and sometimes to the Creator; but latreuo is used to denote divine worship alone, as St. Augustine pointed out long ago.

This distinction comes out very clearly in the inspired translation of the Hebrew found in Matthew iv. 10, “Thou shalt worship (proskynesis) the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve (latreuseis ).” “Worship” was due indeed to God above all but not exclusively to Him, but latria is to be given to “Him only.”

I think I have now said enough to let the reader understand the doctrine taught by the council and to prove that in its decree it simply adopted the technical use of words found in the Greek of the Septuagint and of the New Testament. I may then close this introduction with a few remarks upon outward acts of veneration in general.

Of course, the outward manifestation in bodily acts of reverence will vary with times and with the habits of peoples. To those accustomed to kiss the earth on which the Emperor had trodden, it would be natural to kiss the feet of the image of the King of Kings. The same is manifestly true of any outward acts whatever, such as bowing, kneeling, burning of lights, and offering of incense. All these when offered before an image are, according to the mind of the Council, but outward signs of the reverence due to that which the image represents and pass backward to the prototype, and thus it defined, citing the example of the serpent in the wilderness, of which we read, “For he that turned himself toward it was not saved by the thing that he saw, but by thee, that art the Saviour of all” (Wisdom xvi. 17). If anyone feels disposed to attribute to outward acts any necessary religious value he is falling back into Judaism, and it were well for him to remember that the nod which the Quakers adopted out of protest to the bow of Christians was once the expression of divine worship to the most sacred idols; that in the Eastern Church the priest only bows before the Lord believed to be present in the Holy Sacrament while he prostrates himself before the infidel Sultan; and that throughout the Latin communion the acolytes genuflect before. the Bishop, as they pass him, with the same genuflection that they give to the Holy Sacrament upon the Altar. In this connexion I quote in closing the fine satire in the letter of this very council to the Emperor and Empress. St. Paul “says of Jacob (Heb. xi. 2I), ‘He worshipped the top of his staff,’ and like to this is that said by Gregory, surnamed the Theologian, ‘Revere Bethlehem and worship the manger,’ But who of those truly understanding the Divine Scriptures would suppose that here was intended the Divine worship of latria? Such an opinion could only be entertained by an idiot or one ignorant of Scriptural and Patristic knowledge. Would Jacob give divine worship to his staff? Or would Gregory, the Theologian, give command to worship as God a manger!” (Introduction to the Seventh Ecumenical Council, 2. NPNF II [Vol. 14] pp. 523-528)

St. Theophan on the Holy Mysteries

St. Theophan the Recluse 1815-1894

Learn then, and believe deeply that Divine Grace is offered and received in no other way than through the Divine Mysteries that are performed by the Apostles and their successors, as the Lord Himself ordained in the Church. And so that you may be more assured of this, I will bring to you some examples from the Holy Scriptures. Our Lord Himself, talking to Nicodemus, said: “You must be born from above” (Jn. 3:7), meaning spiritual rebirth by Divine Grace. But by what means would it come and operate? Did He say perhaps, “Believe, open your mouth, and Divine Grace will come into you and give you new birth?” Of course not. He did not say anything like that. What did He say? “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:5). What else is this birth “by water and the Spirit,” other than holy baptism, the first Christian Mystery?

An incident that happened at Ephesus during a journey of the Apostle Paul verifies this point. When the Apostle came to Ephesus, he met twelve believers and asked them: “When you believed, did you receive the Holy Spirit?” And they answered, “We have heard nothing about the Holy Spirit.” “How then were you baptized?” the Apostle asked. “In John’s baptism,” they replied.

Then the Aposlte explained to them that the baptism of St. John the Forerunner was only a preparation for the faith in Christ. And after he completed the evangelical teaching to them, he baptized them with the Christain baptism. After the baptism, he laid his hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

Do you see that baptism is one thing and the “laying on of hands” another? Divine Grace is given to the believer only through the “laying on of hands”. The Apostles later replaced this visible action with Chrismation and thus Chrismation was established as one of the Divine Mysteries of our Church.

These two incidents, with St. Nicodemus and with the faithful in Ephesus, are enough to assure you that Divine Grace is given through visible means, through the Divne Mysteries, and not through mental belief alone.

This is how Christ Himself established things. I will mention here the other Divine Mysteries:

The forgiveness of sins, into which one falls after baptism, is not done with simple, mental confession to God, but with confession that takes place before a spiritual father, in deep contrition and determination not to repeat the same sins.

The Mystery of Divine Eucharist creates a living union of the believer with our Lord Jesus Christ.

The power of Divine Grace for the continuation of the sanctifying work of the Church is delivered through the Mystery of ordination.

Two persons unite in one and create a blessed Christian family through the Mystery of Marriage.

The sick are cured through the Mystery of Holy Unction.

The Divine Mysteries are rivers of Divine Grace that provide life-giving water to the faithful. There is no other way, no other means for one to receive Divine Grace. Whoever proclaims another way is in error and deception! (Preaching Another Christ: An Orthodox View of Evangelicalism pp. 26-28)

Saint Chrysostom on “Judaism”

Saint John Chrysostom 349-407

Many, I know, respect the Jews and think that their present way of life is a venerable one. This is why I hasten to uproot and tear out this deadly opinion. I said that the synagogue is no better than a theater and I bring forward a prophet as my witness. Surely the Jews are not more deserving of belief than their prophets. “You had a harlot’s brow; you became shameless before all”. Where a harlot has set herself up, that place is a brothel. But the synagogue is not only a brothel and a theater; it also is a den of robbers and a lodging for wild beasts. Jeremiah said: “Your house has become for me the den of a hyena”. He does not simply say “of wild beast”, but “of a filthy wild beast”, and again: “I have abandoned my house, I have cast off my inheritance”. But when God forsakes a people, what hope of salvation is left? When God forsakes a place, that place becomes the dwelling of demons.

(2) But at any rate the Jews say that they, too, adore God. God forbid that I say that. No Jew adores God! Who say so? The Son of God say so. For he said: “If you were to know my Father, you would also know me. But you neither know me nor do you know my Father”. Could I produce a witness more trustworthy than the Son of God?

(3) If, then, the Jews fail to know the Father, if they crucified the Son, if they thrust off the help of the Spirit, who should not make bold to declare plainly that the synagogue is a dwelling of demons? God is not worshipped there. Heaven forbid! From now on it remains a place of idolatry. But still some people pay it honor as a holy place.

St John Chrysostom, Eight Homilies against the Jews, Homily III


Even if there is no idol there, still demons do inhabit the place. And I say this not only about the synagogue here in town but about the one in Daphne as well; for at Daphne you have a more wicked place of perdition which they call Matrona’s. I have heard that many of the faithful go up there and sleep beside the place.

(3) But heaven forbid that I call these people faithful. For to me the shrine of Matrona and the temple of Apollo are equally profane. If anyone charges me with boldness, I will in turn charge him with the utmost madness. For, tell me, is not the dwelling place of demons a place of impiety even if no god’s statue stands there? Here the slayers of Christ gather together, here the cross is driven out, here God is blasphemed, here the Father is ignored, here the Son is outraged, here the grace of the Spirit is rejected. Does not greater harm come from this place since the Jews themselves are demons? In the pagan temple the impiety is naked and obvious; it would not be ease to deceive a man of sound and prudent mind or entice him to go there. But in the synagogue there are men who say they worship God and abhor idols, men who say they have prophets and pay them honor. But by their words they make ready an abundance of bait to catch in their nets the simpler souls who are so foolish as to be caught of guard.

(4) So the godlessness of the Jews and the pagans is on a par. But the Jews practice a deceit which is more dangerous. In their synagogue stands an invisible altar of deceit on which they sacrifice not sheep and calves but the souls of men.

(5) Finally, if the ceremonies of the Jews move you to admiration, what do you have in common with us? If the Jewish ceremonies are venerable and great, our are lies. But if ours are true, as they are true, theirs are filled with deceit. I am not speaking of the Scriptures. Heaven forbid! It was the Scriptures which took me by the hand and led me to Christ. But I am talking about the ungodliness and present madness of the Jews.

St John Chrysostom, Eight Homilies against the Jews, Homily VI

St. Macarius on “Judaism”

In the same way, as we said above, the people of Israel corrupted themselves by many crimes and sins…They laid their hands on the dignity of the Lord. For this reason they were completely deserted and rejected. They lost prophecy, priesthood , and the cult of God. These were given to believing Gentiles as the Lord says: “The Kingdom shall be taken from you and will be given to a nation that will bring forth its fruits” (Mt. 21:43) (The Fifty Spiritual Homilies 4.23)

Also, Peter succeeded Moses, entrusted with the new Church of Christ and the authentic priesthood. (The Fifty Spiritual Homilies 26.23)

St Cyprian on “Judaism”

That the Jews should lose Jerusalem, and should leave the land which they had received.

In Isaiah: “Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire: your land, strangers shall devour it in your sight; and the daughter of Zion shall be left deserted, and overthrown by foreign peoples, as a cottage in a vineyard, and as a keeper’s lodge in a garden of cucumbers, as a city which is besieged. And unless the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we should have been as Sodoma, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah.”Isa. i. 7–9 Also in the Gospel the Lord says: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and thou wouldst not! Behold, your house shall be left unto you desolate.” Matt. xxiii. 37, 38

Also that they should lose the Light of the Lord.

In Isaiah: “Come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord. For He hath sent away His people, the house of Israel.” Isa. ii. 5, 6  In His Gospel also, according to John: “That was the true light which lighteth every man that cometh into this world. He was in this world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not.”John i. 9, 10 Moreover, in the same place: “He that believeth not is judged already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.  And this is the judgment, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light.” John iii. 18, 19 

That the first circumcision of the flesh is made void, and the second circumcision of the spirit is promised instead.

In Jeremiah: “Thus saith the Lord to the men of Judah, and to them who inhabit Jerusalem, Renew newness among you, and do not sow among thorns: circumcise yourselves to your God, and circumcise the foreskin of your heart; lest my anger go forth like fire, and burn you up, and there be none to extinguish it.”Jer. iv. 3, 4 Also Moses says: “In the last days God will circumcise thy heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God.” Deut. xxx. 6 Also in Jesus the son of Nave: “And the Lord said unto Jesus, Make thee small knives of stone, very sharp, and set about to circumcise the children of Israel for the second time.” Josh. v. 2 Paul also, to the Colossians: “Ye are circumcised with the circumcision not made with hands in the putting off of the flesh, but with the circumcision of Christ.” Col. ii. 11 Also, because Adam was first made by God uncircumcised, and righteous Abel, and Enoch, who pleased God and was translated; and Noah, who, when the world and men were perishing on account of transgressions, was chosen alone, that in him the human race might be preserved; and Melchizedek, the priest according to whose order Christ was promised. Then, because that sign did not avail women, but all are sealed by the sign of the Lord.

That the old pastors should cease and new ones begin.

In Ezekiel: “Wherefore thus saith the Lord, Behold, I am above the shepherds; and I will require my sheep from their hands, and I will turn them away from feeding my sheep; and they shall feed them no more, and I will deliver my sheep from their mouth, and I will feed them with judgment.” Ezek. xxxiv. 10–16In Jeremiah the Lord says: “And I will give you shepherds according to my own heart, and they shall feed you with the food of discipline.” Jer. iii. 15In Jeremiah, moreover:  “Hear the word of the Lord, ye nations, and tell it to the islands which are afar off. Say, He that scattereth Israel will gather him, and will keep him as a shepherd his flock: for the Lord hath redeemed Jacob, and taken him out from the hand of him that was stronger than he.” Jer. xxxi. 10, 11

That Christ should be the house and temple of God, and that the old temple should cease, and the new one should begin.

In the second book of Kings: “And the word of the Lord came to Nathan, saying, Go and tell my servant David, Thus saith the Lord, Thou shalt not build me an house to dwell in; but it shall be, when thy days shall be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will raise up thy seed after thee, which shall come from thy bowels, and I will make ready his kingdom. He shall build me an house in my name, and I will raise up his throne for ever; and I will be to him for a father, and he shall be to me for a son: and his house shall obtain confidence, and his kingdom for evermore in my sight.”2 Sam. vii. 4, 5, 12–16 Also in the Gospel the Lord says: “There shall not be left in the temple one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down.”Matt. xxiv. 2 And “After three days another shall be raised up without hands.” John ii. 19; Mark xiv. 58

Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume V Vol. V, Cyprian, The Treatises of Cyprian, Three Books of Testimonies Against the Jews, Book I, Part 6,7,8,14,15

Different Theologies Involve Different Paradigms

Many times there is confusion within Orthodox and western conversation that seems to be somewhat of bandit; that is, there is a problem that swiftly and frequently snatches an important state of solitude from the minds of those discussing and even considering Orthodoxy. What seems to happen is that the western Christian presupposes paradigms that use various words found in the Bible as if they were originally written as dogma words with exclusive meanings. Many times we begin to take on these presuppositions of the western Christian without even knowing we are doing such a thing. If not caught right away within conversations, this adoption of presuppositions creates this confusion.

Within western theology certain words are capitalized on to become dominant words, thus creating particular western paradigms, whereas other paradigms such as that of Eastern Orthodoxy use less of a “capitalistic” framework and rely more on layering information – more prerequisites to reach final points of dogma, which enables Orthodoxy to cover much more ground with much deeper concentration. But it does not fit in the pocket very well! This is the harsh reality of Orthodoxy. It is not your processed and packaged Christianity that so many western people adore. Many times, with Orthodoxy, you have to literally build a relationship with people to help layer the amounts of information for them to digest. There really is no condensed Bible paradigm that offers a quick  systematic theology. Our paradigms are wide and cease from placing too much weight on language itself, presupposing the concept and very doctrine of faith. The words we use within our theology do not carry the authority as many western Christians suppose they do.

[Read more…]

Heresy as Intellectual Temptation

Heresy involves many temptations. But one that I wish to discuss is the temptation of intellectual simplicity! Simplicity is a double-edged sword. We need simplicity when referring to the Gospel and its theology but we need this simplicity to be orthodox. This is not “simple.” Really, the simplicity that we need is not so much simple as it is concise. There is a huge difference. When one is simple in theology one overlooks many suppositions in order to arrive at the simplistic plain. This is what heresy does! It paints a picture without prepping the canvas. The paint will not hold up under time or examination and thus peel right off. But being concise means prepping the canvas while painting the picture, a skill reserved for those with experience and calling in a particular spiritual field.

Heresy many times speaks to the undereducated and lower classes – or, simply put, people without proper resources (many times even the “educated” do not have proper resource). Heresy makes a theologian out of just about anyone, giving them quick access to “theology” through a minimal amount of study. An exception to this rule would be heresies that demand extensive linguistic studies, which seem to be primarily designed to replace the Church itself.

Heresy usually involves denying much of the Church’s teachings throughout history in order to show how some type of modern – even in the medieval sense – prophet or teacher has suddenly found the truth. They tend to imply that the Church was hiding for the past thousand or so years and this person or group has suddenly found it in the form of new doctrine and practice.

Heresy spreads very fast due to the despondent crowd that is targeted by the master heretic. These hopeless and uninformed people will eat the heresy straight from the palm of their new master’s hand, desperately panting for intellectual status. When the desperate soul is found by the heretic and proselytized to, they usually feel very enlightened and enriched, at first, believing that they have finally discovered what God has intended for them. The propositions begin to hit them very fast and hard, leading them to feel overwhelmed yet also joyful, due to the nature of what is being pitched. It is overwhelming because of many reasons but it is joyful because it has just the right amount of historical revelation – usually in the form of Bible verses – sprinkled throughout the recipe. It’s laced with truth.

These sprinkles of truth that the heresy is laced with is usually very easy to understand and speaks to the flesh in many ways. Instant supposed sanctification through knowledge is many times the culprit. The ancient heresy of Gnosticism was like this. It appealed to people because it immediately stimulated their intellect. It appeased their need for knowledge.

The Gospel does not sanctify like Gnosticism or its contemporary counterparts. The Gospel works through humility, submission, pain, and even turmoil. One must become “childlike” to receive the Gospel. After one receives it one can or may begin to exhaustively study its implications, but for the most part Gospel sanctification involves just a lot of hard work and dying to one’s self! One submits to the Church and then bathes in grace.

God said in Matthew that nothing would EVER penetrate His Church. We all know by looking at history who the Church is, but some insist that there “is more” than what the Church can immediately offer them and thus begin to revert to some sort of reformed model where the Church is being reinvented every couple years – ultimately excommunicating itself – sometimes unknowingly – from the historical Church. The Church is the safe-house for God’s elect. It is the “pillar of truth,” as St. Paul says in 1 Timothy 3:15. The Church will indeed let you down at times but it will never kill your soul. Only your arrogant desire for “truth” will do that.

Come and Experience the Majesty of Christ!

It is often said within Orthodoxy that modern heresy is simply ancient heresy repackaged. Those who refuse to unite with the One Holy and Apostolic Church in our day are most frequently engaging in the same heresies that separated groups from the Church in the ancient world: The hierarchy, the oral (relational) authority of revelation, the sacraments, icons, the mother of God; These are all real and genuine subjects that are crucial to our relationship with God as Orthodox Christians. Any attempt to publish doctrines against these teachings or attempt to establish a separated church in the spirit of condemning these things, is what we call heterodoxy (false teaching).

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A Response to Reformed Christianity

This is my response to a Reformed group of people, including a Reformed teacher and blogger who engaged in a conversation regarding why he does not want to covert to the Orthodox Church. I believe he is a member of the Confederation of Reformed Evangelicals, a Reformed group that  grew from other Reformed groups by embracing Orthodox theologians such as Fr. Alexander Schmemann.

“Robin [and Brad],

You said that you do not want to take one authority or one period of the Church, and you apply Orthodoxy to this, but this assumes Orthodoxy is to be as Roman Catholicism. We do not have a Pope and we have not turned Ecumenical Councils into dogma parties. The Councils are here to protect and NOT to necessarily establish doctrine. The Orthodox faith moves doctrinally in a very collective manner, but with the guidance of the bishopric. And if the Church collectively gets off track, a council is formed and heretics are excommunicated.

You also say that you do not want to stick with one period of the Church but Orthodoxy does not do that either. You might be confusing the fact that  for the first one thousand years, the church was unified (not without trouble, of course) but both east and west met for council then and the monarch was alive, well, and protecting the Church as it is supposed to be. This was not just “one” period. And now that there has been a massive schism, the east continues to expand on doctrine and teaching, albeit not as much as it used to, but nonetheless enough to grow and prosper to be larger than any Protestant ‘denomination.’

Could it be that you are narrowing yourself to one period far more than the Orthodox? The Reformation was quite short and whatever lasted turned into liberalism. Most every Reformed church that succeeded from the Reformation has become completely liberal (European Reformed and most all of American). The 20th century schismatics from the Presbyterian and Anglican groups did not gain any dominion whatsoever from the “splits.” Their numbers of people retained were very small, they lost most all of the properties, and they could not even hold themselves together doctrinally. The Reformed period was very short and ended in what is now liberalism and shopping-mall evangelicalism.

I like the way you want to strive for unity of the gospel but why not do this within the “laying on of hands?” Why not strive within the apostolic Church? It does not make any sense to remain separate in order to begin unity. We already have unity, the same that you long to have. We wrestle with the Scripture, we debate, and honor theological education. You, again, mistake the Orthodox faith for the Roman. We have doctrinal latitude within our Church, more than Reformed, I would say. But we have little latitude within worship, as the Church did for over one thousand years. We do not allow renaissance and other modern philosophies to enter our worship. And we hold to the doctrine of  lex orandi, lex credenda, the Latin phrase for ‘as we worship so we will live.’

There is much to be said about God working through unity! Saint Paul, Jesus, Saint Ignatius, and many others proclaim that without unity there is blindness! After the schism of the Church, there was much blindness spread, and when the schism of the schism happened (the Reformation) there was even more spread. We are living in perilous times, times where one cannot afford to be reinventing the Church on their own!”

Salvation is a Journey, Not an Event

A huge problem with modern teachings of salvation is the notion that one can be saved apart from the visible reality of God’s Church. Over the last century or so a sort of you-can-get-saved-on-your-own theology has manifested its ugly head. It is really a cultish teaching when you begin to study its premise. Granted, God uses this type of teaching to further His kingdom, but remember, God will use a Donkey if he needs to…and has done so!

The Gospel, as described by Christ, begins as a small seed and grows into the largest plant in the garden. This means that the Gospel is an organic reality of heaven on earth that is actually growing from something to something. We, as people, begin to become grafted into this organic reality as St. Paul explains in Romans 11.

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One Protestant’s View of Orthodoxy

“We could take a cue from Orthodoxy, whose priests stand with their backs to their congregation, leading a liturgy that is neither clever nor impassioned, but simply beautiful, like stone smoothed by centuries of rhythmic tides. It’s an austere ritual, in the sense of – there’s nothing new here; it’s sublime, in the sense of – creating a clearer view into Heaven. The priest can be any priest. Who he is, what he looks like, how he speaks, and what he thinks matter little. He hasn’t written the service that he officiates. It isn’t about him or his prowess. He’s an interchangeable functionary draped in brocaded robes, obscured by incense, and, as such, never points to himself, a flawed human, pointing ever and only to the Perfection of the Mysterious Divine. That is the role of every priest or preacher – invisibility, while making God seen.”

Thanks to Fr. John Peck for this

Sola Scriptura…The Biggest Deception of All Time!

This was taken from the Our Life in Christ Program. It is a must read. I would like to challenge any Reformed or Evangelical out there to read this. It will likely change your perspective of what the revelation of God is all about!

From Hank Hanegraaff’s CRI Series What Think Ye of Rome (Part 3)

Reformed Christians and Orthodoxy

Here is a great new blog authored by Robert Arakaki. The blog is aimed at helping Reformed Evangelicals understand the differences of Eastern Orthodoxy.

The Book of Revelation and “Prophecy”

Surfing the “end times” websites and even watching the local billboards during this time of worldwide crises will reveal a host of arguments that we are nearing “the mark of the beast,” as well as “the rapture of the Church.” Most of these teachings come straight out of the Evangelical community and work as a fear-based hook for new converts and a message of hope and excitement for both new converts and matured parishioners. This is not to say that no type of global Antichrist or “new world order” will happen, but it is to say that it will not happen like the Evangelical say it will happen. In fact many areas in the Bible (both Christ and St. Paul state) say that in perilous times such as these many will fall from the true Gospel message to be enamored by their surroundings.

Remember, the Book of Revelation, even though written and prophesied for many events that have already past, will give us wisdom to handle situations such as the one that we are in right now. But to create a newspaper theology such as is being created is absolute heresy and we should tread very carefully when listening to this hype.

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Turning Points Of The Church

A primary reason why we named this site “Classical Christianity” is so that we could publish the richness of the first millennium of the Church, when both the eastern and western hemispheres were united in fsith. The Classical concept of the Church is to become ingrained into the teachings of these saints that the first millennium produced. There are many “modern” saints to learn from as well, but as we will discuss below, the pre- medieval era is indeed quite special to Orthodoxy. If we can understand some of the pitfalls that were encountered within the Middle Ages, perhaps we will be able to grow in Christ in a much more sustainable way, a way that involves the unity of the faith that Christ speaks of.

A lot of radical over-correction took place in the Middle Ages when many men of the Church finally got their hands on a variety of books, including the Bible. After “the Church went off its rails” in 1054 A.D. (the Church split and formed Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic), as Protestant pastor Martin Luther said, the Church began to quickly embrace a very scholastic path of spirituality. Writers such as Peter Lombard, in the 12th century and later Thomas Aquinas, in the 13th century, capitalized on the simple yet foundational aspects of Christianity such as Holy Communion, marriage, ordination, healing, baptism, reconciliation with Christ, as well as reconciliation with the Church. These subjects were thought to be of great importance since they had been practiced since the very inception of the New Testament Church.

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Marcion, Law Verses Gospel, and Christian Fragmentation

I recently had the opportunity to discuss with a former partner in ministry why Orthodoxy has remained whole throughout the ages, since the call of the Apostles by Christ. This friend continued to mention that all Christianity has been fragmented from the beginning and that the Orthodox Church is not exempt from this.

I have two things to say about this. The first is that although the Orthodox Church has had people break off, it has not been in modern times over modern heresy, unlike the West which has been fragmenting since the break of Rome from the East in the 11th century into tiny fragments to this day. The second thing is that both St. Paul and Christ himself said that there would be many that would fall away – it is a prophetic aspect of the Church…not that the Church would fragment into many churches but that many would fall away from the Church.

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K(no)w Bishop, K(no)w Bible

Here is a link that helps us understand the fact that the bishopric is the arbitrator of truth and that the Bible, our primary repository of truth, belongs only to the Church that is under this bishopric.

From the link above we can see that there are dozens of early writings that are not in the Bible. In the first few hundred years of the New Testament Church the authority of revelation was verbally transpired by the bishops, to the priests and then to the rest of the Church. In the fourth century the bishops decided which books out of these many would be “canonized.” This Canon of early letters began to be called the Bible.

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On the Bible and Apostolic Succession


Many Modern Christians make this general type of assumption that the Bible was handed over from Christ or the Apostles themselves as some sort of gift to all mankind. But research shows us this is not the case!

The Bible is a product of the bishopric! The Bible is a result of the Church. If you do not believe in the authority of the ancient Church then you cannot believe that the Bible is the actual rule of faith. The authority of the Church is its bishopric, which no modern Christian has a part of. The ancient fathers made it very clear that if one is not under the authority of the Bishop then one is not a part of the Church. Granted, the many modern churches of today that do not have apostolic succession certainly do have the grace of God but this grace is not embraced on an “affluent” level. They have a serious defect that needs healing and remedy.

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On Understanding the Bible

There is one subject that continues to divide Christendom in our day. Few books are written on the subject, even though it was an enormous controversy with the Protestant Reformers. I am speaking of the subject of canonicity, or what many know as the Bible. I have written about the canon of Scripture under the Bible tab on this site and have downloaded a video on it that can be found on the right column of the web page. You can also look at the sub-tab “Oral Tradition” under the main Early Fathers tab.

Here are four false assumptions that I see modern Christians making in regards to how they understand the very nature of Scripture.

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History of the “Apocrypha”

“While Noah Webster, just a few years after producing his famous Dictionary of the English Language, would produce his own modern translation of the English Bible in 1833; the public remained too loyal to the King James Version for Webster’s version to have much impact. It was not really until the 1880’s that England’s own planned replacement for their King James Bible, the English Revised Version(E.R.V.) would become the first English language Bible to gain popular acceptance as a post-King James Version modern-English Bible. The widespread popularity of this modern-English translation brought with it another curious characteristic: the absence of the 14 Apocryphal books.”

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The Word Manifests both Phonetically and Existentially

Hebrews 13:10

“We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat.”

After taking this verse into proper context as well as examining the Greek, you will find the meaning of the word “altar” to have a very literal meaning. Orthodox churches continue the pre-modern practice of Christianity of having altars in their sanctuaries, altars that – as the Scripture above speaks – do not allow non-believers to eat from.

This topic deserves much more attention than what I am about to give it here, but this can certainly be a fine spot to launch off of: The altar’s relation to the Word (revelation).

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Cleansing your Mind Through Icons

Icons, a part of the Christian faith that have been very misunderstood by many people, are a sure way to cleanse the mind and heal the soul! Certainly, there have been a number of abuses with the use of icons but this does not make icons unorthodox. Let’s take a look at reason, Scripture and tradition (history) to see that icons are extremely useful for the Christian walk!

First, icons have been used as early as the first century. When the Christians worshipped in the catacombs, while hiding from the emperor’s men, they drew icons on the walls. Recent discovery of some first century documents carved in metal aslo show that the Church heavily embraced icons. Icons were a part of early Church worship!

St. John of Damascus wrote, “We are led by perceptible Icons to the contemplation of the divine and spiritual”  (PG 94:1261a).  This is an important quote of one the early fathers, in that it gives solid reason for icons. Icons shape the mind! Icons do what words take many pages to do. Icons can be a very powerful and concise way of communicating the faith: through image. See what the Psalmist says about images, in general:

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St. Chrysostom on Church Music

The New Testament Church did not use instruments in their worship until well into the Middle Ages. Western culture began to use the organ in the year 666 A.D. (funny date). Its popularity gained momentum over the centuries, and after the split from the East it became the norm in the western churches.

Why did the early church not use instruments? Because we are to become natural instruments of God for worship. God says in Hebrews 13:15 that it is the “fruit of our lips” that He wishes to hear. So, yes, it is not always ideal to use instruments in worship. The society of the ancient Church was just as passionate about musical instruments as our society; drama as well! They resisted the temptation to commit what God calls syncretism, the polluting of the sacred. Here is what one of the greatest pastors to ever live has to say about this subject:

“David formerly sang songs, also today we sing hymns. He had a lyre with lifeless strings, the church has a lyre with living strings. Our tongues are the strings of the lyre with a different tone indeed but much more in accordance with piety. Here there is no need for the cithara, or for stretched strings, or for the plectrum, or for art, or for any instrument; but, if you like, you may yourself become a cithara, mortifying the members of the flesh and making a full harmony of mind and body. For when the flesh no longer lusts against the Spirit, but has submitted to its orders and has been led at length into the best and most admirable path, then will you create a spiritual melody.” (Chrysostom, 347-407, Exposition of Psalms 41, (381-398 A.D.)

Why Charismatics Should become Eastern Orthodox!

There are a number of reasons why Charismatics should become eastern Orthodox; reasons such as apostolic succession, liturgical renewal and a general expansion of theology. But there are a few things about Eastern Orthodxy that are extremely “charismatic” that charismatics surprisingly have not yet embraced.

Here is how Theopedia describes the term Charismatic.

Charismatic is an umbrella term used to describe those Christians who believe that the manifestations of the Holy Spirit seen in the first century Christian Church, such as healing, miracles and “speaking in tongues,” are available to contemporary Christians and ought to be experienced and practiced today.

The word charismatic is derived from the Greek word charisma (meaning a grace or a gift) which is the term used in the Bible to describe a wide range of supernatural experiences (especially in 1 Corinthians 12-14).

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On Liturgical Collars and Vestments

There is no neutrality within the spiritual realm, and this includes the use of clerical attire and liturgical vestments. If one does not choose to wear vestments to minister in, why does he choose a suit or a polo shirt? A modern pastor may say that he is attempting to “become all things to all people,” but modern clothing simply does not do this because it does not speak theologically. And where does this philosophy end? If the majority of the culture is, for instance, wearing bathing suits, does this mean that the pastor should do the same? Or is there an actual moral standard to be met? If there is, then what should this standard be? Has the all-things-to-all-people concept really done the Church much good?

Jesus Wore Clerical Attire

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Salvation Not a One Time Event

As Christian do we really know how we are inheriting eternity? Most American Christians will either say that they are earning their salvation (Roman Catholic) or that they “got saved” (Protestant/Evangelical, etc.). Both are heterodox teachings! Both teachings are far too legalistic. Both teachings pump the Christian up to a level of knowledge that they simply do not really have. The Roman believes that they need to follow the simple commands of the Church and the Protestant believes the same but through a simple one time command (through the “sinner’s prayer” or through a more sophisticated concept called “justification”). The Canon of Scriptures as well as the canons of the councils do not speak of salvation through the obedience of rules but through a process of divinization; becoming a part of Christ himself and His kingdom. It is so much more of a healing process and even absorption than it is a moral or doctrinal process.

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Redemption Through All Creation

In this month’s issue of the magazine Christianity Today there is an article on “Hipster Christianity” that shows how a more historical Christianity is rising within the Evangelical church, the same church that was constructed a few decades ago through the Jesus Movement. In this Jesus Movement the  liturgy, hymns and chanting were thrown out for a pop-culture style of worship and a theology of so-called “end-times” became the thrust of the church’s zeal and passion. Evangelicals began to preach a very fervent message of converting to Jesus based on the end of the world and the “rapture” of the church. But in today’s Hipster Christianity this is changing. Here is a quote from the Christianity Today article on the new Hipster theology.

“Hipster Christianity also expresses itself theologically, through preaching that often emphasizes covenantal and “new creation” ideas and attempts to construct a more ecclesiological or community-centric view of salvation. Things like soul-winning and going to heaven are downplayed in favor of the notion that heaven will come down to earth and renew the broken creation. Thus, the world matters. It’s not a piece of rotting kindling that we will abandon for heaven one day. It’s the site of a renewed kingdom. All of this informs hipster Christianity’s attention to things like social justice, environmentalism, and the arts, because if God is building his kingdom on earth, then it all matters.”

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Dr. Wayne Grudem on Atonement

Collectively speaking, the historic pre-schism doctrine of atonement is that of Christ dying for us as a ransom and a sacrifice, a “new Adam,” so as to make living what had been lost prior to the Fall of Man in the Garden of Eden. We can see this throughout the Bible, including the writings of St. Paul and Christ Himself. It was not until well into the Middle Ages that Western schismatic Christians began to formulate and dogmatize the doctrine of what they call “penal substitution.”

This doctrine involves taking the salvific teachings of the Bible, as well as the Fathers, and twisting them into a legal format. Many Protestant teachers today speak as if this legal doctrine of penal substitution has always been the norm. One very popular teacher, Dr. Wayne Grudem, says this in regards to penal substitution:

“To say that God can forgive sins without requiring any penalty (in spite of the fact that throughout Scripture sin always requires the payment of a penalty) is seriously to underestimate the absolute character of the justice of God.”

Grudem is either not very studied in the Fathers or is not being very honest with himself here. On the previous page in Grudem’s book Systematic Theology, Grudem slams the historic position of Christ dying as a ransom and goes as far as stating that it is not found in Scripture and has few supporters in the history of the Church. This is so completely false! Jaroslav Pelikan, who is referred to by both Protestant and Orthodox Christians as a hallmark to historic theology, says this in regards to what is referred to as the “ransom theory”:

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On Christians Feeling Empty

Perhaps you have thought at one time that there is something missing in your life, a type of longing, but you have been unable to place your finger on it. You think that, as a Christian, this longing should eventually disappear and be filled with “knowing God” or maybe that it should be filled with some sort of ministry success, be it family, job, church or just personal accomplishments that you believe Christ has called and is calling you to.

You might have been told that this “God shaped hole” is awaiting this personal relationship with Christ via your “justification” in Christ. Or, maybe your leaders are less systematic and they choose different wording such as: “you are now guilt free.”

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