Friday, December 28, 2012

The Russian Church establishes a new commemoration of Ss. Peter and Febronia of Murom


What follows is a Google translation that I have cleaned up as best as I could, but there may be some minor errors. Fr. Michael van Opstall kindly provided a translation of the petitions.

JOURNAL № 129

CONSIDERED the establishment of an additional day to commemorate the wonder workers Holy Prince Peter (in monasticism, David) and Princess Fevronia (in monasticism, Euphrosyne), of Murom.

Information:

The celebration of the Holy Prince Peter and Princess Fevronia of Murom on July 8 (June 25 by the Julian calendar), falls during the Fast of Ss. Peter and Paul . In this regard, the Council of Bishops on February 4th, 2011, instructed the liturgical commission "to consider an additional date for the commemoration of the Holy Prince Peter and Princess Fevronia of Murom, referring to the desire of many Christians to be married on the day honoring these patrons of marriage" (paragraph 17, of the "On matters of internal life and external activities of the Russian Orthodox Church").In examining the issue, it was noted that an additional day of commemoration of Saints Peter and Fevronia could be installed on the 20th of January (the transfer of the relics of the saints from the Murom Museum of the Annunciation Monastery in Murom) or September 19th (transfer of the relics from the Annunciation Monastery to the Holy Trinity convent Murom.). The Commission of the Inter-Council on worship and religious art, with the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill, discussed the issue, and recommended that in conjunction with the celebration of the memory of St. Peter and Fevronia, there also be additional petitions to be done at the augmented litany of Divine Liturgy, and that preaching on this day be devoted to the Christian doctrine of family and marriage.

RESOLVED:

1. To establish an additional day for the commemoration of the Holy wonder workers Prince Peter (in monasticism, David) and Princess Fevronia (in monasticism Euphrosyne) of Murom on the Sunday preceding the September 19 (September 6 by the Julian calendar), in remembrance of transferring their fair bodies in the year 1992.

2. In conjunction with the commemoration of Saints Peter and Fevronia, clergy preach on the subject of pious Christian family values.

3. Also on this occasion, to add to the augmented litany of the Divine Liturgy the following petitions:

Again we pray that Thy people would keep this commandment: what God has joined, let not man put asunder, and that He would give their home churches indestructible strength and increase in love unfeigned;

Again we pray for the preservation of the marriages of Thy servants, in peace and concord, piety and purity;

Again we pray that Thy people may rejoice to see sons and daughters, and that our people would multiply and inherit Thy blessing from generation to generation.

4. That the Synodal liturgical commission submit to the Holy Synod by April 1, 2013 a prayer to be read at the end of the Divine Liturgy in memory of the days of Ss. Peter and Fevronia, for the multiplication of love, strengthening of families, and the faithful preservation of the gift of chastity in those not married and to help them prepare for their entry into family life.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Hammer Control?


Many are arguing that Wayne LaPierre argued that violent movies and violent video games share some of the blame for the recent school shooting in Connecticut, that he was undercutting the traditional argument that "Gun's don't kill people, people kill people". The problem with that observation is that guns are tools, just like hammers are tools. Movies and Video Games are mediums, and mediums communicate information. If we have lots of video games in which people went around cracking people's skulls with hammers, and we had movies that glorified killing people with hammers, we would probably see a rise in murders committed with hammers. If we did, hammers would not share equal blame with those movies and video games.... hammers are tools, which can be put to either good or bad uses. The answer is not hammer control, or limiting the size and weight of hammers.

Human beings have a natural aversion to killing other human beings. You have to train a person to kill another person. Guns cannot train anyone, and neither can hammers. Movies and video games can train people.

As Lt. Col. Dave Grossman observed in his article "Trained to Kill", without training, human beings are very ineffective killers:

"In more modern times, the average firing rate was incredibly low in Civil War battles. Paddy Griffith demonstrates that the killing potential of the average Civil War regiment was anywhere from five hundred to a thousand men per minute. The actual killing rate was only one or two men per minute per regiment (The Battle Tactics of the American Civil War). At the Battle of Gettysburg, of the 27,000 muskets picked up from the dead and dying after the battle, 90 percent were loaded. This is an anomaly, because it took 95 percent of their time to load muskets and only 5 percent to fire. But even more amazingly, of the thousands of loaded muskets, over half had multiple loads in the barrel--one with 23 loads in the barrel. In reality, the average man would load his musket and bring it to his shoulder, but he could not bring himself to kill. He would be brave, he would stand shoulder to shoulder, he would do what he was trained to do; but at the moment of truth, he could not bring himself to pull the trigger. So, he lowered the weapon and loaded it again. Of those who did fire, only a tiny percentage fired to hit. The vast majority fired over the enemy's head."

However, with training, people can become killing machines:

The Japanese were masters at using classical conditioning with their soldiers. Early in World War II, Chinese prisoners were placed in a ditch on their knees with their hands bound behind them. And one by one, a select few Japanese soldiers would go into the ditch and bayonet "their" prisoner to death. This is a horrific way to kill another human being. Up on the bank, countless other young soldiers would cheer them on in their violence. Comparatively few soldiers actually killed in these situations, but by making the others watch and cheer, the Japanese were able to use these kinds of atrocities to classically condition a very large audience to associate pleasure with human death and suffering. Immediately afterwards, the soldiers who had been spectators were treated to sake, the best meal they had had in months, and to so-called comfort girls. The result? They learned to associate committing violent acts with pleasure. The Japanese found these kinds of techniques to be extraordinarily effective at quickly enabling very large numbers of soldiers to commit atrocities in the years to come. Operant conditioning (which we will look at shortly) teaches you to kill, but classical conditioning is a subtle but powerful mechanism that teaches you to like it.

Violent movies and video games train people to kill. That doesn't mean that everyone who watches violent movies or plays Halo is going to kille 20 little kids, but those things do make you capable of shooting another human being in a way that people in the Civil War were not, even though they all had access to guns.



Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Computer Based Bible Study... for Free

For those who may not have a good library of Biblical Reference texts, there is actually quite a bit of useful resources that are available for free, online.

1. The Bible Gateway is a very useful website. It has numerous English translations available. To get the best use of that site, you will want to go to the preferences link on the left hand menu, select the default translation that you would like to use, and you can choose to include translations that have the deuterocanonical books (which Orthodox Christians would want to do). I would recommend using the New King James Version as your default translation, but if you are wanting to search the deuterocanonical books, you can switch to the Douay-Rheims translation.

Some of the additional features of this website include the ability to listen to recordings of the Bible being read. The option will only appear if you are using a translation that has such a recording on the website, which in English would be the ESV, KJV, or NIV, but they also have Spanish, Chinese, and a few other languages available. Once you have pulled up a text, there are two other options worth using. One is to pull up a parallel translation. For example, you could compare two English translations. You could have the English on one side, and the Greek or Hebrew text on the other. You could also have the English and just about any other language up for comparison, such as Russian, or Arabic. There is also a "Show Resources" hyperlink on the right, and that will pull up some commentaries and Bible Dictionary entries that apply to the passage you are looking at.

2. The Christian Classics Ethereal Library is also a great resource. It has the Ante-Nicene, and Nicene, Post-Nicene Fathers collection, which include a number of Patristic commentaries, especially those of St. John Chrysostom and St. Augustine. But if you go to their main page, one of the options at the bottom of the page is "Study a Bible Passage." If you click on that link, and on the left side, select the book of the Bible you want to study, and then select the chapter, it will pull up Matthew Henry's commentary on the right side, but if you click on the "MHC Commentary" link, you will see that it is a drop down menu. If you then select "References", if will then pull up a list of references to every text that they have on their site, which will include links to the Church Fathers, including those that are not commentaries per se, but which in many cases will have comments on the passage you are looking at (you will at least see that the Father in question made some reference to that text). In many cases those references may not be helpful, because the reference to your passage was only a brief allusion... but in other cases you will find very useful commentary. You will also occasionally see St. John of Kronstadt's "My Life in Christ" among the references.

3. The E-Sword is a free downloadable program that I have been finding very useful. Once you download the program itself, you can then select the reference material that you also want to download. There is a huge amount of this material that is free, because the texts are public domain. Here is what I would recommend you download:

Translations:

The American Standard Version
The Brenton Septuagint
The Douay-Rheims Bible
The English Majority Text Version
The English Standard Version
The King James Version
The King James Version (w/ Strongs Numbers)
The Literal Translation of the Holy Bible
The Revised Version
The World English Bible with Apocrypha
Young's Literal Translation

If you know Greek and/or Hebrew, you can download the Hebrew Old Testament, the Septuagint Greek text, and the Greek New Testament (which has several options, but I would recommend the Robinson/Pierpont Byzantine Greek New Testament).

Commentaries:

Adam Clarke's Commentary
Keil & Delitzch Commentary on the Old Testament
Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible
Vincent Word Studies
The Pulpit Commentary
Treasury of David
Alexander MacLaren's Commentary
Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible
Treasury of Scriptural Knowledge
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

Dictionaries:

Brown-Driver-Brigg's Hebrew Definitions
Nave's Topical Bible
Smith's Bible Dictionary
Strong's Bible Dictionary
Thayer's Greek Definitions

Among many other things you can do with this program, is if you switch the text you are looking at to the King James Version with the Strong's reference numbers, you can then look at the Hebrew or Greek word that is behind the translation, and get a detailed definition of the word and comments on its various uses in Scripture.

You can also download some E-Sword compatible reference material at a cost, but a cost far less than buying the hard copy versions -- most notably the Ancient Christian Commentary Series.

4. The Blue Letter Bible is a web site that has some of the same content as the Bible Gateway and E-Sword, but is not one that I have personally used a lot. There is also a Blue Letter Bible App that has much the same content.

5. There are also some useful Smart Phone Apps:

The best single Bible App I have found so far is the You Version, from LifeChurch.tv. You can read the Bible in just about any English translation, or in most other languages. You can also listen to audio files of many of the translations. The Bible Gateway App is also worth considering. The Blue Letter Bible App provides a lot more in the way of study helps, but if your primary interest in having a Bible App is in reading or listening to the text, I think the YouVersion is better.

There are many other reference books worth getting, but free is hard to beat.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Torah! Torah! Torah!


The Torah Scroll

The Fathers say that the two tables of the the Law of Moses were divided according to the two great commandments: 1) To love God; and 2) To love your neighbor.

Here are sermons on the first table of the Law:

1st Commandment: Thou shalt have no other gods before Me. (12/11/2011)

2nd Commandment: Thou shalt not make unto thee any idols. For this commandment, there are two sermons: one on what it does not mean (3/4/2012), and one on what it does mean (10/21/2012).

3rd commandment: Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain (8/26/2012).

4th Commandment: Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy (9/16/2012).

Friday, December 14, 2012

Mass Shootings and Cultural Decay



This is a sermon reflecting on the shootings in Aurora, Colorado, but the comments are applicable to the shootings of today as well:

Click here to listen

Delivered on 7/22/2012.

Update: The shooter was allegedly a "Goth" who suffered from some personality disorder. This disorder is becoming an epidemic: Spiritual-Deficiency-Disorder.

You should also read "Trained to Kill", by military psychologist Lt. Col. Dave Grossman.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Seek ye first the Kingdom of God



A homily on Matthew 6:33, on the subject of putting God first in your life:

Click here to listen.

Delivered on 7/3/2011.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Friday, December 07, 2012

What remains from a persons life?


A sermon reflecting on the legacy we leave when we die, given on 8/5/2012, and reflecting on the repose of my mother.

Click here to listen.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

The Gospel of the Virgin Mary


The Wedding at Cana

St. Nikolai Velimirovic has uncovered the Gospel of the Virgin Mary. Listen for details by clicking here.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Search the Scriptures: Excellence in Podcasting


One of the best podcasts on Ancient Faith Radio is without a doubt "Search the Scriptures", and in her last 4 posts, Dr. Eugenia Constantinou illustrates why.

Recently there was some buzz in the media about some ancient manuscript that allegedly gave evidence that Christ was married. Presbytera Eugenia  nukes this in two podcasts:

Was Jesus Married, Part 1

Was Jesus Married, Part 2

And her most recent 2 podcasts, she thoroughly deals with the question of the Virgin Birth, and Isaiah 7:14:

Isaiah 7, part 1

Isaiah 7, part 2

And she's not done with Isaiah 7 yet.

There is so much misinformation that is circulated by people who generally don't know what they are talking about -- especially people in the media -- and when people hear things like this that challenge the integrity of the Scriptures and the Christian Faith, but don't know how to answer them, many people are seriously shaken. We are very fortunate to have a scholar like Dr. Eugenia Constantinou that not only knows what she's talking about, but is generous enough to do these podcasts and share  that knowledge with the rest of the Church.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

What should Orthodox Christians do, when there is no parish nearby?

 
The Holy New Martyr Lydia of Russia

Towards the end of the inaugural show of Ancient Faith Radio's Orthodoxy Live, Fr. Evan Armetas was asked a question: what should Orthodox Christians do, if they live in an area where there are no Orthodox Churches nearby? Is it OK to go to a heterodox Church in such a case, when you are not able to go to an Orthodox parish?

Fr. Evan's answer indicated that he knew his answer would be controversial, but he said that his own pastoral response was that it was OK. He said that they should go to those churches in order to hear "the liturgy of the word" and for fellowship. You can hear the question and his answer by clicking this link, beginning at about the 55 minute mark: http://ancientfaith.com/podcasts/orthodoxylive/november_18_2012

I have no doubts that Fr. Evan's answer was sincere, and I am sure that he thinks it is better than any alternative. And since he was raised in the Church, I think it is partly due to a lack of time spent actually attending such heterodox churches.

I strongly disagree with Fr. Evan's answer, and for a number of reasons. First and foremost, the canons forbid us to go to Non-Orthodox houses of worship or to pray with non-Orthodox Christians or schismatics:

Canon LXV of the Apostles says: "If any clergymen, or laymen, enter a synagogue of Jews, or of heretics, to pray, let him be both deposed and excommunicated."

Canon IX of Laodicia says: "Concerning the fact that those belonging to the Church must not be allowed to go visiting the cemeteries or the so called martyria of any heretics, for the purpose of prayer or of cure, but, on the contrary, those who do so, if they be among the faithful, shall be excluded from communion for a time until they repent and confess their having made a mistake, when they may be readmitted to communion." 

And Canon XXXIII of Laodicia says: "One must not join in prayer with heretics or schismatics."

All of these canons have Ecumenical authority, having been approved by the Sixth and Seventh Ecumenical Councils.

Sometimes the counter argument that one hears to this is that the heretics at the time of these canons were much worse than the average Protestant and Roman Catholic, but the last canon referenced says were are not to pray with heretics or schismatics. Schismatics differ from us in no theological way at all, at least in the beginning, and so any schismatic group would be a thousand times closer to the Orthodox than any Protestant or Roman Catholic.

To cite a relatively recent example from the lives of the Saints, one should consider the Holy New Martyr Lydia of Russia (you can hear a sermon on her life by clicking here). She lived during the time of the so-called "Living Church" which was a renovationist schism that was established by the Soviets, and for a time it was the "official" Church -- and the only Church allowed by the Soviets to function openly. St. Lydia's own father joined the Living Church, not out of conviction, but out of fear of persecution. St. Lydia departed from her father, and we are told that she only rarely went to Church during that time, because she would not attend the "Official Church", and the Catacomb Churches did not hold regular services. So unless she was able to attend services in a legitimate Orthodox Church she stayed home and prayed. As bad as the Living Church was, it was far closer to Orthodoxy than any Protestant or Roman Catholic church. One would be far more likely to hear something approximating the "Liturgy of the word" in such a Church. But St. Lydia refused to go.

St. Cyril of Jerusalem, in the oldest recorded Catechism of the Church, stated:

"And if ever thou art sojourning in cities, inquire not simply where the Lord’s House is (for the other sects of the profane also attempt to call their own dens houses of the Lord), nor merely where the Church is, but where is the Catholic Church.  For this is the peculiar name of this Holy Church, the mother of us all, which is the spouse of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son of God (for it is written, As Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself for it, and all the rest,) and is a figure and copy of Jerusalem which is above, which is free, and the mother of us all; which before was barren, but now has many children" (Catechetical Lectures 18:26).

We do not refrain from praying with heretics or schismatics because we are condemning them to hell. We refuse to pray with them because praying together implies a unity of faith that does not exist. As the Prophet Amos observed: "Can two walk together, except they be agreed?" (Amos 3:3).

Aside from the canons, there are two practical reasons why I think that Fr. Evan's advice should not be followed:

1). One would not hear anything close to the "Liturgy of the word" in most Protestant or Catholic churches. What one would likely encounter would range from the absolutely heretical to the mildly heretical. If one knows what to reject and what to pay attention to, there are many heterodox clergy who have edifying things to say, but the problem is that the average Orthodox layman does not have the knowledge to know what to reject and what to listen to, and so would almost certainly be led astray by regular exposure to such preaching.

2). In the history of Orthodoxy in the United States there have been many Orthodox who did exactly what Fr. Evan suggested. Some, if they eventually found their way to an Orthodox Church remained in the Church. But in most cases, such people lost their connection with the Church... and this is all the more true of their children, who in most cases grew up thinking of themselves as belonging to the group that they were raised in.

So what should an Orthodox Christian do if there are no Orthodox Churches in their area?

First of all, they should figure out which parish is the closest, and they should try to attend there as often as they can. In our time, this is made very simple by the internet. There is a very good website called "Orthodoxy in America", where you can simply enter your zip code and find any parish that is within a certain radius: http://orthodoxyinamerica.org/   The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in North America also have a similar directory: http://assemblyofbishops.org/directories/parishes

Secondly, when they are not able to go to the nearest parish, they should pray at home. Every Orthodox home is a little Church, and if there are no other Orthodox parishes near enough for you to attend, then this is the Church you should be attending.

You can hear the "Liturgy of the word" by serving Typika (or Obednitsa, as it is sometimes called). I regularly update this page, where one can find the text of Typika (when served in the absence of a priest) and the variable portions of Typika for Sundays and Feast days by clicking here: http://www.saintjonah.org/typ/ You can find instructions on how to do lay services, as well as other texts for that purpose by clicking here: http://www.saintjonah.org/services/horologion.htm

With the blessing of their bishop, they may also want to advertize their services. They could do so at no cost, by setting a blog and posting information about their services. They may find that there are some other Orthodox Christians in their area, and their house Church may be the beginnings of a future parish.

As Archbishop Averky (of blessed memory) observed, many Orthodox Christians have the mistaken notion that they are almost unable to pray at all without a priest; but short of the sacraments, any Orthodox Christian can -- and, in the instances we are discussing, should, to the best of their ability -- do the full cycle of services for Sundays and Feast days. See: Comments on Reader Services by Archbishop Averky,of blessed memory.

With all that is available for free on the internet these days, it is not difficult for an Orthodox Christian to at least do some regular services in their own homes, when they cannot attend a parish. And instead of setting your children up to drift into heterodoxy, you will provide them with a vivid example of the effort that one should put forth to maintain their faith in a largely non-Orthodox culture.

Update: Someone reminded me of St. Raphael (Hawaweeny)'s Pastoral Epistle to his flock, at a time when travel was much more difficult, Orthodox Churches were much fewer and farther between. Here is the most pertinent portion to this question:

"Therefore, as the official head of the Syrian Holy Orthodox Catholic Apostolic Church in North America and as one who must give account (Heb. 13:17) before the judgment seat of the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls (I Pet. 2:25), that I have fed the flock of God (I Pet. 5:2), as I have been commissioned by the Holy Orthodox Church, and inasmuch as the Anglican Communion (Protestant Episcopal Church in the USA) does not differ in things vital to the well-being of the Holy Orthodox Church from some of the most errant Protestant sects, I direct all Orthodox people residing in any community not to seek or to accept the ministrations of the Sacraments and rites from any clergy excepting those of the Holy Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church, for the Apostolic command that the Orthodox should not commune in ecclesiastical matters with those who are not of the same household of faith (Gal. 6:10), is clear: "Any bishop, or presbyter or deacon who will pray with heretics, let him be anathematized; and if he allows them as clergymen to perform any service, let him be deposed." (Apostolic Canon 45) "Any bishop, or presbyter who accepts Baptism or the Holy Sacrifice from heretics, we order such to be deposed, for what concord hath Christ with Belial, or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?" (Apostolic Canon 46)

As to members of the Holy Orthodox Church living in areas beyond the reach of Orthodox clergy, I direct that the ancient custom of our Holy Church be observed, namely, in cases of extreme necessity, that is, danger of death, children may be baptized by some pious Orthodox layman, or even by the parent of the child, by immersion three times in the names of the (Persons of the) Holy Trinity, and in case of death such baptism is valid; but, if the child should live, he must be brought to an Orthodox priest for the Sacrament of Chrismation.

In the case of the death of an Orthodox person where no priest of the Holy Orthodox Church can be had, a pious layman may read over the corpse, for the comfort of the relatives and the instruction of the persons present, Psalm 90 and Psalm 118, and add thereto the Trisagion ("Holy God, Holy Mighty," etc.). But let it be noted that as soon as possible the relative must notify some Orthodox bishop or priest and request him to serve the Liturgy and Funeral for the repose of the soul of the departed in his cathedral or parish Church.

As to Holy Matrimony, if there be any parties united in wedlock outside the pale of the holy Orthodox Church because of the remoteness of Orthodox centers from their home, I direct that as soon as possible they either invite an Orthodox priest or go to where he resides and receive from his hands the Holy Sacrament of Matrimony; otherwise they will be considered excommunicated until they submit to the Orthodox Church's rule.

I further direct that Orthodox Christians should not make it a practice to attend the services of other religious bodies, so that there be no confusion concerning the teaching or doctrines. Instead, I order that the head of each household, or a member, may read the special prayers which can be found in the Hours in the Holy Orthodox Service Book, and such other devotional books as have been set forth by the authority of the Holy Orthodox Church."

Monday, November 26, 2012

Three Homilies on the Beatitudes

 The sermon on the Mount

Here are three homilies on the Beatitudes, given on the Sunday of May 30th through June 13th, 2010.

Friday, November 23, 2012

To Judge or not to Judge


There is one passage of Scripture it seems every non-believer knows by heart, and can quote it in King James English: “Judge not, lest ye be judged."

Just about any time there is a discussion about a moral question, in which any reference is made to what the Scriptures or the teachings of the Church say on the issue, you will inevitably hear this passage cited. And when it is cited, it is almost always used to shut down any discussion of what is right and wrong, and the assumption seems to be that everyone get's to decide for themselves what they believe to be moral, and no one else has any right to challenge the conclusions of anyone else. You even hear this passage used in this way by Christians, and even Orthodox Christians. But is this a correct understanding of what Christ said?

Let's consider the immediate context of the passage:

“Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye use, it shall be measured back to you. And why beholdest thou the speck that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the speck out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first remove the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to remove the speck out of thy brother's eye" (Matthew 7:1-5).

St. John Chrysostom goes into a great deal of detail on the meaning of this. He begins his homily on this passage by rhetorically asking: "What then? Ought we not to blame them that sin? Because Paul also saith this selfsame thing: or rather, there too it is Christ, speaking by Paul, and saying, “Why dost thou judge thy brother? And thou, why dost thou set at nought thy brother?” (Romans 14:10) and, “Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant?” (Romans 14:4). And again, “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come” (1 Corinthians 4:5).  How then doth He say elsewhere, “Reprove, rebuke, exhort,” (2 Timothy 4:2) and, “Them that sin rebuke before all?”(1 Timothy 5:20).  And Christ too to Peter, “Go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone,” and if he neglect to hear, add to thyself another also; and if not even so doth he yield, declare it to the church likewise?” (Matthew 18:15-17). And how hath He set over us so many to reprove; and not only to reprove, but also to punish? For him that hearkens to none of these, He hath commanded to be “as a heathen man and a publican” (Matthew 18:17). And how gave He them the keys also? since if they are not to judge, they will be without authority in any matter, and in vain have they received the power to bind and to loose (Matthew 16:19; John 20:23).  Homily 23 on the Gospel of St Matthew

St. John  then points out that no household could function, and no society could maintain order if this were taken to mean that we should exercise no judgment of any kind, and then he says:

"But if to many of the less attentive, it seem yet rather obscure [i.e., the meaning of this passage], I will endeavor to explain it from the beginning. In this place, then, as it seems at least to me, He doth not simply command us not to judge any of men’s sins, neither doth He simply forbid the doing of such a thing, but to them that are full of innumerable ills, and are trampling upon other men for trifles. And I think that certain Jews too are here hinted at, for that while they were bitter accusing their neighbors for small faults, and such as came to nothing, they were themselves insensibly committing deadly sins. Herewith towards the end also He was upbraiding them, when He said, “Ye bind heavy burdens, and grievous to be borne, but ye will not move them with your finger” (Matthew 23:4) and, “ye pay tithe of mint and anise, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith” (Matthew 23:23). Well then, I think that these are comprehended in His invective; that He is checking them beforehand as to those things, wherein they were hereafter to accuse His disciples. For although His disciples had been guilty of no such sin, yet in them were supposed to be offenses; as, for instance, not keeping the sabbath, eating with unwashen hands, sitting at meat with publicans; of which He saith also in another place, “Ye which strain at the gnat, and swallow the camel” ((Matthew 23:24). But yet it is also a general law that He is laying down on these matters.  And the Corinthians too Paul did not absolutely command not to judge, but not to judge their own superiors, and upon grounds that are not acknowledged; not absolutely to refrain from correcting them that sin. Neither indeed was He then rebuking all without distinction, but disciples doing so to their teachers were the object of His reproof; and they who, being guilty of innumerable sins, bring an evil report upon the guiltless. This then is the sort of thing which Christ also in this place intimated; not intimated merely, but guarded it too with a great terror, and the punishment from which no prayers can deliver."

So according to St. John Chrysostom, what Christ and St. Paul were warning against in the passages that speak of not judging is that we should not judge others over small things when we are guilty of much worse, and we should not judge when we do not have sufficient information to do so, especially when it comes to those who are in authority. However, we certainly can rebuke and reprove those who are guilty of sins, when the facts warrant it. But in our day, even saying that something is a sin is considered to be a violation of this teaching of Christ. But St. John clearly rejects that idea:

 “What then!” say you: “if one commit fornication, may I not say that fornication is a bad thing, nor at all correct him that is playing the wanton [the sexually immoral]?” Nay, correct him, but not as a foe, nor as an adversary exacting a penalty, but as a physician providing medicines. For neither did Christ say, “stay not him that is sinning,” but “judge not;” that is, be not bitter in pronouncing sentence.” 

St. John defends correcting the sinner, but cautions that we should do so gently and lovingly. He does not even directly address the question of whether or not one can say that fornication is a bad thing, because he clearly considers the answer to that question to be obvious... and obviously "yes". 

He then goes on to cite more examples of what Christ actually is talking about in this passage:

"Yea, for many now do this; if they see but a monk wearing an unnecessary garment, they produce against him the law of our Lord,while they themselves are extorting without end, and defrauding men every day. If they see him but partaking rather largely of food, they become bitter accusers, while they themselves are daily drinking to excess and surfeiting: not knowing, that besides their own sins, they do hereby gather up for themselves a greater flame, and deprive themselves of every plea. For on this point, that thine own doings must be strictly inquired into, thou thyself hast first made the law, by thus sentencing those of thy neighbor. Account it not then to be a grievous thing, if thou art also thyself to undergo the same kind of trial."

So the point is that indeed, the measure you apply to others will be measured back to you, and so if you are not prepared to have the same standard applied to yourself, you should not put yourself into the position of judging others over things that you yourself are guilty, and perhaps even moreso.

And although, as St. John Chrysostom points out, St. Paul also warns against judging, in 1st Corinthians St. Paul chides the Corinthians for being too tolerance of sin in their midst, and for not judging:

"It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife! And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you. For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged (as though I were present) him who has so done this deed. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.... I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person. For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside [the Church]? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside [the Church] God judges. Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person. Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life? If then you have judgments concerning things pertaining to this life, do you appoint those who are least esteemed by the church to judge?  I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren? But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers!  No, you yourselves do wrong and cheat, and you do these things to your brethren! Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor the effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. (1st Corinthians 5:1-5;5:9-6:10).

We should judge with fear and trembling, because we will be judged by the same standard. We should not judge those matters about which we do not have sufficient information to judge. We should be hesitant to judge those who are in authority over us, and likewise we should be hesitant to judge those who are not under our authority. We should never presume to know anyone’s ultimate fate at the judgment, which belongs only to God. We should also be loving and gentle when rebuking a brother or sister about their personal sin. But we have to be clear on what sin is. And we have to obey the words of Christ and St. Paul when it comes to maintaining discipline in the Church. We often have to judge, but we must "judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24).

You can also listen to a sermon on this same subject by clicking here.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Homily: Holiness Becometh Thy House: Having Proper Reverence for the Things of God.

 
 
"And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God" (2 Samuel 6:7).
 
 
Click here to listen

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Homily on the meaning of Thanksgiving


If you have ever wondered what it means when we say "Bless the Lord", or wondered what the word "Thanks" really means in Scripture, listen to this homily from the Sunday after Thanksgiving, 2011.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

An Empty House: What happens when a person or a nation abandons God?


A homily on Luke 11:23-26: "He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth. When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out. And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first."

Click here to listen.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

2013 St. Innocent Liturgical Calendar, now ready for order


You can now place your orders for the 2013 St. Innocent Liturgical Calendar. In addition to providing liturgical rubrics based on the Jordanville Calendar (Troitskij Pravoslavnij Russkij Kalendar), the calendar also includes a liturgical color chart, and an appendix on the celebration of patronal feast days. The cost is $29.95. Bookstore discounts are available based on the quantity ordered. To order, and for more information, see: http://www.stinnocentpress.com/products/liturgical_calendar.html

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

More nonsense for a certain transsexual blogger

There is a certain transsexual blogger, who styles himself both a woman and an Orthodox Christian who from time to time feels the need to drop my name and the names of some other Orthodox Christians that he happens to disagree with politically, and make assertions that are pulled out of thin air. Most recently he has listed me among those who want to hide Romney's tax returns, and are "disciples" of Fr. Gleb Podmoshensky. First off, Romney was not my first, second, third, fourth, or fifth choice for the Republican nomination. Secondly, when Obama releases his college transcripts, explains why we traveled to Pakistan in his younger days, and let's us hear the tapes of his conversations, and those on his staff, with disgraced Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich about the sale of his Senate seat, then I will call for Romney to release more tax returns. Thirdly, Fr. Herman (Gleb) Podmoshensky was long gone from ROCOR when I converted to Orthodoxy in 1990. I have never met him, never exchanged a single word with him, and only caught a glimpse of him as briefly walked in and out of the San Francisco Cathedral at the glorification of St. John (Maximovitch) in 1994... and I only knew who he was because some of those standing around me knew who he was and pointed him out to me. I seriously doubt that any of the other people mentioned in the list, with the exception of Metropolitan Jonah have ever met him either -- and Metropolitan Jonah knew him when he was a priest in good standing in ROCOR. What is ironic is that this transsexual blogger complains about my politics and my alleged mixing of politics with Orthodoxy, but he is the one who consistently questions the Orthodoxy of those who disagree with him on purely political matters. I do not. If we are talking about abortion, that is a moral issue, and if you do not oppose abortion, you are at odds with the official position of the Orthodox Church. If we are talking about economic issues, I have my opinions obviously, but I never present my opinions as those of the Church except on matters that the Church has a clear position on.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Response to David Dunn: When heretics get it wrong





The New-martyr Hilarion (Troitsky)



In David Dunn's latest post seeking to justify his position on "gay marriage", he writes:


"I support gay civil marriage. This puts me at odds with the official views of my bishops. If I had been asked about that on air, I would have said something about how I am personally uncomfortable disagreeing with my hierarchs, but I would also have said that in the Orthodox Church, just because a synod or council meets and says something does not mean it is right. Let me give you a few examples…"

He then goes on to cite examples in which parts of the Church embraced Arianism, Iconoclasm, and Papism: "In the year 360 Orthodoxy became Arian... In the year 754 Orthodoxy became Iconoclastic... In 1274 and 1439 Orthodoxy became Roman Catholic..."

It is oxymoronic to say that Orthodoxy became heretical. When any part of the Church embraces a heresy, it becomes an ailing member of the Church, and is either restored to health by the correction of the Church, or is finally cut off from the Church.

This is something that you will find explained in just about any text on the Orthodox Faith, but here are a few texts that address this subject specifically:

The Church is One, by Alexei Khomiakov:
http://orthodoxinfo.com/general/khomiakov_church.aspx

Christianity or the Church, by the New-Martyr Hilarion:
http://orthodoxinfo.com/inquirers/sthilarion_church.aspx

On the Unity of the Catholic Church, by St. Cyprian of Carthage:
http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf05.iv.v.i.html

In each of the above cases, David Dunn pointed out how a group (not the entire Church) embraced a heresy. In the case of Homosexuality and marriage, the Church has a constant teaching on those subjects. Therefore, if a group of people are now coming along and embracing something new, it is that group that is now the ailing member, and will either be corrected, or they will finally be cut off from the Church.

David Dunn: "The problem with seeing the tradition as an unchanging deposit is that it masks the fact that we only know what is orthodox because we have the benefit of history. To a certain extent, at any one point in time, knowing orthodoxy from heresy is a matter of perspective. That does not mean we should be relativists, or that we should speak without conviction, only that we also need to exercise a little intellectual humility. We should make every effort not to confuse an unshakable faith with obstinacy and hubris."

At any given point in Church history, the Church has always had the Scriptures, the Apostolic Tradition, and the Ecclesiastical Tradition to guide it. In the case of each of the heresies that are named, they can be shown to be at odds with the Tradition that preceded them. But the case at hand is not a debate over some arcane point of theology that has not been well defined by the Church in the past. Any 13 year old who has actually been raised in the Church and taught the Tradition knows that homosexuality is a sin, and that marriage can only be between a man and a woman. If anyone had even raised the question of "gay marriage" even 30 years ago, they would have been thought to be insane.

St. Hilarion (Troitsky) wrote:

"Christian faith joins the faithful with Christ and thus it composes one harmonious body from separate individuals. Christ fashions this body by communicating Himself to each member and by supplying to them the Spirit of Grace in an effectual, tangible manner.... If the bond with the body of the Church becomes severed then the personality which is thereby isolated and enclosed in its own egoism will be deprived of the beneficial and abundant influence of the Holy Spirit which dwells within the Church (The Holy New Martyr Archbishop Ilarion (Troitsky), Christianity or the Church?, (Jordanville: Holy Trinity Monastery, 1985), p. 16).

The hubris is with those who ignore 2,000 years of Christian Tradition, thousands more of Old Testament Tradition, and the unanimous affirmations of every local Orthodox Church in the world today. David has previously appealed to "living Tradition"... but if the living Tradition excludes everything that has come before, and every local Church today, I would have to wonder what it could possibly refer to, other than his own opinion.







Sunday, July 01, 2012

The Hypocrisy of the "Christian Left"






In a Huffington Post article, David Dunn has pointed out what he sees as hypocrisy on the part of Christian conservatives:

"It is the view that Christians should vote their values, and this means we should legislate moral evils into oblivion. Thus if we believe life begins at conception, we should vote against abortion! If we believe marriage is between one woman and one man, we should vote against gay marriage! And if we believe in caring for the sick and the poor, we should vote against "Obamacare!" ...Wait a minute! Do you see the political hypocrisy? The Christian Right votes for candidates who are anti-abortion and anti-gay (at least on paper) because it believes we must pass laws to protect marriage and protect life (at least embryonic life), but it is unwilling to apply the same principle to "Obamacare." Infants in the womb have a right to life, but apparently adults do not have a right to life-saving medical care." 

There are several problems with the logic here. For one, you could simply flip this question and ask why the Christian Left thinks a baby has a right to free medicaid after it is born, but doesn't think we should prevent that baby from having a doctor induce a partial delivery, stick a pair of scissors in the back of its neck, and then suck out its brains with a suction machine.

Another problem is a failure to recognize where the government's powers can rightly be used, and where it cannot. Does anyone have a right to medical care? Everyone should certainly have a right to purchase it, but if you say that you have the right to medical care, you are saying you have a right to someone else's labor. Last time I checked, that was slavery. I don't have the right to go to a doctor, hold a gun to his head, and make him treat me or my family members.

On the other hand, does a baby have a right not to have a doctor insert scissors into the back of its head and suck its brains out? Yes. Regardless of what the Supreme Court may say, every human being has a right to life, liberty, and property that comes from God, not the government. The government cannot grant those rights, they can only respect and protect them, or allow them to be violated.

Now do the Scriptures say that we should give to the poor? Yes. The Scriptures do not say that we should lobby the government and force our fellow citizens to give to the poor. The Scriptures say that we should give to the poor.

The Scriptures certainly do not forbid a government from providing charity with tax money, but whether or not that is a good thing, and how that should best be handled is not a matter that the Church has a definite teaching on. Christians can disagree.

I have spent 20 years now, in my secular job, working in social services, which have included Medicaid, Food Stamps, TANF (formerly AFDC), and Child Support. I think some of these programs have some good aspects and should continue, but there is also a lot of waste, fraud, and abuse connected with these programs, and there are also problems with the way the government delivers them that encourage dysfunctional behavior.  And so while all Christians agree that helping the poor is a Christian responsibility, it is not a self evident truth that the best way to accomplish that is more government welfare, or universal health coverage. I certainly would not suggest that those Christians who disagree with my take on that are not Christians because they don't see it my way, but they should return the favor, since the Church has no clear teachings on how government should handle public charity. For more on my opinions on welfare, see this podcast.

However, when it comes to baby killing or gay marriage, these are questions that the Church does have a clear teaching on. If you think it is OK for the government to not only allow for babies to be murdered, but have no problem when the government wishes to make Christians pay to kill those babies, then you are not only a hypocrite, you have departed from the Christian Tradition.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Responses to David J. Dunn on Tradition




Martyr Theodosia of Constantinople, defender of Icons


David J. Dunn has begun a series of blog posts that continue issues related to our discussion on Ancient Faith Radio. His first post is Ancient Faith Continued: Theology and Symphony. I will post his comments in italics, and then my response:

I have met a lot of Orthodox Christians who see the Tradition as an unchanging deposit. They basically apply a naive fundamentalist biblical literalism to the Tradition of the Orthodox Church (“Tradition” with a “big-T” in the Orthodox Church refers to the Bible, creeds, rituals, dogmas, and diverse opinions of ancient theologians). For them, “the Truth” was delivered once in history, its meaning is clear, and thus our theology is unchanging and unambiguous.

We consider the Tradition to be an unchanging deposit, because as a matter of fact, this is what the Church believes it to be. St. Vincent of Lerins, who is famous for his definition of "Catholicity,"   wrote, commenting on 1 Timothy 6:20:

"But it is worth while to expound the whole of that passage of the apostle more fully, “O Timothy, keep the deposit, avoiding profane novelties of words.” “O!” The exclamation implies foreknowledge as well as charity. For he mourned in anticipation over the errors which he foresaw. Who is the Timothy of today, but either generally the Universal Church, or in particular, the whole body of The Prelacy, whom it behoves either themselves to possess or to communicate to others a complete knowledge of religion? What is “Keep the deposit”? “Keep it,” because of thieves, because of adversaries, lest, while men sleep, they sow tares over that good wheat which the Son of Man had sown in his field. “Keep the deposit.” What is “The deposit”? That which has been intrusted to thee, not that which thou hast thyself devised: a matter not of wit, but of learning; not of private adoption, but of public tradition; a matter brought to thee, not put forth by thee, wherein thou art bound to be not an author but a keeper, not a teacher but a disciple, not a leader but a follower. “Keep the deposit.” Preserve the talent of Catholic Faith inviolate, unadulterate. That which has been intrusted to thee, let it continue in thy possession, let it be handed on by thee. Thou hast received gold; give gold in turn. Do not substitute one thing for another. Do not for gold impudently substitute lead or brass. Give real gold, not counterfeit. O Timothy! O Priest! O Expositor! O Doctor! if the divine gift hath qualified thee by wit, by skill, by learning, be thou a Bazaleel of the spiritual tabernacle, engrave the precious gems of divine doctrine, fit them in accurately, adorn them skilfully, add splendor, grace, beauty. Let that which formerly was believed, though imperfectly apprehended, as expounded by thee be clearly understood. Let posterity welcome, understood through thy exposition, what antiquity venerated without understanding. Yet teach still the same truths which thou hast learnt, so that though thou speakest after a new fashion, what thou speakest may not be new" (St. Vincent of Lerins, Commonitory, Ch. XXII, NPNF2, 5:147).

And commenting on Galatians 1:8, but also alluding to Jude 1:3 ("...contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints), St. Vincent says:

"Why does he say “Though we”? why not rather “though I”? He means, “though Peter, though Andrew, though John, in a word, though the whole company of apostles, preach unto you other than we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” Tremendous severity! He spares neither himself nor his fellow apostles, so he may preserve unaltered the faith which was at first delivered. Nay, this is not all. He goes on “Even though an angel from heaven preach unto you any other Gospel than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” It was not enough for the preservation of the faith once delivered to have referred to man; he must needs comprehend angels also. “Though we,” he says, “or an angel from heaven.” Not that the holy angels of heaven are now capable of sinning. But what he means is: Even if that were to happen which cannot happen,—if any one, be he who he may, attempt to alter the faith once for all delivered, let him be accursed" (St. Vincent of Lerins, Commonitory, Ch. VIII, NPNF2, 5:136-137).

This of course does not mean that Tradition does not grow in the sense that it expands through history, as the Church confronts heresy, and as saints arise and add to the writings which guide and inform the Church. But as St. Vincent says in chapter 23 of his Commonitory, this is natural growth, not alteration.

David Dunn: "I disagree with this view. That does not mean I am a “liberal” theologian. I do not think that Tradition and culture are two “texts” with more or less equal weight. The Tradition is not fixed, but neither is it in constant, ambiguous flux. I see the Tradition more like a life-giving stream. It maneuvers through history, swinging sometimes this way and sometimes that in response to its place in the world at a particular point and time. For me, the Tradition is not nebulous, but it is nimble. We are caught up in that stream right now. We have a pretty good sense of where we have been, which gives us some indication of where we are going, but the exact “shape” of our destination and when we will get there are not entirely clear. I think that is why Fr. John Meyendorff said we have a “living tradition.” The Tradition is not an artifact of the past because it is where we live. The church is its tradition."

We have a living Tradition in that this Tradition is not just found in books, but is alive in the Church. There are still aspects of our Tradition that are not found in books, and require training within the Church... as anyone who has ever read liturgical rubrics can attest. The book may say "the priest stands in the usual place, and does the usual thing", but only by being instructed by a priest who knows what that means can another priest really understand the rubric. We do know what the Tradition will be in essence, because it cannot be other than what it always has been.

David Dunn: "To see Tradition as a fixed and fully knowable “thing” is to live in intellectual dishonesty, for it requires pretending that the way we view tradition is not informed by our moment in history. It is to pretend that we look at doctrine in the exact same way as our spiritual ancestors."

If David had said that we always have to be aware that our understanding of the Tradition as individuals is imperfect, then I would have no argument with him, however, the Church as a whole does have a full understanding of its Tradition, and if we remain in that Church and allow ourselves to be guided by that Church we will not stray.

But rather than speak in abstractions, let's take a concrete example. David is not sure that the Church will always condemn homosexuality, and does not think we should oppose gay marriage in the wider culture. The Church has a very clear Tradition that homosexuality is a sin, and it has a clear Tradition that marriage can only be between a man and woman who are eligible to be lawfully married to one another. The contemporary Church has also issued numerous statements at the level of the local Church and also on the pan-Orthodox level that gay marriage is unacceptable, and that Orthodox Christians should actively oppose it in the wider culture. So the question for David is, why are you rejecting the instruction of the Church?

David Dunn: "It is also not very Orthodox. The Tradition is about God, and the ideal way of knowing God in the Orthodox Church is to unknow God. We strive for apophasis, which is the experience of God as mystery. This does not mean God is irrational or that we should be irrational. It means God is mystery. Therefore the Orthodox Christian must always destroy her own intellectual idols. That is why I think fundamentalist views of the Tradition are unOrthodox."

David asserts that this in not very Orthodox, but has yet to cite any evidence from Tradition to back up that assertion. Apophatic theology is an approach to theology, but it does not negate God's self revelation, which we find recorded in Scripture and Tradition.

Also, introducing the word “fundamentalist” is not helpful, because basically when the word is used outside of its historic meaning (in reference to Protestant Fundamentalists) it is simply used as a synonym for “stupid”. When I have asked people who use the term in reference to Orthodox Christians, and have asked them to define what they mean by the term, I have yet to get a coherent definition that would not also condemn the Fathers and Saints of the Church.

David Dunn: "To put it another way, for me, I cannot think of the Tradition as a deposit because I do not think I have faith in a set of assertions. I think faith means to trust in that for which I hope, which means it is a kind of love."

David is equivocating here. Faith certainly means trust, but when we speak of "The Faith", it necessarily is a Faith that has actual content, that is either Orthodox or is not.

David Dunn: "The Orthodox ideal is apophasis because theology is nothing more than to love God with the intellect. Truth is that which we do not understand but love anyway. That is why I think we should never treat the Tradition as if it is something everyone can understand if they only think about it rationally. The way we think about the Tradition must always unthink itself because God is love, and love is infinite. God is always an undiscovered country."

I think David will be hard pressed to produce a single Father or Saint of the Church who would say that the Truth of the Orthodox Faith is something that "we do not understand, but love anyway," or that "The way  we think about the Tradition must always unthink itself because God is love..." This may fly in a liberal Protestant seminary, but it is completely foreign to the Tradition of the Church.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Out of nothing, nothing comes








Ex nihilo, nihil fit: "Out of nothing, nothing comes."

This is one of oldest truism of human reason. Laurence Krauss thinks he has proven this false, but note how he redefines "nothing" to have substance that can be weighed. This is nonsense. Nothing is no thing. Nothing has no weight, no particles, no anything. Nonsense is still nonsense, even someone with a Ph.D. spouts it.

See "Lawrence Krauss: another physicist with an anti-philosophy complex" by Massimo Pigliucci

See also Dr. R.C. Sproul's lectures:

Saving the Phenomena

Faith and Reason

Chance: the Modern Myth

What is Chance?

"The Necessity of God's Existence".

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Various issues brought up in the discussion about Gay "Marriage"





 
 

Due to time constraints, there were a number of points in the discussion on gay "marriage" on Ancient Faith Radio that I was not able to make, and of course you always think of things you wish you had said after the fact, so let me hit a few points:

1. David Dunn raised the emotional hypothetical of a lesbian couple that had been raising a daughter together, and then if the legal mother should die unexpectedly, the state taking the child away from "the only other mother she has ever known".

Since I deal with custody issues in my secular job all the time, I know a bit about how this sort of thing works, and this is a red herring.

When my wife and I began having children we executed a will which appointed Fr. Joseph Huneycutt and his wife to be the guardians of our children if both my wife and I were to die while they were still minors. I did not have to marry Fr. Joseph to make that happen. Legalzoom.com is all that is needed to deal with such an issue.

Now might a child in a case like David describes be taken away from her mother’s gay lover? Yes, if that child had a non-sperm-donor father. But that would also be the case if the mother was legally married to another man. Every child has two parents, and normally both parents have rights to that child. If the mother had a child with a man, and went on to marry anyone else, the father still has rights, and if the mother passed away while the child was still a minor the father would have every right to take custody of the child, and that is as it should be.

2. In the discussion, mention was made of how the rights of Christians have been curtailed in other countries because of the advancement of the gay agenda (for example, the recent law in Denmark, requiring Churches to perform gay marriages), and David said that we should not worry about those examples because American law is different. I did mention the fact that the Catholic Church is now unable to provide adoption services in Massachusetts. As it turns out this is also the case now in Illinois. But another example of this happening in the United States is the recent case in New Mexico in which a Christian Photography business was fined $7,000.00 for refusing to photograph a Lesbian Wedding.

One should also take a look at this blogs ongoing chronicle of how the legalization of gay "marriage" in Massachusetts has affected Christians there: http://www.massresistance.org/

3. When I raised the question of polygamy and consensual incest up, David dismissed it as an outlandish possibility. However, with the growing Muslim population in the country, why would legalized polygamy be far fetched, and what who proponents of gay marriage say to object to it? There is no basis for such an objection.

And as for consensual incest, welcome to Jerry Springer's America. There was a recent case of another Huffington Post Blogger and Columbia University professor, David Epstein who was charged with incest for having a consensual sexual relationship with his adult daughter. What was his defense? It was consensual... whose business is it what he does in the privacy of his own bedroom? And again, there is no basis for an advocate of gay "marriage" to object to this.

What is the mainstream Orthodox view on Homosexuality?










In the comments to a post by David J. Dunn on the flak he has been getting about his posts on Gay "Marriage" there was a comment that warrants some consideration:

"Please hang around with people other than the Jacobse crowd! There are professors at our seminaries and hierarchs who agree with you; there are many, many lay people who are willing (indeed, anxious) to engage in meaningful dialogue around these issues; there are many, many priests who think about these issues in a loving, pastoral way and increasingly find themselves moving to the 'left' of Hopko. It says something rather sickening about the current state of affairs that I find myself hesitating to name names. But please don't buy the PR of the AOI crowd that they represent the "true" Orthodox view, the universal Orthodox view, or even a particularly dominant Orthodox view. They are loud, and they are bullies, and the results are dangerous. But the only solution is for those of us who hold different views, while being fully and faithfully Orthodox (or endeavoring to be to the degree our brokenness and God's Grace permits) to engage and to be heard. -- Rebecca Matovic (signing my name because there's too much silence and anonymity in the world these days)" 



There are several curious things about this comment. For one, if the views of those who stand against the acceptance of sodomy as compatible with the Christian life are really just a vocal minority, why are the priest and bishops that Rebecca refers to unwilling to come out of the closet and say what they really believe? In the history of the Church, I cannot think of a single example of a champion of Orthodoxy that hid his views until the situation was more favorable... though I can think of many heretics in the history of the Church who did so. If what they believe is true, they should be willing to stand up for it, and let the chips fall where they may. The fact is, however, that these clergy (whoever they may be) are clearly cowards, who will not say what they really believe, clearly and unambiguously, because they know their views are at odds with both the Tradition of the Church and the vast majority of the clergy and faithful of the Church. It is just a fact that every conciliar statement that has been made by the Orthodox Church on the question of homosexuality or gay "marriage" has taken a clearly Traditional view, and declared homosexuality to be a sin, condemned by both Scripture and Tradition, and gay "marriage" to be a distortion of the meaning of marriage and something that Orthodox Christians should oppose publicly -- and that includes the OCA, the jurisdiction that Rebecca belongs to.



As for the charge of bullying, this is a typical liberal red herring when they find themselves without a substantive argument, and have nothing else to appeal to. If one takes a clear stand, and challenges their opponents to do the same, and refute their opponents, this is what is known as rational discourse. It is in fact those on the other side of this issue that prefer to engage in personal attacks rather than deal with the issues. All that they have are emotional Oprah-like arguments, and ad hominem. On the substance of the issues, they have nothing... and they generally don't have the courage to come right out and say what they really believe.

And here are two lectures by Dr. Robert Gagnon that lay out how the other side has nothing, in great detail:

The Secular Argument Against Gay "Marriage".

St. Paul on Homosexuality.

Friday, May 18, 2012

5th Anniversary of Reconciliation










Five years ago today (May 17, 2007) , a miracle happened in the Russian Church. 70 years of division brought about by the machinations of the devil and his communist minions came to an end.

Since that time, the restoration of full communion between the faithful inside and outside of Russia has born tremendous fruit. I know of no one who supported reconciliation who has expressed the slightest regret, and I know of many who were skeptical who have come to see that their fears have not materialized.

It was a joyous occasion to witness, and it is a joy to reflect on it.

Here are my blog posts from 5 years ago:


http://www.saintjonah.org/moscowpilgrimage.htm

Here is a reflection from the perspective of those inside of Russia:



And here is a documentary (in Russian) about the events leading up to the signing of the Act of Canonical Communion:

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Moses' Black Wife






Aaron and Miriam confront Moses about his Ethiopian wife


In the various debates about gay "marriage" that are currently raging, from time to time you have people comparing it to interracial marriage, and some even going so far as to claim that the Bible condemns interracial marriage. This is of course nonsense. Nowhere does the Bible condemn interracial marriage, in fact we find an example of interracial marriage in the life of one of the most important persons in the Bible -- the Prophet Moses.

If you remember the movie the Ten Commandments, you will recall that it begins with Moses coming back in triumph from a campaign against the Ethiopians. You might also recall the Ethiopian princess who seems to rather admire Moses. This was based on Jewish Tradition, which is found in the Antiquities of the Jews, by the 1st century Jewish historian Josephus. According to Josephus, Moses actually married this princess, whose name was Tharbis:

"Tharbis was the daughter of the king of the Ethiopians: she happened to see Moses as he led the army near the walls, and fought with great courage; and admiring the subtility of his undertakings, and believing him to be the author of the Egyptians' success, when they had before despaired of recovering their liberty, and to be the occasion of the great danger the Ethiopians were in, when they had before boasted of their great achievements, she fell deeply in love with him; and upon the prevalency of that passion, sent to him the most faithful of all her servants to discourse with him about their marriage. He thereupon accepted the offer, on condition she would procure the delivering up of the city; and gave her the assurance of an oath to take her to his wife; and that when he had once taken possession of the city, he would not break his oath to her. No sooner was the agreement made, but it took effect immediately; and when Moses had cut off the Ethiopians, he gave thanks to God, and consummated his marriage, and led the Egyptians back to their own land" (Antiquities of the Jews 2:10:2).

None of this is recorded in Scripture, however, we do find mention of Moses' Ethiopian wife in Numbers 12:

"Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married; for he had married an Ethiopian woman. So they said, “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us also?” And the Lord heard it. (Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth.) Suddenly the Lord said to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, “Come out, you three, to the tabernacle of meeting!” So the three came out. Then the Lord came down in the pillar of cloud and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam. And they both went forward. Then He said, “Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, make Myself known to him in a vision; I speak to him in a dream. Not so with My servant Moses; he is faithful in all My house. I speak with him face to face, even plainly, and not in dark sayings; and he sees the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against My servant Moses?” So the anger of the Lord was aroused against them, and He departed. And when the cloud departed from above the tabernacle, suddenly Miriam became leprous, as white as snow. Then Aaron turned toward Miriam, and there she was, a leper. So Aaron said to Moses, “Oh, my lord! Please do not lay this sin on us, in which we have done foolishly and in which we have sinned. Please do not let her be as one dead, whose flesh is half consumed when he comes out of his mother’s womb!” So Moses cried out to the Lord, saying, “Please heal her, O God, I pray!” Then the Lord said to Moses, “If her father had but spit in her face, would she not be shamed seven days? Let her be shut out of the camp seven days, and afterward she may be received again.” So Miriam was shut out of the camp seven days, and the people did not journey till Miriam was brought in again. And afterward the people moved from Hazeroth and camped in the Wilderness of Paran."

The only objection found in Scripture is to "foreign wives" who had not converted to the Israelite faith, and so were a snare to their husbands.

So does the Bible condemn interracial marriage? Hardly, it condemns marrying outside of the Faith, but it condemns those who condemn interracial marriages because they are interracial. There are only two races in the Bible: the fallen race of Adam, and the race of Christ.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Why doing Vesperal Liturgies in the place of the appointed services is a bad idea



Vesperal Liturgies are appointed by the Typikon to be done only on days of strict fasting, and they are preceded by either the Lenten Hours or by Royal Hours. It is done in the evening because on days of strict fasting you do not break the fast until vespers -- though the latest that these services are actually appointed to be done is about 3 p.m. So to use this liturgical form for a day of feasting is to set the form on its head. Also, if you were doing a vesperal liturgy for the feast of the Dormition for example, you should do it on the day of the feast, not on the eve. Another problem is that on a feast day, you normally have a Vigil, and then the hours and the Liturgy. The Vigil usually consists of Vespers, with a Litia, Matins, and the first hour. When you reduce a feast to a Vesperal Liturgy you are taking about the first 30 minutes or so of the Vigil, and slapping it on to the second half of the Liturgy, and skipping everything in between, which is the bulk of the liturgical material appointed for the feast.

Now the issue of people attending the Liturgy on a weekday is a problem, but there are better solutions. The Antiochians (at least under Bishop Basil) have started doing Vespers, Matins, and the Liturgy all straight through in evening prior to the feast.... which is consistent with the Greek Style Agrypnia. More traditionally, an Agrypnia begins in the evening, and the Liturgy concludes after midnight, but at least this solution actually celebrates the festal services in a fairly full manner.

What we do in my parish is we do the vigil the night prior (which anyone working regular hours can attend, if they don't live too far away (Houston weekday traffic being a bit of a problem for some), and then we do the Liturgy at 6:00 am, which means most people could make it to work without having to take time off.

Of course everyone's job is a bit different, but even when I was a laymen, I always made an effort to take off time to attend feast day liturgies (which were celebrated later in the morning at the parishes I attended). But if it is not possible for someone to make it to the Liturgy, it would be better for them to attend a full feast day vigil, and just read the Typika for the feast before going to work the next day, then to attend a truncated feastday vesperal liturgy that was celebrated the day prior.

Also, one of the problems with making up abbreviations that truncate the services, is that eventually what is done for the sake special circumstances eventually becomes the norm, and the future abbreviations are done on the already truncated service. Eventually the onion is peeled until there is no onion left. If you take a look at what happened in the Roman Catholic Church, on a parish level, the average catholic today doesn't even know what Vespers, Matins, or the Hours are, because the only thing that is left is the Mass, such as it is these days.