Lex Rex

verbum sat sapienti

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BGM
Zain
Lex Rex

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Where have the Apostles gone?

Perhaps my questions of SEVERAL months ago were too broad. Hence, I would like BGM and Lex Rex's input on the following, more narrow question. Are there any Apostles in the Church today, and if so, what makes either of you qualify them as such? For example, are they simply in a position of authority, or are they actually 'walking' in the exemplary power of Apostleship? Are they required to perform miracles, are they required to be Church Apologists?

If you take a position that Apostleship is limited to the Apostolic age, what do you do with I Corinthians 12:28-29?

Zain

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The Full Picture

As I let BGM and Lex Rex further contemplate my request for a summary of our most important differences, I would like to interject a few of my own recent considerations.

The Full Picture:

BGM made a point some time ago, when this discussion regarding Orthodoxy v. Protestantism began. It was something like this: (forgive me BGM if my memory is flawed) BGM's method for determining and rediscovering true/historical Christianity was to look to those Church Fathers who were closest in time and proximity to the Apostles themselves. In other words, if we look at what the early Church taught and practiced, we have a better picture of what delivered Christianity actually was and, hence, should be today.

And I have always admitted that the early historical proximity method (for lack of a better name) has merit. As such, I embarked upon a lengthy read of as many of the Church Fathers from about 130 AD to 250 AD as possible (with also a spattering of Church Apologists through 700 AD). As I have already mentioned in past blogs, based solely on the early Church Fathers, I do see several deficiencies, errors, etc in the modern Church. It must, however, be pointed out that I do not see several important Orthodox claims to authenticity supported by such Church Fathers. Inevitably, you have to go ahead hundreds of years more into Church writings to get the basis for several important Orthodox and Catholic doctrines and/or traditions.

That being said the point of this blog is to give a little more context to the full picture. If you truly want to simply rediscover "delivered" as compared to "developed" Christianity, it only makes sense to me that as much context as is available should be considered. I have brought this point up on a prior occasion, but only did so with vague references. But my research has pointed me back to it. Hence, I would like to bring it up for consideration once again so that the Full Picture may be considered.

I tend to think that many modern Christians, present company excluded of course, would like to begin Christianity with the Nicene Creed which was developed in 325 AD(or so). Although the Nicene Creed served a very important function during a time of great heresy, it is not the beginning, nor even original to the Apostles. Let me say that I do not try to undermine the fundamental importance of the Nicene Creed (I completely agree with it -- BGM, is probably throwing food at his computer screen right now while shouting "Ahhh, westerner! What do you know of the Creed!" -- just adding some levity -- or trying to), but just wish to have a proper prospective. Instead, we can all agree that the New Testament is where we must first and foremost look for evidence of the original Church and its make up. (I am not trying to be insulting, just trying to give order to my own thoughts) I do realize that BGM's method is to look to the early Church for the correct and historical interpretation and application of the NT -- and at some level I agree.

What I am saying is this: there are some significant elements of the original Church for which the 2nd century Church may very well NOT be the best source of interpretation. Here I go: As I have said before, the original Church was JEWISH. To which BGM has replied, yes there were Jewish believers right along side gentile believers. But this response is not the full historical picture. IMHO, the Scriptures show that the first Church was 100% Jewish. Then it was opened to gentile believers, which created a problem. Do the gentile believers have to become Jewish? It was this question that the first council (48 AD) at Jerusalem answered -- NO, they do not. Hence, gentile Churches were begun through the efforts of those such as Peter and Paul, and yes, there were some Jews interspersed in gentile congregations. But there is at least an argument that the Jerusalem Church remained "Jewish" in its practices, certainly not in its justifications, but in its practices. Hence, you had the Jerusalem "Jewish" Church leading its gentile brothers. But something happened in the early years, prior to the Church Fathers of the second century. In 70 Ad, Titus destroyed Jerusalem, significantly changing the Church Structure, in that the Jerusalem Church (the leadership) was virtually removed. If that wasn't enough, in 130 AD the Bar Kochba Jewish revolt against the Romans occurred. The result was to finish the work of 70 AD, Jews were not permitted in Jerusalem by law. Hence, in the few generations prior to the earliest Church Fathers writings, yet after the New Testament period, the Original Church changed significantly -- virtually all Jewish influence was removed.

If this wasn't enough, non-believing Jews were either directly responsible for horrible persecutions of believers, or being persecuted themselves for simply being Jewish, that the separation between Jew and Gentile became complete. It is this period that the first early Church Fathers begin to write. This is perhaps a shallow and poor recounting of the history, but I felt it needed to be said. I am definitely not arguing that the Church should be Jewish, but simply pointing out that merely looking at the practices of a purely gentile second century Church is not to look at the full picture. I will leave the discussion of what we may be able to learn from this added context to another day. First, I will await my beatings and lumps from this general comment. This is my question, if I have at all correctly understood and presented the actual history, how does this change the picture, or does it in your opinions?

Godspeed!

Zain

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The Way Into the Kingdom of Heaven

In answer to Zain's question, the thrust of my reluctance goes to the heart of our differences. I do not want to take this out of context, so you can link to the title by clicking on the same. The first two, I do not believe we have any qualms. It is the last part of #3, this arduous path that the Orthodox proclaim by which we save ourselves that I am trying to reconcile with Scripture, namely Romans 3-8. Saint Innocent does proclaim that nothing is possible but by the grace of God, the death and resurrection of Christ, but the “mansion on the hill” can only be reached through a series of activities by the Pilgrim. This does not explain Paul’s journey, he indeed speaks of his ongoing struggles throughout his Christian life, but after his conversion. As a related requirement, the concept of the Eucharist as necessary for salvation is, IMHO, irreconcilable with Scripture.

The Way Into the Kingdom of Heaven
by Saint Innocent of Alaska

....First of all, a Christian must thoroughly study the foundations of the Christian faith. To that end, you must read and reread the Holy Scriptures on a regular basis, especially the books of the New Testament. You must not only learn their contents but also develop an interest in their origin, who wrote them and when, how they were preserved and have been handed down to us, and why they are called Divine and Sacred. You must study the Holy Books with simplicity of heart, without prejudice or excessive inquisitiveness, not trying to discover hidden mysteries but trying to learn that which leads us to self-improvement. Certainly all that is necessary for us to know for our salvation is revealed quite clearly and in detail in the Scriptures.

It is important also to study our God-given faith in detail, since he who is indifferent toward truth is in danger of becoming easy prey for false teachers. It is so sad that many Orthodox Christians perish simply because of their disregard for Christ’s teachings. Having access to the light, they wander in the dark.

The studying of the faith should conform to your aptitudes and knowledge. For instance, for the serious student, in addition to studying the Scriptures, it is also useful to become familiar with the works of the Church Fathers and with the historical and theological books written by other Orthodox authors. These books will help you to comprehend your faith more deeply, which in turn will give you an opportunity to strengthen others in the Orthodox faith, to whom these books are unavailable.

2. When you become convinced that our Orthodox faith is based on Holy Scriptures and is not invented by people and that the Holy Scriptures contain the true word of God, revealed by the Holy Spirit through prophets and apostles — accept it with all your trusting heart. Believe the Holy Scriptures without doubt or philosophizing, pushing aside all heretical explanations. If you humbly accept Christ’s truth, then your faith will become strong and will lead you to salvation.

3. Finally, try to nourish a diligence in yourself to follow that which is taught by the Holy Scriptures. But if you do not have such diligence, fall down before the Savior and with a sincere prayer ask Him to send you a zealous wish to live according to His commandments. Then, when the grace of God starts leading you toward salvation, follow it, valiantly repelling the snares of the devil, who will attempt to detract you from Christ’s path.

....Those who neglect to take Holy Communion do not love Jesus Christ and will not receive the Holy Spirit, and consequently will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. So, for the sake of your salvation, partake of Communion as often as possible.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Revisiting the Fathers

Greetings,

After reading many of the Church Fathers writing around 200 AD and earlier, I would like to ask the following questions:

To BGM:

What are the main issues that you see presented by such honorable men in their writings that demonstrate that the Eastern Orthodox is the exclusive and true Church?

And then, more specifically, which doctrines do you see supported by the Fathers that have been rejected, or created, by the Protestant West (and which of those arise to heresy in your opinion)?

To Lex Rex:

What are the doctrines/practices of the Eastern Orthodox that you find most unacceptable (even heretical) and, perhaps more to the point, unsupported in Scripture, or even refuted in Scripture?

I ask not for the complete defenses of each point at this juncture, but rather for them to be set forth with perhaps an abreviated summary of each person's current viewpoint. Then we can delve deeper into the finer points and issues on each as we proceed. I hope this works for both of you, as I would like to get a better understanding of where we agree, disagree or simply need to all consider things not considered before.

As a side point, and meant in the way of encouragement, when I returned home from our common Law-School days, I felt the Lord directing me to the Book of Jude in Holy Scripture. The primary import of Jude's writings, IMHO, is a call to true believers to fight and contend for the Faith that was once delivered to them against the lies and deceptions that had already come in. This is why I have loved this forum and our fellowship. I see that it fits in directly with Jude's admonition to fight for the purity of our Faith. Another Scripture asks the question what shall the righteous do if the foundations are destroyed? I believe that for the Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican and Protestant alike, the foundations are quickly being destroyed and it drives me back to Jude's call. I have been very interested to see of late, the call of Jude arising in several Christian Forums. Interestingly enough to me, they have been spread across the spectrum from Orthodox to Protestant voices. God is moving through His Holy Spirit and I believe Jude's voice is being heard again, and I believe we are meant to part of this great move.

As always, Godspeed!

Zain

Monday, May 09, 2005

The BGM 13: A Reply Concerning Fasting

BGM:

I am sure you too have found the comment section insufficient for lengthy discussion, so I am afraid I need to respond to the “BGM 13” as a post. My numbers correspond with yours:

1. You indeed brought up the material and spiritual as they concern sacraments and fasting etc…and you herewith impliedly acknowledge the Orthodox view of the necessity of both for salvation of man’s soul. I will address this more below, but your second question will lead the discussion:

2. “Do you think God uses material things to convey His grace?” This is an easy one for me and you may find my answer surprising, but not so if you fully understood my upbringing: ABSOLUTELY! I say this with enthusiasm because it is the heart of my beliefs concerning salvation. Jesus indeed was the ICON in which grace was/is dispensed, you can not get more material than God incarnate; the suffering and crucified body of Jesus hanging on a cross is the center of my salvation. But perhaps you are inquiring whether AFTER Jesus was born into this world, suffered, died, was buried and rose on the third day to be seated physically at the right hand of His Father in Heaven, there is further need for material to convey His grace. In other words, was God’s physical act accomplished once and for all through the crucifixion, or is there more “material” required of God? In the Orthodox sense of ICONS (beyond the first, that was Jesus) and Eucharist, I am not presently convinced of the necessity of this material. As to the fourth sacrament of repentance and confession, I view these as material in that repentance confession are physical acts required by God for the forgiveness of sins and while not “material” as I believe you are using the term, there very much IMO a material aspect to this as offering our life and body as a physical sacrifice. As to baptism with water as a necessity for salvation, as yet I do not believe it is the water itself that saves, but that said, God’s grace is made possible by the public act of obedience. Concerning baptism, if water is necessary for salvation, why was Jesus baptized? Concerning the Eucharist, if necessary for salvation, why did Jesus partake? Why do we not have to also then be nailed to the cross, as Jesus did this as well? On the latter, we indeed do need to crucify the old man, but notice we cannot accomplish this through the physical act of crucifixion.

3. Concerning the requirement for salvation, you inquire whether I tow the protestant line of spiritually saved by spiritual confession. Perhaps I do not understand the arguments of my protestant brothers, but I have never heard my church, nor any others I have attended, preach sola spirituality. Indeed, I have always understood the physical needs on both sides of the equation. It is difficult for me to articulate this, but how is a spiritual (silent?) confession effective without the physical act of obedience in repentance? The prior without the former is merely words spoken. Individuals in the early church were referred to as “professed Christians” because it was only after their lives were examined for a time that any evidence of salvation could be determined. We cannot ignore the evidence in Scripture, for some in a very shortened period of time are transformed to life eternal, but I do not miss the example of the suffering Christ, He did not die instantly and nor does our old man in very case.

4. Concerning whether fasting is required for salvation, in a deeper sense, while it is not a sacrament, one could say fasting in Orthodoxy is found in the tool box on the bench of confession and repentance, which is a sacrament. And one could further say that confession and repentance as far as being effectual when killing off the old man, are rusty bolts that without which the tools of fasting and prayer, such bolts could not be loosened. So while I understand that Fasting is not declared as a sacrament, it is the “material” in confession and repentance that is difficult to separate from the same. Thus my posture regarding fasting is not from any protestant brainwashing, truth be told, I have never heard a message preached regarding this topic as it relates to Orthodoxy, so I have no pre-conceived notion of the same apart from the influence of half of my family. Consider the following written by Orthodox, let me know if you disavow any of these writings as they seem to be standard Orthodox theology:

“Fasting is another aid to kill off the old Adam, and to put on Christ, for the benefit of all (ourselves, the Church, and the world in which we witness His love). This continual transformation (or repentance) is the path and goal of the Christian life.

This pursuit of such godly transformation is furthered by both “spiritual” and “physical” means. “Spiritual means” such as prayer, preaching and singing (with which Evangelicals agree) as well as “physical” means (or aids) such as the sacraments, icons, incense, fasting, the Cross, etc. (with which Evangelicals generally disagree). God works through both spiritual and physical means (the Orthodox believe) to make transformation of the whole man, spiritual and physical. “
Written by the esteemed BGM. (I pose the question to BGM: Given the extreme importance of fasting, do you believe that the transformation of man both physically and spiritually is possible without the same?)

“Once the soul is inclined towards pleasing its Creator, and through obedience and fasting is subdued, the soul thirsts for its Lord and prayer is made effective. Our Lord Jesus Christ then begins the work of cleansing the soul, and illuminating the intellectual power of the soul with a right understanding of its Lord and Creator. In this way the Lord rebuilds the temple of our souls, as the Psalmist notes:

LORD, thou hast heard the desire of the humble: thou wilt prepare their heart, thou wilt cause thine ear to hear (Psalm 10:17 )

For some this may occur very quickly, as in the blessed grace-filled state attained by the holy martyrs as they made their bold confessions. For others it may take their entire life. Nevertheless, if an Orthodox Christian continues in such a way the Lord will provide all that is necessary for salvation…..

Those who deviate from the fundamental law of obedience and insolently choose to live according to their self-will, fall away from God, and so are banished utterly and cast into outer darkness.
(St's Callistus and Ignatius, "Directions" 15)

We see from the above investigation that the holy Church, inspired by its loving Creator, has provided to us rules for fasting, that in and of themselves are of no benefit to an individual, unless that individual understands that he fulfills them not as an empty obligation, but in obedience, without argument or contradiction, as a means of expressing ones desire to please the Lord. When we fast with such an understanding, the Lord rewards our well-intentioned desire with a resolve to practice the virtues. In such a way the Lord undertakes the arduous work of rebuilding our wretched souls. Glory be to our Lord for all the benefits he bestows upon us poor wretches. (Russian Orthodox writer)

So it is with the soul: the grace of the Holy Spirit is preserved by keeping the commandments, and the keeping of the commandments is the foundation laid for receiving the gift of God's grace. Neither does the grace of the Holy Spirit remain in us without our obeying the commandments, nor can obeying the commandments be useful and salutary without Divine grace.” (St. Simeon the New Theologian "Practical and Theological Precepts" 95)

A life of fasting, properly understood as general self-limitation and abstinence, to the annual practice of which the Church always calls us with the Great Lent, is really that bearing of the cross and self-crucifixion which is required of us by our calling as Christians. And anyone who stubbornly resists this, wanting to live a carefree, happy, and free life, is concerned for sensual pleasures and avoids sorrow and suffering that person is not a Christian. Bearing one's cross is the natural way of every true Christian, without which there is no Christianity. Archbishop Averky of Syracuse (of Blessed Memory)

BROTHER: What are fasting and prayer?

OLD MAN: Fasting is the subjugation of the body, prayer is converse with God, vigil is a war against Satan, abstinence is being weaned from meats, humility is the state of the first man, kneeling is the inclining of the body before the Judge, tears are the remembrance of sins, nakedness is our captivity which is caused by the transgression of the command, and service is constant supplication to and praise of God.

BROTHER: Are these able to redeem the soul?

OLD MAN: When internal things agree with external, and manifest humility appears in the hidden works which are from within, verily, a man shall be redeemed from the weight of the body.
E. A. Wallis Budge, "The Paradise of the Holy Fathers," Seattle, St. Nectarios Press, 1984, pp. 263-264

Bodily purity is primarily attained through fasting, and through bodily purity comes spiritual purity. Abstinence from food, according to the words of that son of grace, St. Ephraim the Syrian, means: 'Not to desire or demand much food, either sweet or costly; to eat nothing outside the stated times; not to give oneself over to gratification of the appetite; not to stir up hunger in oneself by looking at good food; and not to desire one or another sort of food. The Prologue from Ochrid - by St. Nikolai Velimirovich (Volume 4, p 338)

Do you disagree with these quotes? Are they taken out of context? I do not believe I have overstated the importance of fasting regarding salvation in the Orthodox view. Again, can you kill off the old man without fasting? If not, how can confession & repentance and therefore salvation be achieved without fasting?

5. “Thus, if fasting, is not required for salvation, why do it? Why because God commands it!” You are preaching to the choir here, that is the Protestant view of fasting, as I have heard it preached numerous times, I understand it no less.

6. Here, you hit the nail on the head, it is shameful that we protestants do not fast more, and I think it is because most hide behind their concept of grace. My church does encourage fasting and prayer, but it is not an annual November 28-December 25 fast, nor is it during lent. Individually, I have personally engaged in fasts of water only, although I have not in any recent memory, guilty as charged. The last true fast was during law school and I think I complained a bit even so.

7. “Rather than answer, I will ask you (and I will try rare silence rather than speculate): Lex, why don’t you and your assembly fast when it is clearly established in scripture?” See 6 above.

8. “Lex, do you really think I am so dumb as to base my broad, scholarly critique of Evangelicalism upon my personal experience at a single church? Is that really indicated by the nature of my writing or my citations? Do you view me as that poor an attorney?” I have nothing but the highest regard of you, however, your broad-brush strokes often times do not apply to my church so it leaves me wondering if my church is just an anomaly? I answer in the negative, I have experienced countless denominations that run contrary to your indictment. Even Greg Laurie whom I assume you would place in the Western indictment stated the other day that we must finish the race as a necessary component to salvation.

9-11: “… your symbolic Lord’s supper is a tradition, your sola fide is a tradition. Similarly, my Real Presence is a tradition, my Baptismal regeneration is a tradition. We both share the traditions of the Trinity and the Incarnation, etc. etc” Which is why I prefaced that I was “sure BGM agreed”: To the extent sola fide is extra-scriptural and contrary to scripture, it is not tradition, it is heresy. The same with any of the above: If I cannot find scriptural support and also find scriptures debunking the practice, I do not consider these “traditions” in accordance with God's word, I'm sure you agree. On the other hand, where I can find scriptural support, I do not consider these “traditions” apart from the obvious procedural traditions (thrice sprinkled, fast 11/28-12/25 etc..), of which I have no problem with these if they do not offend scripture. For example, we celebrate the advent calendar every year, I find no harm in this tradition. The symbolic Lord’s supper, for example, as I have numerous times pointed out, I have provided scriptural support. You also have argued from numerous scriptures regarding the Lord’s supper and real presence, so how can you call your defense of the same a “tradition”? Sure, you have also provided historical support, but I hardly call your apology for real presence a tradition. The same with Baptismal regeneration, the Orthodox provide scripture support. Scripture is replete with examples of baptism, where tradition appears is the ceremony surrounding the same. We may disagree as to the interpretation of scripture in this area, but how can you call Baptismal regeneration a “tradition?” You also here (admittedly to my surprise) lump in the Trinity and Incarnation as traditions. Again, the scripture is replete with the doctrine of Trinity, beginning in Genesis with the plural use of “elohim” when referring to God in the beginning, and forward through Scripture (pre-incarnate Christ, God the Father, The Holy Spirit sent etc. etc..) And Incarnation as a “tradition? Huge stretch here with all due respect: How can you possibly classify Incarnation as a “tradition?”

12. What is my position on fasting? Where did I state it was not important nor necessary? All I said is that it was not necessary for salvation, which you purport to agree with, but your comment here seems to display an understanding of what I proposed above regarding fasting; to the Orthodox fasting is essential to kill off the old man, if the old man is not killed off, salvation is impossible, therefore in a round-about way, fasting is necessary for salvation.

13. Amen.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Fasting, Flesh & Incarnation

Greetings fellow Pilgrims!

As the excuse for my delays would likely trigger cabbages rather than sympathy, I press causally onwards (as if no one noticed I arrived three hours late for dinner). I am sorry for my injuries caused this august forum (although it grew in my esteem directly due to my absence from it). Recall Groucho Marx and his opinion of clubs that would grant him membership.

Is the Italian Counselor now a member (I look forward to his wisdom and cautious corrective)?

Having missed out on so much of the conversation, I dive back in with a brief comment on Zain’s latest posting on fasting (I seek to then reply to his and Lex Rex’s posts on the sacraments). I agree with Zain’s comments and point out only a few introductory Orthodox impressions (so appropriate at the conclusion of the Lenten fast with the celebration of Our Lord’s glorious third day resurrection in Pascha (Easter)).

The Isaiah 58 passage is one that fully comports with the Orthodox understanding of the fast (to be added the many other biblical passages concerning fasting that I never investigated as a Protestant, including: Matt 4:2, 6:16-18; 17:21: Luke 2:37; Acts 13:3; 1 Cor. 7:5; 2 Cor 6:5, etc.).

The overwhelming biblical evidence describes fasting as a normative, continuing Christian act (these are solely NT passages) yet very few Protestant churches fast in any manner. Why? IMO, because of significant dogmatic changes in many (not all) Protestant views of salvation, nature of the “material” and critical details of the doctrine of the Incarnation.

Fasting is another aid to kill off the old Adam, and to put on Christ, for the benefit of all (ourselves, the Church, and the world in which we witness His love). This continual transformation (or repentance) is the path and goal of the Christian life.

This pursuit of such godly transformation is furthered by both “spiritual” and “physical” means. “Spiritual means” such as prayer, preaching and singing (with which Evangelicals agree) as well as “physical” means (or aids) such as the sacraments, icons, incense, fasting, the Cross, etc. (with which Evangelicals generally disagree). God works through both spiritual and physical means (the Orthodox believe) to make transformation of the whole man, spiritual and physical.

Man is both material and immaterial, not a disembodied spirit or brain floating in a glass jar. Even more important, the material world is not evil. God did not become embodied, His spirit take on flesh (material) so as to provide a salvation for only our minds (through our mere mental assent to the “four spiritual laws”). (I do not accuse any on this blog of this error, I am making a general comment).

He came to save us as whole men: body and soul, flesh and spirit; all of us. As such, the Orthodox Church conveys tools that affect both body and spirit, to involve the whole man in the pursuit of godliness and his ultimate salvation (Theosis).

In my own shallow experience of the same, I have learned that I have the greatest power of influence over my own self, next over my family, then my Church, and then the world. Thus, the Orthodox view the personal disciplines of fasting, prayer, alms, etc., as the very foundation and means of witnessing to and saving the world. Be yourself transformed into an imitation of Christ and you will lead others to Him. This is the obvious meaning of being “salt” and “light.” It is that we ourselves become different (as preservative salt or illuminating light) as His witness. Not that we (merely) talk words of Jesus being salt and light, theoretically to a decaying and dark world. I have just begun to learn and repent.

As a Protestant, I thought I should teach (often lecture) others on Christian doctrine to bring them into the Kingdom. This was “preaching the word” I thought. I now believe that the personal transformation of my life into an imitation of Christ, in humility and submission should be my leading method of Christian witness (even though I obviously fail in this and regularly continue my old “lecture route” by habit, training and sin, as you can all witness). How different are these two approaches (in my life and in the response).

The most remarkable corrective of this error is the continuing nature of fleshly Incarnation of Jesus through today. Most Protestant’s agree with the Nicene Creed in that “(Jesus) ascended into heaven, and He sits at the right hand of the Father.” But most Protestants do not consider (Council of Chalcedon) that Jesus retains His human flesh, there, at the heavenly throne, this very moment. This is a critically important (and for me, paradigm shifting) correction.

The Theo-anthropos Savior (God-Man) resurrected from the dead, with His human flesh intact (not as a ghost or Platonic disembodied soul, leaving his human flesh in the tomb), he ate, walked around, spoke, ministered in His human flesh and then He took His human flesh back to heaven as He ascended and now presently sits in heaven at the right side of the Father, with that same human flesh! (How’s that for the elevation of lowly humanity!)

Again (I speak to myself of this incredible feat) Jesus took His God/Human body BACK to HEAVEN! That God (=Spirit) could become flesh (incarnate= to become flesh) was crazy to start with. But to have the now God-Man keep His human flesh and take human flesh back into the heavens was total absurdity. If St. Paul’ Mars Hill proclamation (of the bodily Resurrection) was foolishness to the Greeks, this was too foolish to even respond towards.

This is one of the most important concepts in Orthodoxy, and one (in my opinion) significantly missed by evangelicalism, and thus, explains much of the differences between the two. The consequence and depth of this Incarnation teaching have almost no end. This understanding of the Incarnation transforms my view of God and Man, heaven and earth, spirit and matter, etc., etc. As example, with this concept of the perpetual God/Man as our advocate, reread Hebrews 4:14-16:

Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we doe not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

I do not blame the evangelicals as they (as I did) largely miss this point. IMO the evangelicals have never been taught the true meaning and consequence of the Incarnation, and its continued meaning, and as such, they discredit the material in the Christian life. I know that this was true for myself. I viewed the incarnation and ministry of Jesus as a largely a condition prerequisite for Calvary, not as a transformation of the very nature of humanity.

As a reformed Protestant, I saw life as largely a determined play set in existence solely for the climatic act of the legal redemption of Calvary, not as God transforming His very creation, especially His prize creation of Humanity. A human act such as fasting makes little sense in the common evangelical approach.

God forever transformed the nature of humanity by His Incarnation, taking human flesh to the heavens forever.

This is one of the most important concepts in Christianity and I was never taught anything of it until perhaps two years ago. I have so much to learn.

I have gotten carried away again (from fasting to the Incarnation, sorry).

Grace,
BGM


PS: If you want me to leave again, I'll understand.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Sacraments

Happy "Eastern" Easter!

May the Lord bless our "Eastern" brothers on this day of their celebration of our Lord's resurrection. May they embrace the fast that our Lord declared through His prophet Isaiah.

"Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh?" Isaiah 58:6-7

I do not reference this Scripture to undermine the concept of fasting by denying our flesh, but only remind us all, myself included, that such self denial fasting is needed to bring our own flesh into submission, but in order to please our Lord, His fast is clearly declared through Isaiah.

Concerning the Sacrament of Communion/Eucharist, it seems that if you try to pin down what each branch of Christianity actually believes you get a confusion of responses. I know that the Orthodox and the Catholic have official statements, but when it comes to application even within their own communions, it is a confusion of understanding (at least from my perception). So, let me ask a couple of basic questions of BGM and Lex Rex (Simon_Templar feel free to add your esteemed comments).

First, to the Orthodox, why does the real presence of our Lord in the Communion necessarily deny its "remembrance nature" as its prime purpose"? On the other hand protestants, why does our Lord's instruction to continue the Communion in our remembrance of Him require it to be mere symbolic gesture?

It is also interesting to me that in 1 Corinthians 11, when Paul is giving further meaning to the Communion of the Bread and Cup, that he links their unworthy manner to the fact that they are partaking of the Supper in a divided manner, not discerning the Lord's body. Specifically, that they were adhereing to their schisms. They were instructed to, instead, take it together. At a minimum it seems to suggest a strong fellowship element in the Communion, does it not? And perhaps says something about the schisms and factionalism within Christianity. (Anyway, just a thought for future discussion.)

Godspeed!

Zain