Sunday, 8/20/17

The Orthodox Church is committed to a ministry of reconciliation, insisting that all her clergy and faithful hold fast to the Christian message of healing, salvation and love offered by Christ, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. She exhorts our clergy and faithful to reject any attempts by individuals or groups to claim for themselves the name of “Orthodox Christian” in order to promote racism, hatred, white supremacy, white nationalism or neo-Nazism. This is in keeping with the Holy Gospels, the decisions of the Holy Councils and the experience of the Saints.

Membership in the Church is not, nor has it ever been, restricted to those of a particular race or nationality. Quite the contrary, the Church has historically, and continues to this day, to welcome all in the multicultural and multi-ethnic context of North America. Saint Justin Martyr, writing at a time when Christians were persecuted in the second century, said, “We used to hate and destroy one another and refused to associate with people of another race or country. Now, because of Christ, we live together with such people and pray for our enemies.”

May that same spirit be ours today as well, that we, as Orthodox Christians, embrace our neighbors, be they black, asian, Native American, Islamic, or whatever, as our brothers and sisters. As Christians, me must recognizes that black lives matter, just as all lives matter, and commit to reaching out to everyone in the love of Christ, ever recalling the words, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28)”.

(Abbot Tryphon)

I wish this were self-evident, but it’s not because there is at least one excommunicated Orthodox Christian who was “on the dais,” so to speak, in Charlottesville. Moreover, I have read essays to the effect that some on the radical right are claiming Orthodox sympathies or even affiliation (e.g., attending an Orthodox Church though not formally received). And around bedtime Saturday, I read of another ex-Orthodox, also excommunicated for his racist views, who is some manner of intellectual and knows the Orthodox lingo well enough that one of his books (not racist, but calling for return of monarchy and such) found its way into the bookstore of a canonical Orthodox Church.

So far as I can tell, having read a smattering of alt-right material, the only basis for that reported affinity would be shared skepticism toward many things Western — and, frankly, some desire for monarchy especially among Russian Orthodox in North America.

But this quoted statement by Abbot Tryphon is made in the true Orthodox spirit, which allows zero room dogmatically or ecclesiastically for anything close to racism, and condemned as heresy the related concept of phyletism. That condemnation arose precisely in the context of “the creation of a separate bishopric by the Bulgarian community of Constantinople for parishes only open to Bulgarians,” which sort of thing had not been condemned previously because nobody had presumed to pull such a stunt.

And much of the alt-right, white nationalist and neo-Nazi sentiment today is explicitly contemptuous of Christianity in all forms, Eastern and Western, perhaps on Nietzscheian grounds.

* * * * *

There is no epistemological Switzerland. (Via Mars Hill Audio Journal Volume 134)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

4 thoughts on “Sunday, 8/20/17

  1. Sir, may I ask a question about something you said in your “reader John” post. You state that you are “throwing down the gauntlet” to Evangelicals and that you were once an Evangelical yourself. I presume you mean “evangelical Christian.” Why did you leave Evangelical Christianity and why are you challenging them particularly? I live in Northern Ireland and my husband and I are Evangelical Christians. I came across your blog today as I searched for information on the resignation of Prof. Robert Gagnon from his theological seminary.

    • First, I probably should note that United States Evangelicalism may differ significantly, at least in tone, from that of Northern Ireland or other places outside the U.S., so there is a potential for misunderstanding of the term “Evangelical.”
      Second, I’m going to answer your question quite literally: “Why did I leave Evangelical Christianity?” rather than “Why should one leave Evangelical Christianity?”
      The short answer to that question is that roughly 40 years ago now, I rejected the Dispensational Premillennialism that was a plague, pandemic in Evangelicalism in the U.S., as soon as I found the more historic view of Amillennialism, characteristic of Calvinism. Indeed, I became a convinced Calvinist for some 20 year. During that time, I was vocally hostile to Evangelical eschatology and the “1-point Calvinist” notion that if you once said The Sinner’s Prayer, you were saved forever. But I was ambivalent still about whether I was an Evangelical but out of the mainstream or whether I wasn’t really an Evangelical any more. Not until I entered Orthodoxy 20 years ago was the break definitive.
      The fuller context of that can be found in my blog entry of June 4, 2017.
      As for why I’m challenging them particularly, it’s largely because I think I’ve found the fullness of the Christian faith in Orthodoxy, and that some sincere Evangelicals are looking for it. I have no history in “mainstream Protestantism” to give me standing to critique it. I wish I did winsome better than I do; my default style is more confrontational.

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