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Archive for May, 2007

Be(com)ing Orthodox

As a Protestant—is that really now a past-tense state of affairs?—I only made one change of affiliation across denominational lines. I moved from the non-denominational (or as they self-labeled, “independent”) Christian Churches (Stone-Campbell/Restoration Movement) to the Episcopal Church.

When I did so, I concerned myself with what I suspect most non-mainline Protestants and evangelicals concern themselves with: can I maintain my current beliefs; or on what beliefs am I willing to negotiate? As an Anglican, I was assured that I could keep my belief on baptismal regeneration by immersion which I had always had, that with regard to the Eucharist I could be either one who believed in the “Real Presence” or keep the Zwinglian beliefs in which I had been raised. (At that point I had moved well beyond Zwinglianism to a more sacramental understanding of the Lord’s Supper.) I could continue to believe that the Bible was the infallible word of God, continue to believe in substitutionary atonement, the bodily Resurrection of Christ from the dead, the union of the human and divine natures in the Person of Christ, and so on. All I really had to worry over was whether I could tolerate some of the theological liberalism that I ran into. I ultimately decided that I could—and felt so very mature and wise as a twenty-something in so doing: see how tolerant I am without losing my fundamental convictions!—and was subsequently confirmed as an Episcopalian by the laying on of hands by Bishop Peter of Springfield. Aside from a new embrace of a sacramental understanding of Christianity, my life didn’t change all that much from the way it had been.

When I first encountered Orthodoxy, it was the summer after my first quarter in seminary. Whew. After that experience I was ready to look elsewhere. And, just as I’d done before, I began to examine it from the standpoint of doctrine. The difficulty, however, is that my wife and I had each made huge sacrifices in coming to seminary, and with my pride reigning things in, it just didn’t seem feasible to change churches (again!) over doctrine. So, for about two years, I attended All Saints roughly every half-year, read a lot on Orthodoxy, and looked wistfully.

What changed things for me, however, was my daily Bible reading during the first week of June 2002. Early in the week, God hit me over the head, and in the heart, with Ephesians 5:21ff. I needed to make a change. Not doctrinal, but volitional. Even, to some extent, ontological. I needed to be(come) a better husband, a Christian husband. I had not lived up to my responsibility as a spiritual man in our home. At that time it was just Anna and me, and we hadn’t gone to any worship service for six months, and I had not lifted a finger to make sure we did. Now initially I didn’t really understand or even discern that only Orthodoxy could really fulfill that necessary change. Other Christian groups, marriage counseling, personal spiritual direction, and so on, all would be helpful and provide assistance toward that goal. But only the Orthodox Church—or, rather, only the grace of God at work in and through the Orthodox Church—could bring about the transformation.

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You must read Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev’s Christ the Conqueror of Hell.

A taste:

The descent of Christ into Hades is one of the most mysterious, enigmatic and inexplicable events in New Testament history. In today’s Christian world, this event is understood differently. Liberal Western theology rejects altogether any possibility for speaking of the descent of Christ into Hades literally, arguing that the scriptural texts on this theme should be understood metaphorically. The traditional Catholic doctrine insists that after His death on the cross Christ descended to hell only to deliver the Old Testament righteous from it. A similar understanding is quite widespread among Orthodox Christians.

On the other hand, the New Testament speaks of the preaching of Christ in hell as addressed to the unrepentant sinners: ‘For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit; in which he went and preached to the spirit in prison, who formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited’[2]. However, many Church Fathers and liturgical texts of the Orthodox Church repeatedly underline that having descended to hell, Christ opened the way to salvation for all people, not only the Old Testament righteous. The descent of Christ into Hades is perceived as an event of cosmic significance involving all people without exception. They also speak about the victory of Christ over death, the full devastation of hell and that after the descent of Christ into Hades there was nobody left there except for the devil and demons.

How can these two points of view be reconciled? What was the original faith of the Church? What do early Christian sources tell us about the descent into Hades? And what is the soteriological significance of the descent of Christ into Hades?

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Google Docs & Spreadsheets

This is kind of cool in a tech-nerdy sort of way: Google Docs & Spreadsheets

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[Note: I just noticed the Triablogue'ers stripped my trackback from the post linked in the first line below.  Must not want anyone to come here and see their fallacies and ignorance exposed for what they are.] 

In the comments to my response to a recent post, the Triablogue’ers, Jason and Gene, attempt to go after my critique of their position regarding their babbling on about the lack of an Orthodox canon. They continue to deny that their argument is based on modernist text critical arguments, while appealing to textual criticism to make their case.

(Warning: A plethora of informal fallacies from Gene and Jason ahead. Much diversion apparently, in their minds, equates to an argument. Drown them in bloghorreal miasma is seemingly the order of the day. Remove all potibles from the vicinity of your computer screen. Some of this is unbelievable. But we’ll document it.)

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It happens that St. Augustine of Canterbury’s feast day was spread over this entire Pentecost weekend.  On Saturday, Anglicans and Orthodox celebrated his feast.  On Sunday, Rome celebrated.  And yesterday (according to my St. James calendar hanging on my wall at work) his feast was celebrated on Traditional Western calendars (not sure who that includes).

Why is this worthy of remark?  Well, when I journal I like to note the saint(s) whose feast(s) is(are) celebrated that day.  On Saturday, the day before our chrismations, I spent some time journalling.  And as I was looking in the calendar, and saw it was St. Augustine of Canterbury, it struck me: he is sort of the founding saint of the English Church, sent by Rome to organize the mission to the people of today’s British Isles.

It was, to me, a sign that St. Augustine was “sending me on” as it were to the Orthodox Church of which he is part.  Almost as though, he were saying, “Yes, you stopped for a bit at Anglicanism’s doorstep, and there were benefits to that.  But you are headed right where you need to go: into the fulness.”

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Wow.

That’s pretty much it: Wow.

But if you want more, go past the jump.

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Online Orthodox Prayer Book

This online Orthodox Prayer Book is quite useful.

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Good Stuff

Through bibliacalia comes the following links:

Link to a site with the Greek text of Josephus with commentary. Way cool.

And this post on a second century canon of the Old Testament listing (gasp!) some of the “Apocrypha.”

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Into the Fold

Today, Anna and I were chrismated into the one, holy, catholic, apostolic and orthodox Church. Thanks be to God! The girls’ baptisms will wait for another day.

More details to come.

Pray for us, the newly illumined Benedict Seraphim and Genevieve.

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Clifton: Benedict of Nursia (and here) [14 March] and Father Seraphim Rose [2 September]

Anna: Genevieve of Paris (stub @ OrthodoxWiki) and Genevieve of Paris and Icon of St Genevieve and St. Genevieve of Paris and Troparion and Kontakion to St. Genevieve in French and Moleben to St Genevieve in French [3 January]

Sofie: St. Nina the Enlightener of Georgia and Nino of Cappadocia (stub @ OrthodoxWiki) and An icon of St. Nina, and another icon of St. Nina [14 January]

Delaina: Brigid, Abbess of Whitby and Saint Brigid, Abbess of Kildare and Icon of St. Brigid of Ireland, Abbess, Wonderworker, Foundress of Kildare [1 February]

Our household saint: John, the Wonderworker, of Shanghai and San Francisco [2 July]

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