Sunday, October 05, 2014

Of Scripture, Tradition, And The Saints

"Wherefore I exhort and entreat you all, disregard what this man and that man thinks about these things, and inquire all these things from the scriptures." St. John Chrysostom. 

One will notice that, although the title is, Of Scripture, Tradition And The Saints, the first quote to appear is that of a saint. Why? Because the quote emphasizes the purpose of this truth, that the writings of the saints are worthy only in that they lead us to the truth found in Scripture and Tradition. We know that the truth of the Faith, and the practice of the living out of our faith, is found in Scripture and Tradition. We know what is Scripture, but what is Tradition?

"The roots and the foundations of this sacred tradition can be found in the Scriptures. For it is only in the Scriptures that we can see and live the presence of the three Persons of the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit...Theologians call this teaching of the Scriptures "the Apostolic Tradition." It encompasses what the Apostles lived, saw, witnessed and later recorded in the books of the new Testament." (1)

The writings of the saints throughout the years has opened to us windows of the Faith, allowing us to see examples of how one might endeavor to live out righteous lives, and abide in the truth as found in Scripture and Tradition. To emulate their lives, and glean from their words, is a vital part of the Orthodox ethos. Although these writings speak of truth and doctrines of the Faith, the saints are not the plumb-line of our Faith. Although this may be obvious to most, there is a tendency in some to elevate the saints over Scripture and Tradition. This is illustrated in comments found on some Orthodox Blogs. One blog's comment highlights a glaring imbalance when it states,  "Everything necessary can be found in the lives of the saints."  While it is true that necessary things can be found in the lives of the saints, it is an overstatement to say "everything" necessary. Everything necessary is found in Scripture and Tradition.  This might seem to be a parsing of words except for the fact that some have a propensity to glean their doctrine and practice via their preferred saint. Also found on a blog is this statement, "Let (preferred saint) be your guide." Again, though the writings of saints can be good guidance, the better way is to say, "Let Scripture and Tradition be your guide."  Another comment found on an Orthodox blog gives credit where credit is not due, "[Preferred saint] reminds us that the gates of hell will not prevail against the church." Although that saint may have said this, he was quoting the words of Christ. Why not just say, "Christ told us that the gates of hell would not prevail against us"? Are we to go through a second party for the truth?

I have seen Orthodox Bloggers who argue a point of doctrine via, not the Scriptures and Tradition, but via the experiences of particular saints. Using this flawed method, one could devise an entire emphasis for the Christian life, that, though it may be Orthodox, is not the full Orthodox Faith. Paul the Apostle saw this propensity and warned us against it.  "For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?"

The saints would reel over the idea that anyone would place their words, thoughts, experiences over those of the Lord, whom they lived and died to serve and preach. They would be baffled that anyone would look to them as the source of a everything necessary, rather than the Scripture and Tradition of the One, holy, catholic, and apostolic church, For it is "the church of the living God" ..that is... "the pillar and ground of the truth."

1. George Bebis, Ph.D. Tradition in the Orthodox Church

Friday, October 03, 2014

Six Things You Might Want to Avoid

There are six things that the LORD strongly dislikes, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.—Proverbs 6:16–19

Give No Offence In Any Thing

2 Corinthians 6:1-10

We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.

2 (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)

3 Giving no offence in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed:

4 But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses,

5 In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings;

6 By pureness, by knowledge, by long suffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned,

7 By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left,

8 By honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true;

9 As unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed;

10 As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.

On The Name Of God

"Come most beloved name, repeated again and again - a name entirely forbidden for us to speak or to know the very person You are, the kind or quality." 

Saint Symeon The New Theologian

Monday, September 22, 2014

Obese Clergy- The Elephant In The Room

I have been trying to write an article on Obese Clergy (for there are so many of them) for weeks now. I am honestly at a loss. Don't we fast? Don't we live a life of sacrifice- IN PARTICULAR- shouldn't the Orthodox clergy? I see a Bishop, a Priest, a Deacon, a Reader, a Monk-- and so many are FAT! JTO Readers- write this article for me in the comment section- 



Tuesday, September 09, 2014

"Unity" Oh No...You Did Not Use That Word!

Call for unity today and you might be accused of being an ecumenist. Call for unity today and you might get a message or a call from a monk, a priest, a bishop, or a blogger, expressing concern that while they have as their goal, the exposing of heretics, you are not representing their mission. But that's the problem, isn't it - that anyone should have as their goal, the exposing of heretics? Key word: goal.

Yes, we should point out heresies in order to accurately present the truth, however, with very few exceptions, the Orthodox dialogue via blogs, websites, chat forums, and the like, do not have, as their goal, what Christ said the goal should be: 

"Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one... My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unityThen the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me."

In case you are wondering, "complete unity', in the original Greek, means, "complete unity."

"To complete by reaching the intended goal."

The goal is to be unified, so that the world may believe that God the Father sent God the Son for the salvation of the world because he LOVES all of mankind. Why has this become a novel idea? Why are the blogs, websites, "open letters" diocesan communications, chat forums, void of this goal? Why is vitriol, accusation, contention and strife among us?

The popular mantra is that we are not to be unequally yoked, that we are not to fellowship with non-believers, not to pray with heretics-- yes, all this is true, but, is the promulgation of this our goal? Is it not enough just to believe and practice this piety without championing it - at the very least, let the Bishops contend with these things?

"I thank thee, oh God, that I am not like that sinner over there."

The goal is unity, so that we may be champions of the love of Christ. Let's start with this:

"Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings? What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building."

Few would argue that if one espouses another way to heaven other than Jesus Christ and Him crucified, then he is not Orthodox at all. Few would argue that if one innovates doctrines that were not believed by all the church at all times, then one is not Orthodox. Few would argue that in these cases these have become heretics and from such we should turn away, but, most of the jealousy and quarrels have little to do with the foundation doctrines of the faith. They are Paul and Apollos issues and it sounds something like this:

"Did this Bishop do this at this time and where and with whom and was the grace of God really on the bishops who ordained him because they were connected with that one over there at the time and we all know that that one over there was in communion with that other one so he was not authentic and the autonomy was received but it was by those that we are not sure of so that bishop or that monk or that guy is not really Orthodox and we are because we did not experience any of that and therefore are pure and holy and Orthodox and all others are not and though we are small in number, narrow is the way and few there be that find it and we did - find it - and they didn't and we are the remnant and they aren't and we are because they are not, so they are the enemies of the church and we can treat them worse than heathens because they are - heathens - and we are not, but they are..."

We, the Orthodox Church, are acting like infants. We are worldly. And the Holy Spirit is grieved. 

A Personal Reflection
At times, as I have observed this, I have asked myself, where is the love of Christ in all of this? Where is the gospel being presented to a dying world? It seems, the World Orthodox have more unity than do the "True Churches". One can argue that their unity is at the cost of true faith and practice, but there is no doubt, they have a greater structure of unity. Within a few years, the Roman Catholic Church and the World Orthodox Churches will be one unified body. 

Are the True Churches fiddling while Rome is creating an orchestra? 

Every Bishop of a True Orthodox Church, who shares a contempt for Ecumenism and a love of true doctrine and faith, should lay down his ecclesiastical sword, pick up his episcopal staff, get together in a very large room with all other Bishops, and forgive one another and forebear one another. Even if a Bishop is not authentic, in one's eyes, or a jurisdiction is spurious, in another's eyes, cannot the unity of the whole make right these things? Is this not what Jesus prayed for? We are losing the battle for the souls of men... and the message of sharing the LOVE of Christ is obscured. People from the outside are looking in. They are trying to find Christ, but they can't see him. In our disunity we have become islands unto ourselves. The isle of Paul. The isle of Apollos. People are drowning near our shore and we hesitate to send out a life-raft because we fear the riff raff that might climb on board. Here's a novel idea: How about spending as much time rescuing the lost as you do recusing the heretics?

Are we rescuers or recusers?

The Great Commission
"And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, 'All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.' "

This can and will only be accomplished in UNITY.

The Challenge
Bishops, do you know where your church is? Do you know what your people are blogging? Do you know that your clerics are arguing in public, not just with clerics from other jurisdictions but among themselves? Shepherd us! Tear your clothes in mourning! Lay down your pride and humble yourselves before one another. Stop typing, and get on a plane. Sit with your adversary face-to-face. You may find, by the grace of God, that the adversary was you, and that the barrier to Unity was you, not your brother, and at the core of it all - the devises of Satan, to thwart the UNITY of the church for which Jesus prayed. If you will be in unity, we will. If you won't, we surely can't.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

How To Prove You Are A True Orthodox Church

The best way to prove you are a true Orthodox Church is not by offering public apologetics, historical ecclesiastical tracking, and attempting to discern the heart and intent of the actions of jurisdictional Bishops at a moment in time, so that you might compare yourself to them, saying, 

"I thank thee, oh God, that we are not like that Jurisdiction over there!" 

Rather, the best way to show you are a true Orthodox Church is to be filled with the Holy Spirit of God thus exhibiting the fruits of the Spirit and the dunamis power of ministry. 

"By their fruits you shall know them."  

In this way the presence of God among you will be noised abroad.

The lack of such demonstration is to

"Have a form of Godliness but deny the power thereof," 

thus proving you are not a true Orthodox Church.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Yes! A Quality Feature Film! Orthodox Subject!

As a film producer, I am thrilled to see such quality work. No subtitles available on this clip and no other information as to the producers, but the fact that a film based on the life of a Russian Orthodox Saint has been made, is VERY encouraging. 

If you have a desire to see these types of films produced and have the means to financially invest in projects with Orthodox subjects, please go to My company, Rocky Top Pictures, is entering the investment phase. 

Where are all the Film Investors?

UPDATE: Note: Films, such as those produced by Rocky Top Pictures LLC. including Moses The Black are NOT financed through donations. Only qualified investors who are able to show their fiscal viability are legally allowed to invest and that under contract. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

JAILBIRD - A Riveting New Novel By The Sister Of JTO Author- UPDATE

UPDATE: Doing brisk sales! Order yours today...

What do John GottiTimothy McVeighKarla Faye Tucker and Omar Abdel-Rahman (also known as the Blind Sheik) have in common? My sister, Rebecca Lewis, was their chaplain. Read this riveting novel from this 30-year veteran of the county and federal prison systems. Available now on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.