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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Left Behind? I sure hope so!

"Left Behind"? Sure Hope So!
[This article was originally titled: Dissecting Dispensationalism or Judaism is a Religion not a Race]

In keeping with the purpose of this BLOG I won't provide a complete doctrinal or historic treatment on the theory of Dispensationalism. There are many good resources out there in which to dive a little deeper. Here, you will find definitions and outlines and a few personal perspectives to inform you as to the subject matter looking at the Dispensational view VS the Orthodox view. Being a former Dispensationalist I understand first hand the affront any opposition to the Dispensationalist way of thinking is. For years I thought that such a view was the predominant one, that all others were insignificant. Just the discovery that the Dispensational view of scripture and prophecy was the minority view and predominantly a western evangelical, relatively recent creation, was enough for me to start asking questions. My paradigm shift did not come instantly, but my willingness to question Dispensationalism came upon me suddenly.

One late night I was reading a book by an evangelical charismatic author. The whole of the book contained much that I would not adhere to today, but the most provocative thing I discovered was the fact that the author did not believe in the pre-tribulation rapture, the cornerstone of much Dispensational thought. The theory states that "All believers will be raptured from the Earth before Christ returns." The author simply challenged the reader to justify the usage of the scripture Matt.24: 37-41 as a proof text that believers would be snatched away off the earth and unbelievers would be "Left Behind".

"As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be when the Son of Man comes...they suspected nothing 'til the flood came and swept them all away...This is what it will be like when the Son of man comes...one is taken the other left."

The question presented was "who is actually left?.

I was a teenager in the 70's when the "good" contemporary Christian music was new and abundant. One of the most popular songs was "I Wish We'd All Been Ready", based on the passages from Matthew. "Two men walking up a hill, one disappears and one is left standing still. I wish we'd all been ready." One thing we all knew for sure, based on the premise of this song, we didn't want to be left behind! So the answer to the question posed that night, some 20 something years later, was found in the phrase, "As it was in the days of Noah". So how was it in the days of Noah?

Matthew 24: 37-41
"As it was in Noah's day, so will it be when the son of man comes. for in those days before the Flood people were eating and drinking, taking wives, taking husbands, right up to the day Noah went into the ark, and they suspected nothing till the flood came and SWEPT THEM ALL AWAY. This is what it will be like when the Son of man comes. Then of two men in the fields, one is taken the other left; of two women grinding at the mill, one is taken the other left."

Do you see it yet? Here is the scripture from Genesis:

Genesis 7:23-24

"Everything on the face of the earth was wiped out, people, animals, creeping things and birds; they were WIPED OFF THE EARTH AND ONLY NOAH WAS LEFT, AND THOSE WITH HIM IN THE ARK."

So as Matthew compares the coming of the Son of Man to Noah's day. Who was left? The righteous. Who was taken? The unrighteous. When I first discovered that this scripture had been usurped by the Dispensationalists to prove their hypothesis and interpreted to say the opposite of what it says, I had to ask myself a question. What other scriptures have been usurped?

My next major Epiphany was the discovery of Tim LaHaye's book "No Fear Of The Storm", a treatment on the Dispensational view of the Rapture. Now, I am educated but I don't hold claim to any special ability or intelligence. Even so, I found the reading of LaHay's book bringing back the elementary skills I had learned in Philosophy 101. A sound argument is sound and the conclusion is valid only if it begins with a solid premise. If premise A and premise B are true then conclusion C is true. Conversely, if either premise "A" or premise "B" is false then conclusion "C" is erroneous. I found LaHay's book not only to be full of hypothetical premises based on ideas and preconceptions rather than scriptural proofs, but on more than a few occasions there were outright contradictions. In one instance, LaHay denounces the accusation some have made that Dispensationalists believe in the three comings of Christ. In the next paragraph he refers, as fact, to the "third time Christ comes." I was so amazed by the unreasoned, contradictory, and unintelligent diatribe and the obvious effort to prove the Dispensational viewpoint in the absence of verifiable scriptural evidence, that I set out to simply outline the weakness of his ability to argue. Thanks be to God for my discovery that that had already been done. A man named Larry Simmons had already taken the time to outline all 14 of LaHay's "14 Reasons For Believing The Pre-Trib Rapture." For a deeper and more provocative study I highly recommend Simmons' free internet book, "Unmasking Pre-Trib Fallacies".

So my paradigm was shifted and soon came the discovery that what I had been raised in was not what the Church across the world believed. In fact, the Church as a whole looks upon the Dispensational theory as a bizarre and puzzling aberration that invaded the western evangelical movement just 150 years ago. The most common question I get when discussing this matter with any one is, "What difference does it make?" The premise here is that it is silly to argue over when or if Christians will be zapped off the earth before Christ returns or whether they will be "caught up to meeting him in the sky" at the end. The difference it makes is profound, for Dispensationalism isn't just about the Rapture but contains an entire system of theories and doctrinal treatments that redefine the relevance and definition of "Church", redefines the purposes and reasons for the coming of Christ and the New Covenant and promotes practices and mindsets that directly effect the way individuals live out their lives, prepare for persecution, and "work out their salvation." For example, look at the four basic points in the system of Dispensationalism in relation to the Church:

1. God has two distinct people, Israel and the Church, and is pursuing two different programs in history with them.
2. There is little or no continuity between Israel of the Old Testament and the New Testament Church.
3. The Church and the Church age (extending from Pentecost to the "Rapture") is a "parenthesis" or "intercalation" into history, the existence of which was not prophesied or foreshadowed in any way in the Old Testament.
4. Christ offered an earthly, political kingdom to the Jews, but they rejected him and so he formed a new people, the Church, from both Jews and Gentiles.
5. The New Covenant was not for the Church but for Israel, just as the Kingdom is a future, earthly reality meant only for the Jews and not a spiritual reality inaugurated by Christ and/or located in some way in the Church today. (See Matheson, Dispensationalism: Rightly Dividing the People of God? 1995, pp 17-18)

So if you believe in the Pre-Tribulation Rapture, just know that that theory comes out of the same system of beliefs that promotes the above five points. But what does the Church teach?

Contrary to the accusations made toward the Orthodox teaching on this matter, the Church does not negate the importance of Israel and the Old Covenant.

"Catholic doctrine emphasizes that the promises given to Old Testament Israel and the covenants made with it are brought to fulfillment in the New Covenant instituted by Christ. The Church and the New Covenant are in continuity with the Old Covenant and fulfill it precisely because Jesus Christ, the founder and head of the Church fulfilled the Law (Mt 5:17-18) and the prophets (Luke 24:44) and founded a New Israel (MT. 16:16-19.") ("Will Catholics Be Left Behind", pp 217-218)

So Israel is the Church and the Church is Israel. Dispensationalists share the same ideology as the Judaizers of Jesus day who looked for an earthly kingdom. Christ was very clear that that was not what he came to establish and yet the Dispensationalist still see the Modern-day Nation of Israel as the hope of the world and the fulfillment of biblical prophecy. They even assert that the temple must be rebuilt, that animal sacrifices must be reestablished, and that Christ will reign in this earthly kingdom for 1000 years. There is only one problem, it is not true and the Church has never taught it or held it to be true. This theory extends from just a few million evangelical, Dispensational, western, cultural diatribes who do not realize that they are giving more credence to the writings of men such as Darby, Scofield and Ryrie (who lived during the last 150 years) than the continuous teachings of the Fathers and Martyrs of the faith and the universal Church.

The Literal Interpretation Method
One word on the Literal Interpretation method used by Dispensationalists to arrive at doctrinal conclusions. While the Holy Scripture is true, it is not all "literally true." If one approaches the study of Dispensationalism, the Rapture, etc. using this approach, one subjects himself to a myriad of possible subjective interpretations. You will also find that the Literal interpretation method used by Dispensationalists to prove a text is done so without consistency. For instance, a Dispensationalist will say that "locusts" in a prophetic passage actually refer to modern-day helicopters. This is obviously not a literal interpretation. The same Dispensationalist will then interpret the usage of "1000" to mean a literal 1000 years. This presents a problem in light of how the term "1000" is used elsewhere. For instance: If "My Father owns the cattle on a 1000 hills (Ps 50:10)", who owns the cattle on hill number 1001? "1000" simply means "complete, all, forever." Yet, the Dispensationalist will interpret scripture based on this subjective method. A good rule of interpretation would include taking a look at what has been "taught at all times, in all places, by all the Church." Simply put, on any given doctrinal matter, look at what Christ said, then what the Apostles said, then what the Disciples of the Apostles (the Church Fathers) said, then verify it by the truth the Church has preserved for 2000 years. If you have problems with the disunity of the Church today seeing the divisions of Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant, then at least look at the doctrines established during the first 1054 years when the Church was ONE body. Ask yourself which is more reliable, the writings of modern men who look back and interpret the meaning of truth in isolation according to their own opinion, or the original foundation of truth-"The Church of the living God, pillar and support of truth." (1 Timothy 3:15)

The mindset of the Dispensationalist includes the idea that God had plan "A" that he offered to his chosen people, the Jews, but they rejected it, so God had to go with plan "B". He was forced to change his plan and form the Church to give the Jews time to turn things around. So, they say, the Church is just a temporary substitute until God's original plan can work itself out. This mindset follows the same theme as those who fully attribute the mess humanity is in with the choice Adam and Eve made. Would the Dispensationalist really suggest that God was taken by surprise in both instances? Did God say to himself in surprise:

"Damn it (I use the "literal" sense of the word) I had such a good plan set up and now I am going to have to do something else. Those pesty humans! They are so unpredictable! Oh, well...let's see..that's it. I 'll do this, this and this and see if that works. I hope they don't screw it up this time?"

Here is the question: Was God surprised when Adam and Eve sinned or did He know from the beginning that they would do so? Likewise, was God surprised when some (not all) of the Jews rejected him or did He know they would from the beginning? It is unimaginable that anyone would attribute to God such a wishy- washy, cause and effect, human attribute, but this is what the Dispensational theory does. The Church has always held that God's plan for mankind included the sin of Adam and Eve and the rejection of Him by the Jews. Man would be in need of a savior and God would become incarnate in Jesus the Christ to bring that salvation. The Old Testament Covenant is a forerunner of the New Covenant and salvation is extended to His chosen people-Israel- made up of Jews and Gentiles-The Church. We are not waiting for some future earthly Kingdom that hinges on the earthly Nation of Israel-the Jews. Dispensationalists fail to understand that Judaism is a religion not a race and that not all Jewish leaders consider the Nation of Israel the epicenter or the prophesied future of Judaism. Establishing His Church was God's plan from the beginning.We are awaiting the glorious return of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords to bring an end of the age (earthly humanity) and a beginning to eternity (Heavenly humanity). Members of the Jewish religion, along with members of any other religions who embrace Yeshua as the Messiah will be included.

Dispensationalism is an aberration from the truth. I hope you will not dismiss this article but will study on your own. to understand what the Church as a whole has held on this matter. I recommend the book "Will Catholics be Left Behind?" by Carl E. Olson, Ignatius Press.

The Downward Spiral Of The Remnant ROCOR Blog Co-Administrators



sacrilege
The intentional desecration or disrespectful treatment of a person, place, thing, or idea held sacred

In a disturbing act of sacrilege, Minas Michael Christie, co-administrator of the Remnant ROCOR blog with Joanna Higginbothm and Father Gregory Williams has photo-shopped and posted a photo containing the icons of Christ and the Theotokos, He has placed, what appears to be, a ventriloquist dummy over the icon of Christ, and over the Icon of the Theotokos is a child on a carnival carousel zebra, with, what appears to be, a man holding a machete and a severed head. The photo, has had its copyright obscured and is posted on a blog that Christie independently operates. The original copyrighted photo appears on the JTO blog to the right. Reader Nathan Lee Lewis, administrator of the JTO blog appears in the photo with the two icons in the background. The photo is taken in front of the altar of the Saint Symeon Mission where Reader Nathan Lee Lewis leads a Reader Service. The icons were originally blessed by the former priest Father Anastasious Hudson of the GOC, and hang over an altar that was built per his instructions and where he once officiated and blessed the holy Eucharist.

This downward spiral into this bizarre behavior follows a confrontation by Christie's own priest at which time Christie was asked to take down the offensive and ofttimes profane blog. Christie apparently refused to do so. In recent days JTO has posted several expose's of the conduct of Christie and Higginbotham, who participates on his blog. Father Gregory Williams has rejected requests to intervene or to curtail his co-administrator's on-line public conduct, although he is fully aware of the nature the conduct takes. In this it is hard to not consider him complicit in their conduct. Christie's blog is still linked as a "Member" blog on the Remnant ROCOR blog and Joanna Higginbotham continues to participate in the comment section on Christie's blog. With very few exceptions, Christie and Higginbotham are the only ones commenting on the blog. 

For one to mock another is serious enough. For one to mock another in public is serious still. For one to use the photos of holy icons as tools of mockery is a perverse act. 

"Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.…"

Sheriff Incident Report- Intimidation, Assault

A recent photo posted on the blog, KFTU.blogspot.com operated by Minas Michael Christie, has prompted the filing of an Incident Report with the Rutherford County Tennessee Sheriff's Department. The photo posted by Christie is of JTO Administrator Nathan Lee Lewis, with what appears to be a bloody bullet hole in his head. Previous photos depicted a wanted poster of Lewis, claiming he is "dangerous', a photo of a man holding a severed head beside a photo of Lewis, and photos of what Christie thought was Lewis' house, with instructions on how to find his address.

Christie, who has a multiple criminal arrest record and an extensive civil infraction record, is the blog partner of Joanna Higginbotham and Father Gregory Williams on the Remnant ROCOR blog. Higginbotham and Gregory are under Bishop Agafangel and Christie is part of a GOC church in Florida. Both Higginbotham and Gregory have refused repeated appeals to disassociate themselves from Christie. To his credit, Christie's own priest (name withheld) confronted Christie asking him to remove his vitriolic, profane, and threatening blog. Christie refused. It is not clear if any ecclesiastical action had been taken toward Christie.

Lewis, considering the post as a threat, initially contacted the Pinellas County Florida Sheriff's Department and made a phone report. He was referred to the Saint Petersberg Florida police department, who suggested he make an initial report with the Tennessee Sheriff, then the Saint Petersberg PD would consider action.

The following is the Incident Report filed with the Rutherford County Tennessee Sheriff' Department:


The Tennessee Sheriff Detective personally contacted the Saint Petersberg, Florida Police Department, who determined that, due to the distance, there was no current immediate threat. The Saint Petersberg Police detective investigating the incident recommended that the matter be referred to the Pinellas County Prosecuting Attorney's office to initiate an investigation under:

CRIMES Chapter 784
ASSAULT; BATTERY; CULPABLE NEGLIGENCE View Entire Chapter

Title XLVI deals with various Cyber Crimes and Misdemeanors. The detective also recommended monitoring Christie's blog and to contact them again should other such threatening messages be posted.

Chat with Agagangel

FACEBOOK MESSAGE CHAT BETWEEN
METROPOLITAN AGAFANGEL AND READER NATHAN
(Some google translate errors)
9/31/14-10/1/14
RN: Master Bless. Thank you for accepting my friend request. I appreciate your call for unity within the body of Christ. In keeping with that goal...Are you aware that a parishioner, under the pastorate of Father Gregory Williams, is publicly, via her blog Remnant Rocor, and under your name, is accusing your fellow Bishop, Metropolitan John LoBue and one of his priests, of Occult practices? Is this by your approval and is this your position? http://remnantrocor.blogspot.com/2014/09/occult-in-world-orthodoxy.html
Remnant ROCOR: Occult in world-orthodoxy
remnantrocor.blogspot.com
Tuesday 1:16pm

MA: I do not know. You turned to the priest Gregory Williams?
RN: Master Bless. Thank you for your gracious and quick response. Yes. He has indicated that he is at a loss with this woman, who also has attacked him. Please read my thorough expose' on this woman's acitvities under the banner of your name. http://journeytoorthodoxy.blogspot.com/2014/08/blogger-troll-confesses-to-criminal.html
Journey To Orthodoxy: Blogger Troll Confesses To Criminal Record- "Big deal"
journeytoorthodoxy.blogspot.com

MA: I, unfortunately, do not speak English. I find it hard to understand all the details. I think it can make a priest Gregory Williams.


[I begin to use Google Translate in Russian}


RN: Thank you, Master. I hope that this translation is adequate. You can also use Google translate on the blog I posted. Father Gregory was not able to reduce the negative activities of this woman that she is doing in your name. Do you have Maverick female blogger engaged independent poisonous discourse under the banner of your ministry. It causes discord among brethren, have been undermining the church, you are looking to protect. It has become a de facto spokesman for the English-speaking world through it a couple of blogs. She enlists the aide of men, not under your pastors, to help her in the personal destruction of characters godly people. It reports to no one, not even you, as she says, to jurisdictions and bishops, as one of your members. Her most recent work is to accuse Metropolitan John of occult activity. I appeal to you to help, for the peace of the Church of Christ and the good reputation of the church you pastor.
MA: Send me an e-mail. I will send to his father Gregory Williams. We can make a statement that this source does not belong to our church. agafangel.roca@gmail.com
RN: Master Bless! I will send you by email. Pray for me, a sinner!
Wednesday 12:44pm

RN: Master Bless! I emailed you requested.
MA: Thank you, I received your letter. Send to his father Gregory Williams and I will wait for his reply.


Chat Conversation End



Dear Father Gregory... we are still waiting...

Blogger Troll Receives Notice Of Pending Litigation - Federal Crime

[JTO Editor's Note: I write this article in the Third Person, hoping that it not be perceived as a personal defense of myself or anything that has occurred to me. For my part, I am content to allow God to use persecution to buffet my soul and have posted my view on such HERE. But, for the cause of Christ and His Holy Church I come to the defense of God's people who are the targets of an enemy who "roams to and fro, seeking whom he may devour."]


Minas Michael Christie, of Saint Petersburg, Florida, has received a cease and desist letter from a Nashville, Tennessee attorney, representing Nathan Lee Lewis, the author of the JTO blog and Executive Producer of Rocky Top Pictures, LLC. Sighting numerous infractions, the letter warns Christie of Copyright Infringement, which is a federal crime, punishable by fines and/or imprisonment and "demands that you immediately cease and desist all use of the infringing photographs and provide an accounting of all uses of the photographs..."


The letter focuses on Christie's activity on a Google blog he operates under the name Journey To Knuckleheads From The Underworld. The blog, operated under the Google name, MRXRISTIDIS, contains numerous copyrighted photos, used multiple times, and belonging to several owners, including Nathan Lee Lewis.  JTO has learned that at least one other attorney, representing a copyright owner, is preparing action against Christie.
"The blog appeared about a year ago", Lewis said. "I was mortified to see personal and copyrighted photos of my wife, daughters, grandchildren and myself displayed with vitriolic and mocking captions. My copyrighted photos from my business, blog, FaceBook, and church websites were also used as defamatory memes. Christie's blatancy and disregard for the law is astounding." Lewis said.
Although Christie's Knucklehead blog is his own, he is also co-administrator of an orthodox blog, Remnant ROCOR, operated by Joanna Higginbotham of Oregon and her priest Father Gregory Williams of Liberty, Tennessee. Ms. Higgingbotham is quoted heavily on Christie's blog and she is very active in the comment section. She also endorses Christie's Knucklehead blog via a link on the Remnant ROCOR blog, with this warning: "Caution-satire." Recently the "caution-satire" was changed to simply, "humor." Both Christie and Higginbotham's internet conduct were the focus of the August 7, 2014 JTO article, Blogger Troll Confesses To Criminal Record- Big Deal,  

In recent days, the Remnant ROCOR vitriolic posts, some of which also included copyrighted photos, have lessened, but Higginbotham's activity on Christie's blog have increased. Along with the link on Remnant ROCOR, Higginbotham has also posted an article specifically endorsing Christie's blog.

Lewis has confirmed that more than one legal course of action is being prepared against Christie,
"The copyright infringement issue is only the first stage in holding Mr. Christie accountable for his illegal actions," Lewis said. "There are also numerous documented accounts of his blatant lies regarding my character and business activities. His obvious intent to do me personal and financial harm through defamation and libel will not go unanswered. I am not only confronting this for my sake but for the sake of the other good and godly people, including clergy and their families, whom Christie continues to target."
On at least five occasions, Mr. Christie deliberately obscured Lewis' copyright mark, © 2014 Nathan Lee Lewis, from the photos by using a Paint or Photoshop feature or with a black bar. The U.S. Copyright Act. 17 U.S.C. 101 et seq, entitles a plaintiff to seek statutory damages of as much as $150,000 per act of infringement, but the intentional removal or manipulation of a copyright notice constitutes an additional, specific violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 1202(b), stating,
No person shall, without the authority of the copyright owner or the law, intentionally remove or alter any copyright management information knowing, or. with respect to civil remedies under section 1203, having reasonable grounds to know, that it will induce, enable, facilitate, or conceal an infringement of any right under title.


















The damages for violating 17 U.S.C. 1202 alone range from $2500 to $25,000 per violation, in addition to any damages for copyright infringement.

"If Christie honestly believes that he has the right of  "Fair Use" of the photos", Lewis said, "then why would he take the time to obscure the copyright marks on the photos? His position certainly will not stand a legal test."
Since Mr. Christie has reportedly published upwards to 100 copyrighted photos, he may have much for which to answer, particularly if other plaintiffs take action. A legal answer from Christie has been demanded by Lewis' attorney,
"If you fail to comply with the demands in this letter on or before (omitted), (omitted) reserves the right to take all necessary action to protect its rights without further notice to you."
According to Lewis, Christie missed the deadline and has yet to respond to the attorney's letter through legal channels, but initially confirmed that he received and read the letter, with a seemingly sarcastic and mocking comment he attempted to post on the JTO blog:
"Hi Nathan. I'm trying to get the [settlement offer omitted] together but I may need more time, my blood type isn't rare so they won't pay much for it at the blood bank. Also be assured that I'm working on putting everything on my hard drive on flash drives to send to you for review. I do need to be careful though as that damn Jezebel is keeping close tabs on me and may not approve of my action to settle up with you. I have a feeling she doesn't like you as much as I do and may punish me for cooperating with your requests. Please have mercy on me. Maybe you could pray for me, I could used a mediator like you between God and myself."
As of this post, Mr. Christie has failed to voluntarily remove the copyrighted photos from his blog and, in fact, has defiantly posted a new round of copyrighted photos belonging to Lewis, followed by a posting of the attorney's letter. In the post, Christie claims his right to use the photos and his refusal to remove them.
"It doesn't surprise me that Christie has pushed back," Lewis said, "but his arrogance is obscuring clear thinking. The letter contains his home address and he posted it for all to see. A very unsafe action in today's world. With the issue now being a legal matter and with Christie's obvious defiance", Lewis said, "my attorney is preparing the first of two law suits."
It is yet to be determined if Mr. Christie will continue to defy the law and ignore the Cease and Desist demand. Time will tell, but if it doesn't, litigation certainly will.

See Related JTO Articles:
Remnant ROCOR Co-Administrator Discovered In Gay On-line Chat
State Of Florida vs. Christie, Minas Michael

Friday, November 17, 2017

Kirill and Francis- Troubling Verbiage As I see It

I am told there is no movement by the MP to unite with Rome or to accept Rome as the second "lung" of Christianity.  The joint statement of Kirill and Frances is admirable in that the two leaders are united in opposing the evil of the world and preach the cessation of violence and persecution of Christians around the world. In the matter of communion with Rome as an authentic church with orthodox theology, there is the use of some verbiage that is troubling. I welcome a better interpretation as to the motives of Kirill, than what my common sense sees. I have highlighted the trouble spots in the joint statement. Please leave a comment...

***

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God the Father and the fellowship of the holy Spirit be with all of you (2 Cor 13:13).

1. By God the Father’s will, from which all gifts come, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the help of the Holy Spirit Consolator, we, Pope Francis and Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, have met today in Havana. We give thanks to God, glorified in the Trinity, for this meeting, the first in history.

It is with joy that we have met like brothers in the Christian faith who encounter one another to speak face to face (2 Jn. 12), from heart to heart, to discuss the mutual relations between the Churches, the crucial problems of our faithful, and the outlook for the progress of human civilization.

2. Our fraternal meeting has taken place in Cuba, at the crossroads of North and South, East and West. It is from this island, the symbol of the hopes of the “New World” and the dramatic events of the history of the twentieth century, that we address our words to all the peoples of Latin America and of the other continents.

It is a source of joy that the Christian faith is growing here in a dynamic way. The powerful religious potential of Latin America, its centuries–old Christian tradition, grounded in the personal experience of millions of people, is the pledge of a great future for this region.

3. By meeting far from the longstanding disputes of the “Old World”, we experience with a particular sense of urgency the need for the shared labor of Catholics and Orthodox, who are called, with gentleness and respect, to give an explanation to the world of the hope in us (cf. 1 Pet. 3:15).

4. We thank God for the gifts received from the coming into the world of His only Son. We share the same spiritual Tradition of the first millennium of Christianity. The witnesses of this Tradition are the Most Holy Mother of God, the Virgin Mary, and the saints we venerate. Among them are innumerable martyrs who have borne witness to their faithfulness to Christ and have become the “seed of Christians”.

5. Notwithstanding this shared Tradition of the first ten centuries, for nearly one thousand years Catholics and Orthodox have been deprived of communion in the Eucharist. We have been divided by wounds caused by old and recent conflicts, by differences inherited from our ancestors, in the understanding and expression of our faith in God, one in three Persons—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are pained by the loss of unity, the outcome of human weakness and of sin, which has occurred despite the priestly prayer of Christ the Savior: So that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you … so that they may be one, as we are one (Jn. 17:21).

6. Mindful of the permanence of many obstacles, it is our hope that our meeting may contribute to the re–establishment of this unity willed by God, for which Christ prayed. May our meeting inspire Christians throughout the world to pray to the Lord with renewed fervor for the full unity of all His disciples. In a world which yearns not only for our words but also for tangible gestures, may this meeting be a sign of hope for all people of goodwill!

7. In our determination to undertake all that is necessary to overcome the historical divergences we have inherited, we wish to combine our efforts to give witness to the Gospel of Christ and to the shared heritage of the Church of the first millennium, responding together to the challenges of the contemporary world. Orthodox and Catholics must learn to give unanimous witness in those spheres in which this is possible and necessary. Human civilization has entered into a period of epochal change. Our Christian conscience and our pastoral responsibility compel us not to remain passive in the face of challenges requiring a shared response.

8. Our gaze must firstly turn to those regions of the world where Christians are victims of persecution. In many countries of the Middle East and North Africa whole families, villages and cities of our brothers and sisters in Christ are being completely exterminated. Their churches are being barbarously ravaged and looted, their sacred objects profaned, their monuments destroyed. It is with pain that we call to mind the situation in Syria, Iraq and other countries of the Middle East, and the massive exodus of Christians from the land in which our faith was first disseminated and in which they have lived since the time of the Apostles, together with other religious communities.

9. We call upon the international community to act urgently in order to prevent the further expulsion of Christians from the Middle East. In raising our voice in defense of persecuted Christians, we wish to express our compassion for the suffering experienced by the faithful of other religious traditions who have also become victims of civil war, chaos and terrorist violence.

10. Thousands of victims have already been claimed in the violence in Syria and Iraq, which has left many other millions without a home or means of sustenance. We urge the international community to seek an end to the violence and terrorism and, at the same time, to contribute through dialogue to a swift return to civil peace. Large–scale humanitarian aid must be ensured to the afflicted populations and to the many refugees seeking safety in neighboring lands.

We call upon all those whose influence can be brought to bear upon the destiny of those kidnapped, including the Metropolitans of Aleppo, Paul and John Ibrahim, who were taken in April 2013, to make every effort to ensure their prompt liberation.

11. We lift our prayers to Christ, the Savior of the world, asking for the return of peace in the Middle East, the fruit of justice (Is. 32:17), so that fraternal co–existence among the various populations, Churches and religions may be strengthened, enabling refugees to return to their homes, wounds to be healed, and the souls of the slain innocents to rest in peace.

We address, in a fervent appeal, all the sides that may be involved in the conflicts to demonstrate good will and to take part in the negotiating table. At the same time, the international community must undertake every possible effort to end terrorism through common, joint and coordinated action. We call on all countries involved in the struggle against terrorism to responsible and prudent action. We exhort all Christians and all believers of God to pray fervently to the providential Creator of the world to protect His creation from destruction and not permit a new world war. In order to ensure a solid and enduring peace, specific efforts must be undertaken to rediscover the common values uniting us, based on the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

12. We bow before the martyrdom of those who, at the cost of their own lives, have given witness to the truth of the Gospel, preferring death to the denial of Christ. We believe that these martyrs of our times, who belong to various Churches but who are united by their shared suffering, are a pledge of the unity of Christians. It is to you who suffer for Christ’s sake that the word of the Apostle is directed: Beloved … rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly (1 Pet. 4:12–13).

13. Interreligious dialogue is indispensable in our disturbing times. Differences in the understanding of religious truths must not impede people of different faiths to live in peace and harmony. In our current context, religious leaders have the particular responsibility to educate their faithful in a spirit which is respectful of the convictions of those belonging to other religious traditions. Attempts to justify criminal acts with religious slogans are altogether unacceptable. No crime may be committed in God’s name, since God is not the God of disorder but of peace (1 Cor. 14:33).

14. In affirming the foremost value of religious freedom, we give thanks to God for the current unprecedented renewal of the Christian faith in Russia, as well as in many other countries of Eastern Europe, formerly dominated for decades by atheist regimes. Today, the chains of militant atheism have been broken and in many places Christians can now freely confess their faith. Thousands of new churches have been built over the last quarter of a century, as well as hundreds of monasteries and theological institutions. Christian communities undertake notable works in the fields of charitable aid and social development, providing diversified forms of assistance to the needy. Orthodox and Catholics often work side by side. Giving witness to the values of the Gospel they attest to the existence of the shared spiritual foundations of human co–existence.

15. At the same time, we are concerned about the situation in many countries in which Christians are increasingly confronted by restrictions to religious freedom, to the right to witness to one’s convictions and to live in conformity with them. In particular, we observe that the transformation of some countries into secularized societies, estranged from all reference to God and to His truth, constitutes a grave threat to religious freedom. It is a source of concern for us that there is a current curtailment of the rights of Christians, if not their outright discrimination, when certain political forces, guided by an often very aggressive secularist ideology, seek to relegate them to the margins of public life.

16. The process of European integration, which began after centuries of blood–soaked conflicts, was welcomed by many with hope, as a guarantee of peace and security. Nonetheless, we invite vigilance against an integration that is devoid of respect for religious identities. While remaining open to the contribution of other religions to our civilization, it is our conviction that Europe must remain faithful to its Christian roots. We call upon Christians of Eastern and Western Europe to unite in their shared witness to Christ and the Gospel, so that Europe may preserve its soul, shaped by two thousand years of Christian tradition.

17. Our gaze is also directed to those facing serious difficulties, who live in extreme need and poverty while the material wealth of humanity increases. We cannot remain indifferent to the destinies of millions of migrants and refugees knocking on the doors of wealthy nations. The unrelenting consumerism of some more developed countries is gradually depleting the resources of our planet. The growing inequality in the distribution of material goods increases the feeling of the injustice of the international order that has emerged.

18. The Christian churches are called to defend the demands of justice, the respect for peoples’ traditions, and an authentic solidarity towards all those who suffer. We Christians cannot forget that God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, that no human being might boast before God (1 Cor. 1:27–29).

19. The family is the natural center of human life and society. We are concerned about the crisis in the family in many countries. Orthodox and Catholics share the same conception of the family, and are called to witness that it is a path of holiness, testifying to the faithfulness of the spouses in their mutual interaction, to their openness to the procreation and rearing of their children, to solidarity between the generations and to respect for the weakest.

20. The family is based on marriage, an act of freely given and faithful love between a man and a woman. It is love that seals their union and teaches them to accept one another as a gift. Marriage is a school of love and faithfulness. We regret that other forms of cohabitation have been placed on the same level as this union, while the concept, consecrated in the biblical tradition, of paternity and maternity as the distinct vocation of man and woman in marriage is being banished from the public conscience.

21. We call on all to respect the inalienable right to life. Millions are denied the very right to be born into the world. The blood of the unborn cries out to God (cf. Gen. 4:10). The emergence of so-called euthanasia leads elderly people and the disabled to begin to feel that they are a burden on their families and on society in general. We are also concerned about the development of biomedical reproduction technology, as the manipulation of human life represents an attack on the foundations of human existence, created in the image of God. We believe that it is our duty to recall the immutability of Christian moral principles, based on respect for the dignity of the individual called into being according to the Creator’s plan.

22. Today, in a particular way, we address young Christians. You, young people, have the task of not hiding your talent in the ground (cf. Mt. 25:25), but of using all the abilities God has given you to confirm Christ’s truth in the world, incarnating in your own lives the evangelical commandments of the love of God and of one’s neighbor. Do not be afraid of going against the current, defending God’s truth, to which contemporary secular norms are often far from conforming.

23. God loves each of you and expects you to be His disciples and apostles. Be the light of the world so that those around you may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father(cf. Mt. 5:14, 16). Raise your children in the Christian faith, transmitting to them the pearl of great price that is the faith (cf. Mt. 13:46) you have received from your parents and forbears. Remember that you have been purchased at a great price (1 Cor. 6:20), at the cost of the death on the cross of the God-Man Jesus Christ.

24. Orthodox and Catholics are united not only by the shared Tradition of the Church of the first millennium, but also by the mission to preach the Gospel of Christ in the world today. This mission entails mutual respect for members of the Christian communities and excludes any form of proselytism. We are not competitors but brothers, and this concept must guide all our mutual actions as well as those directed to the outside world. We urge Catholics and Orthodox in all countries to learn to live together in peace and love, and to be in harmony with one another (Rm. 15:5). Consequently, it cannot be accepted that disloyal means be used to incite believers to pass from one Church to another, denying them their religious freedom and their traditions. We are called upon to put into practice the precept of the apostle Paul: Thus I aspire to proclaim the gospel not where Christ has already been named, so that I do not build on another’s foundation (Rm. 15:20).

25. It is our hope that our meeting may also contribute to reconciliation wherever tensions exist between Greek Catholics and Orthodox. It is today clear that the past method of “uniatism”, understood as the union of one community to the other, separating it from its Church, is not the way to re–establish unity. Nonetheless, the ecclesial communities which emerged in these historical circumstances have the right to exist and to undertake all that is necessary to meet the spiritual needs of their faithful, while seeking to live in peace with their neighbors. Orthodox and Greek Catholics are in need of reconciliation and of mutually acceptable forms of co–existence.

26. We deplore the hostility in Ukraine that has already caused many victims, inflicted innumerable wounds on peaceful inhabitants and thrown society into a deep economic and humanitarian crisis. We invite all the parts involved in the conflict to prudence, to social solidarity and to action aimed at constructing peace. We invite our Churches in Ukraine to work towards social harmony, to refrain from taking part in the confrontation, and to not support any further development of the conflict.

27. It is our hope that the schism between the Orthodox faithful in Ukraine may be overcome through existing canonical norms, that all the Orthodox Christians of Ukraine may live in peace and harmony, and that the Catholic communities in the country may contribute to this, in such a way that our Christian brotherhood may become increasingly evident.

28. In the contemporary world, which is both multiform yet united by a shared destiny, Catholics and Orthodox are called to work together fraternally in proclaiming the Good News of salvation, to testify together to the moral dignity and authentic freedom of the person, so that the world may believe (Jn. 17:21). This world, in which the spiritual pillars of human existence are progressively disappearing, awaits from us a compelling Christian witness in all spheres of personal and social life. Much of the future of humanity will depend on our capacity to give shared witness to the Spirit of truth in these difficult times.

29. May our bold witness to God’s truth and to the Good News of salvation be sustained by the God-Man Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, who strengthens us with the unfailing promise: Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom (Lk. 12:32)!

Christ is the well–spring of joy and hope. Faith in Him transfigures human life, fills it with meaning. This is the conviction borne of the experience of all those to whom Peter refers in his words: Once you were ‘no people’ but now you are God’s people; you ‘had not received mercy’ but now you have received mercy (1 Pet. 2:10).

30. With grace–filled gratitude for the gift of mutual understanding manifested during our meeting, let us with hope turn to the Most Holy Mother of God, invoking her with the words of this ancient prayer: “We seek refuge under the protection of your mercy, Holy Mother of God”. May the Blessed Virgin Mary, through her intercession, inspire fraternity in all those who venerate her, so that they may be reunited, in God’s own time, in the peace and harmony of the one people of God, for the glory of the Most Holy and indivisible Trinity!


Kirill

Patriarch of Moscow

and all Russia

Francis

Bishop of Rome,

Pope of the Catholic Church

Defenders of the Faith?

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Are You An Alien?

It was not a doctrine that first led me to question whether or not the Southern Baptist Church was the true New Testament church.  It was the inconsistency of their argument. "Alien  Immersion" was the litmus test as to how or if a person could be received as a member of a local Southern Baptist Church. It was the idea that anyone coming from another religious denomination, who desired to become a Southern Baptist, must be baptized in and by the Southern Baptist church, their former baptism having been accomplished by an alien group. and therefore without merit. 

I saw this argument in very clear terms. Southern Baptists were saying that they were the ONLY "True New Testament Church", thus all others were false. The glaring inconsistency was their refusal to admit or say that they were the only True New Testament Church, and believe me, I challenged them to do so. In fact, they denied they were saying that. To their credit, they at least had some fear of God in that they refused to state that the Grace of God existed nowhere else other than with them. It is one thing to believe what you believe and to faithfully adhere to the tenets of a religious dogma, structure and practice. It is another altogether to denounce all others as without grace.

Jump now to Orthodoxy, splintered into so many jurisdictions, administrations, and cultures. The Orthodox faith is consistent in doctrine and practice with allowances being made for cultural influences. The doctrines are the same. The liturgies are the same, The faith is the same. Divisions have come through questions of authenticity of Bishops. If the Bishop has authentic succession then the Bishop is authentic. However, bishops do tread in perilous territory and do create a class of aliens, when they, by their own evaluation, determine who is and who is not authentic, who does and who does not have the Grace of God in their mysteries. The results of this ideology is particularly highlighted in smaller jurisdictions or metropolias. Like my experience with the Southern Baptists, it is the inconsistency of the argument that is glaring. 

I once was making plans for an extended trip to California. Being a tonsured reader I wanted to adhere to protocol in what church or group with which I might commune while there. I asked one of our leading priests and was told, "There is none." Like my experience with the Baptists, I saw this argument in very clear terms. My Orthodox Metropolia was telling me that in all of California there was not one other authentic Orthodox Church. Making this determination takes much energy and must, by its nature, become the core of the mission of any Metropolia- rooting out the false jurisdictions and presenting itself as the True Orthodox Metropolia. The Southern Baptists with whom I communicated at least had the fear of God. This Metropolia had no such fear and was even brazen and dogmatic that they were INDEED, the Only True Orthodox Metropolia, although they might allow for a few other Bishops with whom they were hoping to unite. It follows that all other Orthodox Metropolias were without the Grace of God, particularly in their mysteries.  It also follows that this would include the Monks on Mount Athos since they are not directly in communion with that Metropolia. The evolution of this mindset is isolation and cultism. 

Anyone could and should admire a Bishop or Metropolitan who strives to keep the faith pure of heresy and free of wolves who would attempt enter to adulterate the faith, however, should a Metropolitan, Bishop, Priest, Parish, or communicant deteriorate to such a Pharisaical stance we are the authentic, and all others are alien, they will have become the very adulterers and wolves they sought to eliminate. 


"To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ 

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ 



“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

"You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: Love your neighbor as yourself. If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other..." 

"A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them."

Here is a Biblical litmus test of the "Are You An Alien" mindset: Does a Bishop or a group that holds such a limited view of the dispensing of God's Grace see growth in their numbers? Do they see the fulfilling of the Great Commission to "go into all the world" and reach the lost and the dying? Or are they content or preoccupied with fighting battles of jurisdictional purity and honor themselves for being "small" but a "remnant" as if that is a mandate of God and a sign that they are the chosen ones? Do they have more clergy than parishioners?

Indeed, by their fruit you will know whether or not they are in line with the God they claim to serve.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Problem In Crete

“How could it happen that the Holy and Great Council on Crete called heterodox heretical communities ‘Churches? They said, wrote, and signed the term 'heterodox Christian Churches.' So now heretics have become a ‘Church?’ Then what one Church do we talk about in the Symbol of Faith?... The worst part... is that in calling the heterodox ‘Churches,’ they gave it weight, presenting the matter in such a way as if this position has historical justification: The Orthodox Church accepts the historical name of other heterodox Christian Churches and Confessions…’ What does ‘historical name’ mean? When and where did the Holy Fathers call heresies and schisms ‘Churches?’ Nowhere and never! ... we do not recognize heresies and schisms as ‘Churches.’” METROPOLITAN JEREMIAH OF GORTYS
Full Article HERE

Monday, April 03, 2017

They Are Powerless!

Liars are always most disposed to swear. -- Vittorio Alfieri

The less you respond to rude, critical, argumentative people? The more peaceful your life will become. -- Mandy Hale

Don't let negative and toxic people rent space in your head. Raise the rent and kick them out! -- Robert Tew

Always ignore hateful attitude and rude behavior of the people. They are powerless without your response. -- Bushra Zarrar Rana