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.