Wednesday, April 4, 2012

On the Introduction of protestantism into Orthodoxy

Why do we, the stewards and guardians of truth, seek to introduce foreign practices, thereby allowing foreign beliefs, into our church? Our church fathers, those great defenders of the Christian faith, did not seek to adopt from those outside of the church, like the gnostics, but set themselves apart from them. Pointing out the error of their belief while demonstrating the truth in Orthodox Christianity. Our foundation speaks to us, namely the early apologists, every one of which wrote several works entitled against.

I think it is important that we ask ourselves, what (spirit) is it that moves the light to seek unity with darkness? What moves the water to seek to be one with oil? And what moves the clay to desire union with iron? Did not God create both dark and light separate from one another, both distinctly different from one another? And isn’t oil of a different substance than water? Do not both have its purpose, being created similar but also very different? What of clay, can it be mixed with iron? 

If it is acceptable to unite, based solely on a few areas of minor agreements, then our foundation is cracked, and therefore compromised. There was a spirit of unity present in the early church, however in a much different form and a much different spirit. Unity in Orthodoxy is in joining ones self to the Church, as Irenaeus states, not in adopting practices, thereby validating the beliefs from whence these practices come. The spirit of today seems to say that we can unite because we all believe in Christ, whom we share no common opinion. And on this basis we unite to those who claim to be Christian, yet oppose everything we hold sacred and have deemed necessary for salvation. Many even rejecting the Eucharist, which is to reject Christ, on the basis that it is merely a symbol. This idea of us all being one is a theosophical idea, and theosophy is opposed to Christianity. Why would this spirit tell the early church fathers to be vehemently opposed and then in todays age, tell the very opposite? Because it is not the same spirit, we are essentially buying into this theosophical idea of oneness. 

What is it that makes protestantism diametrically opposed to Orthodoxy? We need to look at the foundation of protestantism to better understand it. Luther initially sought to reform the corrupt practices of the latin church, when these were rejected by the papacy and Luther subsequently excommunicated, he unleashed a torrent of unbiblical teachings. Luther asserted in “On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church” that the Church had been overcome, that the Pope was the anti-Christ and that Christ’s return was imminent. This is completely unbiblical, Christ tells us in Mt. 16:18 that nothing will overcome His church. Luther also is credited with the creation of sola scriptura. He sought to return to the early church, and concluded that scripture alone is the sole authority of God. This again is unbiblical as not one place in scripture is this found. Scripture is certainly an authority but not the sole authority. Upon this unbiblical doctrine Luther founded protestantism. He therefore decided that all but three sacraments were necessary, and in doing this had set the precedence for all protestants to follow, self appointed authority to decide what is right and wrong based on ones own personal interpretation of scripture.

Is this dangerous to our church? For the vast majority of protestantism, Christianity is reduced to its simplest form. The sacraments, if present, are mere symbols and have no real meaning. The bias that exists against anything even resembling Catholicism is still present, in any protestant church I attended it was present indeed. Protestantism does not just deny what we deem necessary for salvation, they actively protest against what we deem necessary for salvation. To prove this point, I will present some quotes from protestants who were present in Egypt. The following are several quotes taken from Heather J. Sharkey's American Evangelicals in Egypt: Missionary Encouters In An Age of Empire (2008). 

In 1854 American Presbyterian missionaries arrived in Egypt as part of a larger Anglo-American Protestant movement that aimed for universal evangelization. (pg. 1)

Missionaries established a new Egyptian Protestant church, called the Evangelical Church, and spurred the indigenous Coptic Orthodox Church to revise its modes of worship. They started social service projects such as youth clubs that were so popular that Egyptian Muslim and Coptic Orthodox leaders rushed to develop homegrown alternatives. (pg. 2)

By the late 1930s, it was becoming more difficult for the mission even to attract Copts into the Evangelical Church. Having risen to the challenge of Protestant and Catholic missionaries, the Coptic Orthodox Church was increasingly vibrant in its modes of worship and social outreach such that, as missionaries acknowledged, Copts had fewer reasons to leave it. (pg. 6)

In the second half of the nineteenth century, the American missionaries tried to bring Copts into the Evangelical community as a way of prompting a reformation within the Coptic Orthodox Church. (pgs. 18-19)

After 1854, American missionaries in Egypt repeatedly stated that the Coptic Orthodox Church was a dead church – sometimes also calling it a “mummified” or “embalmed” church. “Christian in name, Christian in form,” Andrew Watson wrote, “[the Coptic church] was well typified by the mummified human body taken out of the tombs.” As evidence of its lifelessness they pointed to what they claimed had been its failure to withstand the rise of Islam beginning in the seventh century, its hemorrhaging of Christian believers to the Muslim fold, and its subjection to Muslim tyranny in centuries that followed. (pg. 19)

Reflecting on the situation in Egypt where he had served since 1861, Andrew Watson elaborated in 1906,
  The purpose of the mission was not as has been reported in some places, to labour among the various Christian sects especially, but to preach and teach the pure gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ to Jews, Moslems and nominal Christians where and when the opportunity offered. It so happened that God in His providence opened the door to the Copts, who, it would be easy to prove, were at the time in great ignorance of the Word of God. . .
(pgs. 19-20)

The Americans decided not to focus on urban, educated Coptic men (many of whom were accountants and tax collectors in government employ) but rather on Coptic fellahin, reasoning that, among “poor and simple-minded peasants,” “the gospel had the freest course.” (pg. 20)

Lansing recounts stories about his visits. . .and describes what he regarded as Egyptian laziness and despotism as well as the Coptic church’s intrinsic corruption. (pg. 21)

Lansing’s case against Coptic Orthodox practice was typical of American missionary accounts of the period. Coptic Orthodox worship, he claimed, consisted of monotonous rituals in which priests chanted masses and prayers in a “dead” language (liturgical Coptic) that no ordinary Copt understood. The penchant for ritual extended to what he regarded as incessant fasting, excessive veneration of Mary (what missionaries sometimes called “Mariolatry”), and saint worship. Priests were poorly educated – and even bishops drank “arrack” (‘araq, a hard liquor of the local variety). (pg. 21)

Lansing claims that the Arabic Bible was having an impact. He notes that in some places Coptic priests were beginning to read the Arabic Bible aloud in Church, in lieu of the Coptic text, and records that until their relations soured, the bishop of Luxor allowed him to deliver Arabic language sermons before the Coptic masses. (pg. 22)

Moreover, while the Americans in Egypt often described followers of Coptic Orthodoxy as “nominal Christians” in need of reform, they generally refrained from describing Roman Catholics as Christians or from mentioning Catholic at all. (pg. 29)

Upon arriving in Egypt in 1854, the American missionaries decided that the Coptic Orthodox Church was hopelessly corrupt and in need of a Protestant-style reformation. (pg. 30)
Unlike the CMS missionaries, the American Presbyterians had little hope of Coptic self-reformation. They also had little respect for the hierarchy of bishops that characterized the Coptic Orthodoxy and Anglicanism. (pgs. 34-35)

The Americans in Egypt had to clear ideas about how church life should work, reflecting their evangelical and Presbyterian sensibilities. First, they maintained that the Bible, like prayer and collective worship, should be presented in plain language that believers could understand. Thus Arabic should be the language of the Bible, prayer, and worship in Egypt, just as English was the primary language in the United States. Liturgical Coptic had no place in their scheme. Second, the Americans believed that the members of the congregation should play leading roles in running the church. Laymen, not only clergymen, should make church decisions on local (congregational), regional (presbytery-wide), and national (synod-wide) levels – in an “ascending series of judicatories” – by consensus or voting. (pg. 35)

Writing in 1914, for example, the missionary Rena Hogg claimed that the abiding aim of her father, the Rev. John Hogg, in the earliest years of the American mission was “not to make the Coptic Church United Presbyterian but [simply] to make her Christian.” (pg. 35)

Local “Evangelicals” (as Egyptian Presbyterians were becoming known) were already evangelizing in tandem with American missionaries. For example, Makhiel, the former Coptic monk, was distributing Arabic Bibles and “testif[ying]. . .to the doctrine of salvation by Christ,” while another Copt named Awad Hanna was accompanying missionaries on the riverboat expedition stopping to explain “the rottenness and ruin of the Coptic church” to Coptic villagers and townsfolk who would listen. (pg. 36)

Meinardus calls the second half of the nineteenth century a period of “the Coptic Enlightenment”. . .One of the prime features of this “enlightenment,” as understood by Coptic Orthodox historians, was the development of a laymen’s movement that convened the first Coptic communal council, called the Majlis al-Milli, in 1874. The council contained elected representatives who intended, in the euphemistic words of Meinardus, to “share with the patriarchate the burden of supervising the financial and civil affairs of the Copts.” Otherwise phrased, the Majlis al-Milli represented an attempt among educated Coptic Orthodox laymen to assert their voice in the running of church affairs; it posed a challenge to the ecclesiastical hegemony of the patriarch and his bishops. In its conception and scope, the Majlis al-Milli resembled the Evangelical Church’s presbyterial structure – and this resemblance was no accident. (pgs. 44-45)

[S.S. Hasan] also suggest that the Protestants posed an even greater threat to Coptic Orthodoxy than did the Roman Catholics: “However much the Orthodox Church objected to the Catholics, their fiercest ire was reserved for Protestants. The latter were far more aggressive in competing for converts and were scornful of Orthodox ritual, in a way that the more traditional Catholics were not.” For this reason, she explains, “The label Protestant remains a damning epithet to this day in Orthodox circles.” (pg. 45)
The following is correspondence from the Church Mission Society about the Coptic Orthodox Church:
i. 1752, Moravian Brethren. " all their conversation to endeavour to direct attention to the essence of Christianity ... and teach them how, by means of Jesus' merits, they might obtain rest for their souls, true holiness of life, and evangelical liberty, which leave the conscience unfettered by human traditions".
ii. 1850, Church Mission Society. "The missionaries seem to follow almost too strictly the plan on which the mission was begun, to seek the friendship of the clergy, especially the higher clergy of the Eastern Churches, with a view of influencing them gently, in the hope that by slow degrees they would become convinced of their errors and themselves reform their respective Churches. But the system has failed... Individual conversions [of Copts] must be the aim, as the only means of prosecuting reformation".
iii. 1850, Church Mission Society. "Through the Church Mission Society missionaries throughout the Nile Valley, hundreds of persons had their knowledge of the way of salvation corrected, their faith directed away from their own works, to the death and suffering and obedience of the Son of God as the reason and ground of salvation from sin and its consequences".
iv. 1852. "Rev Mr. Leider has done good among the Copts, and the young men whom he has instructed refuse on conscientious grounds to enter the priesthood of this corrupt Church. The American Missionary Association has resolved to establish a Mission among the Copts".
v. 1896. "[The Copts] must have had some glimpse of the light that illumines the soul and leads up to the throne of God. To help such a people [the Copts] to loosen themselves from the chains of superstition, and to come out of the dungeon of darkness into which their surroundings had imprisoned them, and lead them forth into the light and liberty of the Christian faith, is surely a duty and a Christian privilege".
These quotes are a glimpse into the protestant mindset. This graphically shows how protestantism views the Orthodox Church, with contempt. The view is clear that protestantism feels Orthodoxy is not Christian and seeks to “reform” us. This would mean eliminating the sacraments, at least all but three and eliminating the priesthood entirely. Luther claimed, at the Diet of Worms, that the clergy had exalted itself above the congregation and that we are all priests in the congregation of the Lord. This is eerily reminiscent of Korah’s rebellion in Numbers 16. Korah asked Moses and Aaron the exact same question, “Why do you exalt yourself above the congregation, don’t you know, we are all holy in the congregation of the Lord.” The Lord destroyed Korah and his followers swiftly and brutally, yet Luther says nearly the same thing. Has God changed? 

Satan has attacked our church physically, he has caused dissention and schism by attacking the deity of Christ, as well as attacking the very nature of Christ. His attacks on the church do not stop because, as Irenaeus says it “tends to the salvation of man”. Notice, protestantism generally does not attack the deity of Christ, it does not generally attack, if even addresses, the nature of Christ. What is being attacked here is what Christ has given us, the very means by which we are saved, the church. Satan has mimicked the church and made a more alluring and far easier version of the church which is all too appealing for our youth. When the devil came to St. Hermina, the first thing he said, is that he should not fast so much. He then praised St. Hermina and tried to lure him to the city, where he could tempt the Saint. Now, satan came as an angel of light, but the saint was still unsure. St. Hermina eventually overcame satan, but the point here is that satan tries to lure us by appealing to our weakness. He tells us protestantism is Christian, but is far easier than Orthodoxy, its not “religious”, but a personal relationship with God. 

What is the spirit that moves within protestantism? That same one who said “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation
On the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.” (Is. 14:13,14) He who desire to be like the Most High, moved Korah to exalt himself by asking Moses and Aaron, “Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?” Thereby exalting himself by bringing them down. This same rebellious spirit moved Martin Luther, who said that we are all priests in the congregation of the Lord. Was it not this very same spirit who convinced Adam and Eve they could become “like God”? Each and every time it is the sin of pride, convincing one that he or she is equal to God or the appointed authority of God. Satan exalted himself and was condemned, therefore he deceives us in the very same way, he did this with Korah, and he did the exact same thing with Luther. Opening our door to this is to open our door to the devil himself.

Protestantism continues this rebellion and it is this spirit that attacks God, His Church, and the very sacraments necessary for our salvation. How could anything that rejects the Church be considered Christian or even worth our time? Protestantism is a rebellion against the Church that Christ founded, why adopt practices of those opposed to us? Would not validating a rebellion bring about more rebellion?
       Being part of the apostolic church is just as important as faith in Christ and let us bring forth witnesses who will testify on our behalf. What the church fathers have to say about those who reside outside of the church, church authority, and the importance of the church should give us an understanding of our current situation.

St. Clement of Rome
“Our Apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that there would be contention over the bishops office. So, for this cause, having received complete fore knowledge, they appointed the above mentioned names, and afterwards gave them a permanent character, so that, as they died, other approved men should succeed their ministry. Those, therefore, who were appointed by the Apostles or afterwards by other eminent men, with the consent of the whole church, and who ministered blamelessly to the flock of Christ in humility, peaceably and nobly, being commended for many years by all. Those men we consider are not justly deposed from their ministry.”

St. Clement was writing to the Corinthians who had become somewhat rebellious towards the clergy. Here he vaguely defines apostolic succession, but shows us there is a heirarchal structure of the Church. What is most interesting about this passage is St. Clement’s mention of “complete foreknowledge” that was given to the Apostles. St. Clement does not simply say foreknowledge but complete foreknowledge. This suggests that Christ gave the apostles all they would need, and essentially, all the Church would need. According to St. Clement, a disciple of the Apostles, Christ had taught them things that are not contained within scripture. So Christ gave them complete foreknowledge, meaning that the Church would not be in need of new doctrines or practices in order to operate. St. Clement then goes on to admonish the Corinthians for rebelling against their clergy, stating: “It is disgraceful, beloved, very disgraceful and unworthy of your training in Christ, to hear that the stable and ancient church of the Corinthians, on account of one or two persons, should revolt against its presbyters. And this report has come not only to us, but also to those who dissent from us. The result is that blasphemies are brought upon the name of the Lord through your folly, and danger accrues for yourselves.”  St. Clement is chastising the church for their rebelliousness. He gives them a very stern warning that because of this, blasphemies are brought on the name of the Lord and that they put themselves into danger. Interestingly enough, this occurred on account of one or two people. The whole of the congregation went sour because of a couple of people. This demonstrates that it does not take much for a group to be led astray. St. Clement refers to the church of Corinth as once being “stable”. The priesthood is a Godly institution, revolting against it is to revolt against God. (Num. 16) 
St. Ignatius of Antioch
“I exhort you to be careful to do all things in the harmony of God, the bishop having the primacy after the model of God and the priests after the model of the council of the Apostles, and the deacons (who are so dear to me) having entrusted to them the ministry of Jesus Christ, who from eternity was with the Father and at last appeared to us.” 

The harmony of God, according to St. Ignatius, is the Orthodox Church. Both St. Clement and St. Ignatius warn us to follow the Churches bishop, priests, and deacons. Both consider these offices as being Godly institutions. Why is this Orthodox? We have adhered to this  church structure since the beginning of the Christian Church. Why is the Orthodox Church “harmony”? Because we “perform all the things which the Lord has commanded us to perform at appointed times. He has commanded offerings and ministrations to be carried out, and not carelessly or disorderly, but at fixed times and seasons.” (St. Clement of Rome, SRC) Orthodoxy follows a calendar to which we live out the life of Christ every year. There are appointed epistles and Gospel readings for each day, feasts and fasts according to the season. Our bishops and priests perform the ministrations or sacraments necessary for our salvation, not carelessly or disorderly. St. Ignatius continues: “Anyone who is within the sanctuary is pure and anyone who is outside is impure, that is to say, no one who acts apart from the bishops, priests, and deacons has a clear conscience.” This is a harsh reality taught to us by all the church fathers, wether we like it or not, the church is the ark of salvation and those seeking refuge outside her will ultimately drown. Essentially those acting, knowingly, apart from the bishop are acting according to their own authority. In his letter to the Philadelphians St. Ignatius makes another thing clear: “All who belong to God and Jesus Christ are with the bishop. And those, too, will belong to God who have returned, repentant, to the unity of the Church, so as to live in accordance with Jesus Christ. Make no mistake, brethren, no one follows another into schism inherits the kingdom of God. (1 Cor. 6:9) No one who follows heretical doctrine is on the side of the Passion.”

St. Ignatius teaches that Christians are “with the bishop” meaning that if you do not follow a bishop, you do not follow Christ. To live in accordance with Christ is to belong to the “unity of the church”. He gives us all a harsh warning about those who follow another into schism do not inherit the kingdom of God. So why are we bringing that temptation into our Church? As detailed before, this can lead subsequent generations away from the church, so why even have the temptation there? It is not wrong to drink a glass of wine, but to drink too much wine is to put ones self into danger. So why have the temptation there? As previously demonstrated, accepting something as small as hymns could end up leading many away. Logically if we accepted the hymns of protestantism, this could send the message that we accept them as Christians, fulness of truth or not, if it is Christian why don’t we become protestant? If we can attain the same result from being protestant that we can being Orthodox, why struggle? 

In his letter to the Smyrnaeans, St. Ignatius repeats this same message: “Shun schisms, as the source of troubles. Let all follow the bishop as Jesus Christ did the Father, and the priests, as you would the Apostles. Reverence the deacons as you would the command of God. Apart from the bishop, let no one perform any of the functions that pertain to the church. Let that Eucharist be held valid which is offered by the bishop or by one whom the bishop has committed this charge. Wherever the bishop appears, there let the people be; as wherever Jesus Christ is, there be the Catholic (universal) Church. It is not lawful to baptize or give communion without the consent of the bishop. On the otherhand, whatever has his approval is pleasing to God. Thus, whatever is done will be safe and valid.” St. Ignatius tells us to shun schisms, as they are the source of troubles, so why should we embrace teachings or practices of those outside the church? Protestantism is founded on schism, so we should shun protestantism, not open our doors in welcome of it. St. Ignatius says that wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Church. This does not mean whoever believes in Jesus Christ but where Jesus Christ is. The apostolic church which has passed on this authority from the beginning has His body and His blood, this is where Jesus Christ is. He did not change his mind 1,500 years later, teach Martin Luther, and the other reformers, something new and then reside there teaching different things. He has remained in the Orthodox Church since its foundation. Jesus Christ tells us that His church will not be overcome in Mt. 16:18, and therefore should still be here.

“For it seems to me that, when you are obedient to the bishops as you would be of Jesus Christ, you are living, not in a human way, but according to Jesus Christ, who died for us that by faith in His death you might escape death. You must continue, then, to do nothing apart from the bishop. Be obedient, too, to the priests as to the apostles of Jesus Christ, our hope, in whom shall be found, if only we live in Him. And as ministers of the mysteries of Jesus Christ, the deacons should please all in every way they can; for they are not merely ministers of food and drink, but the servants of the Church of God. They must avoid all reproach as they would beware of fire.” Once again, the priesthood is held to a divine light, as being instituted by God. A part of the divine order of things. Can we really accept beliefs that teach the direct opposite of this as being Christian? Protestantism is to protest the very thing the apostolic fathers taught us that we must do. These two things, Orthodox Christianity and protestantism, cannot co-exist in one as they are directly opposite one another. Accepting even a piece can lead to us hemorrhaging believers who have followed schism as a result of our acceptance of protestantism.

St. Irenaeus of Lyon
It is not just St. Clement and St. Ignatius who teach such things, but they are the first of our witnesses who will testify on our behalf. St. Irenaeus of Lyon, a disciple of St. Polycarp who was a disciple of St. John the Apostle, says in Against Heresies: “But it has on the other hand been shown that the preaching of the church is everywhere consistent, and continues in an even course and receives testimony from the prophets, the apostles, and all the disciples, and that well grounded system which tends to mans salvation, namely our faith; which, having been received from the Church, we do preserve, and which always, by the spirit of God, renewing its youth, as if it were some precious deposit in an excellent vessel, causes the vessel itself, containing it to renew its youth also. For in the Church, God has set apostles, prophets, teachers, and all the other means through which the Spirit works; of which all those are not partakers who do not join themselves to the Church, but defraud themselves of life through their perverse opinions and infamous behavior. For where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God; and where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church, and every kind of grace; but the Spirit is truth.”

Absolutely magnificent. St. Irenaeus teaches that the preaching of the Church is consistent everywhere, which means either there is one church today preaching a consistent message, or St. Irenaeus is wrong. We have thousands of alleged churches all teaching their version of Christianity, this is not consistent preaching. When he says that we preserve what the church has given us which “by the spirit of God, renewing its youth” does not mean renewal, as in, introducing protestant songs and practice into our church. It literally means that each subsequent generation is the “renewal” of the church. This renewal is the next generation that is to preserve the Church. Interestingly enough St. Irenaeus says of those who do not join themselves to the church, that they defraud themselves of life through their perverse opinions and infamous behavior. Could this same quote be applied to those outside the church today? Many are of the opinion that the priesthood is bad, the church is bad, sacraments are mere symbols, and also that you only need a bible and to believe in order to be saved. These are perverse opinions, grounded not in apostolic doctrine but of human opinion and interpretation.  How could the Orthodox Church be in need of something apart from this Church? These fathers, and many more, view those acting outside of the church as rebellious and foolish so why would we want to allow their hymns and practice into the church? 

The late Pope Shenouda III addressed the issue of singing the popular songs in his book, So Many Years With the Problems of People, Pt. 3 p. 42, when he said: “Those who set the words of hymns to popular tunes are only concerning themselves with the abstract idea of setting words to music, while ignoring the effect of the music on the soul. Music can plant certain feelings in the soul. A piece of instrumental music, i.e. one without words, is able to make a person feel happy or sad. It can stimulate or excite him, or arouse some desire in him. So we ought not to forget the powerful effect that music can have on the soul. A hymn is a spiritual song and its music should be spiritual and its melody sacred. It is not right for us to mix it with some other tune which might arouse different feelings apart from the holy and spiritual ones which the hymn is intended to arouse. It is also likely that the singer will be reminded of the popular son and its words, and his mind or heart will wander or get mixed up with his emotions. We must remember, brothers and sisters, the words of the apostle: “what fellowship can light have with darkness?” (2. Cor. 6:14)”

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