Nyssa’s Opinions on Theology and the Church–Page 1

 

conversion story here

Phariseeism in the Church

Page 1 Topics: 

Tithing 
End Times and Christian Zionism 
God’s Purpose (Supremacy of God Doctrine)
Cat and Dog Theology 
Raising One’s Hands in Worship 
Christian Music 
On the “still, small voice” and Charismatic sign gifts
On church buildings 
The Message Bible 
The Purpose-Driven Life 
The Relevance Doctrine, i.e. Marketing Churches to Seekers 
Republican Party 
Abortion Protests 
Creationism
The idea that God has someone in mind for you 
Literalism in Biblical interpretation
Miscellaneous 

Tithing:

According to the OCA, the Orthodox Church teaches that we do not have to follow the 10% tithe in a legalistic fashion–as in, you must give 10% first to the church out of your gross income no matter how much you have left, etc.  Rather, the principal is to give what we can, not grudgingly (when we can’t afford a tithe and the utility bill) or giving only 10% when we can easily afford more.

The point is to give the “first portion” before paying our other bills, to give what we can with thanksgiving, without comparing ourselves to others.  If you can afford it, you should tithe ten percent; if you can afford more, give more; if you can’t afford ten percent, give what you can manage.  The Orthodox Church also disagrees with the Prosperity Gospel. —Giving to the Church

The New Testament does not explicitly promote or encourage tithing per se, that is, the offering of one tenth of one’s income to the Church.  Instead, the New Testament promotes the concept of ‘proportionate giving’, which may even exceed the ten percent limitation denoted by the word ‘tithe’.” —Michael Makridis, Christian Stewardship and Tithing

You hear people grumble about giving to the Church, or say, “God doesn’t need my money.”  No, but your church does–to pay the preacher, pay the light bill, pay the insurance premiums, etc. etc.

So while a legalistic form of tithing–i.e., “It is required to pay 10% or else you are sinning and God will not bless you”–is wrong and oppressive, giving to your church is still needed.

Maybe large churches with lots of rich givers will survive if some people give nothing, but a large number of churches are small and can barely afford to keep the lights on.

And keep in mind that many clubs and unions have dues.  Orthodox churches often used to have dues, but in recent years have turned to stewardship (voluntary proportional giving) instead.

It is not wrong to ask for our money to keep the club, union or church going.  It is good to strive for that 10% tithe, or beyond.

It is, however, wrong to frighten people into it with threats of God’s punishment, or to tie them with legalistic bonds that are not part of the Gospel.

There are many reasons–poverty or debt, for example–why many households simply cannot pay that 10%.

You should not force them into it while also telling them to paste a smile on their faces, as they drop their rent money in the collection plate.

The landlord or the credit card company or the bank or the IRS will not be swayed by, “I gave your money to the church.”

The New Testament makes very little reference to tithing and when it does it is in reference to Israel’s paying its taxation to the national government. At no time does the New Testament ever suggest nor even hint that the tithe is exacted upon the Christian.  The New Testament is concerned with free will giving.

The Gospel of Luke (6:38) tells us that giving is an investment. ‘Give and it shall be given unto you.’  What you invest with God you receive in dividends.

Giving is an investment with God and the return is an eternal yield. Be sure your priority of investing is with God. Because wherever you put your treasure, that is where you will put your heart….

Giving is a matter of attitude. Remember what Solomon said? What is new? Nothing! The system of giving is the same. We learn what we choose to learn.

Where is your treasure? What is really important to you? Giving is sacrificial. It is not the amount. It is what it costs you to give. Even when there is little there is much when God is in it.

….Experience has told us that the most fair and equitable guideline to contribute is one hour’s pay per week or five dollars per week for every ten thousand dollars of gross income. It is fair and represents the abilities of individual communicants of all walks of life.

….We become short-sided and narrow-minded when we concern ourselves more with what others give (or for that matter do not give) and concern ourselves about what others will think about our gift (no matter how large or small it may be).

When giving a gift to God, the measure does not show in the ‘how much category’ or the ‘tally’ of the amount given, but God measures what type of true sacrifice was made, (whether the gift was a gift that had meaning to it or not) or one that merely fulfilled a sense of obligation.

….In I Corinthians 16.1-2, St. Paul encourages us to lay aside contributions regularly to meet the needs of God’s work in an amount that is in proportion to the blessings that we have received.

This means that the amount of our commitment is based on each member’s means, conscience and faith; there is no minimum or maximum amount required.

Your Stewardship Commitment is a reflection of your love for God and the Church and will express your commitment to insure and promote the future of our Church.

If, however, you would like a suggested guideline for making a pledge, you may want to consider starting with the ‘one hour’s pay per week’ rule of thumb.

Of course, the scriptural call for which we should strive is found in 2 Chronicles 31-15, in which the Lord asks that we offer a ‘tithe’ (or ten percent) of our first fruits back to the Lord. —GOARCH, A Collection of Sermons on Stewardship Ministry

The Catholic Church also agrees that tithing 10% is an Old Testament obligation, one which Christians are released from.  Adults are to give what they can, cheerfully, to support their churches, but churches are not to force a particular percentage–which is called extortion:

To paraphrase: God doesn’t demand a fixed amount of money from us; he wants us to give from the heart.

If people are forced by their church to give a certain percent of their income, that’s extortion. If they give freely and cheerfully the amount they are able, that’s a gift. —Quick Questions  (fourth question down on the page)

Sometimes people misunderstand, so I will restate: By no means is tithing 10% something we should not do.

Rather, tithing 10% is a good thing we should all strive for, even go beyond if we can, but it is not required if we cannot afford it even while living modestly within our means.

(If you’re living extravagantly and say you can’t afford the tithe, then you need to cut back on your “frills.”)

End Times and Christian Zionism:

To find a good interpretation of Revelation and other End-Time prophecies, you must look at the Church’s accepted traditions, not newfangled ideas (such as a Rapture before the Tribulation) which popped up in the last few centuries.  One good source is the Orthodox Study Bible.

Challenging Christian Zionism shows how Christian Zionism hampers the peace process in the Middle East.

A review of Left Behind,Fundamentally Unsound” by Michelle Goldberg, has a similar philosophy.

Glenn Scherer argues that “Christian right-views are swaying politicians and threatening the environment.”

This link from the Presbyterian Church (USA) describes Christian Zionism and includes many links on the subject.

This page from Cornerstone Magazine explains how Christian Zionism demonizes certain nations and disrupts the peace process in Israel.

This Catholic website explains, in the “Interpretation” section near the end, how the prophecies of the Beast have been fulfilled in the first century, in the persecution of Christians by the Roman Empire.

Catholics, as well as many other Christian denominations, also believe in amillennialism.  Amillennialism would explain why John the Baptist and Christ kept saying, “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”

It was also the traditional interpretation of the Church: Though a few early Church Fathers and writers believed the Millennium was to be a literal thousand years, this was not the dominant belief.  In fact, it was rejected at the Second Ecumenical Council (p. 627-628, The Orthodox Study Bible).

This site describes the various interpretations very well.

Eastern Orthodoxy rejects dispensationalism.  Here is an Orthodox writer’s view of premillennial dispensationalism.

Here is the Orthodox view of Revelations.

Also see Left Behind–What is Rapture? by Dave Elfering.

And The $666 Question: How to Interpret the Omen? by Rev. Dr. Frank Marangos.

And, on page 13 of the June/July 2006 issue of the Orthodox Observer, “Revelation Also Speaks to Contemporary Christians” by Fr. Angelo Artemas.

God’s Purpose (Supremacy of God Doctrine):

One form of theology says that God’s chief end or purpose, his chief priority, the thing that He’s most passionate for, is His own glory, the glory of His name.

Basically, every single thing He does is primarily done to glorify Himself–even the Cross.  The world was made to glorify God (which is partially true); we’re saved to glorify God; the Church exists to glorify God; we evangelize to glorify God; we’re supposed to make this primary.

This doctrine comes from traditional Calvinism/Reformed theology and from dispensationalismThis page describes glory theology.  Also see What the Church Was Meant to Be by Reformed evangelical writer John MacArthur, posted on what appears to be a very Calvinist website.

This theology is also described by Reformed Baptist Pastor John Piper in his books, such as Desiring God (1987) and God’s Passion for His Glory (1998).  I believe it is called the Supremacy of God doctrine.  See the following pages, as linked and quoted below:

And I really mean it this morning: the chief end of God is to glorify God and enjoy himself forever….

God loves himself more than he loves you, and therein lies the only hope that he might love you, unworthy as you are….

He chose you. Why? That his glory and grace might be praised and magnified.

Your salvation is to glorify God. Your election is to glorify God. Your regeneration was to glorify God. Your justification was for the glory of God. Your sanctification is for the glory of God.

And one day your glorification will be an absorbance into the glory of God….

Christ came to earth, clothed himself with flesh, and died so that you would give glory to his Father for mercy. He came for his Father’s sake. That’s the main reason why he came, for his Father’s glory. And his glory reaches its apex in the overflow of mercy….

He is coming [again] to be glorified, magnified in his saints, and to be marveled at. —Passion for the Supremacy of God, Part 1

Yesterday, in an attempt to torch the glacier and to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples, I tried to make the point that God does everything he does for the glory of his name.

God magnifies God. The most passionate heart in all the universe for God is God’s heart. That was the main point.

Passion ’97, as I understand it, is about God’s passion for God. Everything he does, from creation to consummation, he does with a view to displaying and upholding the glory of his name. —Passion for the Supremacy of God, Part 2

John Piper says it exceedingly well when he says that the Good News is not that He loves us but that God loves Himself.  God exists to glorify himself.

Miraculous deliverances, supernatural healings, and even the Good News of the Kingdom of God are means to an end; they exist to bring glory and honor and praise to the eternal supreme king of the galactic universe….

Friends, we too are a means to an end. “The chief end of man,” says the Westminster Confession of Faith, “is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”…

God’s love is a boomerang love, it goes out only for the purpose that it comes back to glorify Him not us. —What is the Supremacy of God? (Formerly at http://supremacyofgod.org/. Website now defunct.)

Apparently Piper’s books have been selling very well lately in Reformed and Evangelical circles.  Piper also seems to be influenced by Jonathan Edwards (even called his successor), who wrote about God’s supposed chief end here.

I first heard about this doctrine/theology when at an Evangelical Free church a few years ago.  Cugan and I both wondered where it came from; it was foreign to anything I (Nazarene) or he (Lutheran) had heard before.

Our pastor once made an analogy between God and a CEO, with God meeting daily with his staff (I forget who they were–the Trinity? angels?) to decide, “How can I glorify myself today?”

It bugged us to no end, as it made God sound like a warrior-king from Beowulf, not our Loving Father.  And we heard it every single week, month after month.  We’re still skittish at the sound of the words “glory” and “glorify,” even though they’re not bad things in themselves.

Apparently, even though we thought the Evangelical-Free Church was Arminian, its churches are allowed to be Calvinist.  And recently I discovered that the theology of the church is considered to be moderately Calvinist.

I do recall a lot of activity and fellowship between our church and local Reformed churches, but in those days I did not know that “Reformed” meant “Calvinist.”

We left for the not-so-Calvinist Presbyterian Church (USA), which had left traditional Calvinism and double predestination far behind and didn’t have this supremacy doctrine, but it would have been best to leave Calvinism completely.

The Orthodox Church does not teach this supremacy doctrine.  Proponents say the Church’s primary purpose is to glorify God; in Orthodoxy, the Church is seen as a hospital for souls, and man’s purpose as becoming like God so that man and God can be in union/communion.

According to Wikipedia,

Prior to dispensationalism’s 19-20th century inception and systemization, Covenant Theology was the prominent Protestant view regarding redemptive history and is still the view of the Reformed churches.

A relatively recent view, which is seen as a third alternative, especially among Reformed Baptists, is called New Covenant Theology.

Outside of Protestant Christianity, however, the other branches of Christianity (for example, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox) reject both dispensationalism and Covenant Theology.

The Lutheran Church also rejects dispensationalism, by the way.  Pages 44-45 of this paper put out by the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS) seems to agree with what I’ve found in Orthodox theology: The End Times: A Study on Eschatology and Millennialism  To quote:

Nevertheless, dispensationalist teaching contradicts the Scriptures at many critical points and therefore seriously endangers the pure teaching of the Gospel….

Dispensational premillenialism tends to regard the glory of God as the center of theology, rather than the mercy of God revealed, and yet hidden, in the suffering and death of Jesus on the cross for the sins of the world.

The visible manifestations of God’s power at the end of history and obedience to the will of God become the primary foci, instead of the grace of God revealed in the cross of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 2:2)–

which by faith the Christian regards and accepts as the place of God’s definitive triumph over sin and every evil (in Lutheran theology, the ‘theology of the cross’ as opposed to a ‘theology of glory’).

Also, Luther’s Small Catechism states,

What is the key to the correct understanding of the Bible?  Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, is the heart and center of the Scripture and therefore the key to its true meaning….Jesus revealed Himself as the center of Scripture (Luke 24:13-27) (p. 49).

I have recently discovered that this theology is quite common in Evangelical and Fundamentalist churches, that dispensationalism and Calvinism are as well, though I had always thought that Evangelical and Fundamentalist churches are Arminian.

The theology of “God’s glory being His ultimate purpose” seems to be present even in churches which are otherwise not Calvinist.

It seems that people don’t realize the supremacy of God doctrine is being promoted in Evangelical churches by a Calvinist, John Piper, who believes in and promotes the Calvinist understanding of double predestination.

It seems that many people don’t realize that, taken to its obvious conclusion, this theology turns into full-blown Calvinism, with some being predestined for glory and some being predestined for damnation–not from their own choice, but so God can be glorified.  The unchosen ones become vessels displaying God’s wrath.

One former Calvinist, posting on a message board, noted that the statement often quoted from an old Calvinist catechism–“Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever”–sounds great at first.  But it’s all external; it doesn’t emphasize union with God.

Here, the Orthodox view of why God created, under section III.b., a different take on glory:

The goal and purpose of God’s creation is the participation of this creation in God’s blessedness: St. John of Damascus speaks of “God’s glory and man’s theosis“;

however, God’s glory is man’s theosis, for God creates to communicate Himself, His blessedness and glory to the creatures He creates – the entire creation, and in this creation, man in particular (The Dogmatic Tradition of the Orthodox Church).

The page then goes on to speak of man’s specific call to become like God in character, and to be the link between creation and God, bringing creation into communion with God.

Lutheran, PCUSA and Orthodox churches do not follow the supremacy of God doctrine.  Traditional Calvinist/Reformed churches do.

The Orthodox say that union with God (not just the glory of God) is the chief end or purpose of man, and that the final end/purpose of the world is man’s union with God.

“The whole purpose of the Incarnation of the Son of God was to restore humanity to fellowship with God”  (Rev. Thomas Fitzgerald, “Spirituality”).

“It is in Christ that the purpose of human existence is realized: communion with God, union with God, deification”  (Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev, “An Online Orthodox Catechism: Redemption”).

The Earth shows God’s glory–so that man can see it and commune with God.  The “end purpose of all things” is God.  One of God’s purposes in anything could be glory, but making glory the be-all and end-all of everything makes theology seriously one-sided.  And how can we presume to say we know all of God’s purposes in everything?

Of course, we must not assume that God’s glory has nothing to do with our purpose, Christ’s purpose, creation’s purpose, God’s purpose, etc.

The problem with the focus on glory in Calvinism and dispensationalism, is that it is imbalanced: It takes the focus off God’s love for mankind, His caring for those who suffer, His desire to be in communion with us, and makes us sound selfish for desiring Him to feel this way.

Somehow, our wish to help others find God so they, too, can commune with Him, is made to sound self-serving.

But there is far more to “ultimate purpose” than just making God look good (though it is a big part of it).  Father Thomas Hopko writes (and note how he defines glory):

The Holy God of the Old Testament revealed Himself to His chosen people who were able to behold His glory.

The glory of the Lord was a special divine manifestation of the Person and Presence of God. It consisted in the vision of light, majesty and beauty and was accompanied by the voice of the Lord and His holy angels.

It created in the persons who observed it overwhelming feelings of fear and fascination, as well as profound convictions of peace, well-being, and joy….

The main teaching of the Old Testament and the foundation of all of its life was that God’s people should share in His holiness. This was the purpose of the entire Law of Moses in its commandments of morality and worship….

The people were to be holy and to gain the wisdom and righteousness of God through their service and worship of Him.

All of the so-called Wisdom writings of the Old Testament, and all of the teachings of the prophets and psalms are centered around this same fundamental fact:

God’s people should acquire and express the holiness, wisdom, glory, and righteousness of God Himself. This, and nothing else is the meaning and purpose of man’s life as created and guided by God.

The ultimate perfection of God’s purpose for man is fulfilled in Christ. He alone is the fulfillment of the law and the prophets. He alone is the “Holy One of God” (Mk 1:24, Lk 1:35, 4:34).

He alone is perfectly righteous and wholly without sin. Thus, St Peter speaks of Jesus to the people after the event of Pentecost.

The glory of God is revealed in the person of Christ. This is the consistent witness of the apostles who beheld the “Kingdom of God come with power” on the mountain of the Transfiguration (see Mt 17:1-6, Mk 9:2-7, Lk 9:28-36).

“And the Word became flesh and dwell among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father” (Jn 1:14).

“Now if the dispensation of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such splendor that the Israelites could not look at Moses’ face because of its brightness, fading as this was, will not the dispensation of the Spirit be attended with greater splendor?

“For if there was splendor in the dispensation of condemnation, the dispensation of righteousness must far exceed it in splendor. Indeed, in this case, what once had splendor has come to have no splendor at all, because of the splendor that surpasses it.

“For if what faded away came with splendor, what is permanent must have much more splendor. Since we have such a hope, we are very bold. 

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into His likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 

“For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor 3:7, 18, 4:6).

In and through Christ, by means of the Holy Spirit, all men can share in the glory of God and become participants in God’s own holiness….

The participation of men in the “nature of God” already begins in the Church of Christ, the final fruit of the salvation history of the Old Testament.

In the Church, the Kingdom of God is present which is “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom 14:17).

In the Church of Christ already begins that perpetual praise of the Holy God which exists now in the heavens and will fill all creation when Christ comes in the glory of His Kingdom at the end of the ages (p. 112-115, The Orthodox Faith: Vol. iii, Bible and Church History).

My priest says that our chief purpose in life, our number-one reason to exist, is to worship the almighty Lord and to worship at the Cross (which we do when we participate in the Eucharist).

He says our highest, sacred responsibility is to attend Divine Liturgy (services including Eucharist).

He says this is how we unite and communicate with God, how we commune with him, through worship and the Eucharist.  Christ’s very real presence is there; that is our chief purpose in worship, to unite/commune and communicate with God and with each other, to experience the real presence of Christ.

Isn’t that beautiful?  Doesn’t that transform even the so-called “boring” liturgies into something far more glorious than just sitting in a pew, listening to a sermon which may or may not be inspired, and singing a few songs that may or may not be your favorite music style?

In an article about the teachings of St. Gregory of Nyssa, Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos writes,

Man’s basic aim, according to St Gregory of Nyssa, is deification. We must look at man’s salvation only from this perspective. But in order for anyone to succeed in this very high aim, he must be purified, which is essential for man.

In The New Testament: An Orthodox Perspective, Theodore G. Stylianopoulos describes the view of the Early Church Fathers:

As the fulfillment of the Old Testament and the fullness of historical revelation, Christ is the chief aim and main subject of Scripture and, therefore, the beginning, center, and end of biblical interpretation.

In both biblical revelation and biblical interpretation the living Christ personally reveals himself as the ultimate interpreter by the power of the Spirit.  In an important way, interpretation is a fruit of the personal revelation of Christ, the Word, to the interpreter.

This is different from what my Evangelical Free pastor taught, that God’s glory is the chief aim and main subject of Scripture.

Piper’s opening salvo is remarkably insightful and immediately pulls the reader into his argument: “People are starving for the greatness of God. But most of them would not give this diagnosis of their troubled lives. The majesty of God is an unknown cure.

“There are far more popular prescriptions on the market, but the benefit of any other remedy is brief and shallow” (p. 9).  Regardless of one’s theological perspective, this statement rings true….

No good preacher will argue with Piper’s opening statement. However, many good preachers may choose to argue with Piper’s view of the shape and content of the kind of preaching that meets this human need.

Because of Piper’s strong Reformed leanings, he clearly favors preaching that emphasizes God’s sovereignty in a distinctively Edwardsian package. Sadly, he seems to discount all other preaching as missing the mark in demonstrating God’s majesty….

Piper’s guidelines for carrying out his burden are more indicative of his own theological position than they are of Biblical revelation. Is it really true that the “dominant note of preaching [should] be the freedom of God’s sovereign grace”?

Why this doctrine over others? Why not the incarnation or the Trinity or salvation by grace or any of a number of other significant doctrines?

And must the unifying theme of preaching be “the zeal that God has for his own glory”? Why not the zeal God has to glorify those who respond to His grace?

Obviously God has created the universe with more intention than merely displaying His glory. He has also created it in order to share his glory — to glorify those who are his own.

By overemphasizing one facet of Biblical revelation, Piper seems to leave humankind entirely out of the picture. Would it make any difference if humankind had ever existed at all? If not, why did God choose to create humankind?

Even more importantly, why did God choose to identify so intimately with humankind through the incarnation?

It appears that Piper has merely taken his integrative motif and demanded that all preachers share the same emphasis lest they be guilty of undermining true God-centered preaching….

In reference to Piper’s third guideline: Is it really true that the “grand object of preaching be the infinite and inexhaustible being of God”?

Does the Bible present us with a systematized, categorized series of abstract reflections on God’s infinite and inexhaustible nature?

Or does it present the glorious God in the context and flow of human history, demonstrating his nature and character in light of his interactions with human beings?

Piper’s “grand object” can all too easily boil down to abstract, decontextualized, depersonalized and ahistorical philosophical jargon.

I would argue that the “grand object” of Scripture is God’s saving purpose worked out in human history. Insofar as this demonstrates God’s nature, I agree with Piper.

However, beginning with God’s “infinite and inexhaustible being” and working down to God’s saving acts seems to invert the order Scripture presents and the way in which Scripture presents it. –Richard J. Vincent, God-Centered Preaching: An Analysis and Critique of The Supremacy of God in Preaching

Also see:

Internet Monk: On Being Too God-Centered (catch the comments, too)

I find this frightening–the thought that TULIP Calvinism has become newly popular among evangelicals.  It also explains why my old Evangelical Free church suddenly turned Calvinist after having been Arminian:

“Young, Restless, Reformed: Calvinism is making a comeback–and shaking up the church” by Collin Hansen

See for some good old-fashioned deep theology that does not come from 500-year-old Calvinism: Theosis: The True Purpose of Human Life

Cat and Dog Theology:

This new theology, if you can call it that, is described here, here and here.  It’s also here, a June 22, 2003 sermon, “It’s All About Him,” which sounds very like a sermon we heard in church once.

Cat and Dog Theology is tied in with the above described supremacy of God doctrine.

Yes, we need to focus on God and loving others, not on making ourselves happy and getting all the blessings for ourselves.

Yes, it is true that the Church has been riddled with materialistic error and the concept that God is some sort of cosmic slot machine, giving us wealth, a beloved, a great job, etc. (as long as we remember to tithe that 10%).

Yes, it is dangerous to think that we can expect a life of ease, when our forebears were tortured and martyred for the faith (and many still are in other countries).

Yes, it is dangerous to think that we don’t need to struggle to become more like Christ.  Many down through the ages have deliberately chosen poverty and other difficulties to become closer to Christ.

Yes, it is true that American worship is becoming more and more man-centered all the time, bringing in various forms of music and praise choruses to make us “feel” closer to God, to make us raise our hands, dumbing down the message so it becomes more like a self-help seminar or something to make us feel good, assaulting our senses with multimedia as if we were being entertained by a movie or concert rather than worshipping at church.

On these issues, I wholeheartedly agree with Cat and Dog Theology.

But when I read the “It’s All About Him” sermon, it scared me.

Now I recognize very Calvinist doctrines running throughout this sermon: Some people are born to be killed for God’s glory?  “What if God wants to sell you into slavery so He can position you for His glory, like Joseph?”  What??!!!  (God did not sell Joseph into slavery; Joseph’s brothers did that.)

Other teachings I’ve heard along this line include, we should pray for other people (dog) and not for ourselves (cat).

But Christ specifically tells us to bring our requests to God, and that we do not have because we do not ask!  He is a loving Father who will not give us a stone if we ask for bread.

Sure, we should pray for other people, and more than we pray for ourselves.  But it is not a “cat” thing to ask for our own needs as well.  (Needs, not wants.)

One Sunday, I could swear the pastor told us we shouldn’t grieve or question when a loved one dies, because we don’t know God’s purposes.  I could swear he told us that even praying for that person to be healed was a “cat” thing.

But the Orthodox tradition affirms that death is a tragedy and we should feel free to grieve, not make glib comments like, “God had a purpose in [your loved one’s name]’s death.”  Christ came to conquer death; death is the enemy!

Some passages from this sermon:

In 1 Chronicles 21 Satan prompted King David to count his fighting men.  The Lord wasn’t pleased for He wanted the glory for giving military victories.

But David swelled with pride, in himself, his country, and his men and took the glory of God.  So it was the Lord, not Satan, who sent a plague and killed 70,000 of David’s chosen men, military leaders and believers from the nation Israel.

Let’s listen in on the conversation these men might have had with God.

Men: Lord, why did you bring us all home at once?  We weren’t even fighting a war.

Lord: David sinned.

Men: What?  David sinned and we were all punished for his sin?

Lord: I don’t see bringing you home into my presence as punishment but that’s what I did.

[Note from me: In those days they would have gone to Sheol, or Hades, the land of the dead, of shadows, of nothingness–NOT God’s presence–because Christ had not yet gone down into Hades and defeated death.]

Men: Oh Lord, we’re sorry.  You’re wonderful.  but why didn’t you take him home?

Lord: Because I had a greater plan for his life.

Men: What about our lives?

Lord: I had a plan for your lives as well.

Men: Well, what was it?

Lord: To die when David sinned, and to serve to bring about his repentance.

Men: But Lord, that just doesn’t seem fair.

Lord: Well, I have never run My kingdom based on fairness, I run it for my glory.

[Note from me: What about justice and mercy?  What about people being judged only for their own sins, not someone else’s?  This “theology” sounds more like heresy than Orthodox doctrine!]

God uses all nations, both good and bad, for His purposes.  When God wanted to take the gospel message past Jerusalem He persecuted his people in that city to spread them throughout the Roman Empire.

When He wanted to extend the gospel message past the Empire He sacked Rome with barbaric tribes from the north that scattered Christians from Ireland to China.

What does that say for America?  Can you think for a more historically accurate, God-honoring way to take the gospel to the Muslim world than to scatter the church, perhaps even the American church?  After all, it’s not about America.  It’s All About Him.

…Let’s ask some questions: Did God love the first nine generations [of Israelites living as slaves in Egypt] as well as the tenth one He freed?  (Absolutely)

Did God have a plan for their lives?  (Definitely)

What was God’s plan for their lives?  (To be born a slave, to live as a slave, and to die a slave.)

Why?

Because God used their captivity to teach future generations to be kind to people from other countries.  Because It’s All About Him….

Would you be willing to be a slave for the glory of God?  What if God wants to sell you into slavery so He can position you for His glory, like Joseph?

…Suppose it is God’s will that you be stoned to death like Stephen?

…As a woman would you be willing to live in southern Sudan, to be raped, mutilated, homeless and hungry if your being on the front lines of spiritual war brought great glory to God?

This website critiques Cat and Dog theology, based on a report given to the author by a reader whose church taught C&D Theology.  The author writes:

Value of mankind:

1-“God is not fair”

We were given examples of three people who served God, yet had different outcomes. Thereby, we conclude that God is not/does not have to be “fair”. “You have no right to ask, ‘Is it fair?'”

Nothing was mentioned about justice. Or just trusting that God sees the bigger plan for our lives.

We should not question when life is taken. We should not grieve when a child is taken.

2-We were told not to seek the glory of the “winner’s circle” by seeking to be like the Bible heroes (of faith). Rather, we were told that we should identify with the lesser characters of the Bible.

The two examples given were of nameless people who died. We were told that they died in order that God might be glorified. (Not true.)

Ex. -1) Job’s children. This story was told as if Job’s children went to heaven and had a conversation with God. (This seemed to be a deliberate but subtle denial of hell.)

Ex. -2) David and the 70,000 who died as a result of his sin and his choice of judgment on his people.

What is missing here is this: If bringing glory to Gods name is so paramount in his theology, then the greatest glory to God that we could possibly affect would be that of seeking to be like none other than Jesus Christ.

This “option” was totally omitted as was the fact that Hebrews 11 sets before us a whole list of “winners” as examples of people to emulate in order to bring the greatest glory to God. He equates these men and women of faith to being “the winner’s circle”.

This is a distortion. They simply walked in faith and obedience to God, enduring hardship and seldom seeing the promise fulfilled.

Now, in our Evangelical-Free church, for possibly two years and in every sermon, we heard that God’s predominant passion is His own glory.  That makes it hard to tell where “Cat and Dog Theology” ended and basic Supremacy of God doctrine began.  So I’m not entirely sure if the following two points came from Cat and Dog Theology.

But our pastor told us 1) Even if God didn’t have all these attributes–love, compassion, caring, blessing us, etc.–we should still glorify Him because He is God.  2) Even if we didn’t sin, Christ still would have died on the Cross because it was for God’s glory.

In answer to 1: If God didn’t have all these attributes, He would become like ancient pagan deities who didn’t care at all about mankind–deities who required sacrifice so we wouldn’t be punished, deities who barely thought about humans and just used them as occasional playthings.  Why would we care to worship and glorify such a deity?

In answer to 2:

According to Gregory of Nyssa, Maximus the Confessor and other Greek Fathers, the Incarnation would have taken place even if Adam and Eve had never sinned. Isaac the Syrian held the same view, as did later Syriac writers.

The purpose of the Incarnation was to achieve intimate union between God and humanity. This is salvation, the fullest expression of love.

God’s plan was for the two to become one and form a New Humanity (confer Eph 2:15 read in light of Eph 4:13 & I Cor 15:45 53).

In contrast to this is the Latin tradition, at least the part that prevailed. During the Easter Liturgy in the Roman Church, the Exultet is sung. The following is an excerpt: “O Happy Fault, O necessary sin of Adam which gained for us so great a Redeemer.”

According to the Latin mindset, there never would have been an Incarnation unless Adam and Eve had sinned.

The Eastern tradition finds this line of thinking totally offensive and in fact, several Popes had condemned it as well.

Nevertheless, ever since the split between East and West, this section of the Exultet stands as part of the Roman liturgy. There is a Latin saying “lex orandi, lex credendi,” “The rule of prayer is the rule of faith.” The liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church reflects its theology.

From the Eastern perspective, God’s desire and reason for the Incarnation was loving intimacy, not punishment for sin. The Sacrifice of the Paschal Lamb, while foreknown by God, was not the primary motivation for the Incarnation.

The East accentuates God’s mercy over God’s justice; the West is vice versa. –Dr. Daniel F. Stramara, Theme 8–Soteriology

So on the Latin side, if man had never sinned, there never would have been an Incarnation.  On the Greek side, if man had never sinned, there would still have been an Incarnation because of God’s desire for union with us.  So either way, what the pastor said was just plain incorrect.

Week after week after week, the pastor made God sound more self-centered and less like a loving Father; my husband felt like just a tool being used for God’s purposes, not someone God cared about as a person.

After all, if God wanted to kill you for His own glory, who were you to complain that wasn’t fair?

And yet the pastor wondered why we didn’t consider this a wonderful theology that made us more in love with God.

We watched in disbelief as other members of the church embraced it and began teaching it to others.  Even now, members from that church propagate this doctrine, and Cat and Dog Theology has become quite popular in the American Church.

This “theology” is the product of modern American Protestantism mixed with Calvinism, not the theology of the ancient Church.

To summarize, God created us for communion.  He wanted someone to bless.

Christ came not just to die for us, but to reconcile us to God and lead us to communion–not for God’s glory, but for communion!

We are not saved from Hell for service, but saved from our sins so we can commune with God!

We do good works for others because Christ told us to and it’s the sign of true faith and love, not because we’re a “dog” or a “cat.”  (See above, and see page 3 for lots of stuff about sin, salvation, Hell, etc.)

Cat and Dog Theology said we are supposed to hunger for God’s glory; in Orthodoxy, we are to hunger for God Himself.  As we come together as a congregation to worship God, and sing praises and glory to Him (since this is a good and worthy thing to do), our worship culminates in the Eucharist.

Our hunger and thirst for God is satisfied as we take His body and blood into our bodies in an intimate union which has even been compared to a man and his wife becoming one.

Out of this pours our honor, glory and praise to God, and we desire to become more and more like Him and help others to do the same.

So just because we do not focus on glory above everything else, hardly means that we are “cats.”  But so much of what I have heard and read from Reformed sources makes it sound like we are robbing God of His glory if we do not focus on His glory above all else.

Also, Cat and Dog Theology says “everyday life was designed to be one big worship service” and goes on to ask, What does God get when you hug a child, see a sunset, listen to music, eat a chocolate covered strawberry, etc. etc.

However, this is not what worship is all about.  Such experiences can show us God exists, and it is good to remember all of it is possible because of God’s goodness.

But worship “reflects the fullness of Truth,” “strives to make holy,” and all

flows from the one, essential act of worship and thanksgiving, the ‘common union’ with the Trinity and with God’s people into which the ‘community’ enters through the reception of Holy ‘Communion’. …’Enjoyment’ is not a goal in worship. —Orthodox Worship vs. Contemporary Worship

Another deficiency, a common problem, is that I read so much in the Cat and Dog writings and other Protestant writings about God, which makes God sound like one Person who is God-centered.

In Orthodoxy, God is more commonly referred to as the Trinity and “Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

Yes, Protestants are usually Trinitarian, but in common speech, oftentimes Christ and the Spirit seem more like subordinates, while the Father is God.  One important note–which some proponents of Cat and Dog theology may be fully aware of, but can be missed by those in the pews–is that the Persons are equal to each other and each are God.  Instead of seeking what’s best for Himself, each member of the Trinity loves the other two completely and seeks to glorify them.

This is demonstrated by the Trinity icon, in which the three members of the Trinity sit around a table in perfect love and communion, their heads bent toward each other.  See here.  Looked at in this way, God is not self-seeking or self-loving, but loves and seeks what is best for the other, just as we are to do.

Oddly enough, this Cat and Dog “theology,” first heard of in the Evangelical Free Church, is part of the reason why I began the path toward Orthodoxy.  It was a long and twisted path, full of error, but led me to seek what was for God rather than just for myself.

Still, as I’ve noted above, this theology is flawed.  Cat and Dog Theology says that “dogs” hunger for God’s glory while “cats” hunger for the blessings; Orthodox theology says that we should hunger for GOD–and this hunger is satisfied in the Eucharist, which is Christ’s body and blood.

Cat and Dog Theology focuses our attention on God’s glory (as in, reputation); Orthodox theology focuses our attention on God Himself.

Cat and Dog Theology says that Christ died on the cross for our sins so that we might point to God and glorify Him; Orthodox theology focuses on the love of God in reconciling us to Him, showing us how to live, and bringing the suffering souls out of Hades so they could commune with Him forever.

Cat and Dog Theology focuses on God’s reputation (glory); Orthodox theology longs for the wondrously beautiful manifestation of God’s energies (glory).

Cat and Dog Theology makes life’s unfairness sound deliberately caused directly by God; Orthodox theology realizes that the Devil is our enemy and the source of all evil, that we ourselves cause our own troubles (such as Hell, which we cause ourselves by rejecting the love of God).

Cat and Dog Theology focuses on the lack of praise of God in Hell; Orthodox theology focuses on the suffering people will endure because they have rejected the love of God and cannot get away from it.

Cat and Dog Theology would essentially call Orthodox theology “me-centered cat thinking” because it focuses on our becoming like Christ and acquiring the Holy Spirit.  Yet Orthodox theology is the most ancient, while Calvinism is only about 500 years old!

See for some good old-fashioned deep theology that does not come from 500-year-old Calvinism: Theosis: The True Purpose of Human Life

Raising One’s Hands in Worship:

Cugan and I do not believe in doing what we do not feel led to do.  Some people feel led to raise their hands in worship.  We have never felt that way.  We do not feel this is a defect, though some people in the country are being accused of not being spiritual enough if they do not wish to raise their hands.

Outward signs like hand-raising, arm-raising or clap offerings, feel fake to me.  We’re not supposed to be fake in worship.  When the worship leader tells us to do a clap offering or chooses songs specifically to cause an emotional response, it feels like manipulation.

In an article about the pros and cons of the Promise Keepers movement, after noting a lack of Scripture and preaching in PK meetings and “prayer and worship,” LCMS pastor Don Matzat wrote,

The evidence for the presence of the Spirit or, as Bill McCartney put it, ‘God coming into the room,’ is the emotional response and repentance of the men.

In my estimate, ‘God coming into the room’ does not cause this response. It is the result of the motivational presentations that stir the emotions.

Such motivational presentations within a Muslim context would also cause Muslim men to be broken and repentant before Allah. Would this be evidence of ‘Allah coming into the room?’

Evidence for the Holy Spirit is the contrition and faith that is stirred within the hearts of men causing them to understand and grasp what God has done for them in Christ Jesus.

This is the result of the preaching and teaching of the Law and Gospel. –Don Matzat, “Inside Look at the Promise Keepers.

(As a sidenote, you can read an Orthodox view of the Promise Keepers here.)

If you want to raise your hands etc., be sure you’re being moved by the Spirit rather than by the service itself.

The Orthodox Church considers many Protestant services to be “man-centered,” going by what makes us feel good: Orthodox Worship vs. Contemporary Worship

What is the nature of worship?  The Nature of Our Worship

Also see:

Worship by Rev. Thomas Fitzgerald

Orthodox Worship by Rev. Alciviadis C. Calivas, ThD

Worship is defined in the Youth Ministry Platform as:

For Orthodox Christians, corporate worship is the sacramental expression of and participation in Holy Tradition, and is the indispensable foundation of youth ministry at all levels. Upon this foundation, we must cultivate a daily personal prayer life and reading of Holy Scripture.

We read in the Orthodox Study Bible (p. 810) that worship means, “to bow down.’ In the Christian sense worship is the adoration of God through participation in the services of the Church, the highest act of a Christian (see John:4:19-24).”

Further, Liturgy is, “The work or public service of the people of God, which is the worship of the one true God. The Divine Liturgy is the Eucharistic service of the Orthodox Church.” Worship stands at the very core of youth ministry; in fact, all ministries begin with prayer and worship. –Archpriest Joseph Purpura, Plan Your Youth Program

“Frequently Asked Questions About the Orthodox Church” by Father Steven Tsichlis of Saint Paul’s Church  (See question “5. Do you mean you Orthodox believe your elaborate worship is based on the Bible? I’d like to know where.”)

Why I Don’t Raise My Hands in Your Church by Bill Blankschaen

Why I’ve Stopped Singing in Your Church by Bill Blankschaen

Christian Music:

No, not all Christian music sucks.

On the other hand, not all Christian music is wonderful, either.

I have many Christian CD’s, tapes and records that surpassed much of what passed for popular music in the late 80s.  In the 90s and the turn of the century, we’ve had many bands that are excellent.

But I do not like contemporary, R&B, hip-hop, rap, Praise & Worship, ska, or skater punk, which seem to predominate Christian charts these days.  They do sound much like secular, yes, but hey, I don’t like that stuff in secular music either.  Give me rock, nu metal, goth!  Please don’t give me a Christian Britney Spears or Celine Dion!!!!!

In late August 2006, I posted the following in a thread on an Orthodox forum.  The thread was 10 pages long and only a couple of days old.  Somebody asked how many ex-Protestants who used to listen to popular Christian music, still listen to it now that they’re Orthodox.  A bunch of people posted that there are bands they still like, but a lot of the music seems terribly theologically fluffy.  I posted:

“I find there’s really no difference these days between secular and Christian pop music: It all makes me ill.

“I grew up listening to Christian rock/pop/metal.  Now, a lot of it was actually good: The Choir, Sheila Walsh, Greg X. Volz, Holy Soldier, Rick Cua‘s Can’t Stand Too Tall, Kim Hill, Whiteheart, Mastedon, Leslie Phillips’ The Turning.

“Nowadays, however, two things have changed my tastes considerably.  One is discovering goth music and its various subgenres and related genres (from the 80s through today).  Another is discovering Orthodox theology.

“I’ve been going through my music collection, playing it in alphabetical order so my toddler will get a musical education.  I’m also finding albums I can no longer tolerate.

“In some cases, I never did like the album, because it had only one or two good songs on it.  I’ll rip the good songs into MP3s to put onto one CD, and get rid of the album, thereby condensing my music collection a bit.

“In some cases, I used to love an album, but the influence of goth means I can no longer stand it.  (For example, a Christian tape with secular pop-influenced tunes which I loved in high school, but now mostly sounds lame–just like the secular pop of that time.)

“Christian and secular albums are getting purged, because being Christian does not necessarily make it bad music, and being secular does not necessarily make it good music.

“In some cases with Christian albums, I always loved the music, but when I listen to the lyrics now, the theology is like nails on a chalkboard.  Carman has Charismatic, name-it-and-claim-it theology; One Bad Pig has songs which sound like Jonathan Edwards (such as Bowl of Wrath).

“Until a year or two ago, I had absolutely no problem with CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) in worship services; in fact, I wanted more of the modern stuff, and less of the old hymns.  I wanted goth or rock worship music, since usually it’s the poppy stuff which I can’t stand.

“But then I started studying other theological systems in-depth, including Orthodoxy, and now I can’t stand CCM praise choruses in church.  The music sounds poppy and the lyrics are often weak.

“Hubby and I both would rather string ourselves up to the light fixtures than sing another chorus of ‘yes lord yes lord yes yes lord’ (Trading My Sorrows)  or ‘na na na na na na na’ (Every Move I Make).

“I’d much rather sing/listen to some of that Russian plainchant….”

To quote from “From First Baptist to the First Century: A Spiritual Journey” by Clark Carlton:

A.W. Tozer once called worship the ‘missing jewel of evangelicalism.’  I longed to worship a God who was bigger than I was a God who could not be contained by the chatty informality of an evangelical service or by Bill Gaither choruses.  I longed to worship Him Who sits upon the throne of the cherubim. I did not want to be the star of the show!

My last years in high school also brought me into contact with a group of charismatic-leaning high school and college students who frequented a Christian coffee house. Here I was exposed to a kind of spontaneous informality in worship that made us Baptists look liturgical.

Although somewhat wary of their Pentecostal leanings, I joined in gladly, thrilled to find young people like myself who wanted to truly follow Christ.

The whole setting, however, was haphazard. Every guest speaker/singer had his own agenda. I do not think any of them would have known historic Christian doctrine if it had slapped them in the face; they were primarily interested in ‘just praising the Lord.’

With very few exceptions the spirituality of the coffee houses and the music they inspired was trite, superficial, and emotionally manipulative.

To be sure, everyone was sincere, and there was enough youthful energy involved to create a lot of smoke, but very little real heat was generated. After all, Jesus never said, ‘Sincerity will set you free.’

By the time I graduated from college the thrill was gone, and I had all but quit buying contemporary Christian music, the staple of Christian coffee house worship.

It is only natural, I suppose, that young people should desire to express their faith in the popular idiom of their culture. Nor is it surprising that such an expression should take place on such a superficial level.

It is disturbing, however, when people are never prompted to move beyond such shallow, sentimental, and emotionally manipulative expressions of faith.

There has been a trend in many evangelical churches over the last few years to move toward more ‘praise choruses’ and away from traditional Protestant hymnography. Thus, the slim doctrinal content of Protestant hymnography is being phased out altogether in favor of catchy choruses.

Yet, where is it written that the praise of God must be bereft of solid doctrine or be aimed at manipulating emotions rather than uplifting the heart?

On the “still, small voice” and Charismatic sign gifts:

Most denominations seem to agree that God speaks to people in a still, small voice.  But I don’t think He uses Pat Robertson-style words of knowledge/wisdom that you sit there and actively seek.  The techniques sound like New Age meditation to me, and I don’t trust that it’s always God speaking.

I’ve heard that the Early Church Fathers teach to beware of things you think the Holy Spirit is telling you, until you reach an extremely high level of spiritual discernment which is beyond the reach of most people.

A website on such things has a good rule of thumb, to just let God decide when to speak and how: Demonology, the forbidden subject.  The “possessed” section is a good place to start (“How does one get possessed?”), but the subject is mentioned here and there throughout the webpage.

Considering the trouble that these “sign gifts” have gotten me in, such as making me think God wanted me to marry guys who were totally wrong for me, these days I’m wary of anything that even sounds like them.

Now, where does Pat Robertson get these words of knowledge from?  I’ve wondered about this for some time.  One possibility is that he has a familiar spirit.

Or, it has been charged, he and Benny Hinn get them the same way stage hypnotists and stage psychics get their information on audience members: Benny Hinn: Healer or Hypnotist? by Joe Nickel

(And Pat Robertson has been called a prophet?  My only excuse for believing what he said back in the 80s and early 90s: I was a naïve teenager who believed anything Christian adults told me!  I began to lose faith in him when he prophesied that Bush would win in ’92, and Bush lost to Clinton.  That showed him to be a false prophet (Deut. 18:21-22).)

This webpage not only describes many different denominations in their own words, but also describes faith healers Benny Hinn and Peter Popoff as fakes.

Also see here, where I go into more detail about Pat Robertson, and about how charismatic sign gift teachings greatly harmed my judgment in college.

My understanding is that biblical references to words of knowledge/wisdom are about knowledge and wisdom on spiritual matters, not about getting little messages on what career you should have or something that’s going on in another town.

Pat’s teachings on words of knowledge/wisdom said that everybody could get them (the prophecy version), and over time “your track record will improve.”

He’d sit there during the daily 700 Club prayers, and say, “Somebody’s being healed of blindness,” or “Somebody who needs $5000 will get it.”  Not only did he claim to be hearing these things from God in his spirit, but his co-host shared in these words as well.

Unless someone calls in with a story of a healing, you don’t know what’s really happened.  I always wondered why I never got one of these “words.”  He’d say someone was being healed of nearsightedness, but it never meant me.

Why would the co-host participate in this?  I suspect the co-host is innocently following along with her svengali Pat, but is actually getting these “words” from herself, not from God–since it’s hard to tell the difference between a “still, small voice” and yourself.  The power of suggestion is strong, especially from a charismatic leader.

Some webpages on Pat’s “words of knowledge”:

700 Club video of Pat’s word of knowledge connected with a healing of ear pain

Pat Robertson Explains Faith Healing

Let Us Reason Ministries quotes,

A former employee describes Robertson’s “Word of Knowledge” performance in James Randi’s book, “The Faith Healers:” “There was nothing “mystical” to understand; it was simply “statistical”. Robertson’s little faith-healing procedure is a charade — he simply “calls out” an illness and predicts its cure, and with millions of viewers the statistical probabilities are that someone will have the disease named and that they will naturally recover. People put their faith in the belief that God speaks to Pat. (James Randi, The Faith Healers, 1989, p.201)

While I don’t agree with James Randi’s cynicism he has spoken for the numerous people that watch and can see through the antics that are presented as genuine Christianity and the power of God.

“(Gerry) Straub relates a non-miracle he witnessed while still a believer in the ministry he worked for. He describes Robertson, at the close of a “700 Club” videotaping, shaking hands with members of the studio audience:

“He stopped when he reached a man sitting in a wheelchair … Pat … laid hands on him as everyone prayed for healing … at Pat’s urging the man stood up. The people cheered as the man took a couple of very shaky, small steps. While everyone applauded God, I feared the man might fall.

The next day we showed the nation the miracle (on the “700 Club” broadcast). I simply wanted to know if the old man in the wheelchair was permanently healed by God or if he temporarily thought that he was healed.

A few weeks later I had an assistant track down the man’s family in order to see if the cure had lasted. He had died 10 days after his visit to [the Christian Broadcasting Network]. We reported his “healing” but not his death. (James Randi, The Faith Healers, 1989, p.201)

How The 700 Club describes these words:

Q: Your Word of Knowledge on The 700 Club brings healing to so many people. I love to participate in your prayers. Can I learn to receive words of healing from God, too? There are several people in my church who want to bring healing prayers to others. Where do I start?

A: You bet you can get a Word of Knowledge. These gifts are for everyone who believes.

The unique thing about the gifts of the Holy Spirit is they are given freely, and they are given at the point in time of baptism. So don’t go around saying, “I don’t have this gift.” You have it.

What you need to do is start practicing how to use it. So go into the meeting, and when you’re in a group, a prayer meeting, or church meeting, ask God some questions. He’s waiting for you. “You have not, because you ask not.” So ask Him, not for the gift, because He’ll say, “Well, I’ve already given that to you.”

Ask Him, “Who do you want to heal today?” Or “What sickness do you want to heal today?” Or “Do you have a Word for me for this person?” One of my favorite Bible verses is, “Many are your thoughts, O Lord, towards us.” I can’t even number them.

Ask God, “What’s one of your thoughts for this person I’m praying for? What do you think about them? What do you want me to do to encourage them?” And realize it’s encouragement, comfort, and exhortation. It’s not judgment. Judgment isn’t part of that gift. Anyway, there is a whole lot to that. —Bring it on: Sickness and Healing

I have found no evidence of sweet Sheila Walsh (Christian rock/pop star in the 80s and now with various ministries) deliberately setting out to deceive the American public.  In fact, I keep finding bloggers who hate Robertson but loved Sheila.

The Lutheran church (which is not into such terminology as “God laid on my heart,” “such-and-such is on the heart of God” or “God coming into the room,” as written by Don Matzat in the Promise Keepers article noted above) also says that Christ meets us through Word and Sacrament.

It says that any spirit which uses another vehicle (such as a “meditative altered state of consciousness in order to make contact with God”) is from the devil (Don Matzat, paraphrasing Martin Luther, The Intrusion of Psychology into Christian Theology).

For more on the Lutheran view, also see Gifts of the SpiritThe Charismatic Movement and Lutheran Theology Part 1,  and The Charismatic Movement and Lutheran Theology Part 2.

Luther’s Small Catechism states that,

The Scriptures do not teach, however, that God will necessarily give all Christians in every time and place special miraculous gifts.  The Holy Spirit bestows His blessings according to His good pleasure. . . .

In popular English, the word charismatic describes a dynamic person, highly emotional worship, or claims of special miraculous gifts.

But the Greek word charisma means simply ‘gift’ and refers, for example, to Christ’s whole work of salvation (Rom. 5:15-16), to eternal life (Rom. 6:23), and to being married or single (1 Cor. 7:7). –(p. 151-2)

The Orthodox view of the gifts of the Spirit: The Holy Spirit and His Varieties of Gifts by Rev. George Mastrantonis.  The article contrasts the New Testament gift of tongues with the modern Charismatic version.  Quotes:

The gift of the ‘utterance of wisdom’ means the deeper understanding of the Will of God and mysteries of salvation; the ‘utterance of knowledge’ means the good sense of knowledge; ‘faith’ means the supernatural achievements through the Spirit; ‘healing’ means the ability to heal various sicknesses; ‘working of miracles’ means supernatural achievements; ‘prophesy’ means the miracle in the form of preaching; ‘ability to distinguish between spirits’ means being able to distinguish between good and evil spirits by which various spiritual expressions exist; ‘various kinds of tongues’ means the gift of speaking in many dialects of which the meaning is known only to him who speaks them, not even an interpreter; ‘interpretation of tongues’ means the ability to interpret the language of the speaker of ‘tongues’ to the people who do not understand what is being said….

The ‘speaking in tongues’ in the New Testament as described above is far different from the new glossolalia, tongues movement, of today. Although the word, glossolalia, is a term which was lately adopted, in the 19th century, the phenomenon of speaking in tongues is very ancient, as mentioned before.

The difference is that in the past, and especially in the Bible, the speaking in tongues was the speaking of a human foreign language, which could be understood directly or through an interpreter. Glossolalia today has another meaning entirely.

Nor should it be associated with the Pentecostal Church, either. This new movement of glossolalia of today started in 1960 with an Episcopal priest in California. This movement has flourished, but not without opposition.

The point of this movement of glossolalia is that the ‘tongues’ are not human languages, but inarticulated speech. Some claim it is gibberish foolish sounds; others say not.

All agree that from a linguistic point glossolalia is not a human language, for one cannot identify any positive language being spoken, and there is no evidence that the glossolalia contains actual speech.

Despite the claim of the members of this movement, they cannot provide any case to stand up under scientific investigation.

Another good Orthodox article: Speaking in Tongues/Miracles by Fr. John Matusiak.  Quotes:

Concerning the gifts of the Holy Spirit and specifically speaking in new tongues, I offer the following observations: While the Orthodox Church does not deny this gift in any way, it does acknowledge that this gift is rarely given, spontaneous, and only evident in cases of need….

If everyone speaks the same language, what is being revealed? If what is uttered is not intelligible to the hearers, what is being communicated?…

If it is a way of showing who in a congregation is filled with the Holy Spirit and who isn’t, it constitutes heresy, for the Holy Spirit is everywhere present and fills all things, including those individuals who have been created in God’s image and likeness yet who reject the very notion. Scripture is very clear that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are never to become sources of personal pride….

With regard to miracles, surely there can be no end to the age of miracles, for God is present everywhere and at all times in the midst of His people. This in itself is a miracle.

If, however, by miracles we are referring only to physical healings, flashing lights, unexplained phenomena, and the like, then we may very well be disappointed. Christ Himself condemned those who continually wished to see signs, or miracles. And Scripture is clear that even those who witnessed miracles with their own eyes often rejected that which they had experienced.

There’s a bunch of information here about charismatic sign gifts, from one Orthodox writer’s point of view (Fr. Seraphim Rose): Charismatic Revival as a Sign of the Times.  (Keep in mind that this is one writer; it is not the “official Orthodox view” to be so scathing of Protestants and Catholics, or of Christian rock.)

It can be said that the Charismatic Movement is actually a rebirth of an old heresy, Montanism–and it has also been said by Charismatics that Montanism was “a revival, not a heresy!”  You be the judge:

History of sect from Pentecostal point of view

Wikipedia description of Montanism

The Pepuzians or the Montanists

Catholic Encyclopedia article on Montanism

An Orthodox Priest’s view of Montanism

This article by Cooper Abrams explains how speaking of tongues, as practiced in charismatic churches, is nothing but gibberish.  It also explains how suggestible people can be in church:

Clearly, some people are more susceptible that others to having a what can be referred to as a psychological experience. For example some people are easily hypnotized and others are not susceptible to suggestion.

Some people are more emotional than others, which means that some can control their emotions in a greater way than others.

A crowd of people can be stimulated or emotionally whipped up. It can be easily observed at rock music concerts, sports events, and rallies of all sorts.

Rhythmic music, singing, and/or chanting can have a great influence on people and strongly effect their emotions. Some preachers preach in a rhythmic style and can captivate their audience.

All these common experiences show that people can be stimulated mentally to act in unusual ways.

I used to know a guy with a deep, sonorous voice which easily charmed me.   He knew how to hypnotize, and also used to be a Foursquare preacher, who was very popular, rising in the ranks, and could have become a famous TV preacher if he wanted to.

But his lifestyle had been full of sin, even in Bible college, and he told me that he faked speaking in tongues for the congregation!  I thought he had since repented, only to find he was probably a sociopath.  This is a real-life example of the danger congregations are in.

On church buildings:

I’ve heard of many churches these days that are building far more than just a sanctuary with classrooms and a few other necessities and amenities.

A church here in town will soon have a building with a weight room/gym and coffee house.  Many churches look more like auditoriums or conference halls than churches.

I can see why Willow Creek-type churches are so big physically, since they have so many people in the congregation.  I can also see the need for conference halls.  But should the conference hall and the church be the same thing?

Are we getting so into building bigger churches with all the latest toys, or going to conferences on everything, that we’ve forgotten what we’re supposed to be doing?

We are to become like Christ.  It’s not all about having Power Point or the best Christian conferences or big productions or the latest method of making converts.

The Message Bible:

It’s not the actual Bible!  It’s merely one man’s interpretation of the Bible.  It often is quite different from the actual Bible!  Please stop using it in everything: sermons, CCM magazine article series that basically are ads for The Message, books, etc.

I recommend the Orthodox Study Bible.  It’s supposed to come out in Old and New Testament form next Pascha (Easter), and it’s supposed to include a translation of the Septuagint.  Ooooooh!  [Update 1/24/15: It came out in 2008, and is available on Amazon and here.]

Also, I hear that Orthodox believers are supposed to avoid such paraphrases–not surprising when they tend to come from an Evangelical viewpoint.

The Purpose-Driven Life:

I tried reading this.  My husband tried reading this.  We both quit because of all the misquoted and mangled Scripture and misrepresentations of the Gospel message.  Translations were used based on which one made the exact point the author wanted to make.

You want to know your purpose?  Read the Bible, plain and simple.  It tells you how, more importantly, you fit into God’s purposes.

I’d find you a good Orthodox critique, except that–not counting the Protestant converts who rip it apart on Orthodox forums–it seems to have fallen under the Orthodox radar.  I guess they’re too busy reading Fr. Seraphim Rose, the Church Fathers and the Philokalia instead of fluffy Protestant pop psychology.  So here are some Protestant sites:

A site that critiques PDL in detail: PDL by Tony Capoccia

An Evangelical Lutheran review: Partners Book Reviews by Lawrence R. Wohlrabe

A Lutheran (Confessional/Missouri Synod) review: PDL Sells 20 Million Copies by Reclaim News

Another Lutheran–Missouri Synod (LCMS) review, on the radio show Issues, Etc.: http://www.issuesetc.org/resource/archives/purpose.htm

A review from the point of view of Baptist/traditional Presbyterian (PCA) Reformed theology: Book Review–Rick Warren’s The PDL by Tim Challies

In the last link, this writer also notes Warren’s

carelessness in his use of the Bible.  He continually removes Scripture passages from their proper context in order to make them suit his purposes.  He carelessly applies promises to the reader that clearly do not apply.  He also distorts or changes the meanings of certain passages to make them say what he wants them to say.

What’s even more disturbing to me is that I have heard pastors preach sermons doing all these things.  I have read accounts from others that their pastors do the same.  This is one reason why we left the Evangelical-Free church.  Has this become a common trend in modern American churches?

The Orthodox answer to Purpose-Driven Life (though not intentionally so): Theosis: The True Purpose of Human Life

The Relevance Doctrine, i.e. Marketing Churches to Seekers:

Has the world really changed so much that worshipping God in spirit and truth, following His precepts, and loving God/our neighbor is no longer relevant enough?

Must we change the music, do 40 Days of Purpose (see above), and preach light and fluffy sermons to be attractive to seekers?

What ever happened to God-centered worship, not worship based on what the individual Baby Boomer or Gen-Xer would like?  What ever happened to preaching about sin and forgiveness?

Check out what this Orthodox pastor has to say about church and Christian merchandise marketing campaigns.  For example:

The Christian faith is not a commodity, though there is a ruthless effort from within—of all places—to make it so. Models and methods for “explosive church growth” and “true community” are as overstocked as every American diet craze. Here today, gone tomorrow. Self-professed experts, who have little, if any, connection to the ancient church, offer their solutions to propel your church into the 21st century, for a nice price…..

If the early Christians took growth not only as a long-term process, but one which had to be proven by a visible, concrete, regular, and often significant life-change, why do we treat it as if it is something that can be bought in a video package, and completed in a 40-day or 15 session course? —True Church Growth by Fr. John Parker

Here’s a funny take on modern Evangelical fads and practices, from a Baptist: Fads and Fixtures: Ten Deadly Trappings of Evangelism by Joe Carter.

The Internet Monk’s take on Praise & Worship music in church services: Riffs: 06:18:09 Bill Kinnon’s Worship Lament/My Essay “Looney Tunes”

Republican Party:

I do not believe that the Democrat Party is the agent of the Evil One; I do not believe that the Republican Party is the agent of God.

I believe that both parties have good points, and that both parties are also full of corrupt money-grubbers.

I am now a moderate who votes for whichever candidate seems closest to being right.  I keep hoping and dreaming that Colin Powell will run or that Senator John McCain will run again, because the good presidential candidates never get the nomination these days.

[Update 2/1/15: This is obviously dated, since McCain did run again, in 2008.  I finally ran screaming from the Republican Party around 2010 because I no longer see how you can be Christian and Republican.  It’s been taken over by the Tea Party and corporate fat cats such as the Koch Brothers.  It has turned so extremist that moderates are called “Republicans in Name Only” and pushed out of office.  I can’t abide extremism, which is why I consider third parties, such as Libertarians, to be even worse.  I am a moderate Democrat now.  If the Republican Party ever turns around and becomes more sane like it used to be, then I can consider occasionally voting Republican again.]

A good description of my feelings is in the March 2005 “As I See It” column, written by Ed Scholl, on the Presbyterians Today website: A Too-Thin Slice of “Moral Values”.  Quote:

I’m concerned that the name “evangelical Christian” no longer means what it used to, and now seems to be synonymous with church-going, culturally conservative Republicans.

I’m worried that moral values have been reduced to a thin slice of values that are very incomplete. And I’m troubled that evangelical Christians seem to be increasingly accepting the argument that personally held moral values should be legislated and imposed on everyone.

Nevertheless, I’m hopeful that mainstream and moderate evangelicals will recover their prophetic voices. I’m hopeful that the majority of Americans will not forget about, and hold this Administration accountable for, other moral values like protection of the environment, a just foreign policy, support for the homeless, poor and disadvantaged, and promoting peace and development in the world in cooperation with others.

For all his talk that The 700 Club was a fair and balanced news show (unlike the so-called “liberal media”–a conservative myth), back when I used to watch, Pat Robertson presented only the side that supported Republicans and blasted the Democrats.

Thinking this to be an innocent Christian program, not a propaganda machine, I bought into the idea that to be Christian is to be Republican.

When a Christian boyfriend told me he was a Democrat, I wondered how a Christian could be a Democrat.

It wasn’t until 1992 that I began to realize Pat Robertson was not showing the whole truth and that sometimes his conclusions were downright wrong: politics, the Illuminati, religious issues, rock music, Halloween, Dungeons and Dragons.

It took even longer to break free of the idea that you don’t have to be Republican if you’re a Christian.  Political parties are just that: political.  You can be a pious Christian and be Republican or Democrat or even Libertarian.

Abortion Protests:

People have been protesting abortion for at least two decades.  Abortion is still legal.

Picket signs, fights, litigation, and slanderous words are not ending abortion.  On the contrary, they’re only making the pro-choice side fight harder.

Let’s do something that actually can make a difference:

Don’t treat unwed mothers like sluts; that’s one reason why abortion is even considered.

Vote for candidates/policies which help unwed and poor mothers take care of their children.

If one president or Congress changes the laws, the next will try to change them back; what we truly need is a heart change.  Also see How I can vote pro-choice without changing my mind about abortions.

The Christian community must be concerned about and address the circumstances that bring a woman to consider abortion as the best available option. Poverty, unjust societal realities, sexism, racism, and inadequate supportive relationships may render a woman virtually powerless to choose freely. —Abortion Issues, PCUSA Statement

An earlier version of the PCUSA statement, which also addresses partial-birth abortion

Creationism:

People spend huge amounts of time trying to refute evolution and trying to force the teaching of “alternatives” on schoolkids.

But is this really a good use of our time?  If scientists found something that absolutely proved evolution, what would happen to our faith?  (Actually, it can be argued that they have long since proven evolution.)

I feel it’s better to just say, God was behind whatever happened.  Whether He used evolution, six 24-hour days of creation, or whatever, God was the great Designer.

Now let’s get on with more important things, such as spreading the Word and helping our communities.

This writer says that the Early Church did not understand the 6 Creation days to be literal.  They were, rather, “six successive enormous periods of time.”  I’ve heard this may not be totally accurate: “Biblical Interpretation in the Early Church” by Dr. Daniel F. Stramara, Jr.

Also see this view from a Russian Orthodox missionary leaflet: “Orthodoxy and Creationism” by Fr. Deacon Andrey Kuraev

The Orthodox church does not reject God-driven evolution, just atheistic evolution, and does not say one way or another how things worked.

Many Orthodox believe evolution is incompatible with Genesis; many believe it is compatible.  One bishop will say evolution is how God created; another will emphatically deny evolution.

But also note that Adam and Eve are treated in Church writings as actual people, not metaphors, so we must take care before dismissing them as simply allegories:

OCA: Evolution and Orthodoxy

We shall not compare the biblical story of creation with modern scientific theories of the origin of the universe. The protracted dialogue between science and theology has not yet come to any definitive conclusions about the connections between biblical revelation and scientific developments.

It is, however, very clear that the Bible does not aim to present a scientific account of the origin of the universe, and it is rather naive to polemicize on the biblical narrative understood in its literal sense. Sacred Scripture regards all of history from the perspective of an interrelationship between the human and the divine.

The authors of biblical stories often use metaphorical and symbolic language and they often rely on the scientific knowledge of their own time. This, however, does not diminish the significance of the Bible as a book through which God speaks to humanity and reveals God in all His creative power. —The Six Days of Creation

Also see:

The classic patristic writing is Basil’s nine homilies on the Six Days of Creation, the Hexaemeron. Most of the key doctrines whose origin is wrongly attributed to Augustine in the Western tradition can be found in Basil and Gregory of Nyssa two generations earlier.

The world does not begin in time, but in God’s will and word (Hexaemeron, 1:5ff). The six days of creation are not 24-hour days (caused by the sun, created on the fourth day) but long epochs.

There is no “three-storey universe” as in Rudolf Bultmann’s caricature of patristic teaching. The created order is unfinished, dynamic, moving towards its fulfillment.

Heaven is not a place but an order of many-­dimensioned reality closed to our senses. –Paulos Mar Gregorios, A Theology of Nature: an Introduction

Among the visible things that God created is the crown of His creation, man. In Genesis we read the story of God’s creation. We cannot interpret this story to the letter; however, its message is loud and clear:

God is the creator of everything that exists; there is order in God’s creation, and a development (even “evolution”) from lower forms to higher forms of life; God created everything good; man, created in God’s image and likeness, has a very special place in God’s creation, called to be God’s proxy toward His creation. –His Eminence Metropolitan Maximos of Pittsburgh, The Dogmatic Tradition of the Orthodox Church

From the Orthodox Study Bible, the “Creation” essay, page 2:

Regarding questions about the scientific accuracy of the Genesis account of creation, and about various viewpoints concerning evolution, the Orthodox Church has not dogmatized any particular view.

What is dogmatically proclaimed is that the One Triune God created everything that exists, and that man was created in a unique way and is alone made in the image and likeness of God (Gn 1:26, 27).

Here is the Catholic view: Adam, Eve, and Evolution

Theodore G. Stylianopoulos writes in The New Testament, An Orthodox Perspective:

A reaction to this liberal academic tradition is the fundamentalist interpretation, ranging from simplistic to sophisticated expressions.

Although fundamentalist interpretation developed in deliberate opposition to liberal biblical studies, especially historical criticism, it was compelled to imitate some of the perceived enemy’s tools.

Based on its own ideological interests, its definitive feature is the use of rationalism, even if artificially, to defend positions such as creationism and the absolute inerrancy of Scripture.

A particularly American phenomenon since the late nineteenth century, it has spread as well to other areas of the globe in the wake of conservative Protestant missions.

The fundamentalist approach is ideological in that it is inclined to defend an absolute position of the plenary inspiration, propositional revelation, and total inerrancy of Scripture regarding all truth–scientific, historical, and theological–beyond the claims and evidence of Scripture itself.

While the intent to uphold the authority of Scripture is commendable, the extremes to which it has led, including a kind of intellectual sophistry and fanaticism, are indefensible.

Christian fundamentalism, whether among Protestants, Roman-Catholics, or Orthodox is on the whole an obscurantist reaction, albeit understandably so, to the bewildering excesses of modernism.

It is often based on unconscious fear of losing the objective grounds of one’s security of faith in the face of new findings by scientific and historical research.

However, as has been noted by many, refusal to face reasonable facts of science and history is not evidence of sound faith but lack of it.

As Father Thomas Hopko puts it in The Orthodox Faith: Bible and Church History:

…At this time, there was a clash between the liberals and fundamentalists.

The fundamentalists, particularly in America, insisted on using the Bible as a manual of science to be interpreted literally in a manner inconsistent with the purposes and intentions of the holy scriptures as understood and interpreted in Church Tradition.

Thus in the Western Protestant world of the nineteenth century, the dominant choice offered was that of either liberalism of a rationalist or pietist variety, or sectarian fundamentalism….(p. 204)

From OrthodoxWiki: Evolution

I think the furor over evolution vs. literalist creationism may have been stirred by the Devil–not by speaking through Darwin, mind you, but by making people elevate its importance far too high.

The arguments have not only pitted atheist against Christian, but Christian against Christian.  We know God created, whatever means He used.

And the Gospel of salvation is far more important than trying to prove the so-called “atheist evolutionists” wrong.

Nazarenes Exploring Evolution

The idea that God has someone in mind for you:

Finding a mate is not always a matter of patience, waiting for God’s match for you to come along.  It could also be a matter of where you are in your life, how willing you are to take the initiative, how you act, how picky you are, etc.

Sometimes it’s not you, but the lack of good or available catches in your social circles.  (You begin to think arranged marriages are a great idea.)

Even getting married is not the cure-all it’s made to seem in popular culture.   Sometimes people find the “perfect” man/woman and get totally disillusioned.   Sometimes people will be married for many years and then get divorced.   Sometimes a spouse will have affairs or be abusive in some way.

There’s no such thing as the “perfect” mate.  I also don’t believe in soul mates: We use God’s Word for direction in choosing someone, but ultimately that someone is our choice (and theirs).

The idea that God chooses everything for us–mate, career, college, etc.–as part of an overall “plan” comes from Protestant fundamentalism.  I don’t believe it comes from ancient Christianity.

Looking for the perfect someone could leave you lonely.  Looking for someone you can get along with, and then working to keep the relationship in good shape, is more successful than expecting to find a lifelong passionate love affair.

Being single is not always fun, especially since you can’t do certain things if you don’t believe in premarital sex.  But if you focus on doing things you enjoy, find some good friends, and have a job or ministry or hobby that you like, that can help keep the loneliness at bay.

Several months after my ex-fiancé broke up with me in 1994, I found myself having a great time because I didn’t have to deal with his emotional abuse anymore–and a few guys were interested in me at the same time.

I’m married now, but went through many years of loneliness before finding this person.  I wish I knew these things back when I was single, so I wouldn’t have been so desperate to find somebody.

Literalism in Biblical Interpretation:

Here, Biblical Interpretation in the Early Church, is a college lecture by a scholar concentrating on the Early Church, Dr. Daniel F. Stramara, Jr.

He notes that Jews and early Christians did not take numbers as literal, such as Enoch living to be 365 or Lamech living to be 777, or the Hebrews wandering for 40 years in the desert.  And Creation was not done in 6 literal days, but in 6 “successive enormous periods of time.”  The Scriptures were not seen as “literally true historical documents as in the modern sense,” but historical testimonies of God and faith.

And get a load of this–from the most conservative church on the planet–according to The New Testament, An Orthodox Perspective:

Orthodox theology holds to a personal and dynamic, rather than mechanistic and verbal, concept of inspiration. God did not merely dictate words or propositions to passive authors, but rather he impacted personally their whole beings, allowing them actively to comprehend, interpret, and convey his will to others according to the limitations of their understanding and language.

It is important to note that the inspiration of the Holy Spirit embraces a far deeper and broader process than the composition of single books. Inspiration involves the entire community of faith, the life of a particular author, the composition of particular books, as well as their gradual gathering into a sacred collection.

While all Scripture is “God-breathed”, 2 Tim 3:16), it is not equally so, because of the variability of human receptivity. The inspirational character of the Book of Isaiah cannot be compared to that of the Book of Ecclesiastes, nor the inspirational character of the Gospel of John to that of the Epistle of Jude.

Those who emphasize the literal authority of Scripture, often conservative and fundamentalist Protestants, debate the concept of inerrancy. They advocate essentially a Bible without error and are thus compelled to provide artificial defensive justifications.

Many seem to bypass the historical complexities and to attribute to Scripture an absolute character that properly belongs only to God, thus seemingly lapsing into a kind of bibliolatry.

The Roman Catholic view of inspiration may be expressed by the term infallibility, following the etymological sense that Scripture ‘does not fail’ for the essential saving purposes for which it was given by God.

In the Orthodox tradition, perhaps the most appropriate expression is the sufficiency of Scripture, an expression used by St. Athanasios to affirm the fullness of saving truth provided by Scripture.

Read the whole passage, titled “Divine and Human Aspects,” for a complete picture of the Orthodox view of Scripture.  Basically, their rejection of inerrancy does not mean that we cannot trust anything the Bible says, such as about Christ’s death on the cross or God’s existence etc., as many proponents of the inerrancy doctrine have charged.  Rather,

The divine aspects are to be found in Scripture’s saving message about God, humanity, the gospel, the Church, grace and works, as well as the hope of the coming kingdom.

This saving message is not merely an announcement of abstract concepts but a present reality as God’s word which, when proclaimed and received by faith, becomes a living and transforming word through the power of the Spirit.

The human aspects are to be found in the specific human languages of the Bible, the different kinds of literary forms and skills of the biblical authors and editors, as well as in their cultural and conceptual limitations which are intrinsic to all human endeavors. –Theodore G. Stylianopoulos, The New Testament: An Orthodox Perspective

This Orthodox view was passed down by the Early Church Fathers, which you’ll discover if you also read this section: “4. The Church Fathers & Holy Scripture/The Authority of Scripture.”  For examples:

However, the exaltation of the authority and centrality or Scripture in the patristic tradition did not lead to its absolutization as a kind of holy book delivered directly from heaven.

It is true that, on the one hand, without the benefit of current critical awareness pertaining to the composition of the biblical writings, the Church fathers held a distinctly higher view of the divine authority and historical veracity of the Bible than is usual among modern scholars and theologians.

But, on the other hand, the Church fathers did not reach a kind of fundamentalist view of the Bible as found in Protestant orthodoxy. We may say that the fathers in their total witness were indeed fundamental but never fundamentalist about the Bible, acknowledging in significant ways its human as well as divine character.

 

….Numerous examples can be given of the patristic refusal to stay with the plain teaching of Scripture when such teaching compromised the overall understanding of God.

Biblical texts that are predestinarian in grammatical meaning (Rom 8:29; 9:11,16-17) cannot, according to the Church fathers, be taken at face value without leading to unacceptable deductions about God who is loving and just, and not arbitrary.

The Book of Revelation may teach a literal millennium (Rev. 20:4), and the Epistle to the Hebrews seems to prohibit the possibility of a second repentance after serious sin (Heb 10:26-27; 12:16-17).

Although some early interpreters advocated such ideas, for example, the author of the Shepherd of Hermas, St. Justin, and St. Irenaios, these doctrines never became part of the normative teaching of the Church.

In a remarkable instance of freedom from biblical literalism, St. Isaac the Syrian, arguably the greatest mystic in the tradition of Eastern Christianity, intentionally demythologizes the image of hellfire.

Although he by no means rejects the reality of hell, he reinterprets it as a separation from and inability to participate in God’s eternal love, a separation more painful according to him than any physical hell. For St. Isaac, hell did not exist prior to sin and its ultimate end is unknown.

 

….Certainly the patristic tradition, known for its spiritual exegesis, cannot be charged with slavish literalism to an absolute holy word. In the end, as H. Chadwick has observed, the Church fathers knew that Christianity is not a religion of a book but of a Person.

Miscellaneous

Here’s a guy who debunks all sorts of things, some of which happen to have filled the church in recent years, such as bad science, Pat Robertson’s faith healing and the Bible Code: A Mind at Play: An Interview with Martin Gardner

I still have great fondness for the denomination I grew up in.  And they now have a cool website.

On the website you can also find “Strange Bedfellows: The Nazarenes and Fundamentalism” by Stan Ingersol.  He writes that premillennialism, inerrancy, and dispensationalism were not originally part of the denomination.  He also shows how fundamentalism has affected the way various Christian issues are viewed today, and even speaks against the influence of John Piper’s Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (subordination of women to men).

Sketches of Church History, from AD 33 to the Reformation, by JC Robertson is the text of a 19th-century book on the earliest history of the church, in between Pentecost and the rise of Roman Catholicism.

The writings of the Early Church Fathers are collected here: Early Church Fathers

Here you can find information and teachings of the Orthodox Church:

OCA’s website, which includes a Q&A section and excerpts from a book about Orthodoxy written for inquirers.

Orthodox Info, while polemical, has much useful information.  Just be cautious.

Spirituality by Rev. Thomas Fitzgerald

The Orthodox Church: An Introduction by Rev. Thomas Fitzgerald

An Orthodox view of St. Augustine’s teachings, from which we derive many Western concepts, such as original sin and predestination: St. Augustine in the Greek Orthodox Tradition by George Papademetriou

Original Sin (Orthodox perspective: false doctrine)

St. Augustine and Original Sin Part 1 and St. Augustine and Original Sin Part 2 (read both for full picture on Orthodoxy’s view of Augustine and this doctrine)

Here you can find information about the Catholic Church’s teachings.

Here is the extensively researched and immensely useful Catholic Encyclopedia.

Here are lectures given by a professor at Rockhurst University, a Jesuit university.  The professor, Dr. Daniel F. Stramara, Jr., is an expert in Early Church history.  This is not some questionable Web college: This is an actual, brick-and-mortar college in Kansas City, Missouri, and Dr. Stramara’s credentials are here.  He has also published extensively.  (He seems to especially like St. Gregory of Nyssa.)  So while there’s always the possibility of errors, his lectures are a good source of Early Church history and theology.

This site explains the differences between Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism.

A series of lectures by an Orthodox theologian, describing the issues and historical context that led the Church to Schism: Franks, Romans, Feudalism, and Doctrine.

An awesome little site with lots of Orthodox stuff for sale.  Support the monks of the skete!  I have bought icons and a cross necklace from here.

 

Disclaimer: I am not a preacher, theologian, prophet or teacher.  I’m just a Christian who loves to research theology and other subjects.  

I used to be Evangelical and once I even watched “The 700 Club” religiously, but I’ve discovered there are many weaknesses in Evangelical theology and the applications of it.  I believe in doctrinal truth, which ultimately led me to Orthodoxy.  

I try to make my postings as accurate as possible, but there is always the possibility of error.  These pages are, therefore, opinion–not theological dissertations–and a collection of links–a database, if you will, which I invite anyone to share with me. 

Also, please note: In quotes, I try to follow the exact punctuation/grammar of the source.  So if it’s wrong, blame the source.  🙂 

This website is meant for informational and personal-musing use only, so no copyright infringement is intended.

Last updated 11/5/16

Page 2:

Name it and Claim It Doctrine, Prosperity Doctrine, Faith-Formula Theology, Word-Faith Theology,  Positive Confession Theology, Health and Wealth Gospel, and whatever else they call it
More about Pat Robertson
Dr. Richard Eby and others who claim to have been to Heaven
Women in Marriage/the Church
Spiritual Abuse 
Other Resources 

Page 3:

Why do bad things happen?
Should we criticize our brethren’s artistic or evangelistic attempts?  Or, how should we evangelize, then?
Angels: Is “This Present Darkness” by Frank Peretti a divine revelation or fiction?
Halloween: Not the Devil’s Holiday!
Hell and the Nature of God 
Is Christmas/Easter a Pagan Holiday? 
Is everybody going to Hell except Christians?
How could a loving God who prohibits murder, command the genocide of the Canaanite peoples? 
What about predestination?
Musings on Sin, Salvation and Discipleship 
An Ancient View which is in the Bible, yet new to the west–Uncreated Energies of God

Page 4:

Dialogues
The Didache 
Technical Virginity–i.e., how far should a Christian single go? 
Are Spiritual Marriages “real”?  (also in “Life” section, where it’s more likely to be updated) 
Does the Pill cause abortions, or is that just another weird Internet or extremist right-wing rumor?
What about Missional Churches, Simple Churches, Fluid Churches, Organic Churches, House Churches or Neighborhood Churches?
Is Wine from the Devil–or a Gift from God?
What is Worship? 
Evangelistic Trips to Already Christianized Countries
Fraternities, Sororities, Masonic Lodge 
Was Cassie Bernall a Martyr?
Some Awesome Things heard in the Lamentations Service (Good Friday evening) during Holy Week

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