conversion story here
Page 4 Topics:
—Technical Virginity–i.e., how far should a Christian single go?
—Are Spiritual Marriages “real”?
—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?
—Evangelistic Trips to Already Christianized Countries
—Fraternities, Sororities, Masonic Lodge
—Some Awesome Things heard in the Lamentations Service (Good Friday evening) during Holy Week
Dialogues between various Christian churches have been going on for decades. There is hope for unity one day, which can only make the Church stronger.
Here I have collected links to documents from or about, or summaries of, these dialogues, particularly the ones involving the Catholic and Orthodox churches:
Another between Orthodox and Lutheran
Gatherings of documents for many such dialogues
A Reformed perspective on ecumenism
An Orthodox Wiki article on ecumenism
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) has had a productive conversation with the Orthodox Church and now rejects the contested filioque clause in the Nicene Creed. See here.
This short book was once part of the New Testament. It is supposed to have been written by the Apostles as a guide to Christian life, though many dispute that claim: The Didache
Technical Virginity–i.e., how far should a Christian single go?
Go here, the main page for this topic.
Are Spiritual Marriages “real”?
Go here, the main page for this topic.
Does the Pill cause abortions, or is that just another weird Internet or extremist right-wing rumor?
No, the Pill and the Morning-After Pill do NOT cause abortions by anyone’s standards, not even the conservative Christian standard.
They do not work by preventing implantation, but by preventing ovulation/fertilization. Without fertilization, there can be no conception.
The notion that morning-after pills prevent eggs from implanting stems from the Food and Drug Administration’s decision during the drug-approval process to mention that possibility on the label–despite lack of scientific proof, scientists say, and objections by the manufacturer of Plan B, the pill on the market the longest.
Leading scientists say studies since then provide strong evidence that Plan B does not prevent implantation, and no proof that a newer type of pill, Ella, does. Some abortion opponents said they remain unconvinced….
Experts say implantation was likely placed on the label partly because daily birth control pills, some of which contain Plan B’s active ingredient, appear to alter the endometrium, the lining of the uterus into which fertilized eggs implant. Altering the endometrium has not been proven to interfere with implantation.
But in any case, scientists say that unlike the accumulating doses of daily birth control pills, the one-shot dose in morning-after pills does not have time to affect the uterine lining….
Dr. Trussell of Princeton said that if morning-after pills worked after eggs were fertilized, they would prevent pregnancy better than they do. The pregnancy prevention rates are probably lower than scientists and pill makers originally thought, he said–in some studies as low as 52 percent for Plan B and 62 percent for Ella.
By contrast, scientists say, research suggests that the only other officially approved form of emergency contraception, the copper intrauterine device (also a daily birth control method), can work to prevent pregnancy after an egg has been fertilized. –Pam Belluck, Abortion Qualms on Morning-After Pill May Be Unfounded
Wikipedia (has many additional links, some of which are below)
A page from a text by doctors who promote birth control, describing how the Pill works
From the Archives of Family Medicine
Religious Tolerance site article (formerly titled “Do Contraceptives Induce Abortions?”)
Note that if you don’t take the Pill regularly, it won’t protect you from pregnancy. Which also does not support the idea that it’s an abortifacient.
Here’s a Lutheran paper on the subject: Birth Control Pills: Contraceptive or Abortifacient?
The following article, from a Catholic health journal, argues that Plan B emergency contraception does not cause abortions, as the Church would understand them, that it does not abort fertilized eggs: Plan B: How it Works: Science shows it is not an abortifacient
Why can’t the FDA fix outdated birth control labels?
What Media Should Know About Hobby Lobby and the Fight for Contraceptive Access
What about Missional Churches, Simple Churches, Fluid Churches, Organic Churches, House Churches or Neighborhood Churches?
In mid- to late-2007, I first came across this term in mailings from my former church’s youth pastor, who had gone into new ministries. He was starting this kind of church, so I wondered what it was and began researching.
It’s basically rebuilding Christianity from the ground up, not relying on denominations or doctrines or preachers or anything but the Bible, not even needing a pastor.
You have tiny groups doing worship, prayer, communion and Bible study with a leader. This can be your church, or alongside your regular church.
It is very easy to get into all sorts of heresy in this kind of setup.
It derides practices which are good and right, such as imitating Jewish worship (which was prescribed by God himself) and paying a priest/pastor a salary.
I have looked into the practices of the Early Church, including writings from that time; I find the claims of the Simple Church founders regarding the Early Church to be inaccurate and misleading.
Frank Viola is a big part of the Simple Church movement, and he’s the one who wrote Pagan Christianity, charging that paganism infused the Church shortly after its inception.
I am extremely concerned because Viola rips apart everything about the historic Church which makes it the One Holy, Apostolic Catholic Church.
Some quotes from this page:
Does a house church need a leader or pastor?
Although all house churches are different, and they decide individually how they want to do things, in general there are no “pastors.” At least there doesn’t need to be.
We believe that the Holy Spirit can use any believer to teach or encourage the group. In a house church, everyone is expected to participate and be looking for ways to use the gifts the Holy Spirit provides (see 1 Cor. 14:26).
Certainly there is usually a facilitator of the group (although it doesn’t need to be the same person that facilitates from meeting to meeting).
We believe that even a new believer could start a church in their home without feeling like they need a trained professional to come and lead it, or needing money to support such a person.
We find that the lack of a specified pastor encourages every person in the group to look for answers by searching the Scriptures and looking to the Holy Spirit, rather than depending on the pastor to interpret.
….What do you do when you get together?
Again, this will vary from church to church . . . but here are some of the basic elements that tend to be present in every house church:
FOOD – When you get together, eat! It provides a great atmosphere for people to have honest open communication with each other.
OPEN PARTICIPATION – 1 Corinthians 14:26 is the basis for what we do when we get together. The key is “Each one has…” Everybody should be able to take part.
BIBLE STUDY – Keep it simple and interactive. A great technique is to look over a few verses together and then share with each other what each person gets out of the verses.
PRAYER – Find out what is happening in each other’s lives and take the time to pray for each other. Expect God to move powerfully and to speak to the group as you pray.
SIMPLICITY – Make sure that whatever you do can be duplicated. If the church is going to multiply rapidly it must be kept simple.
How do you handle ceremonial events?
This is yet another area where many house churches differ, but here are some suggestions:
WEDDINGS – We usually encourage couples to have a civil wedding (in front of a Justice of the Peace) on a Friday to deal with the legal issues, and then have anything that they and their house church want for the real wedding that weekend.
BAPTISMS – Be creative! We have had (or heard of) baptisms in jacuzzis, bathtubs, swimming pools, and lakes.
LORD’S SUPPER – Again, the way that people in different house churches handle the Lord’s Supper varies widely. If you are interested, Steve Atkerson wrote an interesting article on the Lord’s Supper called “The Last Snack“(printed in issue 1 of House2House magazine).
In a group like this, how do you prevent the spread of heresies? A group which doesn’t even have a real pastor? No seminary degree, nothing, unless he happened to get one through his former denomination?
Some articles about it:
Interview with Frank Viola in which he claims the Church is full of paganism
What do we mean by “Simple Church”?
Beware of it and do not fall for it! It could do a great deal of damage to the Church.
A blog critiquing Viola’s Pagan Christianity: Parts One, Two, Three, Four, Postlude.
A blog criticizing this sort of church from the Orthodox perspective: Where the West is headed now, and how the Eastern Church might play a role
Is Wine from the Devil–or a Gift from God?
Now, I think the taste of wine is vile. But I did a little research on the origins of grape juice.
The company web site of Welch’s, maker of grape juice, confirms that Dr. Thomas Bramwell Welch first promoted the idea of “unfermented sacramental wine” in communion. Dr. Welch was a Methodist and part of the newly arising Temperance Movement:
The story of Welch’s began in 1869 in Vineland, New Jersey–when physician and dentist Thomas Bramwell Welch and his son Charles processed the first bottles of ‘unfermented wine’ to use during their church’s communion service.
(I got this quote from here, though for some reason I don’t see an exact quote on this page now.)
Back in 1869, dentist Thomas Welch was elected Communion steward at the First United Methodist Church, Vineland, N.J. He objected to the use of wine for the sacrament and refused to touch it.
Meanwhile he heard of Louis Pasteur’s new method of killing bacteria in milk (‘pasteurization’). He decided to try applying the same principle to preserving the juice of grapes unfermented. –Marian Van Til, Welch’s Innovation
Check out the history of alcohol in Christianity–and note that even Puritans drank it, despising only drunkenness.
Note the section on Winemaking in biblical times. It describes how quickly grape juice ferments, and the true meaning of “new wine”–not grape juice, as some temperance groups will tell you, but already-fermenting wine. Even year-old wine was “new.”
Apparently, the idea that alcohol is “evil” in and of itself, and must be eradicated from the Communion, is a feature of much of American Protestantism in the newer denominations, but not of the older churches which have long traditions.
What is Worship?
This is a big question lately among evangelical groups and in popular Christian self-help books. Is worship the music? Is it the sacraments?
Is it raising your hands and having an emotional reaction to praise music?
Is it how you feel when you look at nature or listen to Iona (Celtic Christian band)?
Is it God-centered rather than man-centered? Is it old hymns or poppy praise music?
Is it serving the poor/needy in the name of Christ?
Is it a praise and worship band at a concert leading an auditorium full of blissed-out Christians in the band’s newest praise chorus?
Here is the OrthodoxWiki answer:
Worship is faith in action. In the words of Georges Florovsky: ‘Christianity is a liturgical religion. The Church is first of all a worshipping community. Worship comes first, doctrine and discipline second.’
Orthodoxy sees people as liturgical creatures who are fully complete when glorifying God.
I’ve also seen it defined as the expression of Orthodox beliefs and Christian experience through the Eucharist.
The Orthodox Study Bible defines worship as,
Literally, ‘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 (John 4:19-24). See also LITURGY. —p. 810
Liturgy is defined as,
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. –p. 802
The Divine Liturgy is basically the Orthodox version of Mass. The North American Antiochan church posted:
Worship is defined as: For Orthodox Christians, corporate worship is the sacramental expression of and participation in Holy Tradition, and is the indispensable foundation of ministry at all levels. Upon this foundation, we must cultivate a daily personal prayer life and reading of Holy Scripture. –Archpriest Joseph Purpura, “What is Worship?”
One benefit of Orthodox worship is that it preserves intact the doctrine and teachings of the Orthodox Church.
As quoted above, personal study of Scripture (and the Church Fathers) is highly encouraged. But in countries in which Christianity is suppressed, and with the illiterate, such personal study is impossible, making the Divine Liturgy crucial to proper understanding by the Orthodox faithful.
Here is an online library of articles on Orthodox worship.
Fr. John Matusiak of the OCA also discusses worship here: Orthodox Worship vs. Contemporary Worship and The Nature of Our Worship.
Evangelistic Trips to Already Christianized Countries:
There is nothing wrong with sending off missionaries to evangelize non-Christian countries or to evangelize non-Christians in Christian countries.
But there is a common practice of some Protestants sending missionaries to countries which are predominantly Catholic or Orthodox, and actively trying to convert people who are already Christians (Catholic or Orthodox).
For example, in January 2009, I found this on a Protestant website (connected with e3 ministries):
Just imagine…true Christianity has only existed in the nation of Ecuador for just over 100 years; and less than 1% of those who live in this South American Country know Jesus Christ personally.
The need is for new, disciple-making churches! There are communities averaging 3000 residents in the Manabi Province, that currently have no church whatsover. Please come with us to share the Gospel, and behold the wonder of the birth of these new faith communities!
I did a little Web surfing; apparently, Ecuador has been a Roman Catholic country since the days the Spaniards first arrived. I found this:
The Roman Catholic Church in Ecuador is part of the worldwide Roman Catholic Church, under the spiritual leadership of the Pope and curia in Rome.
It is one of the most Catholic countries in the world – around 12 million out of a total population of 13 million profess the Catholic faith. Catholicism was introduced in the 1530s and the first diocese was erected in 1545.
Highly influential during colonial period, the Church was practically enslaved by constitution enacted (1824) after independence from Spain. –From http://www.mundoandino.com/Ecuador/Roman-Catholicism-in-Ecuador, site no longer extant
These particular Protestant groups don’t consider the Catholic and Orthodox to be truly Christian. No, I am NOT attacking a straw man: I was Protestant for more than 30 years. In my own childhood denomination, I was taught this. I heard the same thing in an Evangelical church which I attended in the early 2000s. You can also find it prevalent in the Left Behind novels.
The problem is, I’m now hearing from Catholic or Orthodox people who live in those countries, and they’re not happy. Established churches consider it to be “invading their turf” or “stepping on their toes.”
Russia was Christianized 1000 years ago; the Orthodox Church is still there, still predominant among Christian groups, and still considers itself part of Russian ethnic identity (p. 15, Presbyterians Today, April 2006).
70% of Russians identify themselves as Orthodox, though church authorities estimate that only 3-4 % participate actively in church life. Baptists and Pentecostals are the largest Protestant churches in Russia and have been growing. (ibid)
I don’t know if the practice of individual churches follows this, but the PCUSA as a whole does its mission work with established churches in Russia: Orthodox, Lutheran and Baptist (ibid).
I’m told, through Internet forums, that there are people in the former Soviet Union who will “convert” weekly to please whatever Protestant missionaries are there that week, because they get “free stuff,” such as free lunches or T-shirts. The missionaries don’t follow up or, in most cases, even know Russian, so they think they’ve made real converts.
For thorough and enlightening critiques, see The Battle for Russia’s Souls and Mission in Post-Perestroika Russia.
I have heard charges that the Orthodox church is pagan, that the Catholic church is not really Christian. Yet these churches sometimes charge Protestant churches with the same thing.
Believers in predominantly Catholic countries, such as in Latin America, have problems with Protestant missionaries as well. One Orthodox convert reports that she once went on a mission trip to Mexico, thinking they’d be helping the poor; instead, she felt “frustrated, disgusted and used” because the trip ended up being about converting Catholic children to Protestantism.
A young Brazilian woman told me that churches in Brazil have begun turning out American and even European missionaries, claiming that the American church is destroyed and Americans ruin churches. Brazilian churches started by American churches have been left on their own when their “mother” church failed.
A woman in my church who has done mission work says that she’s seen people try to evangelize Muslims on their holy days, such as during Ramadan! This is disrespectful, to say the least, and does not make Christians/Christianity attractive to Muslims! [Note 5/24/15: I don’t recall if this woman was in the PCUSA or Orthodox church.]
I’ve also heard from an Orthodox friend that the Russian Church is proclaiming missionaries–the ones who proclaim the Rapture of the Church is coming–to be apostates, preaching a different Christ than the Orthodox preach, because Christ would not steal people away from his people. This different Christ is seen as “buddy Christ.” (One such critique of evangelicalism is here, “The Right Answer.”)
From The Greek Orthodox Church/Faith, History, and Practice by Demetrios J. Constantelos, published by The Seabury Press, page 69-70:
While the [Orthodox] Church does not preach the gospel among people where Christ is accepted, there are every year numerous converts from various Christian bodies in such countries as Great Britain, France, Germany, and the United States of America. These converts choose the Orthodox faith freely and willingly….
Today there is an ever increasing zeal for missionary activity in non-Christian territories.
Unlike some denominations that make every effort to convert other Christians to their creeds, the Greek Church follows St. Paul, who said:
‘I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man’s foundation: but as it is written, to whom he was not spoken of, they shall see: and they that have not heard shall understand’ (Rom. 15:20-21).
It is indeed unfortunate that there are Christian groups which send missionaries to such Christian countries as Greece.
Professor Edward Jurji, of Princeton Theological Seminary, speaking of some missions in the Middle East, admitted that they are successful in converting only a few Christians to their denominations while they fail to convert non-Christians.
Our friends of such misinformed groups must take heed lest the words of Christ apply to them: ‘Woe unto you…for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves’ (Matt. 23:15).
Now this is not to say that the Orthodox consider other denominations to be of Satan. Rather, this demonstrates how Protestant proselytizing upsets the Orthodox in countries which are predominantly Orthodox.
Catholic proselytizing has also been done in Orthodox countries in the past. And I’d expect that Catholics feel the same about Protestant proselytizing in Latin America.
What should we take away from this? I think we should follow the PCUSA practice of working with local churches when doing mission or evangelization trips, rather than trying to set up new churches or make converts from already Christian groups. Local holy days should be respected, whether they’re Orthodox, Catholic or Muslim holy days.
And, if it’s an evangelization trip and not just a trip to help build houses or hand out food, the missionaries should know the language and follow up with the converts later.
You’ll note that in the Early Church, the apostles established churches, put someone in charge who knew the doctrine, and regularly visited or had someone visit the churches. The new churches weren’t allowed to just die.
Priest Stephen Freeman, “Mission and Evangelism from the Fathers to the Present”
Fraternities, Sororities, Masonic Lodge
Should Christians join the Freemasons? The trouble with a secretive society is that it’s hard to make definite judgments about what it does or teaches. The Wikipedia article is here. Still, from what I’ve researched, the charges against the Freemasons are highly exaggerated.
However, various Christian denominations forbid membership in the Freemasons.
What about fraternities and sororities? Do they come under the common ban on secretive societies? Should they?
It can be argued that hazing and excessive (often underage) drinking are unChristian, best left alone by the Christian college student.
During my short-lived time pledging a sorority, I was hazed in occasionally humiliating ways, all in the name of “unity.” (This in a Christian college which forbade hazing.)
How is it unifying for one sister to haze another? It unified us pledges, but against the actives.
Once, while visiting friends in a sorority living suite, I overheard Sigma frat pledges getting paddled in the Sigma meeting room up above.
And pledges in many such organizations are forced to drink far too much in far too short a time, sometimes resulting in death from alcohol poisoning.
I recommend that Christian students avoid fraternities and sororities which use hazing of any kind, discriminate against non-members, and/or give alcohol to minors.
Here’s one take on the issue from a nondenominational site.
The view of WELS, a very conservative branch of Lutheranism: Membership in Sororities/Fraternities, Organizations: Sororities, Other Lodges
The view of LCMS, which is conservative but less so than WELS: Lodges, Fraternal Organizations and Fraternities, Campus Crusade for Christ, Boy Scouts, Masons
The Orthodox view, which is against Freemasonry but apparently not fraternities/sororities: Masonic Fraternity
The Nazarene view:
We hold specifically that the following practices should be avoided…Membership in oath-bound secret orders or societies. The quasi-religious nature of such organizations dilutes the Christian’s commitment, and their secrecy contravenes the Christian’s open witness. –p. 46, Manual/1997-2001
Was Cassie Bernall a martyr?
In 2001 and possibly 2000 or 2002, I sent letters to the editor to two prominent Christian magazines (CCM and Today’s Christian Woman), complaining about stories which spoke of Bernall’s supposed martyrdom as fact rather than myth.
Neither magazine published my letters, even though they published all sorts of different letters, even (in CCM) some rather vicious attacks on Amy Grant in the aftermath of her divorce.
I feared that the world would see Christians as a laughingstock for propagating the story of a martyrdom which everyone now knew never happened, that we would be derided for gullibility.
While God’s opinion is, of course, more important than man’s, we shouldn’t give the world new reasons to say we just believe in myths and create them ourselves when we need one.
After all, this was shortly after beliefs in a Year 2000 Rapture were proven wrong.
When I wrote the e-mails, I assumed that I had to educate them, that they hadn’t yet heard of the Salon.com article by Dave Cullen which exposed the myth as probably false in the results of a full investigation.
But now I discover that Christianity Today, at the end of 1999, ridiculed Cullen’s article and turned his exposé, as well as the responses by the “secular” media, into an example of some sort of persecution of Christians.
(For more of the article, go to Clinton’s Rogues Gallery and search for “Christianity Today 11/99 Wendy Zoba.” For Cullen’s response, see Columbine Summary, The Columbine Book and: “My disclosure that police believed Cassie Bernall never told the killers she believed in God provoked a bitter controversy in Evangelical Christian circles, and many of them insist to this day that Cassie did speak” (Dave Cullen, All-in-1 Stories).)
I now find that all these years later, the myth continues, and has even been put in the song Cassie by Flyleaf–as late as 2006:
–Wikipedia article–which some have disparaged just for being on Wikipedia, but it gives the same information as Salon and other news sources
—Thread discussing the meaning of Flyleaf’s “Cassie”–and arguing back and forth over whether or not she really said “yes,” starting in 2006 and still continuing in May of 2008, almost 9 years after the myth was debunked
—Thread from April 2008 in which nearly everyone says the story is true
Now, so all can finally read it, this is my letter to Today’s Christian Woman, “Re: March/April Issue, ‘Our Picks,” e-mailed on 2/28/01:
Regarding the video included in the ‘Our Picks’ column for March/April, “Whatever It Takes” [Michael W. Smith]:
It’s great to celebrate Cassie Bernall’s life. She had a marvelous testimony.
However, the front of the package says, “The ‘She Said Yes’ Video Tribute,” leading me to believe that the video perpetuates the myth in Christian circles that she was martyred for her faith.
In late September of 1999, it was revealed that several stories about the Columbine shooting were inaccurate, and that it was Valeen Schnurr, not Cassie, who said “yes.”
In fact, after she said it, the gunman reloaded but did not shoot her. She has since graduated and gone on to college.
A witness who was right next to Cassie remembered no words being exchanged between her and her killer.
I feel this myth should be recognized as myth, because the facts are verifiable, having been published in such places as Salon News, The Rocky Mountain News, The Denver Post, and the March  issue of Redbook magazine (which gives Valeen’s story). [Redbook Magazine incorrectly labeled the article as “March 1999” on one of its pages.]
If I ever find the other e-mail, I’ll post it here. It’s hard to find when I don’t remember when it was sent.
My fears have proven to be on good grounds. This myth has given people new reasons to ridicule Christians:
The “martyrdom” story is a falsehood being spread to further the agenda of the Christian religion and to stereotype and stigmatize Christianity’s critics. –Cliff Walker, Cassie Bernall Martyrdom Hoax: A Christian Haunted House Theme!?
Bernall, a troubled and rebellious youth who became a born-again Christian after being sent by her parents to a disciplinary religious camp, was quickly transformed into a ‘Martyr” for her beliefs.
Despite compelling evidence that such an event [never] even occurred as claimed, religious publications, spokespersons, web sites and media programs were quickly reporting on the “martyrdom of Cassie Bernall.”
The Bernall “martyrdom” was even mentioned on the floor of the U.S. Congress, as representatives passed a flurry of religion-friendly bills relating to school prayer, display of the Ten Commandments, and involving faith-based groups in the welfare system. —Leak on Columbine Report: Killers Didn’t Target Christians
Surprise, xians lie to exploit a tragedy….But the reality will never be accepted. 100 years from now she will still be being praised as a true Christian hero…
The lie is more comfortable than the truth. Easy rationalization really, that is the basis of religion. –http://www.opennntp.com/Atheism/surprise-xians-lie-to-exploit-a-tragedy-731066875.html, site no longer extant
And the following, which is exactly what I feared back in 2000 or 2001:
It must be said, however, that Cassie’s mother did not hide the fact that there were different accounts of what happened, and her book’s focus was almost entirely on her daughter’s transformation, not her murder.
Nevertheless, several still refuse to believe it isn’t true. One of those who reported the exchange originally, Joshua Lapp, although also not an eye-witness, still insists upon his account: “She said it, plain and simple.”
It clearly does not take much to make someone into a confirmed believer in an inspiring story, even one that isn’t true.
The irony should not be lost on us that this kind of distortion and denial of the evidence could very well have been instrumental in the rise of the Christian faith, as inspiring, and perhaps not entirely true accounts of the death of Jesus were circulated. –Richard C. Carrier, Belief, Truth, and the Columbine Tragedy
The Official FBI Report on Columbine
Internet Monk: Columbine: A Word for Evangelicals Ten Years Later
USA Today article, 10 years later, the real story behind Columbine (Greg Toppo)
CNN article, Debunking the myths of Columbine, 10 years later (Stephanie Chen)
The Truth About Columbine (Robert VerBruggen)
The loss of Cassie’s life is no less tragic because she was not a martyr. Same for all the other kids who lost their lives that day.
And covering up the true story takes attention away from the courage of the girl who really did say yes to these sociopathic killers–yet survived.
Some Awesome Things heard in the Lamentations Service (Good Friday evening) during Holy Week:
Here are many of the wonderful things that first attracted me to Orthodoxy. I had to wonder how many people reading their service books with such rapt attention as I did on the evening of Good Friday, 2008. My comments are between the quotes:
…for through Your Burial You opened for me the portals of life; and by death You have put Death and Hades to Death.
ie., This is why Christ had to die. It’s not just about punishment for our sins: It’s far more than that, and far more glorious and powerful.
You stretched out Your arms and united those who were divided of old. Restrained by the shroud and tomb, You loosed those held captive, who cry out: ‘There is none Holy, save You, O Lord.’
There is that good ol’ Orthodox theology, using contrasts, showing how Christ died so that we could have life.
O uncontainable One, You were sealed in a tomb of Your own will; and You made known Your Power through Your Divine actions to those who sing.
It was of Christ’s own will, not something the Father forced on Him.
You descended to the depths of the earth to fill all things with Your glory; for my person that is in Adam was not hidden from You; and being buried, You renewed me from corruption, oh Lover of mankind.
You have revealed the symbols of Your Burial by many visions. But now, You have manifested Your secrets as God and Man, even to those in Hades, O Master.
Foreseeing Your Divine self-emptying on the Cross, Habakkuk cried out in amazement: ‘You cut off the power of the mighty, O Good One, speaking to those in Hades, as the Almighty.’
When Your soul was separated from the body, the bonds of both Hades and Death were shattered with greater strength by Your might, O Word of God.
Hades in encountering You, O Word, was embittered, beholding a mortal deified; covered with bruises, yet all powerful. Wherefore, it shrank back at the awesome sight.
You transform the mortal by death, and the corrupt by burial; for as befits God, You have made incorruptible and immortal the nature you assumed; for Your body, O Master, did not see corruption, nor was Your soul abandoned as a stranger in Hades.
Verily, Hades rules the race of mortals, but not forever; for You, O Mighty One, when placed in the tomb, demolished the bars of death with Your Life-giving Hand, and preached to those who slept there from the ages of old the true redemption, becoming, O Saviour, the First-Born of the dead.
This is the Harrowing of Hades, when Christ preached to the dead in Hades, then brought out the righteous into Paradise.
There are many in the various denominations today who say this is not really what happened, that it’s one of man’s traditions distorting a vague passage of the Bible, even though “He descended into Hell” is in the Apostle’s Creed.
I’ve even seen the Apostle’s Creed altered.
In the Evangelical Free Church, someone once asked, “What about the people who died before Christ’s death?”
The pastor said, “We don’t know. We think they were able to go to Heaven if they believed in the promise of the Messiah.”
Which is entirely different from what my Nazarene dad taught me. He taught me about the Harrowing of Hades, though he didn’t use that term. What he taught me was very close to the Orthodox teaching, though there are differences.
Also, the ancient Israelites were not big on evangelization, so only small pockets of people would have believed in a Messiah. I also wonder how early and how prevalent a belief in a Messiah was, anyway.
I’ve held onto the hope for all my life that the pagan dead of the Old Testament were saved when Christ preached to them in Hades, so it was devastating to hear this teaching may be wrong.
When I discovered the Orthodox teaching of the Harrowing of Hades, it was a great relief.
Verily, Jonah the Prophet was caught, but not held in the belly of the whale.
For being an impression of You, Who suffered and was given over to burial, he sprang forth from the whale as from a chamber, and said to the watchmen: ‘Falsely, and in vain do you guard, O watchmen; for you have neglected your own mercy.’
Showing how the Old Testament prefigures the story of Christ even in its own stories.
The fall of Adam resulted in the death to Man, but not to God; for though the substance of Your earthly body suffered, Your Divinity remained passionless, transforming the corruptible into incorruption, and showed it to be the fountain of Resurrection for immortal Life.
The Godhead of Christ was one with the Father and the Spirit, without separation in the tomb and in Eden, for the salvation of us who sing.
Answering the question many have: Did God die on the Cross? Did God suffer?
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.
–End Times and Christian Zionism
–God’s Purpose/Supremacy of God Doctrine
–Cat and Dog Theology
–Raising One’s Hands in Worship
–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
–The idea that God has someone in mind for you
–Literalism in Biblical interpretation
–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
–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