Archive for the ‘Orthodoxy’ Tag

A Higher Unity   2 comments

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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For Christian Unity, Years 1 and 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Eternal God:  you have called us to be members of one body.

Bind us to those who in all times and places have called on your name,

so that, with one heart and mind, we may display the unity of the church,

and bring glory to your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The Worshipbook–Services and Hymns (1972), 159

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Isaiah 11:1-6

Ephesians 4:1-16

John 15:1-11

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Christian unity has long been an illusory goal.  Divisions were already evident in the days of the New Testament, for example.  Denominations have merged over time, but I have noticed a pattern:  Whenever two or more denominations have merged, two or more denominations have usually formed.  For example, the three-way U.S. Methodist reunion of 1939 produced four denominations, the merger that created The United Methodist Church in 1968 led to the formation of at least two denominations, and, over a period of eleven years (1972-1983), the 1983 reunion that created the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) resulted in three denominations.

The quest for doctrinal purity has long been a leading cause of schisms and continued separations.  The problem with the quest for doctrinal purity has been that the human definitions of such purity have frequently been erroneous–depending chattel slavery, for example.  Such misguided, false orthodoxy has often officially been part of a debate over Biblical authority, as in the cases of arguments over chattel slavery in U.S. denominations during the 1800s.

Not surprisingly, most denominational mergers have occurred to the left, just as the majority of schisms have occurred to the right.

Despite the scandal of denominational inertia, there remains a higher unity in God–in Christ, to be precise.  There one can find the Christian center, with heresies located to the left and the right.  A dose of theological humility is in order; each of us is wrong about certain theological matters, many of which are minor.  There is, however, a core we must never violate.  We must believe (in words and deeds) the existence of God, the Incarnation, the resurrection of Jesus, and the atonement, for example.  If we do not do so, we are not Christians.

Generally, many denominations stand separated from each other because of minor differences while they the core of the Christian faith.  In the core there is a path to a higher unity; we should follow it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 28, 2018 COMMON ERA

PROPER 25:  THE TWENTY-THIRD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINTS SIMON AND JUDE, APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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Authority and Grace   1 comment

St. Paul by Theophanes the Cretan

Above:  Icon of St. Paul, by Theophanes the Cretan

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Stir up the wills of your faithful people, Lord God,

and open our ears to the preaching of John, that

rejoicing in your salvation, we may bring forth the fruits of repentance;

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 19

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 16:1-19 (Monday)

Numbers 16:20-35 (Tuesday)

Micah 4:8-13 (Wednesday)

Isaiah 11:1-9 (All Days)

Hebrews 13:7-17 (Monday)

Acts 28:23-31 (Tuesday)

Luke 7:31-35 (Wednesday)

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But a shoot shall grow out of the stump of Jesse,

A twig shall sprout from his stock.

The spirit of the LORD shall alight upon him:

A spirit of wisdom and insight,

A spirit of counsel and valor,

A spirit of devotion and reverence for the LORD.

He shall sense the truth by his reverence for the LORD:

He shall not judge by what his eyes behold,

Nor decide by what his ears perceive.

Thus he shall judge the poor with equity

And decide with justice for the lowly of the land.

He shall strike down a land with the rod of his mouth

And slay the wicked with the breath of his lips.

Justice shall be the girdle of his loins,

And faithfulness the girdle of his waist.

The wolf shall lay down with the lamb,

The leopard lie down with the kid;

The calf, the beast of prey, and the fatling together,

With a little boy to herd them.

The cow and the bear shall graze,

Their young shall lie down together;

And the lion, like the ox, shall eat straw.

A babe shall play

Over a viper’s hole,

And an infant pass his hand

Over an adder’s den.

In all of My sacred mount

Nothing evil or vile shall be done;

For the land shall be filled with devotion to the LORD

As water covers the sea.

–Isaiah 11:1-9, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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In the Torah Moses was God’s choice to lead the Hebrews for many years.  To oppose Moses, therefore, was to sin, according to that extended narrative, as it has come down to us in its final form.  Disobedience to the principles of the Law of Moses, according to the theology of subsequent biblical books, led to the destruction of two Hebrews kingdoms.  Yet, texts indicated, restoration and good times would follow the Babylonian Exile.

The theology of obeying religious leaders, which occurs in Hebrews 13, meshes well with the composite pericope from Numbers 16.  The historical context of Christian calls to obey approved religious leaders, present in the Bible as well as in early Christian writings from subsequent centuries, occurred in the context of doctrinal formation.  Doctrines did not fall from Heaven or appear magically, fully formed.  No, human beings debated them and sometimes even fought (literally) over them.  Orthodoxy, as approved church leaders have defined it, has changed over time.  For example, Origen (185-254 C.E.) was orthodox by most of the standards of his time.  Yet he became a heretic ex post facto and postmortem because the First Council of Nicaea (325 C.E.) contradicted elements of his Trinitarian theology.

Throughout the Christian past orthodox leaders have disagreed with each other and with those they have labeled heretics (often accurately) in real time.  This raises a legitimate question:  Whom is one supposed to regard as authoritative.  This is an old problem.  The ultimate answer has ways been God, but even heretics have tended to agree with that answer.  Early Christianity was quite diverse–more so than historians of Christianity understood for centuries.  How was one supposed to avoid following a false teacher?  St. Paul the Apostle understood the answer as being to listen to him and his associates.  Apostolic succession was another way of establishing orthodox credentials.  There were always critics of orthodox leaders (who were no less imperfect than heretics), as there had been of Jesus and St. John the Baptist before them.

The question of who speaks for God remains a difficult one much of the time.  I think, for example, that I am generally on the right path theologically, but I know people who disagree with that opinion strongly.  My best answer to the difficult question is to evaluate people and their messages according to certain criteria, such as the following:

  1. Do they teach and practice love of others, focusing on the building up of community without sacrificing the individual to the collective?
  2. Do they teach and practice respecting the image of God in their fellow human beings, even while allowing for the reality of difficult moral quandaries relative to that issue?
  3. Do they focus on the lived example of Jesus, leading people to God via him, instead of focusing on any human personality, especially that of a living person?
  4. Do they teach and practice compassion, as opposed to legalism?

Salvation, which is for both the community and the individual, is a matter of God’s grace and human obedience.  That grace demands much of its recipients.  Go, take up your cross and follow Jesus, it says.  Share your blessings and take risks for the glory of God and the benefit of others, it requires.  Fortunately, it does not command that I have an answer for the question of whether the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son or just from the Father.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 20, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN BAJUS, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/08/20/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-the-third-sunday-of-advent-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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We Are All Heretics (And Many of Us Are Also Orthodox)   1 comment

Episcopal

Above:  Part of the Nicene Creed, According to The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Below:  Part of the Nicene Creed, According to The Orthodox Study Bible (2008)

Eastern Orthodox

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Great indeed, we confess is the mystery of our religion:

He was manifested in the flesh,

vindicated in the Spirit,

seen by angels,

preached among the nations,

believed on in the world,

taken up in glory.

–1 Timothy 3:16, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

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Recently I completed the viewing of The Teaching Company’s 2008 thirty-six-part course, The History of Christian Theology.  The professor, Dr. Phillip Cary, of Eastern University, did an excellent job.  He was very well-informed.  He also expressed his opinions, labeling them as such.  I noticed that I disagreed with some of his subjective points.  That, however, did (and does) not bother me, for I never agree with anyone on everything;  I think too much to do that.

The bottom line regarding that course is that I look forward to watching it again and picking up details I missed the first time.  Cary is a skilled academic and an engaging speaker, one whom I like to watch.  I am, in fact, working my way through his 2004 course, Luther:  Gospel, Law, and Reformation.  Cary, a scholar of St. Augustine of Hippo, possesses an impressive grasp of comparative Christian theology.

I have spent time pondering the history of Christian theology regarding a series of disputed points and widely agreed-upon ones.  Hence topics ranging from imputed grace to baptismal regeneration to filoque (“…and the Son”) to details of Incarnational theology have been dancing vigorously upon my neurons.  (Please, O reader, do not tell the Free Lutherans that theological matters have been dancing inside my head; they would disapprove of the metaphor.)  I tell you, O reader, such material has been doing the Charleston and the Jitterbug upstairs.  (I am devout and punchy simultaneously.)

My standard of theological orthodoxy is God.  By that standard all of us are, to some extent, heretics.  I stand with the Eastern Orthodox on various points, including the insistence that we ought not to try to explain too much about certain points, such as some aspects of the Atonement.  Attempting to explain too much opens the door to heresy (as in trying to make sense of every detail of the Trinity) and minimizes the beauty of divine mystery.

Yet there is heresy and there is heresy.  Whether the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father or from the Father and the Son, for example, is a minor point.  One of those positions is erroneous.  I do not know or care which is correct.  My brain, however, is accustomed to prompting my mouth to say

and the Son

reflexively.  Crucial, however, are other points, such as affirming the Incarnation of God in Jesus of Nazareth.  A great and magnificent mystery surrounds that theological reality.  I would not have it any other way.

Regardless of how orthodox we are relative to God, we are all somewhat heretical.  That is unavoidable.  Yet, as Martin Luther understood well, we stand on the sure promises of Christ, which we have no right to disbelieve and in which we must trust faithfully if they are to benefit us.  Those promises, I argue, deal with matters weightier than filoque.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 12, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSAPHAT KUNTSEVYCH, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF POLOTSK, AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF CHARLES SIMEON, ANGLICAN PRIEST

Job and John, Part XIX: Alleged Heresy, Actual Orthodoxy   2 comments

Above:  Galileo Galilei

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Job 30:16-31 (February 27)

Job 31:1-12, 33-40 (February 28)

Psalm 96 (Morning–February 27)

Psalm 116 (Morning–February 28)

Psalms 132 and 134 (Evening–February 27)

Psalms 26 and 130 (Evening–February 28)

John 9:1-23 (February 27)

John 9:24-41 (February 28)

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Some Related Posts:

Environment and Science:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/10/31/environment-and-science/

John 9:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/fourth-sunday-in-lent-year-a/

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John 9 consists of one story–that of a blind man whom Jesus heals.  The healing occurs at the beginning of the chapter.  Then religious politics take over.  How dare Jesus heal on the Sabbath?  Was the man ever really blind?  How could an alleged sinner–a Sabbath breaker–Jesus, perform such a miracle?  The works of God clashed with human orthodoxy, and defenders of that orthodoxy preferred not to admit that they were or might be wrong.

Some words of explanation are vital.  One way a visible minority maintains its identity is to behave differently than the majority.  As Professor Luke Timothy Johnson has pointed out, arbitrary rules might seem especially worthy of adherence from this perspective.  Sabbath laws forbade certain medical treatments on that day.  One could perform basic first aid legally.  One could save a life and prevent a situation from becoming worse legally.  But one was not supposed to heal or cure on the Sabbath.  This was ridiculous, of course, and Jesus tried to do the maximum amount of good seven days a week.  Each of us should strive to meet the same standard.

At the beginning of John 9 our Lord’s Apostles ask whether the man or his parents sinned.  Surely, they thought, somebody’s sin must have caused this blindness.  Apparently these men had not absorbed the Book of Job.  As Job protests in Chapter 30, he is innocent.  And the Book of Job agrees with him.  Job’s alleged friends gave voice to a human orthodoxy, one which stated that suffering flowed necessarily from sin.  The wicked suffer and the righteous, prosper, they said.  (Apparently, adherents of Prosperity Theology have not absorbed the Book of Job either.)  Job was, by their standards, a heretic.

Some of my favorite people have been heretics.  Galileo Galilei was a heretic for reporting astronomical observations and deriving from them accurate conclusions which challenged centuries of bad doctrine.  Both Protestant and Roman Catholic leaders condemned his writings as heretical in the 1600s.  Roger Williams argued for the separation of church and state in Puritan New England.  He also opposed mandatory prayer;  the only valid prayer, he said, is a voluntary one.  For his trouble Williams had to leave the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  Also forced to leave was Anne Hutchinson, who dared to question her pastor’s theology.  I have made Galileo a saint on my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days (at http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/).  And The Episcopal Church has recognized Williams and Hutchinson as saints.  I wonder what two rebellious Puritans would have thought about that.

Orthodoxies build up over time and become accepted, conventional, and received wisdom.  The fact that a doctrine is orthodox according to this standard discourages many people from questioning it even when observed evidence contradicts it.  Jupiter does have moons.  This fact contradicts the former theology of Protestantism and Roman Catholicism.  Should one accept good science or bad theology?  The question answers itself.  The man in John 9 was born blind.  Attempts in the chapter to question that reality are almost comical.  We human beings must be willing to abandon assumptions which prove erroneous if we are to be not only intellectually honest but also to avoid harming others while defending our own egos.

Until the next segment of our journey….

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 27, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE WASHINGTON DOANE, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF NEW JERSEY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANTONY AND THEODOSIUS OF KIEV, FOUNDERS OF RUSSIAN ORTHODOX MONASTICISM; SAINT BARLAAM OF KIEV, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ABBOT; AND SAINT STEPHEN OF KIEV, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF THE EARLY ABBOTS OF CLUNY

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH WARRILOW, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/devotion-for-february-27-and-28-in-epiphanyordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Job and John, Part XIII: Certainty, Orthodoxy, and Orthopraxy   1 comment

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Job 15:1-23, 30-35

Psalm 65 (Morning)

Psalms 125 and 91 (Evening)

John 6:60-71

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Some Related Posts:

John 6:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/twenty-first-day-of-easter/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/09/proper-16-year-b/

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There is a certain redundancy to the speeches of Job’s alleged friends.  Chapter 15, an address by Eliphaz the Temanite, exemplifies this rule.  The main feature of it which I notice is its certainty–of a set of false propositions, according to the resolution of the Book of Job.

Without trying to explain everything–while affirming the reality that I do not know most things and never will–I hold that Jesus is the soundest basis of proper certainty.

Lord, to whom shall we go?

–Simon Peter in verse 68, The New Jerusalem Bible

It is in the example, life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus that I find the personification of goodness and grace.  The art of proper Christian living is to approach more nearly that role model, to become a means by which the love of God is incarnate in one.  This level of dedication moves beyond intellectual assent to a certain definition of orthodoxy and makes orthodoxy and orthodoxy more similar to one another.  The ultimate goal is for them to be identical, but more similar than before is perhaps the best a flawed being can accomplish by grace.  (I reject moral perfectionism as unrealistic.)

As Job’s alleged friends lectured and insulted him they spoke piously about the goodness of God.  Yet they did not embody it.  That was a grave error, one many people repeat today.

Until the next segment of our journey….

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 26, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS REMACLUS OF MAASTRICHT, THEODORE OF MAASTRICHT, LAMBERT OF MAASTRICHT, HUBERT OF MAASTRICHT AND LIEGE, AND FLORIBERT OF LIEGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; LANDRADA OF MUNSTERBILSEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS; AND OTGER OF UTRECHT, PLECHELM OF GUELDERLAND, AND WIRO, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARIES

THE FEAST OF CHRISTINA ROSSETTI, POET

THE FEAST OF SAINT PASCHASIUS RADBERTUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF ROBERT HUNT, FIRST ANGLICAN CHAPLAIN AT JAMESTOWN, VIRGINIA

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/26/devotion-for-february-20-in-epiphanyordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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