Thursday, July 26, 2007

I am simply not prepared to dive into my concerns with Eastern Orthodoxy in such a public way. I have learned from my past mistakes that to sound off at this point will almost certainly lead me to overstating an issue or misrepresenting one…and then smashing something that does exist! I need more time to read and dialog. Of all the significant groups who claim the name of Christ I know the least about Eastern Orthodoxy. I think I went to school with one or two EO…but they didn’t seem all that faithful. EO churches have always seemed mysterious to me…I remember one time driving by one with a friend who asked me “what do they do in there?” I thought for a second and then said, “I have no clue”. The other problem I am running into is vocabulary. The EO do not use certain words that are common in Roman Catholic and Reformed dialog…words like “justification” or “infallibility” are either not used or are filled with a drastically different connotation than I am accustomed to. So I need to better learn the lingo. My young "20 something" friend Zac has begun to share about his personal journey out of mainline evangelicalism into Eastern Orthodoxy...you can read about it here. I find my mouth shut as I read it...because in many ways I agree with what frustrated him and what he found objectionable about "us".

I’m just not ready to make a public statement…I dove in too soon and am over my head. It would not be fair if I began to voice my concerns when both of my feet are not on the ground. Leading two church plants does not leave a lot of time for extra curricular study…I’m hoping that can be remedied at some point in my life…but that hope doesn’t look very promising so far.

So I shall back up a bit while not abandoning the issue all together. It would seem wise to me to investigate the concepts of knowledge, authority and the sources from which we grasp hold of the limbs of truth. How are we to receive, perceive and interpret stimuli? Lol…in other words…how are we to process information?

I really don’t want to drone on and on covering every twist and turn of logic and philosophy…but…I will say if anything exists…then truth exists. Or…if truth is not real then nothing is or can be real. If truth does not exist then nothing (no-thing) exists. From that point I say if something exists now then something has always existed because something can not come from nothing because 0+0 can never equal 1. Furthermore I do not believe there is even such a “thing” as “no-thing”…nothing is nothing. Possibly the best evidence I know of that supports the notion and concept of true truth or real reality is simple common sense. You see, people only deny the existence of truth and reality on paper. Every person looks both ways before crossing the street. Why? Because the vast majority of people have common sense to know that the loaded semi approaching them at 65mph is not simply an illusion or opinion or possibility or an imagination…they have common sense informing them the semi is a reality and will really crush them if they step in front of it. And likewise…people only deny the existence of right and wrong on paper. They teach such nonsense until their home is broken into, their identity is stolen and taken advantage or…until their child is molested or murdered. Yes…people do teach there are no moral absolutes until these things happen I assure you. Then reality does set in.

SO…if something has always existed then truth has also always existed…and for reasons I don’t have time to write and you don’t have the patience to read…I believe true truth is God and God is truth.

Since that has now been ironed out and pressed neatly I will take the next step. I believe truth is real…and is to be sought after and explored. Again, I will not bore you with the details (call me if you care)…but let it suffice to say that I believe there is an inherent, natural, instinctive (perhaps) and basic reason why children…the vast majority of them certainly…ask “why” an average of 137,376 times a day. I believe God put that curiosity within the human heart for a reason…I believe it pleases Him for us to explore truth…which is ultimately to explore Him. Not only does it please Him...I believe He demands such exploration and very actively prods us along with unquenchable curiosity from the time we are born until we die...and even beyond the grave.

So if God not only has truth…but is truth…how exactly do we gain knowledge of it…or I should really say…of Him? There is obviously a natural disconnect between the desire to know and the possession of the knowledge…it’s called ignorance. How is the chasm of ignorance bridged? Well…it seems the only logical conclusion is that since God is and has truth and we do not…and God created us with a desire to learn…then He must be both willing and able to initiate “contact” with us and reveal true truth to our limited souls.

Alrighty then (I really am trying to be concise…), I lay these things out simply to ask this: How does God bridge the gap of ignorance? Where do we find sources of truth? How many are there? How reliable are they? How reliable are we in deciphering them?

“…God, who does not lie…” Titus 1:2

8 comments:

ronraack said...

Well now. This is very interesting. You have asked some of the very same questions that I have been looking for answers to. I believe (Zac help me out here) that this is possibly why we have an Eastern and Western Orthodox. It is interesting to me that between the years of 100 ad or so and 325 ad we have very limited knowledge of what the church was doing and the make up of how it was evolving. (I hate to use that word, but cannot come up with a better one). Even after the council of Nicea in 325, which was to resemble the council in Acts chpt 15, it seems that there were still issues that separated the believers. Sola Scripture, Sola fedei, the trinity, icons, (which looking at what we have now are they not graven images?), and so much more. Of course, at this point and time in history, the scriptures that were being used were those of the old testament as the new testament had not yet been canonized. So, again, we wind up with tradition vs scripture. Now perhaps (and I am sure that this is true) I have not read enough resources to date to fill in the blanks. With the internet being what it is, and the vast amount of literature we have at our disposal it is mind boggling the information that is available at a moments notice. Then, where to begin becomes the next issue. If we believe that God is capable of fulfilling His promise to David of an everlasting kingdom, can we not also believe in the inerrance of the scripture? And, what good would the scriptures be if we could not understand them? I am mindful of God's preservation of David's lineage when at one point there was only Joash left to carry on David's name. God again fulfilled His promise because He is not capable of lying. Back to interpretation though, is it not through the Holy Spirit (the third person of the Trinity) to reveal to us God's truth? As you said so correctly, truth is God, and God is Truth. Jesus Himself was willing to tell Pilate the truth, but he did not want to hear it. I will quit rambling now, and allow some space for someone else. I will say this, if knock, seek, and ask, it will be opened, found, and answered. It may not be done on oour terms or in our time frame, however, God being who He is, His time frame is the correct one. Keep seeking Him.
Love and Peace through our Lord and Savior
ron

Mark Jones said...

One of your comments got me to thinking about the early church. I know where you were coming from about sanctuaries versus auditoriums. The Jews had their temples and the early church met in homes and underground for the first 3 centuries. The beautiful sanctuaries were not constructed until after the persecution stopped. Even today, people get caught up in building beautiful sanctuaries and "temples" "for God..." Unfortunately, God wants us to work on His true temples, namely us. I am amazed at the millions that go into buildings that many of the rooms are used once a week. Stewardship of God's money is what is on the line. If you had a choice of a $4 million building with all of the stained glass, gold fixtures, etc. and a $500,000 multi-purpose property, which should one build? $3.5 million to feed the hungry and reach the lost seems like that of greater stewardship than a building that will eventually fade away... Many denominations have no clue what the "church" is or the "temple" that truly needs renovated or built up. It isn't brick and mortar that God cares about... It is us, the BODY of believers, the true temples that make up the church! Buildings are often a reflection of the heart... Religious or Relational. God is to be revered everyday whether in the bathroom of a Gas Station or in a beautiful Cathedral... One is not holier in and of itself... A building is only holy when Jesus is present.

Just sounding off about something that caught my attention.

ronraack said...

ps
What do I know, I am just a truck driver.

Zac said...

Ron,

I'm just trying to understand some of the things you're saying here. I assure you, for instance, that we have a surprising amount of information about the Church at its earliest point after apostolic times.

For instance, we have the writings of St. Ignatios of Antioch, who was ordained bishop there by the apostles Peter and Paul in A.D. 67. He writes about the triune Christian priesthood of bishops, priests, and deacons. He writes about the Christian mysteries-- of the Eucharist as the true Body and Blood of Christ. Of the Father, Son, and Spirit, being One and also distinct. He wrote SEVERAL epistles, and you can find them online if you just google his name, or in any library or bookstore. I personally have it in a book entitled "Early Christian Writings"

We also have the writings of St. Clement, the third bishop of Rome, who succeeded Anicletus, who succeeded Linus, who was ordained by Peter and Paul to lead the Church there. He wrote an epistle to the Corinthian Church-- the same one that Paul had written to-- around the year 100 A.D. Read it and you will be amazed at the teachings which he himself knew from the Apostles themselves.

This is to say nothing of Polycarp, disciple of the Apostle John, whose letters we also have; of Hippolytus (200s A.D.), of Cyprian the bishop of Carthage (died in 258 A.D.) and of the several others in this golden chain until the first ecumenical council-- men who had the very words of the Apostles ringing in their ears.

Unfortunately, you will not find many of the doctrines that Protestants hold dear-- conspicuously absent from their writings is the notion that the Scriptures alone were themselves the only source of the Apostolic teaching. How could this be when many of these places had the Apostles with them for years and years at a time?

Also, while you are right that a definitive list of the New Testament Canon was not finalized until the late 4th Century (397 A.D., Council of Carthage), this does not mean that the Church did not use the New Testament texts before then... In fact, it was the "apostolic pedigree" that confirmed to the Church that these were the authentic writings-- the fact that they all conformed to the unwritten apostolic teaching that each community had received.

ronraack said...

I should clarify my statement of not having information to the fact that it was not canonized. I look to Jesus's response to Thomas after He saw and "finally believed". He believed due to the fact that he saw the nail scarred hands, pierced side etc. However, greater is he (we who believe now) that has not seen and yet believes. God dwelling in the tabernacle is such a wonderful portrayal of things yet tocome, His Spirit indwelling us as believers. Is it not His spirit that reveals to us our sins and convicts, teaches, and guides. However, I am not prepared to depend solely on tradition, as this was the part of the errancy of the Pharisees. They relied and counted on their tradition, aw well as their lineage for their salvation. I especially look at the latter books that were written by Paul and John. My logical mind tells me that the very most important messages that God instructs us would be in His parting messages if you will. If we look at Jesus final messages to the disciples, we see the new commandmant to love as He has loved, not to fear, and to believe that He will come back for us. (I know that is simplified). However, Pauls messages seem to deal with love, perserverance, and faith. ( I am just trying to hit the major topics). He compels Timothy to seek the things of God. I love the use of his words like "charge", and "hold fast". I need to come back to this time to go earn a dollar or two. Have a great day in the Lord.
ron

irreverend fox said...

Mark,

I agree with you 10000%...but that does not mean that 1. the primitive church did not use artwork/icons (I'm not sure they loaded their "icons" with the same baggage that they are loaded with now) and 2. that we need 4 million dollar sanctuaries today.

I don't see an either/or scenario. Why would a church not want to celebrate the one true faith unashamedly? Why remove the stained glass? Why remove the crosses? Is it a sin to have or not to have those things...no...that is not the question I’m asking. Certainly such expression might not be a great idea in Red, Communist, China this Sunday. I'm asking "why". What drives those decisions here in the United States...who are we trying to impress? Is it an attempt at not offending the world? Is it an attempt to make sinners more comfortable? I don't get it. I do not understand why the building where a local church meets would be so neutral that once the church left a group of JW’s or Mormons or Orthodox Jews could walk in 30 minutes later and not be uncomfortable in the least conducting their services in the same building. I believe the way most local churches decorate their buildings is a reflection of the shallowness of their theology…I really do. Why would they hang paintings which symbolize the Holy Trinity? Why would they have crosses? When one sermon series after another is about “4 ways to teach your dog tricks” and “6 easy steps to starting a business like Nehemiah ” and “how to be a great parent” on and on and on and on and on and on and on…with no theology whatsoever…ever…ever…ever…why would they decorate that way? When their message is neutral it is obvious that their d├ęcor would be as well. The day the Church was free to express herself artistically and without fear…she did.

When people attend Southside or Coram Deo for the first time I hope and pray that they walk in and clearly "get" that we (the sheep) are not hear to entertain them. We are here to worship the Almighty. I hope and pray that they make no mistake that we are devote Christians and we are not ashamed of it. The music, the decor, the agenda and the teaching will (Lord willing) all aim towards creating the sense of awe and worship...not entertainment. We are not neutral…we have doctrines and convictions…strong ones…ones we’ll die for…and obviously (like in any other situation) our artistic expression will reflect our intellectual convictions.

I pray the sons and daughters of the Reformers will recapture the desire for artistic and emotional worship…without abandoning the worship of God with our minds.

Tim said...

Jesus said "I am the Way, the TRUTH, and the Life...." As I said in a previous comment, truth is not so much doctrinal statements as this...to quote the late, great Rich Mullins "Truth is alive and truth is a person and that person is Jesus Christ." Jesus himself is truth and we have true truth in His person and in His Word. We may fail and we may waver, but God's word never fails and never returns void.

Zac said...

Gary,

Wanted to check your availability for this Tuesday at 6pm. It's going to be a vesperal Liturgy for the great and holy feast of the Falling Asleep of the Mother of God.

If Naomi wanted to come we could all just truck over there from work.