Saturday, October 06, 2007

Think about your life right now and what you believe. Is there anything in your system of beliefs that you are willing and ready to die for? Is there anything in your theology that you are prepared to loose every friend you have over? Is there anything you believe that you would be willing to be imprisoned for…being separated from your wife and children for years or even decades at a time over? Are there any doctrines in your system that you will separate and divide with partners over?

If so…what are they? Why?

Is there any theology out there in the world that you would clearly, passionately and publicly condemn? Would you ever seek to openly discredit a teaching or a teacher if you were convinced that what they were teaching was heretical?

If so…what? Who? Why?

“Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven. “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 10:32-39 niv

Not as thrilling as the prayer of Jabez, is it? Nor is it the wussy picture of Jesus most of us have either. Most “preachers” paint Jesus just about as masculine as Mother Theresa…except with a beard!

Christ, who He is…His nature…His mission…is…well…divisive. The amount of blood which has been shed over these things has yet to be told. Read of the martyrs throughout our Church history who have been tortured for their lack of openness to other idea’s, perspectives and viewpoints about God! About Jesus Christ! They died because of their open, uncompromising and public condemnation of other people’s view of Christ…because they (in one way or another) said, “if you believe THIS you are IN and if you do not believe it you are OUT”. Compromisers and open minded Christians are never pointed out and do not end up with the prize of martyrdom.

The family of God is a diverse bunch…it’s Catholic…it’s Universal. People from every tribe and tongue and from every race of man will stand before the throne of the Almighty in allegiance, unity and worship one day! This is already happening as you read today! There has always been a great deal of diversity within His Church regarding understandings of secondary doctrinal issues. The unity within Church history proclaimed by Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy is certainly exaggerated and in some ways fabricated. You’d have to paint with a real broad brush and ignore or water down some significant issues in order to arrive a conclusion that the Church has always been in harmony regarding tertiary doctrinal issues. The Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Mormon and Watchtower view of “unity” is unnatural, unrealistic and is unnecessary. Of course that does not mean (dispite the four mentioned groups claim otherwise) Christianity is simply a “free for all” and that anybody who slaps the name “Christian” on themself does so authenticly. And the great and beautiful diversity within the Church does not disable our ability to objectively examine who is and is not authentic either. There is a core which the Church has maintained since Christ and His Apostles. There are certain things which are so unambiguous in Scripture that all true Christians will not only adopt and confess…but will not tolerate its contradiction either.

What is it? Well…it’s the gospel. The gospel is the true center of Christian union because it is what Christ Himself commissioned us to preach. He gave us a message, something specific and narrow…and He told us to preach it! We are furthermore told us to not even “welcome” anybody into our home that had something else to say about it!

Let me ask you…who is “IN” and who is “OUT”? Do you have the moral fabric, the strength of character and the power of the Holy Spirit to be so bold as to draw the line in the sand and say, “I will go no further…and neither will you.” Our fathers had this conviction…and we read Bibles in our own language today because of it. We now know of Christ and what He did because of it. Will we continue this tradition? Will we continue to be bold? Will our children and grandchildren admire our worship of the living Christ? Or will they embrace heterodoxy because they saw tolerance of it in us?

Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. Titus 3:10-11 niv

7 comments:

Zac said...

Dear Gary,

Argument is not courageous of itself, nor is division (Titus 3:10). Loving compassion toward those in error, gently guiding them toward the truth-- this is the way of the Gospel. You remind me of the little boy who had to climb up into the lap of his grandfather in order to slap him in the face. The little boy, entirely at the mercy of his grandfather, was nevertheless held fast.

Orthodoxy is much bigger and far deeper than any of these silly comments of mine and yours which we have traded over the past few months. This depth comes from the fact that it is what it claims to be: Christ's Body, the Church.

Tell me, was St. Ignatius of Antioch in your church? I will bring a copy of his writings with me to work on Monday for Naomi to give you. Read them, and then you tell me. Until that happens, I must admit to being struck with a sense of irony over your choice to post an Orthodox icon of him in a blog entry with some sort of half-hearted bash on the Orthodox as not having the real Gospel. This might be audacity, but it is not courage, my dear brother.

For now, I will take a break from further commentary on your blog as I feel that perhaps my own feeble responses are no longer helping you in an unbiased search for the truth. You should be able to have your say on your own blog without constant contradiction by me, and rather than give you unsolicited opinions I will be glad to speak with you privately over any questions you have regarding the Church.

In the meantime, you and Naomi will remain in my prayers-- I hope that we can have more face-to-face interaction as I feel that perhaps this way of communication is superior to internet posts. You are welcome to keep the books that I lent you, although if you really feel like you don't want them I would prefer that you give them back rather than throw them out or burn them.

As I have said many times before, you remain welcome to actually come and see for yourself firsthand the Orthodox worship of the Holy Trinity... any Saturday evening at 5pm, Sundays (of course) and many other weekday times throughout each month.

Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory Forever! This is what we Orthodox say to one another throughout the year, and I sincerely say it to you now. To Him be the glory now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Anonymous said...

Gary,
You have said a mouth full. You are exactly correct about examining what we believe, and to what extent we believe it. I have read Fox's Book of Marytrs. To say that it is an eye opener does not begin to tell the effect it had on me.
It seems that there are those today who want to preach and teach Jesus, but on their terms and not His. I think in some respects, this would lead us all the way back to sola scripture, and our ability to interpret what God has written to us.
I am of the belief that God reveals to us as individuals what we each need and when we need it.
Back to your blog though, so do we follow the "tradition" of men, or the Holy Scripture. Of course, when one is in accord with another it is obvious. However, what about the divisions? I met a fellow today who is charismatic. I have studied the greek on tongues, and read the Scripture with an open mind and heart and have prayed fervently for God to reveal to me His truth. Now for me to argue with this other fellow would have been fruitless. I understood that from the very beginning. I will not have a shouting match over scripture. I know what I believe, and why. I do not say that as being proud or boastful, except that my confidence is in God and not in myself.
As for the Orthodox, and EO, and RC, your blogging has caused to me to do some intense studying on these religions. I call them that because they have erred from the original way. They have added to what the Gospel says to do. I say this not in a demeaning or hurtful way. It just I cannot and will not accept any other writing than what God has preserved in what we have today as the Holy Scriptures.
I fear that there are those who truly are sincere in their search for Christ, but they are sincerely wrong in their beliefs. The bible clearly teaches that there is only one way to God, and that is through His only Son.
I will close this out for now.
Feel free to check out my latest blog @ ronraack/myspace.com.
It actually ties in with your blog.
Peace and Joy in Christ,
your brother in bonds,
ron

irreverend fox said...

zac,

"was St. Ignatius of Antioch in your church". Yes, I believe he was. And I'm well aware of some of his misunderstands...

" I feel that perhaps my own feeble responses are no longer helping you in an unbiased search for the truth." you are wrong zac...please continue to contest me! you have no idea how helpful you are to me and to the readers!


"are welcome to keep the books that I lent you, although if you really feel like you don't want them I would prefer that you give them back rather than throw them out or burn them."

zac, you can't be serious? throw them out or burn them? never! I am referring to them and reviewing them as I do a more in depth study of Church history...but rest assured...I do not toss out or burn any books.

How about next Saturday? I have nothing on my calendar at all...let's go to the Saturday night service at your church!

irreverend fox said...

ron,

again my friend...thanks for sharing!

continue to study Church history and the development of doctrine. do not ever assume that Christians have understood the gospel with the clarity that we do now...we stand on the shoulders of giants...

and like they...

are only saved by grace...

I'll check out your blog right now!

Anonymous said...

It is with interest that you get to the heart of the Gospel (grace). It is God's unearned, undeserved, humanly unattainble (is that a word) love. There is nothing we can do to earn God's favor. It humbles me when I recognize that I can do nothing of or on my own to please God. It is He who has done the work in me. I cannot explain this mystery, but I certainly believe it. If you knew my complete life story, you would understand why God is so important in my life. The testimony I posted on line is just an outline. There are things I will never tell anyone as long as I live. However, God knows, but due to his love, mercy and grace no longer condemns me. (rom 8:1)
Now concerning the early Church, and the founding fathers if you will, they obviously recognized this great grace as well. They all went quietly to their deaths proclaiming it. They were not ashamed or put to shame. They are with the King of Kings praising Him continually. This is our blessed hope as believers.
I continue to look at Zac's comment about Orthodoxy being bigger and far deeper than ony of these silly comments of mine and yours. I will say this, it is not about Orthodoxy, it is only about Jesus Christ. It is not about what we say or do, but about who we worship and put or faith and trust in. I know the arguments that go with that statement, however, I think of verses that talk about making wise the simple. I am sorry if I have strayed off of the topic. I guess it all goes back to tradition of man or tradition of God. I will close this out. If I may be so bold to say, let us fearfully work out our salvation. Let us do all we do in agape for one another. May we continue to seek God's grace in our lives as we continue this journey.
Peace in Christ,
ron

irreverend fox said...

zac,

" must admit to being struck with a sense of irony over your choice to post an Orthodox icon of him in a blog entry with some sort of half-hearted bash on the Orthodox as not having the real Gospel. This might be audacity, but it is not courage, my dear brother."

I've read the post several times and just don't see the "half-hearted bash" on "the Orthodox" as not having the "real gospel". I did lump RC and EO together with their broad brushing of Church history...but did not ever deal with the EO understanding of the gospel. And I'm not sure what a "bash" is...is openly disagreeing "bashing"?

help me understand...I did not mean to "bash" anything...and I just don't think I did.

Zac said...

Gary,

My apologies-- you're right. Maybe I just interpreted your tone the first time as more contentious than it actually was. Upon repeated reading I see how you're not really addressing Orthodoxy per se. In fact, we Orthodox would say that if St. Ignatius is in your tent, then so are we, since we only claim to believe what he believed.

I think it's important to explore our differences-- but I also think it's important to unite in fellowship around issues to which we can agree, and help each other in our efforts to hold back the tide of apostasy.

Here's a good question for another entry (of course, this is up to you). If faith in Jesus Christ is what saves us (and it is, of course), then does someone necessarily have to correctly believe in the mechanics of salvation to be saved?

Here's what I mean. Let's say for example that some Roman Catholics believe that by their works they can somehow "merit" the Kingdom of God(this, btw, is heresy according to the Orthodox). Nevertheless, these people, striving to "earn" salvation, confess with their mouths the Lord Jesus and believe in their hearts that God has raised Him from the dead (Rom. 10:10). Is this enough, or must they also believe in the correct mechanics of salvation itself?

For instance, in the Protestant version of the judgment, will they go to Hell because they didn't believe in "faith alone"? Is faith in "faith alone" the Gospel? Or perhaps is this also some kind of "addition to" the Gospel? Must they understand the "how" of their salvation (grace through faith) if they understand the "what" (that the Lord Jesus died for their sins and rose again from the dead)?

I think this might be answered in different ways by different people, so I wanted to pose it to you to get your thoughts. Nevertheless, I will not be able to comment as much as I have been... but please don't think I'm not reading.

I'm looking forward to meeting you for Vespers on the 20th!