Thursday, October 16, 2014
As you have probably heard, the Mayor of Houston, Annise Parker, has subpoenaed the sermons of several ministers in Houston, particularly those sermons that mentioned her, homosexuality, or her push to allow men who think they are women to use the ladies room if they wish. I think every clergyman in the country should respond and send her recordings or texts of their sermons.
Her e-mail is email@example.com
Her facebook page is here: https://www.facebook.com/MayorAnniseParker
Her Twitter account is here: https://twitter.com/AnniseParker
Maybe all those sermons will do her some good.
Here are some of mine:
The Inconvenient Truth about Homosexual Marriage (Romans 1:18-27)
The Empty House: what happens when a person or a nation abandons God? (Luke 11:23-26)
“As it was in the days of Noah” (Genesis 6:5-8)
Flee Sexual Immorality (1 Corinthians 5-6)
All of my other sermons for the past few years are posted here:
You can also see what I have posted on my blog on the subject, here:
You can try to intimidate us all you like, but we still have freedom of religion and freedom of speech in this country, and we will continue to exercise those rights as we see fit.
Thursday, October 09, 2014
The Holy Fathers of the Seven Ecumenical Councils
Question: "Does the Orthodox Church teach that the Ecumenical Councils are infallible?"
We do not believe that everything that anyone happened to say at an Ecumenical Council is infallible, but we most certainly do believe that the canons and decrees of the Ecumenical Councils are infallible, and this is because we believe that the Church as a whole, is infallible. Individual members, and even local Churches may error, but it is not possible for the entire Church to teach that which is erroneous -- and ecumenical councils are certainly an example of what the Church as a whole teaches.
Fr. George Florovsky observed: "The teaching authority of the Ecumenical Councils is grounded in the infallibility of the Church. The ultimate "authority" is vested in the Church, which is forever the Pillar and the Foundation of Truth" (The Byzantine Fathers of the Fifth Century).
The Patriarchal Encyclical of 1895, which was written in response to a Papal encyclical by Pope Leo XIII, in which he called for the reunion of the Orthodox Church with the Roman Church, states:
"...having recourse to the fathers and the Ecumenical Councils of the Church of the first nine centuries, we are fully persuaded that the Bishop of Rome was never considered as the supreme authority and infallible head of the Church, and that every bishop is head and president of his own particular Church, subject only to the synodical ordinances and decisions of the Church universal as being alone infallible, the Bishop of Rome being in no wise excepted from this rule, as Church history shows."
And St. Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain states, as he begins his famous commentary on the Ecumenical Canons:
"So every ecumenical council that possesses these characteristic features is in fact the Holy and Catholic Church itself in which in the Symbol of Faith (called the Creed in English) we profess to believe. ...being infallible and sinless. For the Church, which the Ecumenical Council takes the place of as its personal representative, is a pillar and framework of the truth, according to St. Paul (I Tim. 3:15); accordingly, whatever seems right to Ecumenical Councils seems right also to the Holy Spirit of Truth: for, it says, “He shall teach you all things and remind you of everything I have said unto you” (John 14:26)" (D. Cummings, trans., The Rudder of the Orthodox Catholic Church: The Compilation of the Holy Canons Saints Nicodemus and Agapius (West Brookfield, MA: The Orthodox Christian Educational Society, 1983), p. 157).
Canon 1 of the Seventh Ecumenical Council states, with regard to all the Ecumenical canons and decrees of the previous Councils (as well as those of local Councils and Fathers whom these Councils specifically affirmed, states:
"For those who have been allotted a sacerdotal dignity, the representations of canonical ordinances amount to testimonies and directions. Gladly accepting these, we sing to the Lord God with David, the spokesman of God, the following words: “I have delighted in the way of thy testimonies as much as in all wealth,” and “thy testimonies which thou hast commanded witness righteousness,… Thy testimonies are righteousness forever: give me understanding, and I shall live” (Ps. 119:14, 138 and 144). And if forever the prophetic voice commands us to keep the testimonies of God, and to live in them, it is plain that they remain unwavering and rigid. For Moses, too, the beholder of God, says so in the following words: “To them there is nothing to add, and from them there is nothing to remove” (Deut. 12:32). And the divine Apostle Peter, exulting in them, cries: “which things the angels would like to peep into” (I Pet. 1:12). And Paul says: “Though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you any gospel besides that which ye have received, let him be anathema” (Gal. 1:8). Seeing that these things are so and are attested to us, and rejoicing at them “as one that findeth great spoil” (Ps. 119:162), we welcome and embrace the divine Canons, and we corroborate the entire and rigid fiat of them that have been set forth by the renowned Apostles, who were and are trumpets of the Spirit, and those both of the six holy Ecumenical Councils and of the ones assembled regionally far the purpose of setting forth such edicts and of those of our holy Fathers. For all those men, having been guided by the light dawning out of the same Spirit, prescribed rules that are to our best interest. Accordingly, we too anathematize whomsoever they consign to anathema; and we too depose whomsoever they consign to deposition; and we too excommunicate whomsoever they consign to excommunication; and we likewise subject to a penance anyone whom they make liable to a penance. For “Let your conduct be free from avarice; being content with such things as are at hand” (Heb. 13:5), explicitly cries the divine apostle Paul, who ascended into the third heaven and heard unspeakable words (II Cor. 12:2-4)."
And St. Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain adds two comments in his notes to his commentary on this canon:
"Note here how respectable and reverend the divine Canons are. For this holy Council, by calling them “testimonies” and “justifications,” and the like, dignifies these very same divine Canons with those title and names with which the divinely inspired and holy Bible is dignified."
"That is why Photius, in Title I, ch. 2, says that the third ordinance of Title II of the Novels invests the Canons of the seven Councils and their dogmas with the same authoritativeness as the divine Scriptures." (Rudder, p. 428f).
See also St. Cyprian of Carthage's Treatise on the Unity of the Church.
Thursday, October 02, 2014
Question: Did the Virgin Mary ever sin?
Protestants often argue that the Virgin Mary had to have sinned, because she says in the Magnificat "my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior" (Luke 1:47), and so if God was her savior, she must have been a sinner in need of a savior. But while it is certainly true that a person drowning the sea needs a savior, a person who is prevented by someone from falling into the sea in the first place can also be said to have a savior.
There are also some early Fathers of the Church who seem to suggest that the Virgin Mary may have sinned, while there are many Fathers who state clearly that she was sinless. But it is possible that they are all right, but in different senses.
Contrary to the view of many Protestants "sin is sin" (i.e., that any sin is equally bad in the eyes of God as any other sin), the Church and the Scriptures make a clear distinction between willful and intention sins, and sins of ignorance. For an example of this distinction being made in Scripture, see Numbers 15:22-31. In that passage, it is taught that one sacrifice for the sins of ignorance of all the people was sufficient to cleanse them of such sins, but that those who sinned "with a raised hand", as the Hebrew word translated "presumptuously" in verse 30, was specifically not cleanse by such a sacrifice. So it is possible that the Virgin Mary was free from willful sins of intention, but not free from sins of ignorance.
St. John (Maximovitch) deals with this question in his treatise "The Orthodox Veneration of the Mother of God," in the section entitled "Zeal Not According to Knowledge", in which he takes issue with the Roman Catholic doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, and argues that the teaching that the Virgin Mary was completely sinless, in every sense, is contrary to Scripture and to the writings of the Fathers.
Update: For non-Orthodox readers, if you read the treatise by St. John (Maximovitch) you will see that the Orthodox Church rejects the doctrine of the immaculate conception, which teaches that the Virgin Mary was conceived without the taint of original sin. We also do not believe that original sin carries with it any guilt, but is instead an inclination toward sin... but one only acquires personal guilt when they actually commit sins.
Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Terry Lowry is a conservative Christian Talk Show host who has been on the air for many years, and who was kind enough to have me on his show to talk about the plight of persecuted Christians in the Middle East. You can listen to the show by clicking here.
We started off talking about Orthodoxy, because he was curious to know more about it, and then we talked about what is going on in the Middle East and what we can do about it.
Saturday, September 20, 2014
Also John McCain has pushed back on the claim that he had his picture taken with ISIS terrorists, but the facts are against him.
You can also see a video of the supposed "good guys" we are so anxious to work with, in Time video report.
And you can see videos of the "good guys" overrunning the Christian stronghold of Maaloula last year in this report from Breitbart.
Friday, September 19, 2014
Question: "I would like to know your view of the paranormal. Should Christians be involved in it, like ghost hunting, reading books about ghosts, UFO's and the paranormal in general?"
If you read the writings of the fathers, you find nothing that would suggest that you search such things out. Most of what is called "the paranormal" is what the fathers would call "the demonic." Only the most spiritually advanced saints have attempted to confront the demonic directly. For most of us, the advice the fathers would give us is avoid such things as much as possible, and if confronted with it, to turn to God, and leave the battle completely in the hands of the Lord.
The reason why so many today are fascinated by these things is because they have abandoned the true faith, but are attracted by anything that science cannot explain, and often assume that anything that is supernatural is good... failing to recognize the reality of demons.
Fr. Seraphim (Rose) writes about this extensively in his book "Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future." This book speaks about the paranormal, but also has a long chapter on UFO's. You can read a summary of what Fr. Seraphim says about them by clicking here.
The idea that aliens from another planet are constantly visiting our planet is highly unlikely. If such aliens had such advanced technology that they could travel 5 times the speed of light, and if they happened to live on a planet that orbits the nearest star to earth (Proxima Centauri), it would take them almost a year to travel to earth, just one way. Would such a civilization make such a long journey, just to appear in a cornfield in Nebraska, scare some farmer, and then fly back? Not likely. At best, this fixation is based on a desire to have these aliens come and solve all our problems, somewhat along the lines of Constantine Petrou Photiades Cavafy's poem, "Waiting for the Barbarians;" and at worse it takes on a pseudo-religious character, that is very similar to what is found in the occult.
Most of us do not read the Scriptures as often as we should. We have not read the lives of the Saints, nor have we read the writings of the Saints and Fathers of the Church. Why would waste our time with reading about ghosts, or UFOs, much less seek out such phenomena?
You can also listen to an episode of "Our Life in Christ" that talks about this by clicking here.
See also this documentary debunking the Ancient Aliens theory:
Saturday, September 13, 2014
Some perspective on Ted Cruz is needed. Here is what he said a year ago, when Obama was talking about bombing Assad:
"Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) spoke out Tuesday against President Barack Obama's resolution to authorize a military strike against Syria, warning that the United States should not become "Al Qaeda's air force."
...The Texas senator also warned against arming Syrian rebels against Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime, saying such a strategy would make "no sense."
“I’ll give you one of the simplest principles of foreign policy that we ought to be following: Don’t give weapons to people who hate you," he said. Don’t give weapons to people who want to kill you.""
He did not handle the "In Defense of Christians" meeting last week as well as he should have, but we should not paint an ally as an enemy. We don't have so many that we can afford to alienate any of them.
I have been in communication with one of his aids, and he is taking the right position in Syria. We do not have to agree with him on Israel, and he does not need to agree with us on that. We need all the help we can get to prevent the establishment of an Islamicist government on Syria... because if that happens, it is all over for the Christians there.
Update: Not that I agree with how Ted Cruz handled this, this article, published earlier in the day on September 10th by the Washington Free Beacon, is the reason why he made such a point of vocalizing his support of Israel: Cruz Headlines Conference Featuring Hezbollah Supporters. This is the kind of thing that Cruz probably would expect to come back to haunt him in future political attack ads, and so he beat the drum of support Israel to inoculate himself against such attacks. I don't think he expected the kind of reaction he got -- and it should be noted that he did not get a negative reaction to the statement that we should protect Jews. The reaction was to his assertion that Arab Christians had no better friend than Israel, and if you know the history of Palestinian Christians since 1948, the reaction was completely understandable. However, I can also tell you that I have already had an Evangelical that asked me if Arab Christians supported Al Qaeda and ISIS, as a result of this flap. This incident has not helped Senator Cruz, and it has not helped the cause of Christians in the Middle East either. Those who have been skewering Cruz over this should ask themselves one question, however: why are they beating up a man who has consistently opposed the policies that helped create ISIS, and yet we do not hear them skewering Obama, who is the one who has been advancing those policies. Obama met with middle eastern Christian leaders, at a round table that went very nicely -- and he even acknowledged that Assad has been protecting Christians, but there is no indication that he is changing his policies which seek to oust Assad... which are even less excusable in the light of that admission. Hezbollah has been helping Assad fight off Al Qaeda, and ISIS. They may not be your favorite entity in the Middle East, but they are at least helping to defend the Christian population of Syria. If Christians can welcome the help of Hezbollah, despite some of their less pleasant aspects, maybe we can work with Ted Cruz towards the same end.
Update: Here is a video that will help those who don't understand why Palestinian Christians would not agree that Israel is their best friend:
Update: Only 22 Senators voted against arming the so called "Free Syrian Army," which has actually been slaughtering Christians. One of them was Ted Cruz. Most of us live in a state with at least 1 Senator that voted to fund the Jihadists who are allied with ISIS. They are they ones that we should be calling out, not the ones who are doing the right thing.
Thursday, September 11, 2014
Question: What do you think of the Fatima apparitions? Were they demonic, or legitimate?
This question is dealt with by Fr. Anthony Nelson, in an article posted in PDF format: The Appearances at Fatima and Orthodox Christianity. There are some other articles of interest that are posted on the Mystagogy site: The Troubling Aspect of Catholic Marian Apparitions.
Speaking very broadly, any time a miracle is said to happen outside the Church, the Church obviously cannot say whether the miracle is true or false, unless God gives the Church special revelation on the matter, or when there is doctrinal error clearly associated with it. We should not dismiss out of hand the possibility that God may work a miracle for someone outside the Church, in any given case, but we should also recognize that even pious Orthodox Christians need to be on guard against spiritual self-deception... and those outside the Church can certainly fall into prelest, and do not have the benefit of the Orthodox spiritual Tradition which teaches us how to avoid such spiritual pitfalls. And so, while a non-Orthodox Christian may be completely convinced of some vision or miracle, we have to be aware that they may be sincerely deceived. Ultimately, it is usually not necessary for us to come to a conclusion one way or the other on such things, and so we can simply leave the question in God's hands.
Friday, August 29, 2014
Question: "Why does the Orthodox Church require adults who are preparing for baptism to become catechumens, and to wait before they are allowed to be baptized. This requirement does not fit the pattern of conversions in Acts. On the day of Pentecost, about the 3000 that were baptized the same day Peter preached to them (Acts 2:37-42). The Samaritans who Philip preached to were baptized when they believed (Acts 8:12). The Ethiopian eunuch was baptized the same day (Acts 8:26-39). Cornelius, a gentile, was baptized the same day after he met Peter (Acts 10:44-48). The Philippian jailer who was baptized within a few hours of believing (Acts 16:31-34). Why was there a change in practice?"
Most of the people mentioned above were people who had a a prior knowledge of Judaism. For a Jew, or a Gentile God-fearer, becoming a Christian was not entering into completely foreign territory. The only exception is the Philippian jailer, whose conversion was a rather dramatic one. However, when you have people with pagan backgrounds who became interested in Christianity, but who had no background to immediately understand it, it makes sense that the Church would normally want there to be a period of time in which such people would be instructed in the Faith prior to being admitted to the sacraments. Consider the fact that St. Paul taught that if someone partakes of the Eucharist unworthily, eats and drinks damnation to themselves (1 Corinthians 11:27-29) -- wouldn't the Church want to give a convert from paganism some time in order to come to understand what the Eucharist means, before putting them into a position in which they likely might unworthily partake of it?
As time went on the experience of the Church also confirmed the need for converts from paganism to be well instructed before being baptized, because when persecutions arose, so many of them fell away, because they were not sufficiently grounded in the Faith.
Christ gave the Apostles the power to bind and to loose (Matthew 16:19; 18:18; John 20:23), and the Church teaches that this power was passed down through their successors, the bishops. And so even during the time of the Apostles, the Church has made decision and established standards that "seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us" (Acts 15:28). In fact, the same Church that decided which books belonged in the Bible, also decided that the catechumenate was a good idea when receiving adults converts. The length of time someone should remain a catechumen depends on their background, and also on how diligent they are in studying the Faith.
Monday, August 25, 2014
Psalm 118: Commentary, by St. Theophan the Recluse; trans. Archpriest Gleb Wleskov; edited by Seraphim Englehardt.
Psalm 118 (119 in Protestant Bibles) is the longest chapter of the Bible, and is a unique psalm in many respects. It is an acrostic psalm (it has 22 sections, corresponding to the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and each section consists of 8 verses); and every verse uses one of about a dozen synonyms for God's law (testimonies, commandments, precepts, word, ways, truth, judgments, statutes, etc).
In his introduction, St. Theophan notes that St. Augustine was for a long time unable to write a commentary on this psalm: ""How often," said he, "was I asked to give its interpretation, but when I was ready to begin, I backed off, realizing that it was above my strength. For the simpler this psalm would seem to be, the deeper it actually turns out to be, and I am unable to say how profound it is. Other psalms have dark spots; this one is so clear that all one has to do is read or listen; there is nothing to interpret. And yet, getting ready to comment on it, I cannot say I will be able to do anything even now." St. Ambrose also wrote: "Other psalms contain moral issues, but they are like stars spread out in the sky; this one is like the sun, abundantly pouring forth its light at high noon."
Given that the Church has appointed this psalm to be read every day of the week (Monday through Friday) at the Midnight Office, on every Saturday at Matins, often also on the Sunday Matins, and at Funerals, the Church clearly wants us to spend time studying and meditating on this Psalm.
St. John of Shanghai, commenting on the importance of the Psalms especially drew attention to the importance of this psalm:
"Perhaps it will happen that you will die without having once in your life read in full the Psalter of David... You will die, and only then will good people read over your lifeless body this holy Psalter, which you had no time even, to open while you lived on earth! Only then, at your burial, will they sing over you the wondrously instructive, sweetly-wise-but alas, to you completely unknown-words of David: Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord... Blessed are they who search His testimonies. who keep His revelations, and seek Him with their whole heart. Do you hear: Blessed are they who search His testimonies, seek out the revelations of the Lord; and you had no time even to think of them! What will your poor soul feel then, your soul to which every word of the Psalmist, repeated by a reader or singer over your coffin, will sound as a strict reproach that you never read this sacred book?... Open now, before it is too late, this wondrous book of the Prophet King. Open it and read with attention at least this 118th Psalm, and you will involuntarily feel that your heart becomes humble, soft, that in the words of David are the words of the merit of God, and you will repeat involuntarily, many times, with sighing of heart, the verse of this Psalm: I have gone astray like a sheep that is lost; seek out Thy slave, Lord!" (from his weekly diocesan bulletin (Shanghai, November 24, 1941, no. 503).
St. Theophan's commentary on this psalm is a very comprehensive (this book is 351 pages), and weaves the commentaries of the Fathers of the Church together in a masterful, and spiritually edifying way. Each verse (there are 176 verses to this psalm) is commented on in depth. The translation has been in the works for many years, and is well done. It is also nicely bound. This text is not only a great reference work, but would be suitable as daily devotional reading. The price is a bit on the high end ($40.00), but it is well worth it.
You can order a copy by clicking here.
Friday, August 22, 2014
Question: "I am not opposed to triune immersion, but I do want to question the idea that triune immersion is the ONLY way. Why isn't there a single mention of triune immersion in the New Testament? Other than the Didache, I see no explicit support for triune immersion from the writings from the first and second century. Tertullian speaks of thrice immersions as being "an ampler pledge" than what is found in Scripture. Ampler means greater. Therefore, he is saying that triune immersion is somewhat greater than what Jesus described in Matthew 28, and therefore something beyond what Christ commanded."
There is no explicit mention in the New Testament of either single or triple immersion, and so we have to look beyond the New Testament for answers here. You say "other than the Didache", as if the fact that the Didache does mention this is a small matter. The Didache is the earliest Christian writing that is not part of the New Testament, and was highly regarded in the early Church, as can be seen by its mention in St. Athanasius' famous Paschal Epistle of 367, in which he provides the earliest complete list of the New Testament canon, as the Church has received it. Most of the writings that we have from the second century are Apologetic writings, directed towards those outside of the Church. The internal teachings of the Church were still intentional left unwritten, until the time that the persecutions in the Roman Empire ceased.
The comment that you mention from Tertullian dates from about 204 a.d., and is found in his treatise "De Corona", chapter 3:
"And how long shall we draw the saw to and fro through this line, when we have an ancient practice, which by anticipation has made for us the state, i.e., of the question? If no passage of Scripture has prescribed it, assuredly custom, which without doubt flowed from tradition, has confirmed it. For how can anything come into use, if it has not first been handed down? Even in pleading tradition, written authority, you say, must be demanded. Let us inquire, therefore, whether tradition, unless it be written, should not be admitted. Certainly we shall say that it ought not to be admitted, if no cases of other practices which, without any written instrument, we maintain on the ground of tradition alone, and the countenance thereafter of custom, affords us any precedent. To deal with this matter briefly, I shall begin with baptism. When we are going to enter the water, but a little before, in the presence of the congregation and under the hand of the president, we solemnly profess that we disown the devil, and his pomp, and his angels. Hereupon we are thrice immersed, making a somewhat ampler pledge than the Lord has appointed in the Gospel."
First, it should be noted that Tertullian was not writing to convince anyone that Christians should be baptized by a triple immersion -- he is arguing another point, based on Church Tradition, and cites this as an example of Church Tradition that is not found explicitly in Scripture, but which no one disputed.
Furthermore, when he speaks of the person "making a somewhat ampler pledge than the Lord has appointed in the Gospel," he is not referring to the triple immersion... because that is not a "pledge." A "pledge" is a solemn promise, and Tertullian simply notes that there are a number of promises made at baptism that you will not find explicitly required of a person being baptized in Gospels.
St. Basil the Great makes an almost identical argument in his treatise on the Holy Spirit, in which he argues that the Holy Spirit is a Person, and cites the doxology "Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen." in support of that argument. He counters the objection that the doxology, though an ancient part of the universal liturgical tradition of the Church, is not found in Scripture by saying:
"Of the beliefs and practices whether generally accepted or publicly enjoined which are preserved in the Church some we possess derived from written teaching; others we have received delivered to us "in a mystery" by the tradition of the apostles; and both of these in relation to true religion have the same force. And these no one will gainsay; — no one, at all events, who is even moderately versed in the institutions of the Church. For were we to attempt to reject such customs as have no written authority, on the ground that the importance they possess is small, we should unintentionally injure the Gospel in its very vitals; or, rather, should make our public definition a mere phrase and nothing more. For instance, to take the first and most general example, who is thence who has taught us in writing to sign with the sign of the cross those who have trusted in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ? What writing has taught us to turn to the East at the prayer? Which of the saints has left us in writing the words of the invocation at the displaying of the bread of the Eucharist and the cup of blessing? For we are not, as is well known, content with what the apostle or the Gospel has recorded, but both in preface and conclusion we add other words as being of great importance to the validity of the ministry, and these we derive from unwritten teaching. Moreover we bless the water of baptism and the oil of the chrism, and besides this the catechumen who is being baptized. On what written authority do we do this? Is not our authority silent and mystical tradition? Nay, by what written word is the anointing of oil itself taught? And whence comes the custom of baptizing thrice [i.e., by triple immersion]? And as to the other customs of baptism from what Scripture do we derive the renunciation of Satan and his angels? Does not this come from that unpublished and secret teaching which our fathers guarded in a silence out of the reach of curious meddling and inquisitive investigation? Well had they learnt the lesson that the awful dignity of the mysteries is best preserved by silence. What the uninitiated are not even allowed: to look at was hardly likely to be publicly paraded about in written documents. What was the meaning of the mighty Moses in not making all the parts of the tabernacle open to every one? The profane he stationed without the sacred barriers; the first courts he conceded to the purer; the Levites alone he judged worthy of being servants of the Deity; sacrifices and burnt offerings and the rest of the priestly functions he allotted to the priests; one chosen out of all he admitted to the shrine, and even this one not always but on only one day in the year, and of this one day a time was fixed for his entry so that he might gaze on the Holy of Holies amazed at the strangeness and novelty of the sight" (Treatise on the Holy Spirit, 66).
Again, St. Basil is not trying to convince anyone that Christians should be baptized by a triple immersion -- he is appealing to the fact that everyone accepts this unwritten tradition to argue for authority of another unwritten tradition: the doxology. And one has to ask, how did this universally accepted Christian Tradition come to be universally accepted, if it did not come from the Apostles themselves? However, the bottom line here is the question of the authority of the Church. If you accept that the Orthodox Church is what it claims to be -- the one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church established by Christ, then questions like this are easily answered.
I would suggest you read my essay "Sola Scriptura: In the Vanity of Their Minds," and St. Cyprian of Carthage's treatise "On the Unity of the Church."
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
More details will be forthcoming, but on September 5th, 2014, at 7 pm, the Orthodox Clergy Association of Houston and Southeast Texas will have a meeting at St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church, in Houston to discuss the persecution of Christians in the Middle East. We are inviting all the members of the Orthodox, Coptic and Syriac Christian communities in the area to participate. We are also asking all the members of the congressional delegation of the Houston area to come. We will have speakers who will talking about what is going on, we will have questions and answers, and we will be talking about what we can do about it. Contact your congressman and ask them to come and participate... and if you don't know who your congressman is, or if you know, but don't know how to get in touch with them, see this web site: http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/Home.aspx
We also need volunteers to help contact members of the media. If you are interested, please e-mail Fr. John Whiteford.
Thursday, August 14, 2014
Fr. Seraphim (Rose)
Question: "How does the Orthodox Church regard Shared Near Death Experiences? This is where people have a vision similar to the person dying of the white light of love and tunnels and such but return to their body. If these are found to be actual experiences how will this affect our understanding of the afterlife if at all?"
Fr. Seraphim (Rose) dealt with this question extensively in his book "The Soul After Death."
You can also read about this in several articles on Orthodoxinfo.com.
In short, these experiences do not change how we understand death, but the Tradition of the Church does shed light on how we should understand these experiences. People often misinterpret these experiences, but they are evidence that there is life beyond death.
Fr. Seraphim also cites many examples of people who report experiences of torment in their near death experiences. Those reports do not get a lot of attention, because people prefer the warm fuzzy experiences, but they are not uncommon.
So the short answer is that we should not take these experiences on face value, but compare them with the experiences of the Church, and understand them in the light of Scripture and Tradition.