Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The South Needs the Orthodox Church - Part 3rd

III. The South: A Foundation of Rock and Sand

Because of the kindness of God and the circumstances she has been placed in, the South has done better at holding to the true Faith than some of her Western European kindred.  Her theologians have not accepted fully the Filioque heresy (Dabney, Systematic Theology, pgs. 197-9) or the false teaching of absolute divine simplicity (Thornwell, Collected Writings: Vol. 1, pgs. 163 & 164); her small steps toward sacramentalism (that God is present in His creation) are found in numerous pieces of poetry and prose throughout her history; and her experiences with and observations of her own institution of slavery and of industrialism, capitalism, socialism, and other Western philosophies taught her to put away the nominalist view of mankind as isolated, separate individuals in favor of the inseparable oneness of humanity (Fitzhugh, Sociology for the South, p. 69), yet without losing sight of the surpassing value of each person within that oneness (Bradford, Remembering Who We Are, p. 80).

These and other beliefs in line with the unchanging truths of the Orthodox Church have helped the South steer a safer course than her kinsfolk in Western Europe and elsewhere over the last four hundred years.  But she has not escaped their errors completely.  By and large she accepts most of them wholeheartedly.  Thus, the Church has no relation to Christ’s actual body:  ‘She is the product and not the principle of truth.  . . . It is a society which has grown out of the facts of redemption’ (Thornwell, p. 44); ‘ . . . we see nothing in the Bible to warrant the belief of a literal conjunction of the substance of the Godhead in Christ, with the substance of the believer’s soul; much less of a literal, local conjunction of the whole mediatorial person, including the humanity, with the soul’ (Dabney, p. 616); grace is not the uncreated energies of God by which He unites us to Himself and through which we participate in the life of the All-Holy Trinity but a judicial ‘unmerited favor’ (Dagg, Manual of Theology and Church Order, Part One, p. 258); baptism is not the means by which we are united with Christ’s glorified and ascended body by the working of the Holy Ghost but an empty symbol:  ‘Profession is the substance, and baptism is the form [of church membership--W. G.] . . .’ (Dagg, Manual, Part Two, p. 95); further, ‘A Christian church is an assembly of believers in Christ, organized into a body, according to the Holy Scriptures, for the worship and service of God’ (p. 74); and the only thing holding these believers together is the love produced in them by the Holy Ghost (p. 125):  ‘Love . . . is declared to be the “the bond of perfectness.”  It binds all the people of God together, and makes them one’ (p. 126).   And on it goes. 

Even under the best of circumstances it would be unwise to place one’s hope in beliefs of this sort, for truth mixed with error usually tends toward disorder.  And the circumstances of this age are far from ideal; the evils now are strong indeed.  Money-getting, politics, football, smart phones and Facebook, and other kinds of pleasure-seeking and distractions already have much of the South in thrall to one or more of them.  The Protestant and Roman Catholic faiths are not strong enough to overcome them, by and large; for they are themselves products of human weakness (the lust for worldly dominion of the Roman Catholic popes; the pride of Luther, Calvin, and the other Protestant Reformers in standing in judgment upon the teachings of the Holy Apostles and the God-bearing Mothers and Fathers who have come after them; and so on).  Only a return to the Orthodox Faith, the faith of our forebears of Western Europe before the Great Schism of 1054, before Reformation, Counter-Reformation, and Enlightenment, wherein dwells the whole, ever-near, undivided, undistorted, undimmed, unweakened Christ, the Wisdom of God and the Power of God, only a return to the Orthodox Church with this Christ at the center of her being will give the South the means to withstand the blows of the Devil and his servants today and in all the years to come. 

For, lo, the grace of God in the Orthodox Church overcame the persecution of the pagan Roman emperors and the many-headed hydra of Heresy that rose up after their downfall; it overcame the Islamic conquest of the Balkans, and strives with it still in parts of the Middle East and North Africa; and it overcame the ruthlessness of the godless materialists (the Communists) in Eastern Europe and Russia.  But without the solid foundation of the whole Christ and the Apostles and prophets, without the holy Orthodox Church, Western Europe, Canada, Australia, and all the other Western countries are falling to pieces.

So the South must choose:  She may go on following the path of Protestantism and Roman Catholicism to its end, in which case she also will fall apart and die as her kinsmen in post-Schism Western Europe are now doing.  Or she may leave that deadly way and unite herself to the Orthodox Church, the one true body of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ, in which case she will know a fulness of life unimaginable in the Western churches.  For oneness with God brings life, but sunderedness from God, even in what may seem like little matters of doctrine, leads to death, because ‘ . . . if the dogmas of the Church express the experience of Christ as present and working in the Church, . . . then ignoring the dogmas not only means weakening the Church but also reducing the content of the faith to a sum of subjective interpretations of a Christ about whom one has heard—a Christ who remains at a distance—instead of identifying those dogmas with the experience of Christ found in His integral working, through the Holy Spirit’ (Staniloae, The Church, p. 64).

But where the true Christ dwells, all is changed:  ‘ . . . the Resurrection is the single event that proves not only that history is made with the collaboration of certain powers above the strictly “immanent” human powers, but also that history in general is destined to be raised to a superior plane, to the plane of the incorruptible and eternal life, to the spiritualized plane where it is not the uniform processes of nature that reign, but the freedom of the human spirit, through which the Holy Spirit renders the body spiritual and transparent.  From this point of view, Christ’s Resurrection has a deep connection with history, and His Resurrection must illustrate this importance for history, or the beginning of its efficiency as a force of pneumatization and of directing history toward the suprahistorical plane that it opened, or better said, toward the plane of spirituality that transcends it. 

‘Christ’s Resurrection is thus not only verifiable, as a fact impenetrable in its content above the contents of historical facts, but it also opens up for us a content of existence from another plane with the greatest efficiency upon history.  It has a great and continuous spiritual causality upon history.  Because of the Resurrection, history does not move only within the limited or static plane that would not lead us to anything essentially new, but it connects us with a content in which new contents are communicated to history.  The Resurrection is connected with history not only through suprahistorical causality that it brought upon history, but also through the role it did and does play in introducing a new mode of life in history.  Christ has risen because He conquered through His life the weakness of human nature together with its innocent passions, going in the manifestation of this spiritual strength all the way to accepting death for others.  Without fully entering in history as an effect and cause, Christ established a certain connection with history, bringing certain effects into history and playing the role of causality upon it in order to open its access to the overcoming of the mode of existence in a simple, immanent repetition, which leads nowhere, and in order to take history out of the dominion of death. 

‘ . . . the Resurrection’s content elevates and enriches the mode of historical life’ (Staniloae, The Person of Jesus Christ, pgs. 133-4).

Works Cited

Bradford, M. E.  ‘The Agrarianism of Richard Weaver’.  Remembering Who We Are: Observations of a Southern Conservative.  Athens, Ga.: U of Georgia Press, 1985.

Dabney, Robert L.  Systematic Theology.  Carlisle, Penn.: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1985.  Quote copied from http://www.pbministries.org/R.%20L.%20Dabney/Systematic%20Theology/chapter38.htm, accessed 21 Jan. 2016.

Dagg, John L.  Manual of Theology and Church Order.  Harrisonburg, Va.: Gano Books, 1982.

Fitzhugh, George.  Sociology for the South: Or the Failure of Free Society.  Forgotten Books, 2012.

Staniloae, Dumitru.  The Experience of God, Orthodox Dogmatic Theology, Vol. 3: The Person of Jesus Christ as God and Savior.  Ioan Ionita, trans. and ed.  Brookline, Mass.: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 2011.

--.  The Experience of God, Orthodox Dogmatic Theology, Vol. 4: The Church: Communion in the Holy Spirit.  Ioan Ionita, trans. and ed.  Brookline, Mass.: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 2012.

Thornwell, James H.  The Collected Writings of James Henley Thornwell, Vol. I: Theological.  Carlisle, Penn.: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1986.

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