Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The South and the Scriptures - Part Fifth

Protestant Christianity, including evangelicals, is falling more and more into confusion in the [u]nited States:

 . . .

Reprising their ground-breaking study from two years ago, LifeWay Research and Ligonier Ministries released an update today on the state of American theology in 2016. Researchers surveyed 3,000 adults to measure their agreement with a set of 47 statements about Christian theology—everything from the divinity of Christ to the nature of salvation to the importance of regular church attendance.

 . . .

In the previous study, evangelicals identified themselves. The results revealed that they had a surprising level of confusion surrounding core Christian doctrine, including whether Jesus was fully divine, whether the Holy Spirit was a force or a personal being, and whether salvation depends on God or humans making the first move.

But this year’s study showed similar results, indicating that not only are those who self-identify as evangelical confused about the basic tenets of their faith, but so are those who fit the National Association of Evangelicals’s definition of evangelicals based on their stated beliefs.

 . . .

But this should not surprise anyone, since it is only Protestantism being consistent with its foundational principle:  that the individual believer’s interpretation of the Bible is the only thing that determines what is or is not Christianity (which is only a reaction to the Roman Catholic practice of making the Pope of Rome’s interpretation the final measure of doctrine). 

And it is now manifesting itself in the stronghold of Protestant evangelicalism in the u. S., the South, as well, where support for same-sex ‘marriage’ is rising, especially among the younger bairn-team (generation):

 . . .

Contrary to what one might expect, today southerners are evenly divided on the issue of same-sex marriage. Support has risen from 22 percent in 2003 to 48 percent in 2013.

 . . . A decade ago, when most of these same-sex marriage bans were passed across the South, the vast majority of today’s Millennials were neither counted in public-opinion surveys of adults nor eligible to vote. Their attitudes strongly diverge from their parents and grandparents. Nationwide, nearly seven in 10 (69 percent) Americans ages 18 to 33 favor same-sex marriage, compared to just 37 percent of Americans ages 68 and older. This generation gap is evident in virtually every subgroup in America, including among southerners. Today, nearly two thirds of southern Millennials (65 percent) support same-sex marriage, compared to just 28 percent of southerners in the Silent Generation.

 . . .

Protestantism and relativism cannot be separated.

Nevertheless, Dixie has long tried to shelter herself from the sturm und drang of modernity by making the Protestant dogma of sola Scriptura, the Bible alone, her main shield of defense:

Reverence for the “word of God” has been a highly important aspect of Southern religious orthodoxy.  Modern discussions of fundamentalism have overlooked the fact that belief in revealed knowledge is the essence of religion in its older sense . . . .  [Divine revelation stands opposed to the flux in the knowledge uncovered by the natural sciences as an unchanging source of truth, he goes on to say--W.G.]  Then, as now, it explains their dogged adherence to what is taught “in the Book” and their indifference to empirical disproofs (Richard Weaver, ‘The Older Religiousness in the South’, The Southern Essays of Richard M. Weaver, Indianapolis, LibertyPress, 1987, p. 142).

The problem with this is that the Bible is not revelation.  It is, as Fr John Romanides said, words about revelation.  This misunderstanding is still widespread in Western Christianity and continues to lead it down the path of dry, overly-rational scholasticism, away from the true union with God that man and the cosmos were made for, which will only lead to more agnosticism, atheism, relativism, and scientism in the end:

As Indian Christian philosopher Vishal Mangalwadi writes, the Bible created the modern world by making the West a reading and thinking civilization, and by grounding this reading and thinking in the idea that truth is knowable.

Shane Morris,

Here is what Fr John had to say about true revelation:

The Fathers did not understand theology as a theoretical or speculative science, but as a positive science in all respects. This is why the patristic understanding of Biblical inspiration is similar to the inspiration of writings in the field of the positive sciences.[ 2 ]

Scientific manuals are inspired by the observations of specialists. For example, the astronomer records what he observes by means of the instruments at his disposal. Because of his training in the use of his instruments, he is inspired by the heavenly bodies, and sees things invisible to the naked eye. The same is true of all the positive sciences. However, books about science can never replace scientific observations. These writings are not the observations themselves, but about these observations.

This holds true even when photographic and acoustical equipment is used. This equipment does not replace observations, but simply aids in the observations and their recordings. Scientists cannot be replaced by the books they write, nor by the instruments they invent and use.

The same is true of the Orthodox understanding of the Bible and the writings of the Fathers. Neither the Bible nor the writings of the Fathers are revelation or the word of God. They are about the revelation and about the word of God.

Revelation is the appearance of God to the prophets, apostles, and saints. The Bible and the writings of the Fathers are about these appearances, but not the appearances themselves. This is why it is the prophet, apostle, and saint who sees God, and not those who simply read about their experiences of glorification. It is obvious that neither a book about glorification nor one who reads such a book can never replace the prophet, apostle, or saint who has the experience of glorification.

The writings of scientists are accompanied by a tradition of interpretation, headed by successor scientists, who, by training and experience, know w what their colleagues mean by the language used, and how to repeat the observations described. So it is in the Bible and the writings of the Fathers. Only those who have the same experience of glorification as their prophetic, apostolic, and patristic predecessors can understand what the Biblical and Patristic writings are saying about glorification and the spiritual stages leading to it. Those who have reached glorification know how they were guided there, as well as how to guide others, and they are the guarantors of the transmission of this same tradition.

This is the heart of the Orthodox understanding of tradition and apostolic succession which sets it apart from the Latin and Protestant traditions, both of which stem from the theology of the Franks.

Following Augustine, the Franks identified revelation with the Bible and believed that Christ gave the Church the Holy Spirit as a guide to its correct understanding. This would be similar to claiming that the books about biology were revealed by microbes and cells without the biologists having seen them with the microscope, and that these same microbes and cells inspire future teachers to correctly understand these books without the use of the microscope.

And, indeed, the Franks believed that the prophets and apostles did not see God himself, except possibly with the exception of Moses and Paul. What the prophets and apostles allegedly did see and hear were phantasmic symbols of God, whose purpose was to pass on concepts about God to human reason. Whereas these symbols passed into and out of existence, the human nature of Christ is a permanent reality and the best conveyor of concepts about God.

One does not, therefore, need telescopes, microscopes, or a vision of God, but rather, concepts about invisible reality, which human reason is by nature allegedly capable of understanding.

Historians have noted the naiveté of the Frankish religious mind which was shocked by the first claims for the primacy of observation over rational analysis. Even Galileo's telescopes could not shake this confidence. However, several centuries before Galileo, the Franks had been shocked by the East Roman claim, hurled by Saint Gregory Palamas (1296-1359), of the primacy of experience and observation over reason in theology.

Today's Latin theologians, who still use their predecessor's metaphysical approach to theology, continue to present East Roman theologians, such as the hesychasts, as preferring ignorance to education in their ascent to union with God. This is equivalent to claiming that a scientist is against education because he insists on the use of telescopes and microscopes instead of philosophy in his search for descriptive analysis of natural phenomena.

The so-called humanist movement in Eastern Romania was an attempt to revive ancient Greek philosophy, whose tenets had already been rejected, long before modern science led to their replacement in the modern West. To present this so-called humanist movement as a revival of culture is to overlook the fact that the real issue was between the primacy of reason and that of observation and experience.

Source:  ‘The Bible and Tradition, Franks, Romans, Feudalism, and Doctrine - Part 2, http://www.romanity.org/htm/rom.03.en.franks_romans_feudalism_and_doctrine.02.htm#s9, opened 11 Oct. 2016

The Bible is not the great bulwark against heresy, however much Protestants in the South or elsewhere would like it to be.  That title belongs rightly to those who have purified their heart through long ascetic struggle (fasting, loving one’s enemies, giving alms, praying, and so on), and who have been united with the Uncreated Glory of God that shines forth from the Holy Ghost - that is, that title belongs to the saints.  They are the ones who, like Moses, have ascended the spiritual mountain to meet with God, who have received revelation from Him, and who have come back down into the world to share it with those who were unable to ascend to those ghostly heights themselves (Archimandrite Irenei, http://audio.ancientfaith.com/monachos/whf_2013-07-19.mp3, found at http://www.russianorthodox-stl.org/resources.html).  They are the ones who help us understand the Holy Scriptures rightly, who defend and strengthen the Church, and who speak to each generation the words it needs to hear for salvation.

The South has tried to make due with little ‘o’ orthodox Protestant Christianity, but it is the proverbial weak reed that splinters and pierces the hand when leaned upon.  Roman Catholicism has the appearance of the fulness of the Faith, but this is only an external mask.  Inside, it is barren scholasticism and legalism, which leads at times to a reaction: an overly hot emotionalism/subjectivism seen in figures like Catherine of Siena and Francis of Assisi.  Protestantism likewise swings between these two poles, as typified in Presbyterianism and Pentecostalism, for ensample.  Both communities - Roman Catholic and Protestant - have become unbalanced by rejecting Orthodoxy.  And though both have done some good things in the world, neither community is able to nurture saints.  If any do ripen on those wild vines, it is in spite of the bitter sap of their wrong teachings and practices, not because of them.  The time has come, then, for the South, if she wants to survive and to develop and grow as a Christian people, to let go of her orthodox Protestantism (which is a contradiction) and embrace the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church - the Orthodox Church.


Holy Ælfred the Great, King of England, South Patron, pray for us sinners at the South!

Anathema to the Union!

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