Elder Ephraim of Katounakia, Holy Mountain: Ecumenism is dominated by unclean spirits.


Elder Ephraim of KatounakiaECUMENISM IS DOMINATED BY UNCLEAN SPIRITS*

Fr. Ephraim’s attestation to professor Demetrios Tseleggides

In what follows, I will say something that pertains to a personal deposition. I was associated for entire decades with Fr. Ephraim of Katounakia, of renowned ethos and conscience. Also renowned was the fact that he also possessed a “spiritual television”. As for me, I had gone to him on many occasions with the intention of posing certain very specific questions, in a specific sequence, and using my own vocabulary. When I did visit him, and without having posed any of my intended questions, he gave me his replies, in my intended sequence, and with my vocabulary. I am mentioning this as a personal experience; it is not an unprecedented phenomenon – it has been experienced by many others also.

There was one time when – as a young professor at the School of Theology at the time, about thirty years ago – I had mentioned the following to him. Given that the clime of Ecumenism has also been flourishing in the School of Theology – especially that of Thessaloniki – I had certain nagging problems and questions, because I could see it being represented by otherwise respected professors. Naturally, both my conscience as well as my learning had reacted against it, however, I desired – beyond my scientific status – to also obtain a charismatic reply, which is something that I did for many other issues.

So I asked him on the matter in hand – if he could tell me what kind of thing Ecumenism is.

He replied outrightly and without any difficulty: 

«This question, my child, had also been posed by someone else, some time before you. I myself have been up here on these rocks for forty years… I have even forgotten my Greek (note that he had completed Middle School) and as such, I haven’t preoccupied myself with that issue. But, because I had to reply – seeing that I had been asked about it, and since I had no knowledge of the matter – I went to my cell and prayed, asking Christ to inform me what Ecumenism is. I received His reply, which was that Ecumenism has a spirit of wickedness and is dominated by unclean spirits».

So I asked him exactly how that was verified. He replied that «after praying, my cell became filled with an unbearable stench, which caused my soul to feel asphyxiated; I couldn’t breathe spiritually».

I asked him if that had been an extraordinary event for him, or if that was the way that Christ responds in analogous cases, and he assured me that «in all the cases that are involved with sorcery, with unclean spirits, that is the state in which He introduces me. Sometimes there is a spoken response, but in the present case, that was His answer and I have the absolute certainty that Ecumenism does not have the Holy Spirit, but the unclean spirit». 

What I am saying at this moment one might say has the character of intentional impressions. But I want to inform you that I was overjoyed, because what the Elder had told me in person, I had also seen recorded by his pious retinue, who had published an honorary Tomos (Volume) about his person, his spirituality and his words. So it has been certified in there as well, but it has also been verified with other, trustworthy theologians, who likewise happened to have heard it personally.

I had not publicly mentioned this until now; but things have taken such a turn, that I am obliged to bring it up. Of course it had played a decisive role in my stance towards Ecumenism. As a professor, a scientist, I am naturally obliged in every case to examine the matter with scientific criteria and to substantiate my viewpoint scientifically – and that is what I do in my classes also, step by step; however, I regard this deposition to be significant, because it was delivered in a charismatic manner by a man who knew nothing about the issue. He had never read, never heard of it, and yet, he deposited his direct spiritual experience. I think that things speak for themselves here.

============

* From the book «Holy and Great Synod of the Orthodox Church – A Synod lacking in synodicity and Orthodox self-awareness», 80 pages, size 17×24 cm., publication by «Synaxis of Orthodox Romaics “Fotis Kontoglou”», Trikala, March 2016. This book is the transcript of the 3-hour program of the conversation between the manager of the Piraeus Church Radio Station, Mr. Lykourgos Markoudis and professor Demetrios Tseleggides 

Translation by A.N.

impantokratoros.gr
     

Prof. George Demacopoulos seems to see what he want to see !(admin Micke Stensson )

St. Gregory the Theologian and the Literal Interpretation of Scripture

Fr John Whiteford 

   St Gregory the Theolgian https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gregory_of_Nazianzus

George Demacopoulos gave another lecture at the Eagle River Institute which was recently posted on Ancient Faith Radio, and in the course of that lecture he made the following statement:

“St. Gregory the Theologian actually wrote, in one of his most famous orations on the Trinity, that a Christian who insists on a literal interpretation of Scripture, does so to mask his lack of genuine faith. Let me repeat that… St. Gregory says, quote: “a Christian who insists upon a literal interpretation of Scripture, does so to mask his lack of genuine faith”” (“Was Byzantine Christianity the Normative Orthodox Experience?: Part 2,” beginning at about the 12:20 mark).

The first time he referenced the alleged quoted, it could have been taken as if he was giving the gist of the quote, rather than an exact quote: “St. Gregory… wrote… that…” But he then repeated it, and prefaced it by saying “Quote,” which would normally only be used to preface a precise quotation. However, the actual quote bears very little resemblance to what he referenced in this lecture.


Here it is, at least as it is translated in the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers translation:

“They then who are angry with us on the ground that we are bringing in a strange or interpolated God, viz.:—the Holy Ghost, and who fight so very hard for the letter, should know that they are afraid where no fear is; and I would have them clearly understand that their love for the letter is but a cloak for their impiety, as shall be shown later on, when we refute their objections to the utmost of our power” (“Oration 31, A Selected Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, series 2, vol. 7, eds. Henry Wace and Philip Schaff (New York: Christian, 1887-1900), p. 318).

For comparison, here is a more recent translation:

“Certain people, then, thinking that we have introduced the Holy Spirit as a strange or counterfeit god; are angry at us and fight very hard to defend “the letter”. But they should know that they are afraid where there is nothing to fear; 6 and I would have them clearly understand that their love for “the letter” is but a cloak for their impiety, as we shall see later on when we refute their objections to the utmost of our power” (Gregory of Nazianzus: Five Theological Orations, Translated with an introduction and notes by Dr. Stephen Reynolds, 2011, p. 98, <https://tspace.library.utoronto.ca/bitstream/1807/36303/1/Gregory%20of%20Nazianzus%20Theological%20Orations.pdf> )

This translation provides an interesting footnote to the phrase “the letter”:

“the letter”. I.e. of the Scriptures. Gregory does not say “the letter of the Scriptures,” because he will not concede to the opponents he now has in view that they are, in truth, faithfully interpreting the Scriptures. Cf. Oration 4, § 1 (page 71), where Gregory spoke of “difficulties and objections which were ripped from the holy Scriptures by those who profane the Bible and pervert the sense of its texts in order to win the mob to their side and confuse the way of truth.” 

When you look at the actual quote, it is clear that Dr. George Demacopoulos has not even accurately presented the gist of the actual quote. St. Gregory was not attacking those “who insist on literal interpretations,” he was attacking those who denied the divinity of the Holy Spirit, who insisted on exclusively literal interpretations as a cloak for their impiety — and their impiety was not that they interpreted Scripture literally, but that they denied the divinity of the Holy Spirit.


It may be that when he was writing the notes to this lecture, he was referencing this by memory, and so we may charitably assume that he did not intentionally misquote the text, but the fact is, he has misquoted it, for whatever reason, and the actual quote does not even come close to justifying the assertion he made based on it.


If he had loosely said that St. Gregory the Theologian attacked those who insisted on an exclusively literal interpretation of Scripture, that would at least be a plausible take on what he is saying, but in the actual context of the quote, even that is a stretch, because he is not attacking the idea of interpreting the Scriptures literally. He is attacking their pretense of doing so, which he makes clear later on in the oration, when he says:

“But since you hold so very close to the letter (although you are contending against the letter)…” (NPNF2, Vol. 7, p. 323). 

So in actual fact, St. Gregory is saying that these heretics are not even getting their literal interpretation of Scripture correct. If his point had been to attack literal interpretations per se, he would have spent a good bit of time arguing that point, and showing what a non-literal interpretation was preferable. But that is not what you find in this text.


The Fathers do not deny the legitimacy of literal interpretations of Scripture (at least ones that are no more literal than the texts are intended to be taken in), though they certainly do affirm other senses of Scripture as well. But here he is not arguing, for example, that you have to take an allegorical interpretation of Scripture to defend the Trinity — you just have to take a non-willfully-stupid interpretation of the Scriptures:

“But now the swarm of testimonies shall burst upon you from which the Deity of the Holy Ghost shall be shown to all who are not excessively stupid, or else altogether enemies to the Spirit, to be most clearly recognized in Scripture” (NPNF2, Vol. &, p. 327).

Also, when it comes to St. Gregory the Theologian’s view of Scripture, one should consider the following statement:

“We however, who extend the accuracy of the Spirit to the merest stroke and tittle, will never admit the impious assertion that even the smallest matters were dealt with haphazard by those who have recorded them, and have thus been borne in mind down to the present day: on the contrary, their purpose has been to supply memorials and instructions for our consideration under similar circumstances, should such befall us, and that the examples of the past might serve as rules and models, for our warning and imitation” (NPNF2-07 St. Gregory Nazianzen, Oration II: In Defence of His Flight to Pontus, and His Return, After His Ordination to the Priesthood, with an Exposition of the Character of the Priestly Office , ch. 105, p.225).

Here St. Gregory references the words of the Lord: “And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail” (Luke 16:17, c.f. Matthew 5:18). St. Gregory not only affirms the verbal inerrancy Scripture, but in fact affirms every jot and tittle inerrancy (jots and tittles being the smallest strokes of a pen).


What is not obvious is what exactly is it about taking the literal sense of Scripture seriously that George Demacopoulos is objecting to? I “insist” on a literal interpretation of “Thou shalt not murder,” for example, but I also accept the more spiritual interpretations that Christ gives the commandment, and I think the Fathers of the Church would back me up both counts.


As I discussed in http://fatherjohn.blogspot.com/2017/03/fundamental-errors-response-to.html” I suspect the issue behind this, is the question of the Church’s teachings on the subject of homosexuality (for the reasons stated in that article), though if George Demacopoulos wishes to dispute that, he need only clearly state what he believes to be the teaching of the Church on that subject. I would be happy to be corrected, if he simply affirmed that he believed that homosexual sex was inherently sinful, as opposed to arguing that somehow the literal sense of the Scriptures and canons on that subject should be reinterpreted to mean something else.

Fr John Whiteford

Is it Christian, to accept ONLY what the Holy Bible says? 

An answer to the defence of sola scriptura                                                                              (Add. by admin Micke Stensson)

Is it Christian, to accept ONLY what the Holy Bible says?

 

We very frequently hear Protestant believers saying that: “We acknowledge only the Holy Bible. We refer to nothing more, and nothing less.” Despite this reassurance, there is a plethora of differences amongst Protestant groups, and even amongst the members of the same group.
Topics
The differences between translations

Only the Bible?

The credibility of the Church

Apparent contradictions

The divinely inspired sources of the faith

The viewpoint of the Holy Bible
The differences between translations
How is it possible ( since Protestants say that they “do not stray from the Holy Bible” ) that they are in disagreement amongst each other? If the Holy Bible had indeed been given by God as a “written article of faith” – a complete guide on what we should believe in – then they should all be in agreement amongst themselves, as to what it really states; in reality, however, their divergences are enormous.
If God had wanted us to use the Holy Bible as the only guide for the faith, He would have ensured that its contents were exactly the same in every language, and in every translation. However, it is a fact that apart from the different translations in Greek and Hebrew, where the words are rendered differently, there are also differences in the interpretations from language to language. In fact, it is customary for the various religions to each create their own translation, in order to alter its meaning, according to their individual dogmatic peculiarities.

Only the Bible?
As an example of this, we shall refer to an excerpt of the Holy Bible, relative to this topic, as recorded in the ancient text, and as distorted by assorted translations, after being influenced by Protestant traditions.
We refer to Timothy II, chapter 3:16, where, according to the text, it says: “Every divinely inspired scripture (is) also beneficial for teaching, for checking, for rectification, for education within justice….” However, various translations of this verse quote it as follows: “The Scripture is divinely inspired and beneficial for teaching, for checking ….…”
These translations have inserted the article “the” and have also placed the word “is” before the word “divinely inspired”, thus giving the impression that this verse is referring to “THE” Scripture overall. It is with this alternative presentation that they attempt to support their viewpoints that “ONLY the Holy Scriptures are divinely inspired”.
Nonetheless, this verse does not maintain that ONLY the Holy Bible is divinely inspired. In actual fact, it is pointing out that “Every divinely inspired writing (is) also beneficial….” This verse makes no mention whatsoever of the Holy Bible! It speaks of any (=every) divinely inspired writing! Besides, when this verse was being composed, only the Old Testament was acknowledged as the Holy Bible.
Someone may protest to this, saying: “But there is no other divinely inspired writing, apart from the Holy Scriptures!”

NOWHERE IN THE HOLY BIBLE DOES IT SAY THAT IT IS THE ONLY DIVINELY INSPIRED WRITING!
If someone does say this, he says it on his own initiative, without being able to justify his viewpoint from within the Holy Bible.
In this case, he is not acknowledging the Holy Bible only – as he claims – but, is also acknowledging something of his own, i.e., that he is obliged to acknowledge only what is written in the Holy Bible.
In reality, there is no mention in the Holy Bible that it alone is divinely inspired, nor does it say anywhere that we are obliged to accept only the Bible and nothing else! These assertions however, are something entirely different! They comprise a non-Christian, worldly tradition, which the Church never upheld during its 20 centuries.

The credibility of the Church
The Holy Bible itself does not agree with the concept that we must accept it as being the article and the basis of the faith. Paul the Apostle states this very clearly, in his Epistle to Timothy I, chapter 3/III:15: “..and if I should be delayed, (I am writing to you) so that you may know how to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the Church of the Living God, the pillar and the basis of the truth.”
According to these words, if we desire to learn the truth, the basis of our faith does not lie in the Holy Bible, but in the Church!. As Holy and divinely inspired as the Bible may be, it was not written for the purpose of supporting our dogmas. The dogmas are supported by the Church. The Holy Bible is merely one of the means that the Church expresses itself! And the Church has many means for divinely inspired expression.
The verse quoted above also replies to the question that is posed by some, i.e.: “Even if it is accepted that there are other divinely inspired writings beyond the Holy Bible, how can we feel sure about anything else outside the Holy Bible that may have been written so close to Christ’s time?”
The answer is: Just as the Church had vouched for the credibility of the Holy Bible, in the same way it can vouch for the credibility of the remaining Ecclesiastic tradition. If the Church is to be considered untrustworthy to vouch for a certain text, then it will necessarily be considered untrustworthy in its selection of books for the composition of the Holy Bible! Given that the Holy Bible doesn’t contain any index of its books, the reader must necessarily resort to traditional sources outside the Holy Bible.
As we know, the New Testament took on its present form during the 4th century A.D. when the Canon of Saint Athanasios prevailed, which for the first time added the book of Revelations to the New Testament. Up to that time, no Canons had included it. So, how can anyone accept the book of Revelations (which was a 4th century choice) and reject older texts of the Church as unreliable ones?
Various Protestant religions, as by-products of the 16th century Reform era and lacking any historical continuity from the time of the Apostles, have placed in doubt the pre-existing (to Protestantism) Church and arbitrarily declare that the Church was in apostasy. In this way, they have acknowledged only the Holy Bible, which apparently dates back to the time of the Apostles. The truth is, that the 4th century Church (which they do not acknowledge) was the one that defined which books were to comprise the Holy Bible. There were other, 1st century writings at the time; on the basis of the 4th century’s tradition, Saint Athanasios selected those books that concurred with Ecclesiastic Tradition. To the extent, therefore, that Sacred Tradition is considered apostatic and wrong during the 4th century, to the same extent the Holy Bible must be considered equally apostatic and wrong.

Apparent contradictions
“But then, why are there contradictions in the Holy Bible and the rest of Tradition?” one might ask.
The fact is, that there is no contradiction. Just as a non-believer reads the Holy Bible distrustfully, finding contradictions from book to book, in the same way, Protestants will find the same apparent “contradictions” if they read any of the other divinely inspired writings distrustfully.
In the Holy Bible for example, we read in Matthew 23/XXIII 9: “….do not address anyone on earth as your father”; but in another verse, in Corinthians I, 4/IV 14-15, the Apostle Paul calls himself the father of Corinthians, and he in fact tells them that they have no other father except him!
The faithful can discern the difference in the meaning of the word “father” in these two verses. In the first verse above, the word is used in its absolute sense, appropriate only for God, and in the second verse, it is used in a relative sense, which is appropriate for people also. A non-believer’s comment however, would be that these two verses are contradictory, just as a Protestant accuses the Church that it addresses ordinary people as “fathers”. It is interesting to note that this person doesn’t accuse the Apostle Paul of contradicting Jesus Christ in his Epistle! He does locate contradictions however, in the remaining Sacred Tradition…
The same occurs, with everything else in the Sacred Tradition that Protestants accuse. It would be more responsible of them if, before accusing, they enquire as to the reason something is said, and not invent reasons of their own.

The divinely inspired sources of the faith
All of the above indicate yet another dimension regarding the understanding of what is written. The fact that everyone indulges in interpreting the Holy Bible according to his own judgment, resulting in the thousands of miscellaneous religions each insisting that their interpretation is the correct one, is proof enough that the Holy Bible alone is not the safest guide to God. The guidance of the Church is imperative: the Church that drafted and selected the books of the Holy Bible. It is the Church, as the pillar and the basis of the truth that has preserved the Gospel unaltered throughout the centuries. Wherever there are blanks in the Holy Bible, these are filled by the other, divinely inspired sources.

This is why the Orthodox Church uses the following, divinely inspired writings, which are in complete harmony amongst themselves:

The Holy Bible,
The rulings of the ecumenical councils (synods),
The patristic texts that were approved by ecumenical councils,
Church hymnology,
Liturgical texts.
All of these, are in full accord with each other, and with all the charismatic saints throughout the ages.

The viewpoint of the Holy Bible
“But then (a reader may persistently ask), why is it that at the end of the Bible, it prohibits the addition or the removal of whatever is written in it?”
The truth is, that the book that this verse refers to, is Revelations (Revelations, 22/XXII v.18-19), and not the Holy Bible as a whole. It could not possibly be implying the Holy Bible, because it mentions “in this prophecy”. Furthermore, the book of Revelations was added to the Holy Bible in the 4th century for the first time. And what is more important, John’s Epistles II and III were written in 98 A.D., two years after the book of Revelations! If this verse therefore implies all of the Bible books, then they too would have to be left out of the Bible.
On the contrary, the Holy Bible says that there are other sources apart from it. In the last verse of John the Evangelist, it says: “… Jesus did many other things, which, if written down one by one, there would not be enough room in the world to hold those writings”.
And elsewhere, the Holy Bible itself asks us –by the mouth of the Apostle Paul- not to reject Sacred Tradition; In Thessalonians II, 2/II 15 we read: “Therefore my brethren, stay steadfast and preserve the traditions that you were taught, either verbally, or through an Epistle of ours.”
So, apart from everything that was written in the Epistles of the Apostles, their word was also recorded, and preserved to this day, along with the remaining tradition. Why then, don’t the deniers of tradition accept these words of the Holy Bible?
They should be very careful when invoking the words of the Lord that were directed against the tradition of the Pharisees, because those words were directed against Judean tradition, and not Christian tradition.
Christian tradition also includes “solid sustenance”, which the Apostle Paul refers to in his Epistle to Hebrew, in chapter 5/V 11-14. In this most difficult epistle of the Holy Bible, the author refers to all of these as “milk”. But if that is the case, then the Holy Bible mustn’t contain the “solid sustenance”!! Consequently, “solid sustenance” must be sought in the rest of the Sacred Tradition.
The same thing is apparent in verse 19 in Peter’s Epistle II. In there, the divinely inspired prophetic word is merely a lamp that glows in a dark place, until the light-bearer comes forth inside our hearts.
Let us therefore prudently use this lamp (the Holy Bible), which is the introduction into the faith, so that we may be granted the appreciation of everything that God has to teach us.
Text: Ν.Μ.

OODE

Is the Holy Bible the ONLY source of faith?

Recently, we had extended an invitation to Protestants everywhere. We had dared them to show us AT LEAST ONE VERSE OF THE HOLY BIBLE that says we should accept only the Holy Bible as the source of faith.
In reply, we received the following verses, which we studied appropriately, and are submitting them here, for all those who might be interested.
As any logical person can see, none of these verses responds to our invitation.
OUR INVITATION THEREFORE STILL STANDS!
Those who uphold the Protestant viewpoint that we are supposedly obliged to accept “ONLY” the Holy Bible as the Word of God and nothing else, have –in their desperate attempt to prove the unproveable- quoted a multitude of verses, which, however, say nothing of the sort. As the reader will observe, these are verses that are entirely irrelevant to the whole of the Holy Bible and are being used in a desperate attempt, for lack of other verses.
Further down, we shall submit a few of them, in the hope that Protestants will rethink matters seriously, and realize that their faith is entirely groundless, and definitely not Christian.
Revelations 22/XXII “…to the prophecy of this book if anyone adds anything, God shall add upon him afflictions…. And if anyone removes something from the book of this prophecy, God shall remove….. from the tree of life…”
The reference here is ONLY to the prophetic book of Revelations. If it was referring to the entire Holy Bible, then we shouldn’t be accepting the last epistles by John, because they were written later than the Revelations! Neither do the other writings add to the Holy Bible, as they comprise independent texts and they do not make any such assertions.
Deuteronomy 12/XII 32: “Everything that I command you to do, make sure that you do it; you shall not add to it, nor remove anything from it”
This verse is not referring to the Holy Bible, but to any commandment of God whatsoever, which includes the entire Holy Tradition. If it were referring to the Holy Bible, then no other book after Deuteronomy should have been added!
Whoever accepts ONLY the Holy Bible as the source of faith is opposing this verse, because it means they are removing the rest of Holy Tradition from the Word of God.
Deuteronomy 17/XVII 18 – 20: “…he shall write for himself a copy of this law, in a book……and he shall read from it every day of his life…. to guard all of the words of this law and these commandments, so that he may enforce them…. and not stray from these commandments to the right or the left…”
Here, reference is made to a small fragment of the Holy Bible, namely, the Law. Nowhere does it say that no other books are to be written within the Holy Bible later on, or even outside of the Bible. If this verse was confined “only to the Law”, then the New Testament never should have been written! And if this verse is not restrictive to the New Testament, it is equally not restrictive for the remaining, Divinely inspired Holy Tradition!
We therefore ask those who use this verse “without straying from the law” (meaning the Law of Moses): Do they uphold the Sabbath as foreseen by the Law, or do they perhaps “stray from it”? Are they still “under guardianship”? (Galatians, 4/IV 1-9)
Deuteronomy 5/V 32: “You shall therefore take care that you do as the Lord your God commanded you. You shall not stray to the right, or to the left”.
The same also applies here as in the previous reply, where the verse commands a precise compliance with God’s commandments in the Mosaic Law. If someone wishes to apply it to the Holy Bible, then it should be applied to the Divinely inspired Holy Tradition, both written and spoken. (Thessalonians II, 2/II 15)
Deuteronomy 4/IV 2: “You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor shall you deduct from it, so that you might guard the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you”
Here also, Moses warns the Israelites not to add or deduct anything form the Law that he delivered to them.
We wonder, if the numerous other books that were added in the Holy Bible at a later time are not considered “additions” and foreign to the Law, why should the remaining Holy Tradition be considered so?
If someone accepts the addition of the remaining books of the Holy Bible, then they should also accept the “addition” of the remaining, Divinely inspired sources of the faith. Otherwise, they should stick to the Pentateuch alone!
Proverbs 30/XXX 5 – 6: “Every word of the Lord is tested….. Do not add to His words, in case He ever checks you and you are found to be a liar”
Contrary to this verse, some people add their own viewpoint, by saying that it is referring to the Holy Bible, whereas the verse does not say anywhere that the “Word of God is only the Holy Bible”.
The word of God is many more things than a single book, even a Divinely inspired one. The word of God has been recorded by the Church in a multitude of writings besides the Holy Bible, which makes “liars” of all those who wish to confine it to the Holy Bible. The verse says “every word of the Lord” – something that obliges them to accept it from other sources also, which the Church has delivered to us, even outside the Holy Bible.
John 15/XV 15: “… and I have considered you as friends, for I have made you familiar with everything that I heard from my Father”
Again, this verse doesn’t say that EVERYTHING Jesus heard from His Father has been written in the Holy Bible. On the contrary, John himself in the last verse (John 21/XXI 25), says that: “There are many other things that Jesus did, which, if written down one by one, there would not be enough space in the world to hold the books that would be written.” So obviously, since the world cannot fit all those things that Jesus showed us, there must be many more things other than the Holy Bible that should be accepted by those who claim to be Jesus’ “friends”, knowing how many things He must have to say to them.
John 17/XVII 17: “… Your word is the truth”.
Again, it doesn’t say that the word of God is only the Holy Bible. His word includes much more.
Galatians 10/X 6 – 10: “ I wonder, at how you so speedily move from the one who called to you in the grace of Christ, to another gospel…. those who upset you and meaning to turn about the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preaches to you the gospel different to how we preach it, let it be an anathema ….if anyone preaches to you differently than what was received by you, le it be an anathema”
It is admirable, how they who adulterate the Gospel, (in their desire to limit it to only one, Divinely inspired book – the Holy Bible), use this verse for true Christians, who embrace the entire word of God, and every spoken or written Divinely inspired Tradition that contains various aspects of the Gospel of Christ.
These people teach a warped Gospel, inasmuch as THE GOSPEL is ONLY the Holy Bible and that we should not accept anything else outside of it! Even if the Holy Bible says no such thing anywhere! This false Gospel has led confessed Christians to become faithful to the letter and not to the Spirit!
And they are so short-sighted, that even though they use this verse of Galatians, they do not read further down, where the Apostle Paul writes exactly those things against the people of the letter, who adhere ONLY to the Holy Bible (=the written Law), abandoning the Spiritual meaning of the words that are contained therein: (2/II 16): “for no flesh shall be vindicated by its enactment of the law…” (3/IIIγ΄ 3): “..are you so foolish, that having commenced in the Spirit you are now actuating in the flesh?”
But even in his epistle to Romans, the Apostle Paul speaks of the same subject: Romans 2/II 29, 7/VII 6: “…. Circumcision of the heart according to the Spirit, not the letter…”, “.. you should labor in the newness of the Spirit and not the oldness of the letter…” and in Corinthians 3/III 6: “… who also made you able deacons of the New Testament, not according to the letter but the Spirit; for the letter deadens while the Spirit vivifies”.
So, those who say that “We don’t accept anything else apart from the Bible” should understand at last, that the Holy bible itself condemns them, because the Christian Gospel is not the Holy Bible, but the “life in the Holy Spirit, and salvation through Jesus Christ”. And the Holy Bible speaks of this.
Colossians 2/II 8, 16 – 18: “See that no-one of you is the one who misguides through any philosophy and empty deception against the traditions of men according to worldly evidence and not according to Christ… therefore let no-one judge you in eating and drinking or during a feast or a new month or any Sabbath…”
With this verse, they are obviously attempting to offend the Holy Tradition of the Church. But this verse actually turns against them, as it speaks of “human tradition”, while we accept the spoken and written tradition of the Apostles, which is Divinely inspired. (Thessalonians II, 2/II 15). In fact, verse 16 becomes very specific, that it is referring to those who uphold the law of Moses on “eating and drinking or during a feast or a new month or any Sabbath”. In other words, it speaks against those who abandon the Spirit and become attached to the letter of the Mosaic Law, by upholding the Sabbaths and feasts, and abstaining from certain food according to the Law. We are of course referring to the Law that verses of Deuteronomy 12/XII 32, 17/XVII 18 – 20, 5/V 32, 4/IV 2 specify that we should not stray from these commandments of God, and that nothing should be added or deducted from these! These are the verses that we explained at the beginning, and which they provide as proof that we should accept only those that are mentioned there! But here, the Apostle (in the same verse that they mention) says that all these things of the Law are traditions that are not binding for Christians! So obviously, these people must re-examine what these verses mean!
Titus 1/I 9: “ upholding the faithful word as you were taught, so that you be strong or comforting during healthy preaching, and reprimand those who contradict”.
Once again, it doesn’t say here that the “faithful word” is ONLY the Holy Bible. On he contrary, (according to Christians), it refers here to the entire Holy Tradition.
Timothy II, 3/III 16,17: “Every Divinely inspired Scripture is also beneficial for teaching, for checking, for restoring, for educating in justice, so that the person of God be complete, and equipped for every good deed.”
Nor does this verse refer to THE Holy Bible (since it doesn’t have a definitive article, nor was the Holy Bible fully structured yet); it refers to “any divinely inspired scripture”, which means “any writing that was divinely inspired” and implies the whole of written Holy Tradition. In fact, even if it did refer to the Holy Bible, nowhere does it say that ONLY the Holy Bible is Divinely inspired.
Timothy I, 4/IV 15 – 16, 6/VI 3 – 14: “ these you should study, in these you should stand, so that your diligence is evident to everyone. Keep for yourself also the teaching, persistently. In doing this, you save yourself as well as those who listen to you.” “If someone teaches other things and does not listen to the healthy words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teachings of reverence…. falling sick over conversations… you must keep the commandment unblemished, irreproachable, until the epiphany of our Lord Jesus Christ”.
As any logical person can see, neither here is there any mention that we should accept ONLY the Holy Bible; in fact, it isn’t even talking about the Holy Bible. On the contrary, it talks of “words”, which directs us basically to spoken tradition, given that they were later recorded in a multitude of texts (including the Holy Bible).
Ephesians 2/II 19 – 22: “… being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, whose cornerstone is Jesus Christ”.
Here it doesn’t even refer to writings a all, only to the building of the Church. But even if was referring to writings, the fact that something is built upon the foundation of the apostles, would prove that newer, divinely inspired books are also acceptable.
Acts 20/XX 28 – 31: “…and amongst you will arise men who will speak in perverting ways, in order to attract disciples to follow them… I did not cease to tearfully counsel them, one by one”.
Here he speaks against those pseudo-Christians who “perversely” say that we should accept only the Holy Bible and reject verbal tradition, which the apostle “tearfully” taught to a multitude of saints, personally.
John I, 4/IV 6: “…listens to us…”.
This refers to a sermon, not the Holy Bible.
Text: Ν.Μ.

OODE

Are protestants beyond hope ? Protestantism is NOT a Church !! (admin Micke Stensson)

Sola ScripturaIn the Vanity of Their Minds

by Fr. John Whiteford

Webmaster’s Note: Father John Whiteford is a former Nazarene Associate Pastor who converted to the Orthodox Faith soon after completing his B.A. in Religion at Southern Nazarene University in Bethany, Oklahoma. He first encountered Orthodoxy as a result of his involvement in the local Pro-Life (Rescue) movement, which also included Father Anthony Nelson and several of his parishioners. After over a year of searching the Scriptures and the writings of the early Church; and through the love, prayers and patience of Father Anthony and the Parishioners of St. Benedicts, Fr. John was received into the Holy Orthodox Church. When he wrote this article he was serving as a Reader at St. Vladimirs in Houston, Texas and is continuing his studies. He has since been ordained a Priest and serves St. Jonah of Manchuria Orthodox Church (Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia), in Houston, Texas.
AN ORTHODOX EXAMINATION OF THE PROTESTANT TEACHING

Introduction: Are Protestants Beyond Hope?

Since my conversion from Evangelical Protestantism to the Orthodox Faith, I have noted a general amazement among many of those who have been raised Orthodox that a Protestant could be converted. This is not because they are uncertain about their own faith, usually they are just amazed that anything could break through a Protestants stubborn insistence on being wrong! What I have come to understand is that most Orthodox people have a confused and limited grasp of what Protestantism is, and where its adherents are coming from. Thus when “cradle Orthodox” believers have their run-ins with Protestants, even though they often use the same words, they do not generally communicate because they do not speak the same theological language — in other words, they have no common theological basis to discuss their differences. Of course when one considers the some twenty thousand plus differing Protestant groups that now exist (with only the one constant trait of each group claiming that it rightly understands the Bible), one must certainly sympathize with those that are a bit confused by them.
Despite all that stands in their way, there definitely is hope for Protestants. Protestants in search of theological sanity, of true worship, and of the ancient Christian Faith are practically beating on our Church doors (of course to those who are not paying attention, this may sound like a strange claim). They are no longer satisfied with the contradictions and the faddishness of contemporary Protestant America, but when we open the door to these inquirers we must be prepared. These people have questions! Many of these inquirers are Protestant ministers, or are among the better informed laymen; they are sincere seekers of Truth, but they have much to unlearn and it will require informed Orthodox Christians to help them work through these issues — Orthodox Christians who know where Protestants are coming from, but even more importantly, who know what they believe themselves!
Ironically (or providentially) this surge in interest in Orthodoxy among Americans from Protestant backgrounds has come even as the opening of the doors of the former Communist-block has brought upon its Orthodox people an unprecedented onslaught from every religious sect and cult. At the spearhead, American Evangelicals and Charismatics have been stumbling over each other — with each of its sects seeking to gain the prestigious boast that they too have established themselves even among the Godless Russians! So we Orthodox are now presented with a double urgency — on the one hand, there is the missionary task of presenting the Faith to Protestants here in the West; but on the other hand we must earnestly combat the spread of heresies among the Orthodox, both here and in traditionally Orthodox lands. In either case, the task at hand is to equip ourselves with sufficient knowledge and understanding of the issues that confront us.
Perhaps the most daunting feature of Protestantism — the feature which has given it a reputation of stubborn resiliency is its numerous differences and contradictions. Like the the mythical Hydra, its many heads only multiply, and though it is a worthy task to seek to understand and confront these heresies individually, this is not the key to their defeat. In order for one to understand the unique beliefs of each individual sect, it requires a knowledge of the history and development of Protestantism in general, a great deal of research into each major stripe of Protestant theology, worship, etc., as well as a lot of contemporary reading in order to understand some of the more important cross-trends that are currently at work (such as liberalism, or emotionalism). Even with all this, one could not hope to keep up with the new groups that spring up almost daily. Yet for all their differences there is one basic underlying assumption that unites the amorphous blob of these thousands of disparate groups into the general category of “Protestant.” All Protestant groups (with some minor qualifications) believe that their group has rightly understood the Bible, and though they all disagree as to what the Bible says, they generally do agree on how one is to interpret the Bible — on your own! — apart from Church Tradition. If one can come to understand this belief, why it is wrong, and how one is rightly to approach the Scriptures, then any Protestant of any stripe may be engaged with understanding. Even groups as differing as the Baptists and the Jehovahs Witnesses are really not as different as they outwardly appear once you have understood this essential point — indeed if you ever have an opportunity to see a Baptist and a Jehovahs Witness argue over the Bible, you will notice that in the final analysis they simply quote different Scriptures back and forth at each other. If they are equally matched intellectually, neither will get anywhere in the discussion because they both essentially agree on their approach to the Bible, and because neither questions this underlying common assumption neither can see that their mutually flawed approach to the Scriptures is the problem. Herein lies the heart of this Hydra of heresies — pierce its heart and its many heads at once fall lifelessly to the ground.
Why Scripture Alone?

If we are to understand what Protestants think, we will have to first know why they believe what they believe. In fact if we try to put ourselves in the place of those early reformers, such as Martin Luther, we must certainly have some appreciation for their reasons for championing the Doctrine of Sola Scriptura (or “Scripture alone”). When one considers the corruption in the Roman Church at that time, the degenerate teachings that it promoted, and the distorted understanding of tradition that it used to defend itself -along with the fact that the West was several centuries removed from any significant contact with their former Orthodox heritage — it is difficult to imagine within those limitations how one such as Luther might have responded with significantly better results. How could Luther have appealed to tradition to fight these abuses, when tradition (as all in the Roman West were lead to believe) was personified by the very papacy that was responsible for those abuses. To Luther, it was tradition that had erred, and if he were to reform the Church he would have to do so with the sure undergirding of the Scriptures. However, Luther never really sought to eliminate tradition altogether, and he never used the Scriptures truly “alone,” what he really attempted to do was to use Scripture to get rid of those parts of the Roman tradition that were corrupt. Unfortunately his rhetoric far outstripped his own practice, and more radical reformers took the idea of Sola Scriptura to its logical conclusions.
PROBLEMS WITH THE DOCTRINE OF SOLA SCRIPTURA

A. IT IS A DOCTRINE BASED UPON A NUMBER OF FAULTY ASSUMPTIONS

An assumption is something that we take for granted from the outset, usually quite unconsciously. As long as an assumption is a valid one, all is fine and well; but a false assumption inevitably leads to false conclusions. One would hope that even when one has made an unconscious assumption that when his conclusions are proven faulty he would then ask himself where his underlying error lay. Protestants who are willing to honestly assess the current state of the Protestant world, must ask themselves why, if Protestantism and its foundational teaching of Sola Scriptura are of God, has it resulted in over twenty-thousand differing groups that cant agree on basic aspects of what the Bible says, or what it even means to be a Christian? Why (if the Bible is sufficient apart from Holy Tradition) can a Baptist, a Jehovahs Witness, a Charismatic, and a Methodist all claim to believe what the Bible says and yet no two of them agree what it is that the Bible says? Obviously, here is a situation in which Protestants have found themselves that is wrong by any stretch or measure. Unfortunately, most Protestants are willing to blame this sad state of affairs on almost anything — anything except the root problem. The idea of Sola Scriptura is so foundational to Protestantism that to them it is tantamount to denying God to question it, but as our Lord said, “every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a bad tree bringeth forth evil fruit” (Matthew 7:17). If we judge Sola Scriptura by its fruit then we are left with no other conclusion than that this tree needs to be “hewn down, and cast into the fire” (Matthew 7:19).
FALSE ASSUMPTION # 1: The Bible was intended to be the last word on faith, piety, and worship.

a). Does the Scripture teach that it is “all sufficient?”

The most obvious assumption that underlies the doctrine of “Scripture alone” is that the Bible has within it all that is needed for everything that concerns the Christians life — all that would be needed for true faith, practice, piety, and worship. The Scripture that is most usually cited to support this notion is:
…from a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works (II Timothy 3:15-17).
Those who would use this passage to advocate Sola Scriptura argue that this passage teaches the “all sufficiency” of Scripture — because, “If, indeed, the Holy Scriptures are able to make the pious man perfect… then, indeed to attain completeness and perfection, there is no need of tradition.”1 But what can really be said based on this passage?
For starters, we should ask what Paul is talking about when he speaks of the Scriptures that Timothy has known since he was a child. We can be sure that Paul is not referring to the New Testament, because the New Testament had not yet been written when Timothy was a child — in fact it was not nearly finished when Paul wrote this epistle to Timothy, much less collected together into the canon of the New Testament as we now know it. Obviously here, and in most references to “the Scriptures” that we find in the New Testament, Paul is speaking of the Old Testament; so if this passage is going to be used to set the limits on inspired authority, not only will Tradition be excluded but this passage itself and the entire New Testament.
In the second place, if Paul meant to exclude tradition as not also being profitable, then we should wonder why Paul uses non-biblical oral tradition in this very same chapter. The names Jannes and Jambres are not found in the Old Testament, yet in II Timothy 3:8 Paul refers to them as opposing Moses. Paul is drawing upon the oral tradition that the names of the two most prominent Egyptian Magicians in the Exodus account (Ch. 7-8) were “Jannes” and “Jambres.”2 And this is by no means the only time that a non-biblical source is used in the New Testament — the best known instance is in the Epistle of St. Jude, which quotes from the Book of Enoch (Jude 14,15 cf. Enoch 1:9).
When the Church officially canonized the books of Scripture, the primary purpose in establishing an authoritative list of books which were to be received as Sacred Scripture was to protect the Church from spurious books which claimed apostolic authorship but were in fact the work of heretics (e.g. the gospel of Thomas). Heretical groups could not base their teachings on Holy Tradition because their teachings originated from outside the Church, so the only way that they could claim any authoritative basis for their heresies was to twist the meaning of the Scriptures and to forge new books in the names of apostles or Old Testament saints. The Church defended itself against heretical teachings by appealing to the apostolic origins of Holy Tradition (proven by Apostolic Succession, i.e. the fact that the bishops and teachers of the Church can historically demonstrate their direct descendence from the Apostles), and by appealing to the universality of the Orthodox Faith (i.e. that the Orthodox faith is that same faith that Orthodox Christians have always accepted throughout its history and throughout the world). The Church defended itself against spurious and heretical books by establishing an authoritative list of sacred books that were received throughout the Church as being divinely inspired and of genuine Old Testament or apostolic origin.
By establishing the canonical list of Sacred Scripture the Church did not intend to imply that all of the Christian Faith and all information necessary for worship and good order in the Church was contained in them.3 One thing that is beyond serious dispute is that by the time the Church settled the Canon of Scripture it was in its faith and worship essentially indistinguishable from the Church of later periods — this is an historical certainty. As far as the structure of Church authority, it was Orthodox bishops together in various councils who settled the question of the Canon — and so it is to this day in the Orthodox Church when any question of doctrine or discipline has to be settled.
b). What was the purpose of the New Testament Writings?

In Protestant biblical studies it is taught (and I think correctly taught in this instance) that when you study the Bible, among many other considerations, you must consider the genre (or literary type) of literature that you are reading in a particular passage, because different genres have different uses. Another consideration is of course the subject and purpose of the book or passage you are dealing with. In the New Testament we have four broad categories of literary genres: gospel, historical narrative (Acts), epistle, and the apocalyptic/prophetic book, Revelation. Gospels were written to testify of Christs life, death, and resurrection. Biblical historical narratives recount the history of God’s people and also the lives of significant figures in that history, and show God’s providence in the midst of it all. Epistles were written primarily to answer specific problems that arose in various Churches; thus, things that were assumed and understood by all, and not considered problems were not generally touched upon in any detail. Doctrinal issues that were addressed were generally disputed or misunderstood doctrines,4 matters of worship were only dealt with when there were related problems (e.g. I Corinthians 11-14). Apocalyptic writings (such as Revelation) were written to show God’s ultimate triumph in history.
Let us first note that none of these literary types present in the New Testament have worship as a primary subject, or were meant to give details about how to worship in Church. In the Old Testament there are detailed (though by no means exhaustive) treatments of the worship of the people of Israel (e.g. Leviticus, Psalms) — in the New Testament there are only meager hints of the worship of the Early Christians. Why is this? Certainly not because they had no order in their services — liturgical historians have established the fact that the early Christians continued to worship in a manner firmly based upon the patterns of Jewish worship which it inherited from the Apostles. 5 However, even the few references in the New Testament that touch upon the worship of the early Church show that, far from being a wild group of free-spirited “Charismatics,” the Christians in the New Testament worshiped liturgically as did their fathers before them: they observed hours of prayer (Acts 3:1); they worshiped in the Temple (Acts 2:46, 3:1, 21:26); and they worshiped in Synagogues (Acts 18:4).
We need also to note that none of the types of literature present in the New Testament have as their purpose comprehensive doctrinal instruction — it does not contain a catechism or a systematic theology. If all that we need as Christians is the Bible by itself, why is there not some sort of a comprehensive doctrinal statement? Imagine how easily all the many controversies could have been settled if the Bible clearly answered every doctrinal question. But as convenient as it might otherwise have been, such things are not found among the books of the Bible.
Let no one misunderstand the point that is being made. None of this is meant to belittle the importance of the Holy Scriptures — God forbid! In the Orthodox Church the Scriptures are believed to be fully inspired, inerrant, and authoritative; but the fact is that the Bible does not contain within it teaching on every subject of importance to the Church. As already stated, the New Testament gives little detail about how to worship — but this is certainly no small matter. Furthermore, the same Church that handed down to us the Holy Scriptures, and preserved them, was the very same Church from which we have received our patterns of worship. If we mistrust this Churchs faithfulness in preserving Apostolic worship, then we must also mistrust her fidelity in preserving the Scriptures. 6
c). Is the Bible, in practice, really “all sufficient” for Protestants?

Protestants frequently claim they “just believe the Bible,” but a number of questions arise when one examines their actual use of the Bible. For instance, why do Protestants write so many books on doctrine and the Christian life in general, if indeed all that is necessary is the Bible? If the Bible by itself were sufficient for one to understand it, then why dont Protestants simply hand out Bibles? And if it is “all sufficient,” why does it not produce consistent results, i.e. why do Protestants not all believe the same? What is the purpose of the many Protestant study Bibles, if all that is needed is the Bible itself? Why do they hand out tracts and other material? Why do they even teach or preach at all —why not just read the Bible to people? The answer is though they usually will not admit it, Protestants instinctively know that the Bible cannot be understood alone. And in fact every Protestant sect has its own body of traditions, though again they generally will not call them what they are. It is not an accident that Jehovahs Witnesses all believe the same things, and Southern Baptists generally believe the same things, but Jehovahs Witnesses and Southern Baptists emphatically do not believe the same things. Jehovahs Witnesses and Southern Baptists do not each individually come up with their own ideas from an independent study of the Bible; rather, those in each group are all taught to believe in a certain way — from a common tradition. So then the question is not really whether we will just believe the Bible or whether we will also use tradition — the real question is which tradition will we use to interpret the Bible? Which tradition can be trusted, the Apostolic Tradition of the Orthodox Church, or the muddled, and modern, traditions of Protestantism that have no roots beyond the advent of the Protestant Reformation.
FALSE ASSUMPTION # 2:

The Scriptures were the basis of the early Church, whereas Tradition is simply a “human corruption” that came much later.

Especially among Evangelicals and so-called Charismatics you will find that the word “tradition” is a derogatory term, and to label something as a “tradition” is roughly equivalent to saying that it is “fleshly,” “spiritually dead,” “destructive,” and/or “legalistic.” As Protestants read the New Testament, it seems clear to them that the Bible roundly condemns tradition as being opposed to Scripture. The image of early Christians that they generally have is essentially that the early Christians were pretty much like 20th Century Evangelicals or Charismatics! That the First Century Christians would have had liturgical worship, or would have adhered to any tradition is inconceivable — only later, “when the Church became corrupted,” is it imagined that such things entered the Church. It comes as quite a blow to such Protestants (as it did to me) when they actually study the early Church and the writings of the early Fathers and begin to see a distinctly different picture than that which they were always led to envision. One finds that, for example, the early Christians did not tote their Bibles with them to Church each Sunday for a Bible study — in fact it was so difficult to acquire a copy of even portions of Scripture, due to the time and resources involved in making a copy, that very few individuals owned their own copies. Instead, the copies of the Scriptures were kept by designated persons in the Church, or kept at the place where the Church gathered for worship. Furthermore, most Churches did not have complete copies of all the books of the Old Testament, much less the New Testament (which was not finished until almost the end of the First Century, and not in its final canonical form until the Fourth Century). This is not to say that the early Christians did not study the Scriptures — they did in earnest, but as a group, not as individuals. And for most of the First Century, Christians were limited in study to the Old Testament. So how did they know the Gospel, the life and teachings of Christ, how to worship, what to believe about the nature of Christ, etc? They had only the Oral Tradition handed down from the Apostles. Sure, many in the early Church heard these things directly from the Apostles themselves, but many more did not, especially with the passing of the First Century and the Apostles with it. Later generations had access to the writings of the Apostles through the New Testament, but the early Church depended on Oral Tradition almost entirely for its knowledge of the Christian faith.
This dependence upon tradition is evident in the New Testament writings themselves. For example, Saint Paul exhorts the Thessalonians:
Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word [i.e. oral tradition] or our epistle (II Thessalonians 2:15).
The word here translated “traditions” is the Greek word paradosis — which, though translated differently in some Protestant versions, is the same word that the Greek Orthodox use when speaking of Tradition, and few competent Bible scholars would dispute this meaning. The word itself literally means “what is transmitted.” It is the same word used when referring negatively to the false teachings of the Pharisees (Mark 7:3, 5, 8), and also when referring to authoritative Christian teaching (I Corinthians 11:2, Second Thessalonians 2:15). So what makes the tradition of the Pharisees false and that of the Church true? The source! Christ made clear what was the source of the traditions of the Pharisees when He called them “the traditions of men” (Mark 7:8). Saint Paul on the other hand, in reference to Christian Tradition states, “I praise you brethren, that you remember me in all things and hold fast to the traditions [paradoseis] just as I delivered [paredoka, a verbal form of paradosis] them to you” (First Corinthians 11:2), but where did he get these traditions in the first place? “I received from the Lord that which I delivered [paredoka] to you” (first Corinthians 11:23). This is what the Orthodox Church refers to when it speaks of the Apostolic Tradition — “the Faith once delivered [paradotheise] unto the saints” (Jude 3). Its source is Christ, it was delivered personally by Him to the Apostles through all that He said and did, which if it all were all written down, “the world itself could not contain the books that should be written” (John 21:25). The Apostles delivered this knowldge to the entire Church, and the Church, being the repository of this treasure thus became “the pillar and ground of the Truth” (I Timothy 3:15).
The testimony of the New Testament is clear on this point: the early Christians had both oral and written traditions which they received from Christ through the Apostles. For written tradition they at first had only fragments — one local church had an Epistle, another perhaps a Gospel. Gradually these writings were gathered together into collections and ultimately they became the New Testament. And how did these early Christians know which books were authentic and which were not — for (as already noted) there were numerous spurious epistles and gospels claimed by heretics to have been written by Apostles? It was the oral Apostolic Tradition that aided the Church in making this determination.
Protestants react violently to the idea of Holy Tradition simply because the only form of it that they have generally encountered is the concept of Tradition found in Roman Catholicism. Contrary to the Roman view of Tradition, which is personified by the Papacy, and develops new dogmas previously unknown to the Church (such as Papal Infallibility, to cite just one of the more odious examples) —the Orthodox do not believe that Tradition grows or changes. Certainly when the Church is faced with a heresy, it is forced to define more precisely the difference between truth and error, but the Truth does not change. It may be said that Tradition expands in the sense that as the Church moves through history it does not forget its experiences along the way, it remembers the saints that arise in it, and it preserves the writings of those who have accurately stated its faith; but the Faith itself was “once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3).
But how can we know that the Church has preserved the Apostolic Tradition in its purity? The short answer is that God has preserved it in the Church because He has promised to do so. Christ said that He would build His Church and that the gates of Hell would not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18). Christ Himself is the head of the Church (Ephesians 4:16), and the Church is His Body (Ephesians 1:22-23). If the Church lost the pure Apostolic Tradition, then the Truth would have to cease being the Truth — for the Church is the pillar and foundation of the Truth (I Timothy 3:15). The common Protestant conception of Church history, that the Church fell into apostasy from the time of Constantine until the Reformation certainly makes these and many other Scriptures meaningless. If the Church ceased to be, for even one day, then the gates of Hell prevailed against it on that day. If this were the case, when Christ described the growth of the Church in His parable of the mustard seed (Matthew 13:31-32), He should have spoken of a plant that started to grow but was squashed, and in its place a new seed sprouted later on — but instead He used the imagery of a mustard seed that begins small but steadily grows into the largest of garden plants.
As to those who would posit that there was some group of true-believing Protestants living in caves somewhere for a thousand years, where is the evidence? The Waldensians 7 that are claimed as forebearers by every sect from the Pentecostals to the Jehovahs Witnesses, did not exist prior to the 12th Century. It is, to say the least, a bit of a stretch to believe that these true-believers suffered courageously under the fierce persecutions of the Romans, and yet would have headed for the hills as soon as Christianity became a legal religion. And yet even this seems possible when compared with the notion that such a group could have survived for a thousand years without leaving a trace of historical evidence to substantiate that it had ever existed.
At this point one might object that there were in fact examples of people in Church history who taught things contrary to what others taught, so who is to say what the Apostolic Tradition is? And further more, what if a corrupt practice arose, how could it later be distinguished from Apostolic Tradition? Protestants ask these questions because, in the Roman Catholic Church there did arise new and corrupt “traditions,” but this is because the Latin West first corrupted its understanding of the nature of Tradition. The Orthodox understanding which earlier prevailed in the West and was preserved in the Orthodox Church, is basically that Tradition is in essence unchanging and is known by its universality or catholicity. True Apostolic Tradition is found in the historic consensus of Church teaching. Find that which the Church has believed always, throughout history, and everywhere in the Church, and then you will have found the Truth. If any belief can be shown to have not been received by the Church in its history, then this is heresy. Mind you, however, we are speaking of the Church, not schismatic groups. There were schismatics and heretics who broke away from the Church during the New Testament period, and there has been a continual supply of them since, for as the Apostle says, “there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest” (ICorinthians 11:19)
FALSE ASSUMPTION # 3:

Anyone can interpret the Scriptures for himself or herself without the aid of the Church.

Though many Protestants would take issue with the way this assumption is worded, this is essentially the assumption that prevailed when the Reformers first advocated the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. The line of reasoning was essentially that the meaning of Scripture is clear enough that anyone could understand it by simply reading it for oneself, and thus they rejected the idea that one needed the Churchs help in the process. This position is clearly stated by the Tübingen Lutheran Scholars who exchanged letters with Patriarch Jeremias II of Constantinople about thirty years after Luthers death:
Perhaps, someone will say that on the one hand, the Scriptures are absolutely free from error; but on the other hand, they have been concealed by much obscurity, so that without the interpretations of the Spirit-bearing Fathers they could not be clearly understood…. But meanwhile this, too, is very true that what has been said in a scarcely perceptible manner in some places in the Scriptures, has been stated in another place in them explicitly and most clearly so that even the most simple person can understand them.8
Though these Lutheran scholars claimed to use the writings of the Holy Fathers, they argued that they were unnecessary, and that, where they believed the Scriptures and the Holy Fathers conflicted, the Fathers were to be disregarded. What they were actually arguing, however, was that when the teachings of the Holy fathers conflict with their private opinions on the Scriptures, their private opinions were to be considered more authoritative than the Fathers of the Church. Rather than listening to the Fathers, who had shown themselves righteous and saintly, priority should be given to the human reasonings of the individual. The same human reason that has led the majority of modern Lutheran scholars to reject almost every teaching of Scripture (including the deity of Christ, the Resurrection, etc.), and even to reject the inspiration of the Scriptures themselves — on which the early Lutherans claimed to base their entire faith. In reply, Patriarch Jeremias II clearly exposed the true character of the Lutheran teachings:
Let us accept, then, the traditions of the Church with a sincere heart and not a multitude of rationalizations. For God created man to be upright; instead they sought after diverse ways of rationalizing (Ecclesiastes 7:29). Let us not allow ourselves to learn a new kind of faith which is condemned by the tradition of the Holy Fathers. For the Divine apostle says, “if anyone is preaching to you a Gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:9).9
B. THE DOCTRINE OF SOLA SCRIPTURA DOES NOT MEET ITS OWN CRITERIA

You might imagine that such a belief system as Protestantism, which has as its cardinal doctrine that Scripture alone is authoritative in matters of faith, would first seek to prove that this cardinal doctrine met its own criteria. One would probably expect that Protestants could brandish hundreds of proof-texts from the Scriptures to support this doctrine — upon which all else that they believe is based. At the very least one would hope that two or three solid text which clearly taught this doctrine could be found — since the Scriptures themselves say, “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established” (II Corinthians 13:1). Yet, like the boy in the fable who had to point out that the Emperor had no clothes on, I must point out that there is not one single verse in the entirety of Holy Scripture that teaches the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. There is not even one that comes close. Oh yes, there are innumerable places in the Bible that speak of its inspiration, of its authority, and of its profitability — but there is no place in the Bible that teaches that only Scripture is authoritative for believers. If such a teaching were even implicit, then surely the early Fathers of the Church would have taught this doctrine also, but which of the Holy Fathers ever taught such a thing? Thus Protestantisms most basic teaching self-destructs, being contrary to itself. But not only is the Protestant doctrine of Sola Scriptura not taught in the Scriptures — it is in fact specifically contradicted by the Scriptures (which we have already discussed) that teach that Holy Tradition is also binding to Christians (II Thessalonians 2:15; I Corinthians 11:2).
C. PROTESTANT INTERPRETIVE APPROACHES THAT DONT WORK

Even from the very earliest days of the Reformation, Protestants have been forced to deal with the fact that, given the Bible and the reason of the individual alone, people could not agree upon the meaning of many of the most basic questions of doctrine. Within Martin Luthers own life dozens of competing groups had arisen, all claiming to “just believe the Bible,” but none agreeing on what the Bible said. Though Luther had courageously stood before the Diet of Worms and said that unless he were persuaded by Scripture, or by plain reason, he would not retract anything that he had been teaching; later, when Anabaptists, who disagreed with the Lutherans on a number of points, simply asked for the same indulgence, the Lutherans butchered them by the thousands — so much for the rhetoric about the “right of an individual to read the Scriptures for himself.” Despite the obvious problems that the rapid splintering of Protestantism presented to the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, not willing to concede defeat to the Pope, Protestants instead concluded that the real problem must be that those with whom they disagree, in other words every other sect but their own, must not be reading the Bible correctly. Thus a number of approaches have been set forth as solutions to this problem. Of course there has yet to be the approach that could reverse the endless multiplications of schisms, and yet Protestants still search for the elusive methodological “key” that will solve their problem. Let us examine the most popular approaches that have been tried thus far, each of which are still set forth by one group or another
APPROACH # 1

Just take the Bible literally — the meaning is clear.

This approach was no doubt the first approach used by the Reformers, though very early on they came to realize that by itself this was an insufficient solution to the problems presented by the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. Although this one was a failure from the start, this approach still is the most common one to be found among the less educated Fundamentalists, Evangelicals and Charismatics — “The Bible says what it means and means what it says,” is an oft heard phrase. But when it comes to Scriptural texts that Protestants generally do not agree with, such as when Christ gave the Apostles the power to forgive sins (John 20:23), or when He said of the Eucharist “this is my body…. this is my blood” (Matthew 26:26,28), or when Paul taught that women should cover their heads in Church (I Corinthians 11:1-16), then all of a sudden the Bible doesnt say what it means any more — “Why, those verses arent literal…”
APPROACH # 2

The Holy Spirit provides the correct understanding.

When presented with the numerous groups that arose under the banner of the Reformation that could not agree on their interpretations of the Scriptures, no doubt the second solution to the problem was the assertion that the Holy Spirit would guide the pious Protestant to interpret the Scriptures rightly. Of course everyone who disagreed with you could not possibly be guided by the same Spirit. The result was that each Protestant group de-Christianized all those that differed from them. Now if this approach were a valid one, that would only leave history with one group of Protestants that had rightly interpreted the Scriptures. But which of the thousands of denominations could it be? Of course the answer depends on which Protestant you are speaking to. One thing we can be sure of — he or she probably thinks his or her group is it.
Today, however, (depending on what stripe of Protestant you come into contact with) you are more likely to run into Protestants who have relativized the Truth to some degree or another than to find those who still maintain that their sect or splinter group is the “only one” which is “right.” As denominations stacked upon denominations it became a correspondingly greater stretch for any of them to say, with a straight face, that only they had rightly understood the Scriptures, though there still are some who do. It has become increasingly common for each Protestant group to minimize the differences between denominations and simply conclude that in the name of “love” those differences “do not matter.” Perhaps each group has “a piece of the Truth,” but none has the whole Truth (so the reasoning goes). Thus the pan-heresy of Ecumenism had its birth. Now many “Christians” will not even stop their ecumenical efforts at allowing only Christian groups to have a piece of the Truth. Many “Christians” now also believe that all religions have “pieces of the Truth.” The obvious conclusion that modern Protestants have made is that to find all the Truth each group will have to shed their “differences,” pitch their “piece of Truth” into the pot, and presto-chango —the whole Truth will be found at last!
APPROACH # 3

Let the clear passages interpret the unclear.

This must have seemed the perfect solution to the problem of how to interpret the Bible by itself — let the easily understood passages “interpret” those which are not clear. The logic of this approach is simple, though one passage may state a truth obscurely, surely the same truth would be clearly stated elsewhere in Scripture. Simply use these “clear passages” as the key and you will have unlocked the meaning of the “obscure passage.” As the Tübingen Lutheran scholars argued in their first exchange of letters with Patriarch Jeremias II:
Therefore, no better way could ever be found to interpret the Scriptures, other than that Scripture be interpreted by Scripture, that is to say, through itself. For the entire Scripture has been dictated by the one and the same Spirit, who best understands his own will and is best able to state His own meaning.10
As promising as this method seemed, it soon proved an insufficient solution to the problem of Protestant chaos and divisions. The point at which this approach disintegrates is in determining which passages are “clear” and which are “obscure.” Baptists, who believe that it is impossible for a Christian to lose his salvation once he is “saved,” see a number of passages which they maintain quite clearly teach their doctrine of “Eternal Security” — for example, “For the gifts and callings of God are without repentance” (Romans 11:29), and “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:27-28). But when Baptists come across verses which seem to teach that salvation can be lost, such as “The righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him in the day of his transgression” (Ezekiel 33:12), then they use the passages that are “clear” to explain away the passages that are “unclear.” Methodists, who believe that believers may lose their salvation if they turn their backs on God, find no such obscurity in such passages, and on the contrary, view the above mentioned Baptist “proof-texts” in the light of the passages that they see as “clear.” And so Methodists and Baptists throw verses of the Bible back and forth at each other, each wondering why the other cant “see” what seems very “clear” to them.
APPROACH # 4

Historical-Critical Exegesis

Drowning in a sea of subjective opinion and division, Protestants quickly began grasping for any intellectual method with a fig leaf of objectivity. As time went by and divisions multiplied, science and reason increasingly became the standard by which Protestant theologians hoped to bring about consistency in their biblical interpretations. This “scientific” approach, which has come to predominate Protestant Scholarship, and in this century has even begun to predominate Roman Catholic Scholarship, is generaly referred to as “Historical-Critical Exegesis.” With the dawn of the so-called “Enlightenment,” science seemed to be capable of solving all the worlds problems. Protestant Scholarship began applying the philosophy and methodology of the sciences to theology and the Bible. Since the Enlightenment, Protestant scholars have analyzed every aspect of the Bible: its history, its manuscripts, the biblical languages, etc. As if the Holy Scriptures were an archaeological dig, these scholars sought to analyze each fragment and bone with the best and latest that science had to offer. To be fair, it must be stated that much useful knowledge was produced by such scholarship. Unfortunately this methodology has erred also, grievously and fundamentally, but it has been portrayed with such an aura of scientific objectivity that holds many under its spell.
Like all the other approaches used by Protestants, this method also seeks to understand the Bible while ignoring Church Tradition. Though there is no singular Protestant method of exegesis, they all have as their supposed goal to “let the Scripture speak for itself.” Of course no one claiming to be Christian could be against what the Scripture would “say” if it were indeed “speaking for itself” through these methods. The problem is that those who appoint themselves as tongues for the Scripture filter it through their own Protestant assumptions. While claiming to be objective, they rather interpret the Scriptures according to their own sets of traditions and dogmas (be they fundamentalists or liberal rationalists). What Protestant scholars have done (if I may loosely borrow a line from Albert Schweitzer) is looked into the well of history to find the meaning of the Bible. They have written volume upon volume on the subject, but unfortunately they have only seen their own reflections.
Protestant scholars (both “liberals” and “conservatives” have erred in that they have misapplied empirical methodologies to the realm of theology and biblical studies. I use the term “Empiricism” to describe these efforts. I am using this term broadly to refer to the rationalistic and materialistic worldview that has possessed the Western mind, and is continuing to spread throughout the world. Positivist systems of thought (of which Empiricism is one) attempt to anchor themselves on some basis of “certain” knowledge. 11 Empiricism, strictly speaking, is the belief that all knowledge is based on experience, and that only things which can be established by means of scientific observation can be known with certainty. Hand in hand with the methods of observation and experience, came the principle of methodological doubt, the prime example of this being the philosophy of Rene Descartes who began his discussion of philosophy by showing that everything in the universe can be doubted except ones own existence, and so with the firm basis of this one undoubtable truth (“I think, therefore I am”) he sought to build his system of philosophy. Now the Reformers, at first, were content with the assumption that the Bible was the basis of certainty upon which theology and philosophy could rest. But as the humanistic spirit of the Enlightenment gained in ascendancy, Protestant scholars turned their rationalistic methods on the Bible itself—seeking to discover what could be known with “certainty” from it. Liberal Protestant scholars have already finished this endeavor, and having “peeled back the onion” they now are left only with their own opinions and sentimentality as the basis for whatever faith they have left.
Conservative Protestants have been much less consistent in their rationalistic approach. Thus they have preserved among themselves a reverence for the Scriptures and a belief in their inspiration. Nevertheless, their approach (even among the most dogged Fundamentalists) is still essentially rooted in the same spirit of rationalism as the Liberals. A prime example of this is to be found among so-called Dispensational Fundamentalists, who hold to an elaborate theory which posits that at various stages in history God has dealt with man according to different “dispensations,” such as the “Adamic dispensation,” the “Noaic dispensation,” the “Mosaic dispensation,” the “Davidic dispensation,” and so on. One can see that there is a degree of truth in this theory, but beyond these Old Testament dispensations they teach that currently we are under a different “dispensation” than were the Christians of the first century. Though miracles continued through the “New Testament period,” they no longer occur today. This is very interesting, because (in addition to lacking any Scriptural basis) this theory allows these Fundamentalists to affirm the miracles of the Bible, while at the same time allowing them to be Empiricists in their everyday life. Thus, though the discussion of this approach may at first glance seem to be only of academic interest and far removed from the reality of dealing with the average Protestant, in fact, even the average, piously “conservative” Protestant laymen is not unaffected by this sort of rationalism.
The great fallacy in this so called “scientific” approach to the Scriptures lies in the fallacious application of empirical assumptions to the study of history, Scripture, and theology. Empirical methods work reasonably well when they are correctly applied to the natural sciences, but when they are applied where they cannot possibly work, such as in unique moments in history (which cannot be repeated or experimented upon), they cannot produce either consistent or accurate results.12 Scientists have yet to invent a telescope capable of peering into the spirit world, and yet many Protestant scholars assert that in the light of science the idea of the existence of demons or of the Devil has been disproved. Were the Devil to appear before an Empiricist with pitch fork in hand and clad in bright red underwear, it would be explained in some manner that would easily comport to the scientists worldview. Although such Empiricists pride themselves on their “openness”, they are blinded by their assumptions to such an extent that they cannot see anything that does not fit their vision of reality. If the methods of empiricism were consistently applied it would discredit all knowledge (including itself), but empiricism is conveniently permitted to be inconsistent by those who hold to it “because its ruthless mutilation of human experience lends it such a high reputation for scientific severity that its prestige overrides the defectiveness of its own foundations.”13
The connections between the extreme conclusions that modern liberal Protestant scholars have come to, and the more conservative or Fundamentalist Protestants will not seem clear to many — least of all to conservative Fundamentalists! Though these conservatives see themselves as being in almost complete opposition to Protestant liberalism, they nonetheless use essentially the same kinds of methods in their study of the Scriptures as do the liberals, and along with these methodologies come their underlying philosophical assumptions. Thus the difference between the “liberals” and the “conservatives” is not in reality a difference of basic assumptions, but rather a difference in how far they have taken them to their inherent conclusions
If Protestant exegesis were truly “scientific,” as it presents itself to be, its results would show consistency. If its methods were merely unbiased “technologies” (as many view them) then it would not matter who used them, they would “work” the same for everyone. But what do we find when we examine current status of Protestant biblical studies? In the estimation of the “experts” themselves, Protestant biblical scholarship is in a crisis. 14 In fact this crisis is perhaps best illustrated by the admission of a recognized Protestant Old Testament scholar, Gerhad Hasel [in his survey of the history and current status of the discipline of Old Testament theology, Old Testament Theology: Issues in the Current Debate], that during the 1970s five new Old Testament theologies had been produced “but not one agrees in approach and method with any of the others.”15 In fact, it is amazing, considering the self-proclaimed high standard of scholarship in Protestant biblical studies, that you can take your pick of limitless conclusions on almost any issue and find “good scholarship” to back it up. In other words, you can just about come to any conclusion that suits you on a particular day or issue, and you can find a Ph.D. who will advocate it. This is certainly not science in the same sense as mathematics or chemistry! What we are dealing with is a field of learning that presents itself as “objective science,” but which in fact is a pseudo-science, concealing a variety of competing philosophical and theological perspectives. It is pseudoscience because until scientists develop instruments capable of examining and understanding God, objective scientific theology or biblical interpretation is an impossibility. This is not to say that there is nothing that is genuinely scholarly or useful within it; but this is to say that, camouflaged with these legitimate aspects of historical and linguistic learning, and hidden by the fog machines and mirrors of pseudo-science, we discover in reality that Protestant methods of biblical interpretation are both the product and the servant of Protestant theological and philosophical assumptions.16
With subjectivity that surpasses the most speculative Freudian psychoanalysts, Protestant scholars selectively choose the “facts” and “evidence” that suits their agenda and then proceed, with their conclusions essentially predetermined by their basic assumptions, to apply their methods to the Holy Scriptures. All the while, the Protestant scholars, both “liberal” and “conservative,” describe themselves as dispassionate “scientists.”17 And since modern universities do not give out Ph.D.s to those who merely pass on the unadulterated Truth, these scholars seek to out-do each other by coming up with new “creative” theories. This is the very essence of heresy: novelty, arrogant personal opinion, and self-deception.
THE ORTHODOX APPROACH TO TRUTH

When, by God’s mercy, I found the Orthodox Faith, I had no desire to give Protestantism and its “methods” of Bible study a second look. Unfortunately, I have found that Protestant methods and assumptions have managed to infect even some circles within the Orthodox Church. The reason for this is, as stated above, that the Protestant approach to Scripture has been portrayed as “science.” Some in the Orthodox Church feel they do the Church a great favor by introducing this error into our seminaries and parishes. But this is nothing new; this is how heresy has always sought to deceive the faithful. As Saint Irenaeus said, as he began his attack on the heresies current in his day:
By means of specious and plausible words, they cunningly allure the simple-minded to inquire into their system; but they nevertheless clumsily destroy them, while they initiate them into their blasphemous opinions….
Error, indeed, is never set forth in its naked deformity, lest, being thus exposed, it should at once be detected. But it is craftily decked out in an attractive dress, so as, by its outward form, to make it appear to the inexperienced (ridiculous as the expression may seem) more true than truth itself.18
Lest any be mistaken or confused, let me be clear: the Orthodox approach to the Scriptures is not based upon “scientific” research into the Holy Scriptures. Its claim to understand the Scriptures does not reside in its claiming superior archaeological data, but rather in its unique relationship with the Author of the Scriptures. The Orthodox Church is the body of Christ, the pillar and ground of the Truth, and it is both the means by which God wrote the Scriptures (through its members) and the means by which God has preserved the Scriptures. The Orthodox Church understands the Bible because it is the inheritor of one living tradition that begins with Adam and stretches through time to all its members today. That this is true cannot be “proven” in a lab. One must be convinced by the Holy Spirit and experience the life of God in the Church.
The question Protestants will ask at this point is who is to say that the Orthodox Tradition is the correct tradition, or that there even is a correct tradition? First, Protestants need to study the history of the Church. They will find that there is only one Church. This has always been the faith of the Church from its beginning. The Nicene Creed makes this point clearly, “I believe in… one Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.” This statement, which almost every Protestant denomination still claims to accept as true, was never interpreted to refer to some fuzzy, pluralistic invisible “church” that cannot agree on anything doctrinally. The councils that canonized the Creed (as well as the Scriptures) also anathematized those who were outside the Church, whether they were heretics, such as the Montanists, or schismatics like the Donatists. They did not say, “well we cant agree with the Montanists doctrinally but they are just as much a part of the Church as we are.” Rather they were excluded from the communion of the Church until they returned to the Church and were received into the Church through Holy Baptism and Chrismation (in the case of heretics) or simply Chrismation (in the case of schismatics) [Second Ecumenical Council, Canon VII]. To even join in prayer with those outside the Church was, and still is, forbidden [Canons of the Holy Apostles, canons XLV, XLVI]. Unlike Protestants, who make heros of those who break away from another group and start their own, in the early Church this was considered among the most damnable sins. As St. Ignatius of Antioch [a disciple of the Apostle John] warned, “Make no mistake brethren, no one who follows another into a schism will inherit the Kingdom of God, no one who follows heretical doctrines is on the side of the passion” [to the Philadelphians 5:3].
The very reason there arose a Protestant movement was that they were protesting Papal abuses, but prior to the Roman West breaking away from the Orthodox East these abuses did not exist. Many modern Protestant theologians have recently begun to take a second look at this first millennium of undivided Christendom, and are beginning to discover the great treasure that the West has lost (and not a few are becoming Orthodox as a result).19
Obviously, one of three statements is true: either (1) there is no correct Tradition and the gates of hell did prevail against the Church, and thus both the Gospels and the Nicene Creed are in error; or (2) the true Faith is to be found in Papism, with its ever-growing and changing dogmas defined by the infallible “vicar of Christ;” or (3) the Orthodox Church is the one Church founded by Christ and has faithfully preserved the Apostolic Tradition. So the choice for Protestants is clear: relativism, Romanism, or Orthodoxy.
Most Protestants, because their theological basis of Sola Scriptura could only yield disunity and argument, have long ago given up on the idea of true Christian unity and considered it a ridiculous hypothesis that there might be only one Faith. When faced with such strong affirmations concerning Church unity as those cited above, they often react in horror, charging that such attitudes are contrary to Christian love. Finding themselves without true unity they have striven to create a false unity, by developing the relativistic philosophy of ecumenism, in which the only belief to be condemned is any belief that makes exclusive claims about the Truth. However, this is not the love of the historical Church, but humanistic sentimentality. Love is the essence of the Church. Christ did not come to establish a new school of thought, but rather, He, Himself said that He came to build His Church, against which the gates of hell would not prevail (Matthew 16:17). This new community of the Church created “an organic unity rather than a mechanical unification of internally divided persons.”20 This unity is only possible through the new life brought by the Holy Spirit, and mystically experienced in the life of the Church.
Christian faith joins the faithful with Christ and thus it composes one harmonious body from separate individuals. Christ fashions this body by communicating Himself to each member and by supplying to them the Spirit of Grace in an effectual, tangible manner…. If the bond with the body of the Church becomes severed then the personality which is thereby isolated and enclosed in its own egoism will be deprived of the beneficial and abundant influence of the Holy Spirit which dwells within the Church. 21
The Church is one because it is the body of Christ, and it is an ontological impossibility that it could be divided. The Church is one, even as Christ and the Father are one. Though this concept of unity may seem incredible, it does not seems so to those who have gone beyond the concept and entered into its reality. Though this may be one of those “hard sayings” that many cannot accept, it is a reality in the Orthodox Church, though it demands from everyone much self-denial, humility and love.22
Our faith in the unity of the Church has two aspects, it is both an historic and present unity. That is to say that when the Apostles, for example, departed this life they did not depart from the unity of the Church. They are as much a part of the Church now as when they were present in the flesh. When we celebrate the Eucharist in any local Church, we do not celebrate it alone, but with the entire Church, both on earth and in heaven. The Saints in heaven are even closer to us than those we can see or touch. Thus, in the Orthodox Church we are not only taught by those people in the flesh whom God has appointed to teach us, but by all those teachers of the Church in heaven and on earth. We are just as much under the teaching today of Saint John Chrysostom as we are of our own Bishop. The way this impacts our approach to Scripture is that we do not interpret it privately (II Peter 1:20), but as a Church. This approach to Scripture was given its classic definition by St. Vincent of Lérins:
Here, perhaps, someone may ask: Since the canon of the Scripture is complete and more than sufficient in itself, why is it necessary to add to it the authority of ecclesiastical interpretation? As a matter of fact, [we must answer,] Holy Scripture, because of its depth, is not universally accepted in one and the same sense. The same text is interpreted differently by different people, so that one may almost gain the impression that it can yield as many different meanings as there are men…. Thus it is because of the great many distortions caused by various errors, that it is, indeed, necessary that the trend of the interpretation of the prophetic and apostolic writings be directed in accordance with the rule of the ecclesiastical and Catholic meaning.
In the Catholic Church itself, every care should be taken to hold fast to what has been believed everywhere, always, and by all. This is truly and properly Catholic, as indicated by the force and etymology of the name itself, which comprises everything truly universal. This general rule will be truly applied if we follow the principles of universality, antiquity, and consent. We do so in regard to universality if we confess that faith alone to be true which the entire Church confesses all over the world. [We do so] in regard to antiquity if we in no way deviate from those interpretations which our ancestors and fathers have manifestly proclaimed as inviolable. [We do so] in regard to consent if, in this very antiquity, we adopt the definitions and propositions of all, or almost all, of the Bishops.23
In this approach to Scriptures, it is not the job of the individual to strive for originality, but rather to understand what is already present in the traditions of the Church. We are obliged not to go beyond the boundary set by the Fathers of the Church, but to faithfully pass on the tradition we received. To do this requires a great deal of study and thought, but even more, if we are to truly understand the Scriptures, we must enter deeply into the mystical life of the Church. This is why when St. Augustine expounds on how one should interpret the Scriptures [On Christian Doctrine, Books i-iv], he spends much more time talking about the kind of person the study of the Scripture requires than about the intellectual knowledge he should possess:24
1. One who loves God with his whole heart, and is empty of pride,
2. Is motivated to seek the Knowledge of God’s will by faith and reverence, rather than pride or greed,
3. Has a heart subdued by piety, a purified mind, dead to the world; and who neither fears, nor seeks to please men,
4. Who seeks nothing but knowledge of and union with Christ,
5. Who hungers and thirsts after righteousness,
6. And is diligently engaged in works of mercy and love.
With such a high standard as this, we should even more humbly lean upon the guidance of holy Fathers who have evidenced these virtues, and not delude ourselves by thinking that we are more capable or clever interpreters of God’s Holy Word than they.
But what of the work that has been done by Protestant Biblical scholars? To the degree that it helps us understand the history behind and meaning of obscurities, to this degree it is in line with the Holy Tradition and can be used.
As Saint Gregory Nazianzen put it when speaking of pagan literature: “As we have compounded healthful drugs from certain of the reptiles, so from secular literature we have received principles of enquiry and speculation, while we have rejected their idolatry…”25 Thus as long as we refrain from worshiping the false gods of Individualism, Modernity, and Academic Vainglory, and as long as we recognize the assumptions at work and use those things that truly shed historical or linguistic light upon the Scriptures, then we will understand the Tradition more perfectly. But to the degree that Protestant scholarship speculates beyond the canonical texts, and projects foreign ideas upon the Scriptures — to the degree that they disagree with the Holy Tradition, the “always and everywhere” faith of the Church, they are wrong.
If Protestants should think this arrogant or naive, let them first consider the arrogance and naivete of those scholars who think that they are qualified to override (and more usually, totally ignore) two thousand years of Christian teaching. Does the acquisition of a Ph.D. give one greater insight into the mysteries of God than the total wisdom of millions upon millions of faithful believers and the Fathers and Mothers of the Church who faithfully served God, who endured horrible tortures and martyrdom, mockings, and imprisonments, for the faith? Is Christianity learned in the comfort of ones study, or as one carries his cross to be killed on it? The arrogance lies in those who, without even taking the time to learn what the Holy Tradition really is, decide that they know better, that only now has someone come along who has rightly understood what the Scriptures really mean.
CONCLUSION

The Holy Scriptures are perhaps the summit of the Holy Tradition of the Church, but the greatness of the heights to which the Scriptures ascend is due to the great mountain upon which it rests. Taken from its context, within the Holy Tradition, the solid rock of Scripture becomes a mere ball of clay, to be molded into whatever shape its handlers wish to mold it. It is no honor to the Scriptures to misuse and twist them, even if this is done in the name of exalting their authority. We must read the Bible; it is God’s Holy Word. But to understand its message let us humbly sit at the feet of the saints who have shown themselves “doers of the Word and not hearers only” (James 1:22), and have been proven by their lives worthy interpreters of the Scriptures. Let us go to those who knew the Apostles, such as Saints Ignatius of Antioch and Polycarp, if we have a question about the writings of the Apostles. Let us inquire of the Church, and not fall into self-deluded arrogance.
Endnotes

1. George Mastrantonis, trans., Augsburg and Constantinople: the Correspondence between the Tübingen Theologians and Patriarch Jeremiah II of Constantinople on the Augsburg Confession (Brookline, Mass.: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1982), 114.
2. The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, vol. 2 (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, 1980), “Jannes and Jambres,” by A. F. Walls, 733 -734.
3. Indeed this list did not even intend to comprise all the books which the Church has preserved from antiquity and considers part of the larger Tradition. For example, the book of Enoch, though quoted in the canonical books, was not itself included in the canon. I will not pretend to know why this is so, but for whatever reasons the Church has chosen to preserve this book, and yet has not appointed it to be read in Church or to be set along side the canonical books.
4. For example, there is no place where the question of the inerrancy of the Scriptures is dealt with in detail, precisely because this was not an issue of dispute. In our present day, with the rise of religious skepticism, this is very much an issue, and if the epistles were being written today, this would certainly be dealt with at some point. It would thus be foolish to conclude that since this issue is not dealt with specifically, that the early Christians did not think it was important or did not believe in it.
5. Alexander Schmemann, Introduction to Liturgical Theology (Crestwood NY: St Vladimirs Seminary Press, 1986), 51 ff.
6. And in fact, this is what Protestant scholarship has done. Though Protestantism was founded on its claim of believing the Bible to be the only authority for faith and practice, modern Protestant scholarship is now dominated by modernists who no longer believe in the inspiration or inerrancy of the Scriptures. They now stand above the Bible and only choose to use those parts that suit them and discard the rest as “primitive mythology and legend.” The only authority left for such as these is themselves.
7. The Waldensians were a sect that was founded in the 12th century founded by Peter Waldo which in some ways anticipated the Protestant Reformation. Due to persecution by the Roman Catholic Church this sect survived primarily in the mountainous regions of northwestern Italy. With the advent of the Protestant Reformation, the Waldensians came under the influence of the Reformed movement and essentially joined forces with it. Many early Protestant historians claimed that the Waldensians represented a remnant of “true” Christians that had existed prior to Constantine. Though today no credible historian would make such an unsubstantiated claim, many fundamentalists and cults like the Jehovahs Witnesses continue to claim descent from the early church through the Waldensians — despite the fact that the Waldensians still exist to this day, and they certainly do not claim the Jehovahs Witnesses.
8. Mastrantonis, 115.
9. Ibid., 198.
10. Ibid., 115.
11. The term positivism comes from the French word positif, which means sure, or certain. This term was first used by Auguste Comte. Positivistic systems are built upon the assumption that some fact or institution is the ultimate basis of knowledge — in Comtes philosophy, experience or sense-perception constituted that basis and thus he was the forerunner of modern Empiricism [See Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, 1914 ed., s.v. “Positivism,” by S.H. Swinny; and Wolfhart Pannenburg, Theology and Philosophy of Science, trans. Francis McDonagh (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1976), p. 29].
12. For example, one method for determining the reality of past events, among empirically minded scholars, is the principle of analogy. Since knowledge is based on experience, then the way one understands what is unfamiliar is by relating it to something that is familiar. Under the guise of historical analysis they judge the probability of a supposed past event (e.g. the resurrection of Jesus) based upon what we know to take place in our experience. And since these historians have never observed anything which they would consider supernatural they determine that when the Bible speaks of a miraculous event in history that it merely is recounting a myth or a legend. But since to the Empiricist, a miracle entails a violation of a natural law, then there can be no miracles (by definition) because natural laws are determined by our observation of what we experience, so were such an Empiricist to be confronted with a modern analogy of a miracle it would no longer be considered a miracle because it would no longer constitute a violation of natural law. Thus empiricists do not produce results that falsify transcendent reality, or miracles; rather their presuppositions, from the very outset, deny the possibility of such things. [see G. E. Michalson, Jr., “Pannenburg on the Resurrection and Historical Method,” Scottish Journal of Theology 33 (April 1980): 345-359.]
13. Rev. Robert T. Osborn, “Faith as Personal Knowledge,” Scottish Journal of Theology 28 (February 1975): 101-126.
14. Gerhard Hasel, Old Testament Theology: Basic Issues in the Current Debate (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1982), p. 9.
15. Ibid., p. 7.
16. I have discussed Liberal Protestantism only to demonstrate the fallacies of “Historical” exegesis.
An Orthodox Christian is much more likely to be confronted by a conservative Fundamentalist or a Charismatic, simply because they take their faith seriously enough to seek to convert others to it. Liberal Protestant denominations have their hands full trying to keep their own parishioners, and are not noted for their evangelistic zeal.
17. For a more in-depth critique of the excesses of the Historical-Critical Method, see Thomas Oden, Agenda for Theology: After Modernity What? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990) pp 103-147.
18. A Cleveland Coxe, trans., Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. i, The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1989), p 315.
19. In fact a recent three volume systematic theology, by Thomas Oden, is based on the premise that the “ecumenical consensus” of the first millennium should be normative for theology [see, The Living God: Systematic Theology Volume One, (New York: Harper & Row, 1987), pp ix — xiv.]. If only Oden takes his own methodology all the way, he too will become Orthodox.
20. The Holy New Martyr Archbishop Ilarion (Troitsky), Christianity or the Church?, (Jordanville: Holy Trinity Monastery, 1985), p. 11.
21. Ibid., p. 16.
22. Ibid., p. 40.
23. St. Vincent of Lérins, trans. Rudolph Morris, The Fathers of the Church vol.7, (Washington D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1949), pp. 269-271.
24. St. Augustine, “On Christian Doctrine,” A Selected Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, series 1, vol. ii, eds. Henry Wace and Philip Schaff, (New York: Christian, 1887-1900), pp. 534-537.
25. St. Gregory Nazianzen, “Oration 43, Panegyric on Saint Basil,” A Selected Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, series 2, vol. vii, eds. Henry Wace and Philip Schaff (New York: Christian, 18871900), p. 398f.
From Volume 3 of The Christian Activist (now defunct). It is now a monograph published by Conciliar Press.

The “Council” of Crete and the New Emerging Ecclesiology : An Orthodox Examination . By Protopresbyter Peter Heers , Professor of Old and New Testament, Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary, Jordanville, NY

Lecture delivered at the Clergy Retreat of the Eastern American Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia        For a full written and photo report of the retreat, go to the  Eastern American Diocese of ROCOR. Audio and video versions of this lecture will be forthcoming; please check back to orthodoxethos.com for these.
                                                                                Howell, New Jersey.                                                                                                                                                                                         Tuesday, March 21st, 2017
     

Your Eminence, Metropolitan HILARION

Your Eminence, Metropolitan JONAH

Your Grace, Bishop NICHOLAS,

Your Grace, Bishop IRENEI,

Venerable fathers and brothers in Christ,

Christ is in Our Midst!

I consider it an honor to stand before you today, to speak to the Shepherds and Pastors of Christ’s rational flock, and in particular to the successors of the great work begun in the Russian Diaspora by such holy ones as St. John the Wonderworker and Metropolitans Anthony, Anastasi, Philaret, and Vitaly, Archbishop Averky and Metropolitan Laurus and many others, who are revered fathers not only of the Russian Church Abroad, but indeed of the Church Catholic.

The witness given by the Fathers of the Russian Church Outside of Russia with regard to the Holy Tradition, the monastic and ascetic ideal and in particular the ecclesiology of the Church, continues to inspire and guide Orthodox throughout the world.

Today, as the Ark of the Church sways in the wake of the passing of the self-styled ‘Great and Holy Council” of Crete, we have great need of their exactitude in life and faith – or, better, we have great need to follow and imitate them in these.

In the short time allotted me today, I hope to succinctly but clearly lay out before you what of notability and significance happened in Crete in June of last year, that being informed you may act according to God’s will. In particular I will briefly examine and critique the following three aspects of the ”Council” and its aftermath:

Organization and Execution
Documents
Outcome and Implications
We will focus, in particular on those aspects of the gathering which represent departures from the Holy Tradition and Holy Faith of the Church, for these necessarily merit a response from the fullness of the Church.

Before I begin this analysis, it is necessary to state the following, in order to remove what has become a kind of ”red herring” in the whole discussion of Crete and its significance. Supporters, sympathizers and those indifferent to the event respond to criticism of it in a variety of ways. One hears them say, for example:

The success of the meeting was the meeting itself!
This is just a beginning and it will be improved upon!
Nothing of consequence transpired, so there is no need to make a fuss!
Why even bother with Crete now? It has died and been buried! Within a few years it will be forgotten. (And other such sentiments.)
We can all be sympathetic to the ”power of positive thinking,” however, I am afraid all of these nice thoughts only function to skirt the issue: what of the ”Council” itself? What of its decisions and its impact? One cannot be expected to believe that we’ve waited more than 50 years (or by other counts 100!) for a grand council the main purpose of which was. . .to happen! Certainly, whatever happened in Crete will and already has impacted the Church (in some places greatly) and will become a precedent for the future.

Indeed, it is for this reason that those clerics who ignore it or downplay it do so to their own – and their flock’s – detriment. In the history of the Church, councils – whether false or ecumenical – are either accepted or rejected by the pleroma [the fullness] of the Church. They are not and must not be ignored, especially when they innovate and introduce false teachings into the Church. Just as a fall must be repented of, not swept under the rug, so too errors introduced and accepted in council must be rejected and corrected [ideally in council]. We do not ignore illnesses when they infect our body. How much more should be our care for the Body of Christ! We are all co-responsible, bearing one another’s burdens.

1. Organization and Execution:

Let us begin by looking briefly at the basic statistic composition of the ”Council:”

Participating Churches: 10 of the 14 Local Churches (71%)
Representation of Orthodox Christians: close to 30%.
Participating Orthodox Bishops: 162 participated of the 350 invited (46%)
Representation of Orthodox Bishops: 162 of a total of 850 (19%)
Total number of Voting Bishops: 10 of the 162 bishops present (6%), or 10 of the 850 bishops in the Orthodox Church (1.1%).
If we compare this with the truly ”Great and Holy Councils” of the Church, those later recognized as ”Ecumenical,” the difference is enormous, especially when we consider the obstacles the ancient hierarchs faced in terms of travel and communication. For example, the First Ecumenical Council had 325 fathers, the Fourth 630 fathers and the seventh 350 fathers – all of which participated with the right to vote.

What, then, did the world go to Crete to see? A ”Great and Holy Council”? What went they out to see? A free gathering of the Orthodox Bishops from around the world? Behold, most of them were not invited and nearly all that came were not given a vote. So, what went they out to see in Crete? ”A council of primates with their entourages.”[1]

This last phrase – ”a council of primates with their entourages” – is how Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos of Nafpaktou characterized the gathering, which he attended and which he now severely criticizes for introducing novelties with regard to our Faith. The great irony and tragedy is that for all of the organizers’ grand claims that conciliarity had led to and would be on display in Crete, it was rather a new eastern form of Papal primacy – of the Primates – which took center stage.[2]

The tragic irony is that while representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate criss-crossed internet highways touting the conciliarity of the pre-synodical process and Council-to-be, the Holy Synods of the several Local Churches were only beginning to examine the orthodoxy of the texts accepted by their Primates without their approval. This illustrates that the failure of this ”council of Primates with their attendees” was assured ahead of time.

A. Pre-Conciliar Portents of the Impending Disaster

Much has been made of the long conciliar process which led up to the Cretan gathering. Undoubtedly, much sweat and ink had been spent to bring the event to pass. During the 55 years of active, organizational preparation for the convocation there took place:

Six meetings of the ”Inter-Orthodox Preparatory Commission”
Three gatherings of the ”Special Inter-Orthodox Commission”
Five Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conferences
Three meetings of the Synaxis of the Primates of the Local Churches
Two special theological conferences for the drafting of the Rules of Operation of the Episcopal Assemblies in the Diaspora
Two academic conferences, on the issue of a common ecclesiastical calendar and a common celebration of the feast of Pascha with the heterodox and another on contemporary bioethical issues.
And one academic conference on the issue of the Ordination of Women in Rhodes, in 1989.
It is truly tragic that after such an extensive amount of time and effort the outcome pleases virtually no one, nor brings honor or glory to the organizers or to the Church. Perhaps the hierarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate who characterized the council as a ”fiasco” or the ecclesiastical reporter who called it ”the headline which ended up a footnote” were unjust? {It is apparent that the ancient saying has been fulfilled in Crete: ”it bore a mountain and gave birth to a fly.” Would that it were only this and not worse! For such travail in giving birth to such a ”council” is a shame upon the entire Church.}

One has to ask: what was at fault, that, in spite of so much work – unique in the conciliar annals – we’ve had such a tragic outcome?

We have an expression in Greece: ”a good day is apparent from the outset.” Well, the opposite is also true in the case of the grand council. Early on in the conciliar process it was apparent that the normally sunny Crete would not shine brightly for Orthodoxy. As I have examined elsewhere at length,[3] the visionaries behind Crete sealed their Council’s fate to not follow the Holy Fathers by imbibing the ”spirit” of another, even grander and thrice-flawed gathering of recent memory: the Second Vatican Council.

The two councils shared common roots and beginnings, a similar methodology and similar aims, and at least a superficial allergy to dogma. Both gatherings aimed at, and claimed to, solidify their hierarchies’ commitment to ecumenism and both allowed for their conciliar decrees and documents to be shaped by academic theologians. And, most importantly, both gatherings saw the introduction of a new ”inclusivist” ecclesiology, foreign to the Church’s Faith in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.[4]

Another point which unfortunately forges kinship between the two gatherings is the absence of any demonology. It is indicative as to the mindset and priorities of the drafters of the conciliar texts that nowhere, in any of the texts, does one find the following terms:

Devil, demon, diabolical, or evil one [5]
Heresy,[6] heretic, schism or schismatic
However, discernment of the methods of the fallen spirits, or demonology, is a requirement in the formation of Christology and Ecclesiology.[7] As the Evangelist John writes, “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). The absence of any mention of the evil one or his machinations (heresy, schism, etc.) from any conciliar text is indicative of a worldly, secularized outlook, not the patristic mindset.

Finally, following Vatican II and not the holy fathers, the ”Council” in Crete not only made no reference to heresy but invited representatives of heretical confessions to attend as observers, including those recognized as such by previous Ecumenical Councils. Although unprecedented in the history of the councils, it had been practiced in the Vatican councils, confirming once again the spirit and mindset which unfortunately animated the organizers.

B. The ”Conciliar” Abolition of Conciliarity

Let us look now more particularly at the conciliarity (or lack thereof) of the pre-synodal period and the Council itself. The unity of the Church is manifest and molded through conciliarity. As the 34th Apostolic canon states: ”for so there will be unanimity, and God will be glorified through the Lord in the Holy Spirit.” When the conciliar way is lost the first and often immediate victim is the unity of the Church.

A careful examination of the ”Council” of Crete in this regard reveals that, paradoxically, there occurred a ”conciliar” abolition of conciliarity. In the history of the Church, with the exception of the robber councils, no other council showed so much disdain for the very meaning of conciliarity as did the ”Council” of Crete.

Firstly, the people of God, the pleroma of the Church (which includes clergy, monastics and laymen), was bypassed entirely in the run-up and execution of the ”Council.” This is not only a major oversight, it is a serious ecclesiological flaw. The Orthodox Patriarchs declared to the Pope in 1848 that in the Church of Christ ”neither Patriarchs nor Councils could have introduced novelties amongst us, because the protector of religion is the very body of the Church, even the people themselves…”.[8]

However, not only was the body of the Church kept in the dark but even much of the hierarchy itself. The majority of the bishops and even synods of the Local Churches were uninvolved in the preparation of the ”Council,” including the drafting of its texts. In this regard, we recall the painful cry of protest issued by Met. Hierotheos of Nafpaktou months before the ”Council” that the pre-conciliar texts ”were unknown to most hierarchs and to myself, remain hold-up in committee and we don’t know their contents.” [9]

It is not overstating our case to state that the judgement of the Seventh Ecumenical Council with regard to the false iconoclast council of Hieria is applicable here: ”their things were said as in a corner, and not upon the mountain of orthodoxy.” This is because those responsible for the preparation of the texts knew very well the people of God’s opposition to the problematic texts and for this reason refused to publish them. As is apparent from the minutes of the 5th (and final) Pre-Conciliar Conference (in October of 2015), it was only upon the insistence of the Patriarchate of Georgia and (later at the Synaxis of the Primates in January of 2016 – just 5 months before the ”Council”) the request of the Patriarchate of Moscow that the texts were finally released to the Church. With this in mind, then, one can better understand why four Patriarchates ended up pulling out at the last minute.

Metropolitan Irenei of Batskas (Serbian Church) had this to say about that last, crucial meeting of the Pre-Conciliar Commission which took place in October of 2015:

”With regard to the text ‘Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World’ serious review and correction was, unfortunately, proven impossible, because for most of the meeting…in spite of the disapproval of many and the sharp criticism exacted, the text – for reasons never divulged – was not seriously re-evaluated. Rather, it was sent on as is, essentially untouched, to the Council, where, due to a lack of time and consensus, only cosmetic changes were made.” [10]

A careful study of the minutes of the 5th Pre-Conciliar, Pan-Orthodox Conference (October of 2015) reveals that the work was carried out in a atmosphere of pressure and haste with responsibility for this resting with the president of the meeting, Met. John of Pergamon, who was subsequently replaced.

It is apparent and a view commonly held among critics of the ”Council” that one of the main causes for turning Crete into a ”fiasco” was this anti-synodical, unorthodox methodology and pre-conciliar secrecy enforced by the organizers.

We said previously that the hierarchies of the Local Churches were kept in the dark with respect to the preparatory period and texts. This is also apparent when one considers that the rules of preparation for the Council only required the signatures of two representatives of each Church in order to confirm the pre-conciliar texts – that is, without the approval of the Holy Synods. Thus, the unorthodox text on the heterodox was considered ”approved” by the Local Churches after the October 2015 meeting without being sent, without being discussed, and without being confirmed by the Holy Synods of the Local Churches. In this way, on the strength of two representatives’ signatures, the text was considered accepted and binding for the Church of Greece, and then forwarded to the Council.

Where is the conciliar character of the Church at work here?

But that is not all. For the text to be amended, or even one phrase of it to be changed in Crete, it required the approval of all the Local Churches. If only one disagreed with the change, it remained as it was because it was considered already approved by all the Churches at the 5th Pre-Conciliar Conference!

Once again, here we can see why the Churches of Bulgaria and Georgia declined to attend: they understood that essential changes to the texts would be impossible.

This same process was at work with the Rules of Operation for the Council itself. The texts were approved by the Primates (with the exception of the Church of Antioch) without discussion or approval of the Local Church Hierarchies.

Objectionable and unfortunate as the pre-conciliar process appears, it is rather benign in comparison to the pinnacle of disdain of conciliarity on display at the Council itself. There the right and proper function of each bishop to vote on the proposed texts was scorned and denied and reserved for the Primate alone. Unbelievable, unprecedented, and total inadmissible canonically speaking.

The irony is that many of the bishops in attendance enthusiastically declared that there was great freedom and ease for the bishops to speak. While this is significant, it is obviously secondary in importance to voting. What matters is not who speaks first but who has the last word, that is, who decides. Even if all 152 non-voting bishops disagreed with a word or passage or even an entire document, it mattered little, for the votes of the 10 Primates was all that was registered.

As is well known, according to Orthodox ecclesiology, bishops are equal. The Primate is not above all the bishops. Rather, he is the ”first among equals.” In this context, then, does not the practice in Crete to recognize the vote of the Primate alone, and not that of the whole of the hierarchy, represent a fall from conciliarity and slide into papism? This ”papal” elevation of the Primates is extremely dangerous for the entire Church, for besides meaning the abolition of conciliarity in each Local Church, it will quickly lead to the Primate of Primates being elevated to the status of Pope of the East sine paribus (without equal), to use the preferred term of Met. Elpidophoros of Brusa.

Allow me to provide three examples which illustrate that in Crete there occurred a ”conciliar abolition of conciliarity.”

Before the ”Council” of Crete, the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece unanimously agreed and stated their position that in the conciliar texts heterodox communities must not be referred to as ”Churches.” The hierarchy mandated that the Archbishop and his entourage convey and champion this decision. There was no conciliar authorization for any modification of the decision of the Hierarchy. Nevertheless, the Archbishop of Athens and his entourage (with the exception of Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktou) changed their stance and voted for a modified version of the text in question (#6) which clearly contradicted the unanimous decision of the entire hierarchy. In doing this he and those with him disdained the 34th Apostolic Canon, which reads: ”neither let him (who is the first) do anything without the consent of all; for so there will be unanimity, and God will be glorified through the Lord in the Holy Spirit.”

In our second example, of the Church of Serbia, we have an even more flagrant example of creeping papalism. The Serbian Church’s entourage consisted of 24 bishops. Of these only 7 stood in favor of the final text on the Heterodox (#6). Seventeen of the 24 hierarchs refused to sign it. Nevertheless, because the Patriarch of Serbia was favorable and signed the text, the ”Council” considered that the Church of Serbia accepted the text! Once again, the Council disdained the 34th Apostolic Canon which calls upon the First Hierarch ”to do nothing without the consent of all.” The irony is, of course, that while Orthodox representatives to the dialogue with Rome underline the need of the Vatican to base relations between a Primate and Local Church upon the 34th Apostolic Canon, the Pan-Orthodox ”Council” violated it repeatedly.

In our third example, we have the tragic anti-synodical and papal approach of the Archbishop of Cyprus. Four of the 17 bishops in attendance from Cyprus refused to sign the final text on the Heterodox (#6), including Metropolitan Athanasius of Lemesou. After these bishops had departed, the Archbishop’s response was to sign it for them, as if he had their agreement! In an interview which he later gave to a Greek-American newspaper, the Archbishop characterized these dissenting bishops of his own Church as a ”fifth column” at the Council.

It is apparent here that these examples indicate not only a disdain for the conciliar system and even its abolition, but also contempt for the episcopal dignity by the ”first hierarchs.” These innovations and diversions were not only tolerated and accepted by the ”Great and Holy Council;” upon them the ”Council” was carried out. Indeed, without such anti-conciliar activity the ”Council” would have disintegrated entirely.[11]

In hindsight, given the anti-conciliar foundation and the failure of the ”Council” to unite the Orthodox, the following idiom is applicable: ”a house is only as good as the foundation upon which it is built” (see Luke 6:48). The ”Great and Holy” Council’s house was not built on the rock of conciliarity – ”it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us” – but on the sand of papalism – ”our holy patriarch has spoken”!

2. The Documents and Declarations of the Council

Let us now turn from the organization of the ”Council” to its documents.

Three of the six documents presented serious problems for several of the Churches. These were: The Mission of the Orthodox Church in Today’s World,[12] The Sacrament of Marriage and Its Impediments, and Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World. I will speak only briefly concerning the second text and focus on the third, which really constituted the basis of the Council.

A. The Sacrament of Marriage and Its Impediments

In the document on Marriage, three statements are made in succession concerning the issue of ”mixed-Marriages,” that is marriage of an Orthodox Christian with the member of a Heterodox confession or one of the non-Christian religions of the world:

1. Marriage between Orthodox and non-Orthodox Christians is forbidden according to canonical akriveia (Canon 72 of the Penthekte Ecumenical Council).

2. With the salvation of man as the goal, the possibility of the exercise of ecclesiastical oikonomia in relation to impediments to marriage must be considered by the Holy Synod of each autocephalous Orthodox Church according to the principles of the holy canons and in a spirit of pastoral discernment.

3. Marriage between Orthodox and non-Christians is categorically forbidden in accordance with canonical akriveia.

Now, to be sure, this question of mixed-Marriages is a thorny and difficult pastoral matter, especially for the Church outside of traditional Orthodox lands, such as America. Without wanting in the least to belittle this pastoral challenge, a challenge rightly dealt with by the pastors on a case by case basis, it is imperative that the pastoral practice never be loosed from its dogmatic moorings. My interest here are the dogmatic implications of this decision.

According to Professor Demetrios Tselengides, the move ”to legitimize the service of mixed marriage [is] something clearly forbidden by canon 72 of the Penthekte Council. [It is unacceptable, therefore,] for a council such as the ”Great and Holy Council” in Crete to explicitly turn a decision of an Ecumenical Council into something relative.” [13]

In the relevant excerpt I read of the conciliar document, note that while the kat’oikonomia marriage of the Heterodox with the Orthodox is considered possible, the same is strictly forbidden for the non-Christians. Why the difference? On what basis are the Heterodox admitted to a mystery of the Church? What are the criteria of acceptance?

Let us remember Canon 72, which could not be stated more clearly to show that it is a canon based on the dogma of the Church and thus does not admit of oikonomia:

”An orthodox man is not permitted to marry a heretical woman, nor an orthodox woman to be joined to a heretical man. But if anything of this kind appear to have been done by any [we require them] to consider the marriage null, and that the marriage be dissolved. For it is not fitting to mingle together what should not be mingled, nor is it right that the sheep be joined with the wolf, nor the lot of sinners with the portion of Christ. But if any one shall transgress the things which we have decreed let him be cut off. But if any who up to this time are unbelievers and are not yet numbered in the flock of the orthodox have contracted lawful marriage between themselves, and if then, one choosing the right and coming to the light of truth and the other remaining still detained by the bond of error and not willing to behold with steady eye the divine rays, the unbelieving woman is pleased to cohabit with the believing man, or the unbelieving man with the believing woman, let them not be separated, according to the divine Apostle, “for the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife by her husband.”

What is significant here is that the Council in Crete introduced, for the first time in history, a synodical decision which allows for the overturning of a canon of an Ecumenical Council and – most importantly – its underlying dogmatic basis. I don’t see how one could understand it otherwise, for on what basis are they allowing for mixed marriages if not some (new) consideration of the Church and Her Boundaries, now including the heterodox (somehow – ”because they are baptized”?). For, otherwise, it would be madness to speak of marriage – a true mystery of unity in Christ – between a baptized and initiated member of the Body of Christ and one not baptized and not initiated.

Therefore, the implication, even when the decision is referred to as ”kat’oikonomia” here, is that the heterodox are ”baptized” and on this basis they (as opposed to those of other religions) can participate in the mystery of marriage. Indeed, this is what one hears when he pays attention to the reasoning of those champions of mixed marriages. This, however, means that underlying the supposed ”oikonomia” of mixed-Marriages is the so-called ”baptismal theology” and ”inclusive church” theories, which lie at the heart of syncretistic ecumenism. This is consistent with the fruits we have seen from mixed-Marriages, namely, that on the basis of mixed-Marriages the ecumenically-minded justify other violations of the canons, such as joint prayer with the heretics, or even communing them during the marriage ceremony. (I am told that, in fact, this is practiced by a prominent professor at a North American Orthodox seminary).

It is clear that there is no theological basis for mixed-Marriages, that it cannot be considered ”oikonomia” since it does not lead to akriveia, but rather overturns the unity-identity of the mysteries with the One Mystery of Christ, and that it opens the door to further erosion of the canonical and sacramental order of the Church.

B. Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World

Let us turn now to the text which many consider constituted the basis of the Council: ”Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian world.” [14] It is the common view that this text, the sixth and final text accepted by the ”Council,” is fraught with error and confusion, notwithstanding occasional praiseworthy passages.

1. The Product of an Ecumenistic Outlook

As a text with a clear dogmatic-ecclesiological orientation this text ought to have been distinguished by an absolute clarity of meaning and exactitude in formulation, such as to exclude the possibility of a variety of interpretations or intentional misinterpretations. Unfortunately, to the contrary, in key passages we encounter obscurity and ambiguity, as well as theological contradictions and antinomy, which permit polar opposite interpretations.

It is characteristic with what difficulty the ”Council” met the task of approving this text that nearly thirty bishops refused to sign it and many others only signed it after the termination of the Council, after the four versions (in four languages) had finally been completed.

To see that the text is a product of an ecumenistic – and not truly ecumenical – mindset, one only need to consider what Metropolitan Hierotheos (Vlachos) wrote concerning the text and the debate surrounding it during the ”Council”:

”When the minutes of the Council are published, where the true views of those who decided on and signed the text are recorded, then it will be clear that the Council was dominated by the branch theory, baptismal theology and especially the principle of inclusiveness, i.e. a retreat from the principle of exclusivity to the principle of inclusiveness. During the works of the Council in Crete various distortions of the truth were said [in order to bolster the text] regarding St. Mark of Ephesus, the Council of 1484 and the Synodical encyclical of the Eastern Patriarchs in 1848, with regard to the word “Church” as applying to Christians cut off from the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.”

The Metropolitan relates elsewhere that proponents of the text and the recognition of the ”ecclesiality” of the Western confessions employed aggression and much pressure, including explicatives against those opposed.

2. Endorsement of Ecumenism

We mentioned earlier that one of the aims of this ”Council” was to solidify the Orthodox Church’s commitment to ecumenism. This text on relations to the Heterodox achieves this goal. It contains positive references to the World Council of Churches, made with apparent enthusiasm.

In paragraph 21 of the text, the following is stated:

”The Orthodox Church wishes to support the work of the Commission on ‘Faith and Order’ and follows its theological contribution with particular interest to this day. It views favorably the Commission’s theological documents, which were developed with the significant participation of Orthodox theologians and represent a praiseworthy step in the Ecumenical Movement for the rapprochement of Christians.”

The positive evaluation of the texts accepted within the WCC alone is sufficient for an Orthodox Christian to reject the text. Is it possible for a Pan-Orthodox Council to favorably view theological documents of the WCC when these very texts are filled with heretical Protestant views that have been repeatedly criticized by many Local Orthodox Churches?

In paragraph 19 of the text, the Toronto Statement of the WCC is referred to positively, as a foundational document for Orthodox involvement. What, however, does this statement express? Among other things it states that the WCC includes churches which hold that:
the Church is essentially invisible,
there is a distinction between the visible and invisible body of the Church,
the baptism of other churches is valid and true,
there are ”elements of a true Church” and ”traces of Church” in other member churches in the WCC and the ecumenical movement is based on this
there are church members extra muros (outside the walls), and that
these aliquo modo (in some way) belong to the Church, and that
there is a ”Church within a Church.”
Upon this foundation the Orthodox participate in the WCC, an organization in which the anti-Orthodox ”invisible and visible Church” theory clearly dominates, overturning the whole of Orthodox ecclesiology.

The ”Council” of Crete is the only council of bishops ever to recognize, promote, praise and accept ecumenism and the World Council of Churches. This stands in direct opposition to the witness of the choir of saints, including – among many others – the great elder Ephraim of Katounakia who by revelation was informed that ecumenism is dominated by unclean spirits.

The implications are enormous: what experience and inspiration of the Holy Spirit could they be expressing in Crete when they stand in opposition to the saints of the Church?

3. A Long Path to the Recognition of the Ecclesiality of the Heterodox

This path to the conciliar acceptance of ecumenism has been long and tumultuous. The passage of this text on Ecumenism was clearly the number one goal of the visionaries of the ”Council” – a goal which was apparent as early as 1971.

The first text produced within the pre-conciliar process that recognizes the so-called ecclesiality of the heterodox confessions is the Inter-Orthodox Preparatory Commission text from 1971 entitled ”Oikonomia in the Orthodox Church,” which stated: ”For our Orthodox Church recognizes – even though being the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church – the ontological existence of all those Christian Churches and Confessions.”[15] (This text was severely criticized by theologians in Greece at the time and eventually removed.)

This phrase was later modified at the Third commission meeting in 1986 to ”recognizes the actual existence of all the Christian Churches and Confessions.”

It was changed again in 2015, at the Fifth such meeting of the preparatory commission, to ”recognizes the historic existence of other Christian Churches and Confessions not found in communion with Her.”

When, in January of 2016 the final text was finally made public, this phrase provoked a host of reactions and protests from the fullness of the Church and Local Church Synods, including the Russian Church Abroad.

After the last minute proposal in Crete in June of 2016 by the Archbishop of Athens was generally accepted by the Primates and their entourages (although nearly 30 bishops refused to sign), the final text included the formulation: ”the Orthodox Church accepts the historical name of other heterodox[16] Christian Churches and Confessions that are not in communion with her.”

One can see that progressively, over the last 45 years, the phrase has been modified in response to objections advanced by the Local Churches. Nevertheless, the final version remains unorthodox and unacceptable, or, as Metropolitan Hierotheos (Vlachos) writes, ”anti-orthodox.” There are several important points to make in this regard.

4. Anti-Orthodox and Synodically Condemned as a Heresy

Firstly, as Metropolitan Hierotheos remarks, it may be that, in accepting the term ”church” for the heterodox confessions, an important distinction was lost on the participating hierarchs. St. Gregory Palamas clearly defined this issue in the Synodical Tomos of the Ninth Ecumenical Council of 1351. He writes there: ”it is one thing to use counterarguments in favor of piety and another thing to confess the faith.” That is, one should use every argument in countering something, while confession should be brief and doctrinally precise. Hence, in this context, in council, for the sake of doctrinal precision the use of the term ”church” for the heterodox is clearly inadmissible.

We can only hope, together with Metropolitan Hierotheos, that the hierarchs in Crete ”were ‘misled’ by those who argued – without extensive references – that during the second millennium the Orthodox characterized heretical groups as Churches. The truth is that it wasn’t until the 20th century that Western Christianity was characterized as a church, when Orthodox terminology and theology was differentiated from the terminology and theology of the past, especially with [and after] the 1920 Encyclical of the Ecumenical Patriarchate” ”Unto the Churches of Christ Everywhere.” One has only to recall that St. Gregory Palamas likened the Latin heresy akin to Arianism and the Latins as being obedient organs of the evil one.

The term Church is used not simply as a description or an image. Rather, it indicates the actual Body of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Church is identified with the very Theanthropic Body of Christ and because as Head He is one, His Body is one. As the Apostle Paul wrote:

”…and [He] gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:22-23)

”There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Eph. 4: 4-6).

Although it has been claimed that the offensive phrase referring to ”churches,” particularly in its last form, is consistent with Orthodox ecclesiology and the Apostle Paul, the truth is that it is, rather, consistent with the new, ”inclusivist” ecclesiology. As Metropolitan Hierotheos stated: ”while prima facie it seems harmless, it is anti-Orthodox.”

Why ”anti-Orthodox?” Firstly, it is impossible to speak of ”simply” ”accepting the historical name” of ”other heterodox Christian Churches,” for there is no name without existence, because otherwise an ecclesiological nominalism is expressed.

Secondly, far from hearkening back to the Apostle Paul, ”the mouth of Christ,” the phrase ”the Orthodox Church accepts the historical name of other heterodox Christian Churches,” when understood in context, reminds one of the invisible church theory of Calvin and Zwingli, what Vladimir Lossky called a ”Nestorian ecclesiology.” This ecclesiology supposes that the Church is split into invisible and visible parts, just as Nestorius imagined the divine and the human natures in Christ to be separated. Other heretical theories have sprung from this idea, such as the branch theory, baptismal theology and ecclesiological inclusiveness. This invisible church theory has actually already been rejected in council by the Orthodox Church.

The idea that a church can be characterized as heterodox (heretical) was condemned by the Councils of the 17th century on the occasion of the so-called ”Confession of Loukaris,” supposed to have been written or adopted by Kyrillos Loukaris, Patriarch of Constantinople. The condemned phrase was: ”it is true and certain that the Church may sin and adopt falsehood instead of the truth.” On the contrary, the Councils of the Church at the time condemned this faithlessness to Christ declaring that the Church cannot err.

This conciliar teaching is very important and must be stressed again in our day, for it comes to heal the delusion of those humanists in our midst who have lost faith in Christ and the continuation of the Incarnation. It is this faithlessness that lurks behind the unwillingness of many to embrace the ”scandal of the particular,” the scandal of the Incarnation, and to declare that the Church is One as Christ is One, and it is in a particular time and place, being the continuation of the Incarnation and the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. This faithlessness amounts to an abandonment of orthodoxy as a pre-requisite of ecclesiality and it is not simply a crisis of convictions, but, as Fr. George Florovsky wrote some 60 years ago, it signals that people ”have deserted Christ.”

To be sure, the contemporary forms that the heresy of the ”invisible church” theories take are a bit more nuanced than those in the 16th century, but not by much. Let us look again at the offensive phrase in context and we’ll see the similarities more clearly. The text reads:

”In accordance with the ontological nature of the Church, her unity can never be perturbed. In spite of this, the Orthodox Church accepts the historical name of other Heterodox Christian Churches and Confessions that are not in communion with her, and believes that her relations with them should be based on the most speedy and objective clarification possible of the whole ecclesiological question, and most especially of their more general teachings on sacraments, grace, priesthood, and apostolic succession.” (Paragraph 6)

It begins by stating that according to the ontological nature of the Church, unity cannot be disturbed. Here the invisible, united Church in the heavens is implied. This is the meaning of ”ontological.” This is immediately followed by, ”but in spite of this…” and reference is made to the fractured, visible aspect of the Church, with the acceptance of other, ”Heterodox Churches.”

5. An Already Accepted Expression of the New Ecclesiology

This is not the first time this dichotomy of the ontologically united Church in heaven, outside of time, with the divided Church on earth, in time, has appeared among the Orthodox hierarchy. Here is how the Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew, expressed it in the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem of 2014:

”The One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, founded by the ”Word in the beginning,” by the one ”truly with God,” and the Word ”truly God”, according to the evangelist of love, unfortunately, during her engagement on earth, on account of the dominance of human weakness and of impermanence of the will of the human intellect, was divided in time. This brought about various conditions and groups, of which each claimed for itself ”authenticity” and ”truth.” The Truth, however, is One, Christ, and the One Church founded by Him.

Both before and after the great Schism of 1054 between East and West, our Holy Orthodox Church made attempts to overcome the differences, which originated from the beginning and for the most part from factors outside of the environs of the Church. Unfortunately, the human element dominated, and through the accumulation of ”theological,” ”practical,” and ”social” additions the Local Churches were led into division of the unity of the Faith, into isolation, which developed occasionally into hostile polemics.”

The similarity with the invisible Church theory condemned by the Church and these words of the Patriarch are apparent in the sharp distinction of the ontologically united heavenly Church with the supposedly fragmented earthly Church. This mirrors the ”Nestorian” division of the divine and human natures of the Body of Christ. This view is, however, not surprisingly, in harmony with the new ecclesiology propounded at the Second Vatican Council, which posits an earthly church with greater or lesser degrees of fullness[17] due to the so-called ”tangles of human history.”[18]

These views of the Church imply the identification of the Church with heresy, of the holy things with the fallen and worldly. With pain of heart the words of Saint Tarasios, Patriarch of Constantinople, to the Fathers of the Seventh Ecumenical Council, are brought to mind, when he rebuked the decisions of the iconoclasts’ false-council of Hieria:

”O the derangement and distraction of these [men]. They did not separate between the profane and the holy, and as tavern-keepers mix wine with water they mixed the true word with the perverted, truth with falsehood, just as [as if they were] mixing poison with honey, to whom suitably does Christ our God address through the prophet: ‘the priests set aside my law, and defiled my sanctuaries. They did not distinguish between the profane and the holy.”

It should be clear, then, that the offensive text with its heretical ecclesiology must be rejected by the Church (by every Local Church separately and then in a future Council), and replaced, for it will undoubtedly be the source of a falling away from Orthodoxy.

There is still time to correct course and heal the wound already inflicted upon the Church. One practical solution, given by Metropolitan Hierotheos, which would help facilitate the restoration of Orthodoxy, is for a future council to correct the errors and to issue a new, orthodox document. There is both contemporary support for this (from the Patriarchates of Antioch, Serbia, Russia, Georgia, Bulgaria and even Romania) as well historical precedent (the meetings of the Ecumenical Councils extended for months and years, the Penthekte Council completed the 5th and 6th Councils and the Ninth Ecumenical Council was actually four separate councils).

Let us hope that bishops everywhere take immediate steps in this direction, for the matter is most urgent in those Local Churches which have accepted the text and Council.

3. The Aftermath and Implications of the ”Council” of Crete

A. The Responses of the Local Churches

Let us now turn briefly to the aftermath of the council and the current state of things.

Firstly, among those who attended the Council, there were nearly 30 bishops who refused to sign its final document on the Heterodox and Ecumenism. Among those are the well-known bishops, Metropolitans Hierotheos (Vlachos) of Nafpaktou (Greece), Athanasius of Lemesou (Cyprus), Neophytos of Morphou (Cyprus), Amphilochios of Montenegro, (Serbia), and Irenei of Batskas (Serbia).

Bishop Irenei of Batskas in Serbia summarized the stance of many post-Council:

”Concerning the recently concluded, triumphantly yet not entirely persuasively, ”Great and Holy Council” of our Church in Columbari of Crete: it is already not recognized as such by the Churches that were absent, indeed even characterized by them as a ”gathering in Crete”, and also disputed by most of the attending Orthodox hierarchs!”

The supporters and sympathizers of the Council call upon the example of the Second Ecumenical Council as precedent, as an example of a council at which some Local Churches were absent (namely Rome and Alexandria). What they do not say, however, is that the Second Ecumenical Council was not called as an Ecumenical or Pan-Orthodox Council to begin with, but rather as one of many Local Councils of the Eastern Empire and on account of the Orthodox decisions that were made it was later accepted by all of the Local Churches as Ecumenical.

In Crete we actually have the opposite: it was called as Pan-Orthodox and four Patriarchates refused to attend. Moreover, and most importantly, they also have refused to recognize it as a Council, even after the fact.

The Patriarchate of Antioch, in its June 27th decision of last year, stated that it considered the meeting in Crete as ”a preliminary meeting towards the Pan-Orthodox Council,” that it ”refuses to assign a conciliar character to any Orthodox meeting that does not involve all of the Orthodox Autocephalous Churches,” and, thus, that ”the Church of Antioch refuses to accept that the meeting in Crete be called a “Great Orthodox Council” or a “Great and Holy Council.”

The Patriarchate of Moscow (in the July 15, 2016 decision of its Holy Synod) stated that ”the Council which took place in Crete cannot be considered Pan-Orthodox, nor can the documents which it ratified constitute an expression of Pan-Orthodox consensus.”

The Patriarchate of Bulgaria (in its decision dated November 15, 2016) stated in a gathering of the entire hierarchy that ”the Council of Crete is neither great, nor holy, nor Pan-Orthodox. This is due to the non-participation of a number of Local autocephalous Churches, as well as the accepted organizational and theological mistakes. Careful study of the documents adopted at the Crete Council leads us to the conclusion that some of them contain discrepancies with Orthodox Church teaching, with the dogmatic and canonical Tradition of the Church, and with the spirit and letter of the Ecumenical and Local Councils. The documents adopted in Crete are to be subject to further theological consideration for the purpose of amending, editing and correcting, or replacing with other (new documents) in the spirit and Tradition of the Church.”

The Patriarchate of Georgia met in December of last year and issued a final decision on the Council of Crete. In that it stated that it is not a Pan-Orthodox Council, that it abolished the principle of consensus and that its decisions are not obligatory for the Orthodox Church of Georgia. Furthermore, the documents issued by the Council of Crete do not reflect important critiques made by the Local Churches and they are in need of correction. A truly Great and Holy Council does need to be held and the Georgian Church is confident that it will take place in the future and it will make decisions by consensus, based on the teaching of the Orthodox Church. Towards this goal, the Holy Synod has formed a theological commission to examine the documents accepted in Crete and to prepare for a future Council which will be Pan-Orthodox.

The Patriarchate of Romania, which participated in the Council, later stated that ”the texts can be explained, nuanced in part or further developed by a future Great and Holy Council of the Orthodox Church. However, their interpretation and the drafting of new texts on a variety of issues must not be made hastily or without Pan-Orthodox agreement, otherwise they must be delayed and perfected until agreement can be reached.

The Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Greece, while not cataphatically ruling in favor of the final decisions of the Council, has issued an encyclical representing it as an Orthodox Council. Many have concluded that this stance signals agreement, even though within the hierarchy there are bishops which have sharply rejected and condemned the ”Council.” This confusion has given rise to disgust on the part of the faithful.

B. The Post-Cretan Developments in Greece and Romania

Before I close, I believe it is also important to inform you of the latest developments with respect to the reception or rejection of the Cretan ”Council” by the people of God.

There have been positive responses, especially among the official organs of the participating churches, which have take the form of lectures and small conferences on the significance of the ”Council,” sometimes involving the Heterodox. One can also observe a surprising dissatisfaction among supporters that the ”Council” did not do enough or go far enough in recognition of the Heterodox or in terms of other ”hot button” issues for, mainly, Orthodox academics in the West. No doubt there will be a continued effort to influence the faithful in favor of the ”Council” – a hard task, given that most never felt the ”Council” was at all relevant to them.

In spite of the official, positive reception given the ”Council” in Greece and Romania, the overwhelming response among the people of God has been negative. The implications of the Cretan Council are far-reaching for many in those Local Churches which have accepted the Council. The response of many clergy, monastics and theologians to the favorable reception given to the Cretan ”Council” by their hierarchy has ranged from written and verbal rejection by well-known theologians to the grave decision to cease commemoration of erring bishops by monastics and pastors.

The cessation of commemoration of the Patriarch of Constantinople which began on Mt. Athos in the Fall of last year, with perhaps 100 monastics participating, has now spread to many dioceses in the Church of Greece, as also Romania, where several monasteries and clergy ceased commemorating their bishops.

One of the most significant developments occurred just two weeks ago. The eminent Professor of Patrology Protopresbyter Theodore Zisis announced on the Sunday of Orthodoxy that he was ceasing commemoration of his bishop, the Metropolitan of Thessaloniki, Anthimos, due the latter’s enthusiastic reception of the Cretan ”Council” and its texts. Due to his stature and high profile (he was the teacher of many of the current hierarchs in Greece), this decision has influenced others and ”shaken up” the ecclesiastical status quo in Greece. This path has been followed by four clergy on the island of Crete, three monasteries in the Diocese of Florina, clergy and monastics in the Dioceses of Thessaloniki, Cephalonia, Syros and Andros, and elsewhere.

In addition to this, just a few days ago Archimandrite Chrysostom, the Abbot of the Holy Monastery of the Life-Giving Spring in Paros, Greece (where the Holy Elder Philotheos Zervakos shone in the ascetic life) submitted to the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece an historic formal accusation of heresy against Patriarch Bartholomew. Abbot Chrysostom has petitioned the Holy Synod to recognize, repudiate and condemn the Patriarch’s ”eterodidaskalia” (heterodox teachings) as contrary to the right teaching of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ.

He wrote to the Holy Synod:

”In submitting this letter to you, we place before the honorable Body of the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece the scandal caused to myself, our brotherhood, clergy, monks and countless laity, by the successive waves of heterodox teachings which have been expressed at various times by His Holiness, the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew, the pinnacle of which being [expressed at] the Holy and Great Council held in Kolympari of Crete.”

The formal petition provides 12 examples of heterodox teaching issued by the Patriarch over several decades, as well as 9 relevant canons of the Church, and ends with a list of 13 bishops, 14 abbots, hieromonks and clergy, and 9 theologians which the abbot is suggesting be called as supportive witnesses before the Holy Synod when he will be formally called to defend his accusation.

Your Eminences, Graces and reverend fathers,

These and other, similar developments in the Ukraine, Moldavia and Romania serve to underscore the mounting pressure upon all the shepherds of the Church to respond patristically to the danger posed to the unity of the Church by the ill-planned and executed, and finally, anti-Orthodox, Cretan ”Council.”

Church history clearly instructs us that this priceless unity in Christ exists and flourishes only when all are of ”one mind” and confess the same faith in the One Church. Moreover, recent history also teaches us that accommodation of, or indifference to, a new, innovative ecclesiology, such as that expressed in word and deed in Crete, is not an option and will only lead to further polarization and shipwrecks on both the left and the right of the Royal Path. It is in such rocky spiritual seas as these that the skill of the spiritual leader is tested and confirmed, showing that he not only knows Truth but is also skilled in the WAY by which all can arrive at it safely.

By God’s providence, the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad continues to occupy a unique place in the Orthodox Church from which it can speak freely and even prophetically the word of Truth – ”a word” which unites the faithful, healing old schisms and averting new ones. The Church Catholic has need of it now in these trying times.

Through the prayers of our holy fathers, and especially the holy new martyrs and confessors, and by the wise pastoral guidance of our chief Shepherds, may we all continue in the saving confession of faith in the One Church, which is the continuation of the Incarnation – to the up-building of the Church and salvation of the world!

I thank you all for your attention and graciousness in listening to me today and I wish you all a bright and radiant Pascha!

SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY

Γκοτσόπουλος, Ἀναστάσιος, Πρωτοπρεσβύτερος, «Πῶς δ’ αὖθις Ἁγία καί Μεγάλη, ἣν οὔτε…, οὔτε…, οὔτε…;» 10 Δεκεμβρίου 2016

Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and St. Vlassios, Intervention and Text in the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece (November 2016) regarding the Cretan Council: https://orthodoxethos.com/post/intervention-and-text-in-the-hierarchy-of-the-church-of-greece-november-2016-regarding-the-cretan-council.

Notes:

[1] Metropolitan Hierotheos (Vlachos), Intervention and Text in the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece (November 2016 Regarding the Cretan Council: https://orthodoxethos.com/post/intervention-and-text-in-the-hierarchy-of-the-church-of-greece-november-2016-regarding-the-cretan-council.

[2] This is but one of several alarming ecclesiological innovations introduced in Crete, superseded in gravity only by the acceptance of the self-contradictory ”heterodox Churches.” It was, however, the former – the sundering of conciliarity – which made possible the latter – the acceptance of the incongruity (if not monstrosity) that is ”heterodox Churches.” This is true in more than one way. If all of the bishops had had a vote, and not only the Primates, it is unlikely the offending text on the Heterodox would have been accepted. However, it is also the case that if the Archbishop of Athens had respected the the clear, conciliar mandate given him by his hierarchy, which voted unanimously to refuse to accept the term ”church” for the heterodox, he would not have accepted the specious and ill-advised ”correction.”

[3] See: From the Second Vatican Council (1965) to the Pan-Orthodox Council (2016): Signposts on the Way to Crete: https://orthodoxethos.com/post/from-the-second-vatican-council-1965-to-the-pan-orthodox-council-2016-signposts-on-the-way-to-crete.

[4] In an article dating back from when Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew was still a Metropolitan, in the journal The National Catholic Reporter, the Patriarch said the following, revealing his intentions for the Pan-Orthodox Council: “Our aims are the same an John’s (Pope John XXIII): to update the Church and promote Christian unity… The Council will also signify the opening of the Orthodox Church to non-Christian religions, to humanity as a whole. This means a new attitude toward Islam, toward Buddhism, toward contemporary culture, toward aspirations for brotherhood free from racial discrimination…in other words, it will mark the end of twelve centuries of isolation of the Orthodox Church.” See: “Council Coming for Orthodox”, interview by Desmond O’Grady, The National Catholic Reporter, in the January 21, 1977 edition. See also:http://orthodoxinfo.com/ecumenism/towards.aspx.

[5] In the texts of the Second Vatican Council matters are slightly better. In Lumen Gentium the devil is referred to four times, although in Unitatis Redintegratio he is not mentioned.

[6] The only exception to this latter case, is when the ecclesiological heresy of phyletism is mentioned in the Encyclical of the Primates, which is also quite indicative of the priorities of the meeting.

[7] See: J. S. Romanides, “The Ecclesiology of St. Ignatius of Antioch,” The Greek Orthodox Theological Review 7:1 and 2 (1961–62), 53–77.

[8] http://orthodoxinfo.com/ecumenism/encyc_1848.aspx.

 [9]http://www.parembasis.gr/index.php/menu-prosfata-arthra-apopseis/347-2014-03-29-13-23-51 

[10]http://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/9264-mpatskas-eirinaios-giati-den-upegrapsa

[11] This section of my lecture is based extensively upon the excellent research and writing done by Fr. Anastasios Gotsopoulos, Rector of the Church of St. Nicholas in the Diocese of Patra, Greece, with his permission.
[12] Due to its importance and the nature of the subject matter, an analysis of this text will be undertaken in a separate paper.
[13] See: http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/90489.htm.
[14] My analysis will follow and be largely based upon that of Metropolitan Hierotheos (Vlachos) of Nafpaktou, Greece.
[15] Συνοδικἀ, ΙΧ, σ. 107, Γραμματεία Προπαρασκευής της Αγίας και Μεγάλης Συνόδου της Ορθοδόξου Εκκλησίας, Διορθόδοξος Προπαρασκευαστική Επιτροπή της Αγίας και Μεγάλης Συνόδου 16-28 Ιουλίου 1971, έκδ. Ορθόδοξο Κέντρο Οικουμενικού Πατριαρχείου Chambesy Γενεύης 1973, σ. 143, και Γραμματεία Προπαρα-σκευής της Αγίας και Μεγάλης Συνόδου της Ορθοδόξου Εκκλησίας, Προς την Μεγάλην Σύνοδον, 1, Εισηγήσεις, της Διορθοδόξου Προπαρασκευαστική Επιτροπή επί των εξ θεμάτων του πρώτου σταδίου, έκδ. Ορθόδοξο Κέντρο Οικουμενικού Πατριαρχείου Chambesy Γενεύης 1971, σ. 63.
[16] Translator’s note: The official English version says “non-Orthodox” while the original Greek version says “Heterodox.”
[17] “One can think of the universal Church as a communion, at various levels of fullness, of bodies that are more or less fully churches. . . . It is a real communion, realized at various degrees of density or fullness, of bodies, all of which, though some more fully than others, have a truly ecclesial character” (Francis A. Sullivan, S.J., “The Significance of the Vatican II Declaration that the Church of Christ ‘Subsists in’ the Roman Catholic Church,” in René Latourelle, ed., Vatican II: Assessment and Perspectives, Twenty-five Years After (1962–1987) (New York: Paulist Press, 1989), 283).
[18] 267. Joseph Ratzinger, “The Ecclesiology of Vatican II,” a talk given at the Pastoral Congress of the Diocese of Aversa (Italy), Sept. 15, 2001, http://www.ewtn.com/library/CURIA/CDFECCV2.HTM.