Is 1 Samuel 8 looking for a mediating figure?

1 Samuel 8 is an amazing texts.  It suddenly turns natural law, lowest-common-denominator American evangelicals into radical theonomists, preferring anything to monarchy.    1 Samuel 8 is loaded with presuppositions which are rarely identified by pro-republican evangelicals.     I am arguing that prima facie appeals to 1 Samuel 8 as a universal condemnation of monarchy are illegitimate.   Further, and I think more forcefully, I argue that appeals to 1 Samuel 8 which act, not only as a universal justification for republican government, but also–which I think the republicans are truly advocating–a universal demand for republican government.

Instead of going through exegesis which no one ever reads, I am going to lay forth my points:

  • The American system and the tribal theocracy of 1 Samuel 8 (and that’s what it is, btw.   American evangelicals are actually advocating a theocracy) are not the same.    Yahweh specifically told Samuel the Israelites were rejecting Yahweh.  My question:  do evangelicals actually think and see the new America as ruled by Yahweh himself without a mediating figure?
  • They will probably answer “no.”  They have to for a number of theological reasons.  In order to be ruled im*mediately by Yahweh, they would have to receive directions and guidance directly from Yahweh himself.  In other words, they actually have to hear the voice of God!  (some clever wit will say they do via the Bible–more on that later).
  • This means, obviously, some form of mediating figure is necessary (O’Donovan, 50).  In order for their appeal to 1 Samuel 8 to be strong, they have to posit the same social form seen in 1 Samuel 8.    During pre-Davidic Israel, Samuel was the mediating figure between Yahweh and the nation (1 Samuel 3:19-21).   Thus, republicans have to posit some Samuel-ite figure to mediate between God and the nation (the papal overtones should not be missed).  Few evangelicals will take this route.
  • In rejecting both the immediate rule by Yahweh and the mediating rule of a Samuel-ite prophet, I conclude that republicans should abandon their appeal to 1 Samuel 8.   Besides applying a unique situation in salvation-history, and besides the fact that few evangelicals advocate a theonomic hermeneutic (which they must via their appeals to 1 Samuel 8), the republican evangelical must acknowledge that his situation is not analogous to pre-Davidic Israel and any sort of appeal to pre-Davidic Israel as normative for all time is fraught with problems.
O’Donovan, Oliver.  The Desire of the Nations: Rediscovering the Roots of Political Theology.  New York:  Cambridge University Press, 1999.
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A problem in canonical criticism

Most forms (all?) of biblical criticism are illegitimate.  Sure, they reveal many helpful facets that sometimes go unnoticed, but as any student knows–especially those who have an eye towards ministry and interact with real people (biblical scholars rarely do)–these forms of criticism are utterly useless to the church.

One form of criticism, though, appeared to put the breaks on this type of reading, and has become the de facto reading of almost all evangelicals.  All evangelicals employ a type of canonical criticism.   They face the fact that whatever else higher criticism may say the underlying communities or editorial processes that go into the formation of the text, the truth of the matter is it is simply speculation and assumes a number of materials we no longer have (the laughable existence of “Q,” for example).

Canonical criticism urges us to deal with the text as we have it.  (As a sidebar:  does inerrancy presuppose a form of canonical criticism?  Second note:  does the grammatical historical hermeneutic likewise assume a form of canonical criticism?)

The one problem with canonical criticism, though, is it presupposes what it has never (and can never) prove.   It assumes definite horizons to its interpretation (the canon, books of the bible).   The difficulty is different communities have different canons, and who gets to make the call?  Further with what tools does this community get to make the call?

I am not denying a place for canonical criticism.  In a sense, traditionalists all use a form of canonical criticism.  It is inevitable.   It is not, however, self-evidencing.  Canonical criticism does note a solution inherent to its definition.  Canonical critics urge us to deal with the canon as the finished and received product.   Of course.   That raises the next questions:  who finished it, who passes it down, and who receives it?  Canonical criticism cannot answer those questions, and as I think they admit, nor should they.

The Canon of Scripture (Bruce)

Bruce, F. F.  The Canon of Scripture. Downers Grove,IL:  InterVarsityPress, 1988.

The canon of Scripture is one of the most important questions of Christian theology.  It is directly related to the most important question of Christian theology:  the question of authority.  One’s position on the canon either justifies or undercuts one’s ultimate authority.   Bruce’s book on the canon is not remarkable:  he does not say anything that was not already said by Bruce Metzger of Lee McDonald.   That is not say the book is useless—on the contrary.  Bruce represents the finest of conservative, evangelical theology and his conclusions and methods are always sane and judicious.   This review will briefly highlight Bruce’s method (which is more of a historical survey) and reflect upon Bruce’s conclusions:  how strong they are, whether they actually follow, and what this entails for Evangelical theology.

Bruce gives a brief survey of the meaning of the word “Canon” and the different senses it was used in church history.  Canon did not mean list of books in the Scriptures but the rule of faith by which one determines other aspects of the faith (Bruce 1988:  18).  In other words, canon meant “tradition.”

Bruce has a section on the Old Testament development of the canon.   Here he follows the standard evangelical line that the Old Testament canon was definably formed by the end of 400 B.C.   He makes this claim on the basis that the church appealed to a set of Scriptures (29).  Like other Evangelicals, he appeals to Josephus’ claim that the unbroken succession of prophets ended around 400 B.C.   He ends the chapter with an interesting (and I think accurate) suggestion that the practice of the worshipping community recognized the canon (42).  In other words, liturgy shaped the canon.

While there was some controversy in delineating the New Testament canons, the areas of concern were always clearly noted, and the discussion is somewhat simpler by comparison.   The Gospels and the Pauline epistles did not have trouble getting into the canon.   The Apocalypse was problematic because heretical groups appealed to it.   Bruce gives a survey of Church Fathers on the Canon from Clement of Rome to Athanasius.

There is some repetition in Bruce’s narrative.  For example, in the development of the New Testament canon he discusses Athanasius and Tertullian.    Later on he has chapters on Athanasius and Tertuallian which say the same thing.

The most important questions about the canon are the ones at the end:  what are the criteria for canonicity and who gets to make that decision?   Bruce lists the criteria: apostolic authority, antiquity, orthodoxy, and catholicity (pp. 256-262).  He lists other sub-criteria as inspiration and widespread use, but I will focus on these four.[i]

Conclusion and Response

While it is true that the Church appealed to a set of Scriptures commonly known as the Old Testament, it nowhere identified the contents of those writings in a systematic form.  In other words, there was an Old Testament canon, but there is no proof that it had hard, fixed boundaries, appeals to Josephus notwithstanding.   Appeals to Deuteronomy’s warning not “to add to this book” do not help, since those who claim a fixed OT canon apply Deuteronomy’s warning to the whole OT canon (which deligitimizes most of the OT—and Moses was simply applying that to the Torah).   If one says the Jewish community did not define the OT canon because everyone already knew what was in it, this is a huge argument from silence and assumes what one is trying to prove.

Yes, there was an “Old Testament” and most of the books in this “Old Testament” were similar, but the “Jamnia” canon and the LXX differed in content per the Apocrypha—and it is the LXX that the early church followed.   (Another important point is that the Jamnia council to which many Evangelicals appeal, was radically anti-Christian in its orientation.)

Criteria for the Canon.

In conclusion I will look at Bruce’s criteria for the canon.  His criteria is helpful but raises more questions than solves:

  • Apostolic authority:   Was it written by an apostle?   This is problematic because Mark, Luke, Acts, and probably Hebrews were not written by apostles.   Bruce is aware of this and softens the argument that they were written under the aegis of an apostle (Mark-Peter; Luke-Paul).  Bruce notes that all four gospels are anonymous, so how do we know who wrote what (which is important for the “apostolic authority” argument)?  His unspoken answer:  because tradition says so.
  • Orthodoxy:  This next criterion was important because many false gospels under the names “Peter” and “Thomas” were circulating, so it became obvious that “apostolic authorship” was not enough (nor was it self-authenticating).   Did the gospel teach the apostolic faith?   The interesting question is that the apostolic faith is defined, not as Scripture alone, but the prior teaching of the church (150).  Reflect on that statement for a while:  we know something is Scripture because it agrees with church tradition.  Corollary:  church tradition determines the horizon of Scripture.    Bruce hints at this but is not explicit about it.
  • Antiquity:  this was to rule out literature that may have been edifying, but was not part of the original Christian writings, namely The Shepherd of Hermas.
  • Catholicity:  If the church is one, holy, and apostolic church, then it cannot have numerous canons for an indefinite period of time.

 

Bruce did a fine job in this book.  He offers a number of helpful meditations on various Scriptures and wades through a minefield of difficult issues.    Bruce is aware of many problems relating interpretation to canonicity, and hints at a few solutions, but ultimately pulls back.  Nevertheless, this book is rightly known as the standard on the canon.

One other corollary:  Greg Bahnsen made one argument popular:  we know it is the bible because God’s word is self-authenticating.  Never mind the Mormon, Muslim, and JW can make the same claim (it begs the obvious question:  self-authenticating to whom), the historical truth of the matter is that the earliest Christians, who much closer to the situation and more familiar with the issues, either did not think the text was self-authenticating, or were horribly deluded if they did

Another problem with the above claim:   if I say Tobit is self-authenticating, and the Reformed presuppositionalist says it isn’t, who gets to make the call?


[i] Lee MacDonald gives the same list as Bruce, although MacDonald is more aware of the problems in this list and offers a much fuller and more satisfying discussion.   The Formation of the Christian Biblical Canon (Peabody, MA:  Hendrickson, 1995).

Something else the ring did not expect

A while back I did a post on Putin as something the New World Order did not expect to happen, effectively thwarting their plans of making Russia simply another cash-cow for the globalists.  I’ve always wondered if I can apply that to religion, particularly Christian theology.  I’m responding to the paradigm shift of the author of Giza Death Star.   It’s not too hard to figure out of whom I speak, but I don’t feel right “calling him out” online for a number of reasons:  it  just ain’t friendly, for one; he is a noted scholar–if you have a D.Phil from Oxford you deserve respect; and, I still stand in awe of his ability to synthesize numerous strands of very difficult information.

He is the author of God, History, and Dialectic, arguably the most influential book and project I have ever experienced.  His recent project, beginning with Giza Death Star and continuing through Grid of the Gods attempts to trace the aftermath of a great cosmic war.  In short, he compares different origin accounts from different cultures and religions across the world, noting a number of “early apocalyptic” scenarios, which all sound the same.

As it stands that is fine and good.  While I don’t accept Jim Marrs’ argument that we are the engineering by-product of ancient aliens as documented in Sumerian epics (although I do accept many of his conclusions), I must confess that the similarities across a wide geography and time-frame make a very strong case.  I don’t know what to make of this case.   I see no reason to suddenly think “The Genesis account,” and by extension Christian theology, is somehow false.  Is the Genesis account dependent on earlier creation narratives?  Probably, but does dependency = falsification?  Hardly.  But more on that later.   At the same time, I don’t necessarily feel compelled to accept the Sumerian reading on face value.  That will illustrate another problem.

Let’s see what we can make of his argument against Christian (textual) morality:

  1. Yahweh told Abraham to sacrifice his son (cf. the arguments originally brought forth by Friedrich Delitzsch).  I’ll admit.   Most of the justifications of this are weak, but I think there are responses.  Ultimately, my response to this will be tied up with my response to the reading of texts.
  2. The Caananite Genocide;  how does one justify the fact that Yahweh told the Israelites to kill everyone in Caanan? This leads to the conclusion that Yahweh is a bad guy.
  3. There are stupid Christians today.    I agree with him on this.    Not sure what it proves.

Sed contra,

~1.  I am tempted to let him have this point for several reasons.  I’m not entirely sure of what I think on this passage. I know that theologians and philosophers have wrestled with it for centuries long before Delitzsch.  Maybe they’ve given poor responses; many have (I think Kierkegaard is overrated as a philosopher). With regard to my own spirituality, I don’t feel threatened about one passage that I cannot understand.   Imploding worldviews is a lot like destroying spiderwebs.   You have to take out the heart of the web, which I don’t see this text as representative of.

~2.  One has to ask several questions here:  Were the Caananites nice people?   What did Molech worship entail?  Does that justify armed invasion?   Maybe, maybe not.  Another line of thought–and while this is speculation, I would hasten to add that much of his project, by his own admission, is speculation–is tracing the origin of the Anakim.   If the Anakim, and Caananites in general, were descendants of fallen angels, that would make them a form of demonic offspring.

I have some more to add, but it also involves the reading of texts.  One other thing to add:  C. S. Lewis had a fairly liberal German view of the Old Testament, even noting how mean God sounded at times, yet Lewis didn’t seem bothered by the overall affect to his own Christian worldview.

~3.  In listening to these radio interviews I get the impression he is lumping all Christians into the mold and representation of backwoods fundamentalists.   or baptists.   He would deny that, and charity demands I interpret him accordingly.   Still, he is not making those distinctions when he criticizes “the religious people.”   This, too, involves the reading of texts.  Further, he notes that his reading poses challenges to the traditional three monotheistic religions, but he spends all of his time focusing these challenges to Christians.

I sometimes wonder how hard-core ancient faith radio really is (yes, the programs are awesome), but surely these people aren’t mindlessly reading only their bibles.

As it stands, he originally said he wants Christians to think good and hard about these issues.  Great.  I am actually excited about it.  I agree with hip readings about ancient wars and space programs, but when I hear him call my Father a “murderer,” it’s hard for me to continue charitably (cf., the latest episode on Social Engineering).

Reading Texts

Is one warranted in reading ALL texts in a strict, literal fashion? For whatever their (often violent) disagreements, few major adherents of the three monotheisms read the texts in a 1:1 correspondence.  Now, if he wants his reading to function simply as a reductio against the wackiness of Fundamentalist hermeneutics, while still exploring the possibilities of a cosmic war hypothesis, then I think that is worthwhile.

Another thought: is this the way the Christian church has historically read the Bible?    He might object that is special pleading and not taking the text at its face-value. (But he’s also noted that it is difficult to explain the difference between allegory and typology; cf “Introduction,” Disputation with Pyrrhus).   Maybe.   While there is probably more to be said on hermeneutics, traditioned communities have the right to read their texts–which they formed and passed down–the way they want to read them.

Let’s Pretend We are Liberal

Here is where it gets interesting.   In GHD the author gives probably the most incredible refutation of liberal higher criticism ever accomplished.   He exposes the gnostic presuppositions of the Documentary Hypothesis.   But even if one wanted to go the liberal route, one could say, “Yeah, it seems from that account Yahweh did some unsavory things, but one has to consider the contrasting Priestly, Jahwist, Deuteronomist, and Elohist strands throughout the Old Testament.”

Granted, that is a high price to pay, and one will lose inerrancy in the process, but if he thinks he has offered a painful moral dilemma  to traditional readings, then these JEDP readings blunt that charge (although at a high price).

What if we cannot accept the German liberals’ reading of the Old Testament?  Is there still a truth behind their claim, and if so, can that truth respond to the above criticisms?   I think—maybe.   Walter Brueggemann has done a fantastic job in showing that the Old Testament is full of hard edges.  He has suggested ways to read the Old Testament and take its claims seriously, while at the same time .  While avoiding many of Lindbeck’s conclusions,  Brueggemann notes that the Old Testament is a communal book, shaped within–and sometimes a response to–the community’s life and practice.

Sacrificial Ontology

One word about the sacrifices:  he makes an interesting argument, beginning in Babylon’s Banksters, that this view of “god” which demands sacrifices presupposes a system where the worshipper is already “in debt.”   (This scores huge points against many models of Western theology).  Therefore, sacrifical religions are debt-based religions.  Therefore, big problems for Judaism and Christianity.  Okay:

  1. One can see in the Old Testament that the Temple is not the ideal for worshipping God.   God didn’t seem too thrilled about the idea before Solomon, and afterwards the Temple came for condemnation and not praise in the Prophets.   Christ’s own words foretelling his identification with, and subsequent marginalization of the Temple add to this counter-reading.
  2. Is he making a distinction between Wesern-based soteriology and an Eastern-based soteriology.  I know he is cognizant of such a distinction, yet he does not mention it.
  3. “For you do not desire sacrifice, else I would give it.  You are not pleased with burnt offerings.  The sacrifices of God are a broken and a contrite spirit.  These, O God, you will not despise.”   To which he might reply, “The Old Testament is changing the rules as it is going along.”   But I point above to the hard edges of the Old Testament.

My goal here was not to powerfully refute his arguments, but actually to take him/them seriously:   while the alternative research community will never amount to much–and he is the most sane and serious scholar, with a few exceptions like Hoagland–he has raised some questions.  Fun questions.

Filioque: History of a Doctrinal Controversy

This book not only traced the Filioque controversy, it also embodied the spirit of it. This reader felt not only the logical force of both sides’ arguments, but sometimes the emotional turmoil that went with them. For example, if the Council of Ferrara-Florence was the most painful moment in Church history, it was also the most painful chapter in this book. Siecienski has done what few thought possible: present a fair, balanced account of a subject that probably defies human though and has started several wars.

Siecienski’s method is to read the fathers’ and theologians’ arguments per the internal relationships of the Trinity and avoid any type of simple reduction into a “pro-Western” or “pro-Eastern” model, except where the case is obvious like in Photios, Aquinas, and Anselm. This is an important move. When Western fathers like Hilary and Ambrose say that the Spirit proceeds et filii or even Filioque, Siecienski denies they are saying what later Filioquist polemics say they are saying. What Siecienski implies but does not say is important: these fathers do not teach the development of the filioque , and if they do not teach the development of the filioque, they are actually witnesses to the normativity of the Eastern model.

The hero of this story is St Maximus the Confessor. He demonstrates a way to interpret Western fathers who spoke in language similar to the filioque as a way of expressing the eternal relationship between the Son and the Spirit—which he thinks is what the Filioque was trying to do. The text under consideration is his Letter to Marinus, and the reception of that text at varying points in European history says a lot about the presuppositions of either side. The Latins originally championed the text and saw Maximus as a good Roman Catholic. Did not Maximus say the Filioque was orthodox and did he not appeal to the Pope? The Orthodox then responded that Maximus specifically denied causality to the Son. Whatever else Maximus may have meant by Filioque—and it’s not clear he understood precisely what Filioque would later mean—he is not using the term in the sense it would later be used. The Latins realized this and at other points in history they denied the authenticity of Marinus.

Maximus is reading the Filioque to say (if not accurately) that the Spirit proceeds through the Son from the Father alone. For him this is the superior understanding for it maintains both an eternal relationship between Spirit and Son yet maintains the causality of the Father alone. He says while the Spirit does not derive from the Son, his procession from the Father always presupposes the Son (Siecienski, 77). What this eternal relationship entails exactly is not clear, and it would be the work of Gregory II of Cyprus and St. Gregory Palamas to expand upon it.

As is the case with many polemical controversies, after a while there is not anything new being said. One notices a common theme, a charge and a counter, running behind the numerous florigela and Scripture references. The East charges the West with introducing two causes into the Godhead, the Father and the Son. Since the time of St Gregory of Nazianzus all admitted the monarchia of the Father. The Father is the principle of unity as he causes the other two persons of the Trinity. When the West began positing the Son as part of that cause, which they had to do if they were to uphold filioquist logic, the East responded that the West is introducing two causes in the Godhead. The West responded that it was positing the two persons as one cause of unity. To the East, that was a distinction without a difference.

So, who is correct? It would help to consider Anselm of Canterbury’s logic. He said one can posit two persons as one cause because one can also posit three persons with one essence (118). Obviously, Anselm is locating the property of causation within the one essence of God. He might not say essence, but that is what his analogy assumes. From that he says since the Son is one essence with the Father then when the Creed says the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, it also implies from the Son.

I think Anselm’s logic is inadequate. While he stops at saying that somebody must also proceed from the Holy Spirit as well, the logic demands it. If causation is a property, not only of the Father’s hypostasis, but also of the essence, and the Holy Spirit is part of that essence, then absurdities follow: The Holy Spirit must proceed from himself, and another person of the Godhead must proceed from the Son and the Holy Spirit. Men may mock St. Photios’ rebuttal, but they have yet to face the logical force of it.

Conclusions and Response

This book will likely be the standard in Filioquist studies for the near future. It is published by Oxford, which means all must defer to its teachings, and the author writes with a spirit of peace and a hope for the unity of the Church. While the weight of the argument leans to the East, he avoids simple reductions.

Because of his charitable spirit, which is to be praised, Siecienski does not always follow through with his arguments. He does not note the interconnection between a strong Filioquist theology and a strong view of papal supremacy. To note this, however, one must also discuss absolute divine simplicity and the Latins’ different interpretation of “one” and “unity.” (The “many” are reduced to “the one.”) Thomas Aquinas is very clear on this point—the filioque and papal rule stand or fall together. For this reason I disagree with his suggestion that the Church could have been unified at the Council of Florence had the Emperor allowed Mark of Ephesus to expound Gregory II of Cyprus’ teaching on eternal manifestation (158). Yes, if he had been allowed to expound upon these teachings, the anti-unionists would have clearly won the debate at Florence. But given the framework upholding the Filioque and Papal universal jurisdiction (see the Pope wanting the Patriarch to kiss his boots in public and in obedience), it is hard to imagine the Pope simply capitulating to these arguments.

At the end of the book he traces different attempts at unity by Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox throughout the twentieth century.   Of particular interest was Sergii Bulgakov’s comment that the “relations of opposition” position was absurd.  Relations are predicates, not subjects.  In order for a relation to exist, there must be a person–not vice-versa.

On a similar note, and in good modern academic fashion, Siecienski simply dismisses the logical force of Photios’s arguments. He never says where Photios is wrong. To be fair to Siecienski, though, if he had engaged what Photios implied, he would have to broaden the scope of his project. Photios is giving a genealogy of the Filioque. One suspects the reason modern academicians do not seriously engage Photios is because his arguments resist the trend of microhistory.

The book is worth the $50. Given the dearth of accessible, yet balanced literature on this topic, Siecienski’s project will likely be a landmark for the next decade

Parallel Between History of Arians and NWO “Church”

“Parallels between History of the Arians and the New World Order Church”

 

I do not intend the following to be strictly theology.  Further I am aware that I run the danger of “correlation = causation;” that is, simply because two situations are similar, it is not the case that one caused the other or that one is simply a new manifestation of the other.  That is true.   On the other hand, given the fact that theological issues are often at the roots of political and social decisions,[1] one is at least somewhat justified in using theological material, particularly the heroic struggles of the saints and martyrs, as “templates” in articulating a modern witness against prevalent evil.  If one does this carefully and with an eye to ancient sources, one can note real similarities.   Further, if the ancient sources suggest something like this can happen, one is on more solid ground.   At the end of the essay I will explore Serbia as a test case.

Before I begin I should note with caution a few remarks concerning “apocalyptic theology.”  The section of Christian theology that deals with the end times is called “eschatology.”   Specifically it deals with the return of Christ.  The Church has always confessed that Christ will bodily return at the end of history.   What the church has not confessed as been a specific aberration of this teaching known as “dispensationalism.”  Among its distinctives is that history is divided into at least seven epochs, or “dispensations,” and history will regress cumulatively with regard to morality and culture, and at the final moment of history, Christ will return to earth and secretly “rapture” his church to heaven.  With the Church gone God can then get back to his original plan regarding the nation-state of Israel.

The short theology lesson was necessary to ward off any misunderstanding.  The historical Church has always rejected this teaching.  However, many of the holy fathers did suggest that history will darken and at times the world will get worse.[2]  Therefore, any similarities between what I say and what some dispensationalists might says is purely accidental.

ST. ATHANASIOS’S SITUATION

St. Athanasios documents the recent history of the Arian attacks on the Orthodox Church.   He notes how Arian leaders poisoned the mind of Emperor Constantius, who then carried out an intense, though ultimately brief persecution of the Orthodox Church.   The attacks on Athanasios go from slander and libel to outright physical threat (and eventual exile).  God eventually vindicates St. Athanasios in the end.

One should note that Arianism, while a cancerous heresy, did not become particularly dangerous until it was backed by the State.   (This raises the problem of church-state relations, which is beyond the scope of this paper.  Suffice to say the writer rejects the narrative of the Enlightenment, which advocates a complete divorce of church and state, practically leaving the state autonomous and immune to moral and theological critique.   On the other hand, the church (by definition) is separate from the state because it is not the state.)

ST. ATHANASIOS WARNS OF THE COMING OF ANTICHRIST

The interesting thing about biblical and ancient sources on the antichrist figure is that they say relatively little about it.   The later Russian fathers will expound in detail on what we should expect concerning antichrist.[3]  St. Athanasios, though, in a manner similar to a skilled novelist, does not mention much concerning the reign and nature of antichrist.

He does not several indications of antichrist’s coming.  He notes the Arian attacks on the church and writes, “It was an insurrection of impiety against godliness; it was zeal for the Arian heresy, and a prelude to the coming of Antichrist, for whom Constantius is thus preparing the way.[4]”  One can note a warning in St. Athanasios’ text—and echoed by other fathers—that would normally go unnoticed:  the danger is not so much having to live during Antichrist’s reign, but to miss the warning signs of the times.   The Christian struggler is called to be watchful, sober, and not to be caught sleeping (or unaware, or perhaps living in some unrepentant sin).

ECUMENICISM:  THE CHURCH OF ANTICHRIST[5]

Unfortunately, it is even difficult to speak about ecumenicism.  The word has different connotations (and sometimes denotations) to different people.[6]  I am using the word to denote the view that all traditions are faulty, no tradition has the truth, and the only way to know the truth is to gather at ecumenical meetings and find some “lowest-common denominator” upon which all can agree.

I expect many Protestant readers would agree that the above view is wrong (and epistemologically flawed).  In order for the above view to work it must negate the teaching of Scripture that says “to contend for the faith once delivered to all the saints” (Jude 3).  St Jude says there was a deposit of faith that was truly passed down to the church.  Further, this faith is recognizable, which means it has boundaries.  However else one interprets this passage, and regardless of whether one believes the Roman Catholic Church, the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Coptic Church, or the Chalcedonian Orthodox Church is the true inheritor of the deposit, it cannot be denied that there was a deposit.[7]

WHEN HERESY BECOMES POLITICALLY DANGEROUS

If that were all the ecumenical church were about, one should not worry too much.  Most ecumenical bodies are liberal, and liberal churches, especially in the West, are losing members at an alarming (or encouraging, depending on one’s perspective!) rate.   In other words, left to itself, the ecumenical church would die out in a generation.   Unfortunately, after World War II the ecumenical church often found itself arm and arm with supranational bodies.   Given the administrative, economic, and military power of these bodies (e.g., the European Union, the United Nations, NATO, the World Council of Churches, the International Criminal Court, etc.), the ecumenical church has become quite powerful in one sense (obviously it lacks the power of godliness in another sense).

Of course, the ecumenical church is not strictly synonymous with the World Council of Churches (WCC).  The former is a broad umbrella of mainstream Christian groups while the latter is a specific manifestation of this mentality in institutional form.  The WCC’s nefarious origins are well-known and will not be repeated in great detail, suffice to say it was in part a brain-child of globalist John Rockefeller.[8]

A TEMPLATE FOR US TODAY

One is not presently arguing that the situations in St. Athanasios’ time and our time are necessarily the same.  Nor is one arguing that today’s ecumenical church is the antichrist (or its modern forerunner) that Athanasios predicted.[9] What one can argue, though, is that Athanasios’ time provides a template of witness and resistance for our own time.  While examples can be multiplied, a ready one is found for us in the disaster happening in present-day Serbia.

In the mid- to late 1990s Serbia found itself under the increasingly watchful eye of the Western bankers.   Under the aegis of “stopping a genocide” (and implicitly allowing another one), the “West” (a collective name for most Western European countries and America, including a cabal of central banks, corporations, and globalists) had to find a way to access and exploit Serbia’s resources and key geopolitical location, something a nationalist like Slobodan Milosevic would not allow.[10]

Since then Serbia has degenerated into chaos.  Her rulers openly hate their people, and want nothing more than to cater to the latest demands from Washington and Brussels. If it were simply political chaos and attacks on ethnic identity, there would be little to merit attention to this fact, since this is the norm in Europe.   However, the attacks upon the nation are simultaneously attacks upon the faith of the people of that nation.   Since the division of Kosovo from Serbia is a specifically postmodern question concerning identity[11], and ultimately, one’s commitments to “democracy” and the New World Order, one’s stance on Kosovo determines one’s stance on the New World Order.[12]  Therefore, clergy who take hard stands on Kosovo are clergy that resist the New World Order[13].   Since this is an obstacle to the globalists in Belgrade and Brussels, such clergy must be removed.

Against the Nation, Against the Church

While it is chic to decry the nation-state, such attacks unwittingly (or knowingly) presuppose a globalist alternative—a globalism with acknowledged anti-Christian goals.  Secondly, at least from the time of the Clinton Administration, Western governments have seen ethno-nationalist identities and religions claiming absolute truth as two wings of the same bird.[14]  Logically, one cannot attack one without attacking the other.  Christians may protest that the claims of Christ transcend that of the nation, and that is true, but such protests are irrelevant to those who deem what is and is not acceptable behavior.  As the most vocal opponents of the New World Order are clergy, and since Byzantine times the clergy have been the pulse of the nation, the Regime saw that it must clamp down on the clergy.   An obvious example is Bishop Arimije’s resistance to the Tadic regime.[15]

Lest this be seen as pro-Serb hagiography, the Media Elite agree with the assessment, but with obvious difference in how to solve the problem.  Following the arrest of General Ratko Mladic, Geoffrey Robertson urges a hard crack-down on the Serbian clergy.  He writes,

“Clean out the Serb orthodox church, whose priests blessed the death squads at Srebrenica. Without their blessing, I believe that some soldiers would have disobeyed their orders to shoot defenceless, hog-tied, men and boys. It is widely known that the church has harboured Hague fugitives in its monasteries and has been deeply implicit with the murderous aspects of Serb nationalism… They should remember … the fact that the wheels of international justice grind slowly but they grind exceedingly small.

As Trifkovic noted, this sounds like it is from a Soviet jurist in 1937.[16]  Obviously, these facts are highly contested, not merely by Serb and Russian nationalists, but also by CIA analysts.[17]  Further, Trifkovic notes elswhere concerning Bishop Artimije

chorus of condemnation and indignant disgust against Metropolitan Amfilohije came simultaneously from the usual standard-bearers of “all progressive humanity”—Helsinki human-rights groups, sociology professors, foreign-sponsored “independent analysts,” Soros-financed media outlets—and all had a common accusation: By daring to mention Sodom and Gomorrah, Metropolitan Amfilohije is “objectively” condoning violence and promoting discrimination. Ergo he is guilty of practicing violence and discrimination, of inspiring “far-right groups and all other extremists”: “Their goal is to force the Church into internal exile, just like under communism. This goal is the raison d’etre of many NGOs in Serbia. They always react swiftly and indignantly when the Church adopts a position, treating it as something inherently illegitimate. The Metropolitan’s scriptural reference threw them into rage, as witnessed by the media conglomerate B92, which has assumed the role of ideological prosecutors and star chamber. His reminder that ‘the tree that bears no fruit is cut down’ was twisted in the best tradition of the French Revolution and Bolshevism.”

Possible Conclusions

Above anything else, I do not want to “predict” what is going to happen next.  I simply do not know.   I will suggest what one can expect to happen, and upon these suggestions, make some tentative conclusions.  If Tadic continues his anti-Serbian rule, dividing the country even more[18], he will drive the moderates in Serbia to increasingly pro-Russian positions, even to the extremes of several parties arguing for the merger of Russia and Serbia as one country.[19]   As the economic situation worsens in Europe, and few see it getting better[20], moderate Serbs are likely to say “hell with the EU.  They will never let us in, and even if they do, we will end up like Greece or Portugal.”   As NATO is bogged down in various wars across the globe, and most NATO members are growing weary of the project, NATO will cease to be a viable option to Serbs.   The latter two realities will cement Russia as the only real alternative to the West.

The religious question remains an interesting question.   Serbia, as some have noted, was highly secular at the end of the Cold War.  (The sad irony is it was closer to Hillary Clinton’s vision of an open-society before she started bombing).  There are signs of hope, though.   The funeral for Patriarch Pavle revealed something in the spiritual psyche that even secularism was unable to remove.  Another moment is when Serb nationalists protested the gay pride march in Belgrade.  The Regime mandated that Belgrade demonstrate their obeisance to “Europe” and “human rights” by having a gay pride march, something anathema in all Orthodox countries.  The response was classic.[21] (Follow the link, but one should really watch the YouTube video.)

The struggle is not over.  As C. S. Lewis said, “If the game can be played, it can be lost.”   But it can also be won.


[1] Cf. Joseph P. Farrell, “Prolegomena to God, History, and Dialectic:  The Theological Foundations of the Two Europes.”  AnthonyFlood.com.  3 April 2011  http://www.anthonyflood.com/farrellghdprolegomena.htm

[2] Cf. Fr Seraphim Rose, Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future,  Platina, CA:  St. Herman’s Press, 1997.  One will note that I spend relatively little time discussing “the return of Christ.”   I do not have much to add that is not found in 1 Thessalonians 4.  Christians usually go astray when the speak beyond the limits of Scripture and Tradition.

[3] Vladimir Moss, “Has the Reign of Antichrist Begun?” Orthodox Christian Books. 3 April 2011 http://www.orthodoxchristianbooks.com/articles/206/has-reign-antichrist-begun/

[4] St. Athanasios, “History of the Arians,” Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (series II), vol. 4 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2004), 287.

[5] Despite the title of this paper, I don’t intend to speak too much about antichrist’s reign, of which Scripture says little.   Rather, I speak on coming of antichrist, and of signs that precede his coming.   I am relying on the testimony both of Scripture and the holy fathers, the latter as the vehicle of Scripture’s truth today.

[6] Something similar can be said for the word “Protestant.”  While both evangelical Protestants and the liberal unbelieving bishop in New Jersey are both outside the Orthodox Church (with which they would agree by definition), one must admit that there is a substantial difference between the two groups.

[7] While I am dancing through exegetical minefields, I will add another premise to the argument.  If one takes seriously Christ’s words to Peter in Matthew 16, then one must draw the further conclusion that this church (and deposit) is still present today!

[8] “The Founding of the Theological Education Fund—1958: Ghana Assembly International Missionary Council,” Ministerial Formation  Ecumenical Theological Education, Ecumenical Institute/WCC Geneva 110 (April 2008), 13.

[9] That is a valid position, though one I am not ready to defend.  Today’s ecumenical churches are by and large Arian in terms of liturgy and theology.

[10] For the larger story, see William Engdhal’s Full Spectrum Dominance: Totalitarian Democracy in the New World Order (Baton Rouge, LA: ), 2009.

[11] Srjda Trifkovic, “Kosovo as a Symbol of Anti-Postmodernism.”  Chronicles Magazine Online. 22 June 2011 http://www.chroniclesmagazine.org/2007/12/03/kosovo-as-a-symbol-of-anti-postmodernism/.

[12] Obviously, few people are ultimately consistent with their presuppositions.  Some may support the division of Kosovo yet still resist the globalists.   They are inconsistent.

[13] “Bishop ARTEMIJE of Kosovo Protests Bush Meeting with ‘Terrorist, War Criminal, and Racketeer’ Hashim Thaci.”  American Council for Kosovo. 22 June 2011.  http://www.savekosovo.org/?p=9&sp=511

[14] Former Secretary of Defense William Cohen identified religious absolutism with extreme nationalism and that both must be stopped (or bombed).  He mentioned this in an address to Naval graduates.  I currently cannot locate this address online.

[15] “Bishop Artimije Returns to Kosovo and Metohija.”  American Council for Kosovo. 19 November 2010.  http://www.savekosovo.org/default.asp?p=9&sp=559

[16] Srdja Trifkovic, “General Mladic: The Facts.”  Chronicles Magazine Online.  1 June 2011.  http://www.chroniclesmagazine.org/2011/06/01/general-mladic-the-facts/

[17] John Schindler, Unholy Terror: Bosnia, Al Qa’ida, and the Rise of Global Jihad. ( St Paul, MN: Zenith Press, 2007).  Also see Thomas E. Woods, 33 Questions About American History You are Not Supposed to Ask (New York: Crown Forum, 2007), pp. 38-44; 252-259.

[18] James George Jatras, “Vladimir Putin Visits a Serbia on the Edge of Collapse.”  Modern Tokyo Times.  22 June 2011.   http://moderntokyotimes.com/2011/04/02/vladimir-putin-visits-a-serbia-on-the-edge-of-collapse/ .

[19] “New Party in Serbia Supports Merging With Russia.”  Russia Today.  31 August 2010.  http://rt.com/politics/party-serbia-merging-russia/.  When this first came out, few seriously entertained the notion.  As the current Belgrade regime continues to support cultural and national suicide, the merger with Russia is becoming more and more understandable.

[20] Stephen Walt, “Can Anything Save Greece?”  Foreign Policy.   21 June 2011.  http://walt.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2011/06/21/can_anything_save_greece

[21] Nebojsa Malic, “Clinton Does the Balkans” The Gray Falcon.   12 October 2010.  http://grayfalcon.blogspot.com/2010/10/clinton-does-balkans.html

Audio dealing with limited atonement

Part of the problem with “refutations of Calvinism” is that said refutations usually focus on how mean it makes God look.   While that is a problem with the doctrine of God, and unhistorical, too, that isn’t really a logical refutation.

Calvinism is a strong, powerful system.   It withstands blows that would fell lesser systems (e.g, dispensationalism).   However, it is susceptible to internal critiques that can function as potent defeaters.      It’s better to deal with problems in Calvinist Christology than debate predestination with a Calvinist.  They live for debating that point.

I am not an Amryauldian.   However, there is a lot of audio distinguishing this system from Calvinism and why they reject Classic Calvinism.   It might be worth your time for these people have stood within the Reformed tradition, and thus their critique, whether they realize it or not, is an internal critique.

Audio here.