Notes on Bulgakov’s “The Comforter”

I have an off-again, on-again fascination with the outlaw Russian Orthodox theologian, Sergius Bulgakov.  I understand why the Russian Orthodox church condemned him, though I am fairly certain no one knew exactly what Bulgakov said, nor could they answer him sufficiently (which is why a different Russian Orthodox council venerated him.  By the way, we have here two opposing church councils making diametrically contradictory statements.  Which one represents the True Church?).

I picked this volume up because I was interested in his take on the Filioque–and here is where I think he is most successful.  I cannot in good conscience endorse his Sophia project.   Too much sounds like it was taken from gnostic magic texts, and the other is just old-fashioned Platonism (and they might be the same thing!).   That being said, Sophia or not, I think he was on the right track.  I didn’t read the whole book because I didn’t have to.   Much of his Sophiology can be found in other books and I was just interested in his historical discussions.  If you have read Lamb of God then you got the gist of it.

Bulgakov begins with a survey of how the early fathers understood the Holy Spirit.  He goes a step beyond the typical statements that no one called the Spirit “God,” not even Basil.  Bulgakov’s point is that no father had an in-depth pneumatology of any sort, and this would be a huge problem for Orthodoxy in the Filioque debates. He chides Roman Catholic thinkers for reading Filioquist doctrines into early Fathers, for example when the Fathers say the Spirit is ek tou hiou or dia (from and through).  With two possible exceptions concerning a quotation from Athanasius and Epiphanius, none of these fathers can be read as saying that the Son is the hypostatic cause of the Spirit, which is what the Filioquist must prove.  It’s a highly strained reading to think they are advocating what was taught at Florence and Lyons.  And again, this underscores the problem:  what did the Fathers mean by these statements?  We really don’t know, since they don’t say.

Monarchia of the Father: Dangerous and Undefined

Bulgakov is insistent we maintain the doctrine of monarchia, the Father as the principle of the Godhead.  He notes, though, that when guys like John of Damascus refer to the monarchia, it’s not clear what they mean.  How does John use the term cause?  He oscillates between two positions:  cause of the other two persons of the Godhead, but this moves close to Arianism, which John rejects.   He maintains the equi-eternity of the persons.  One cannot get past the idea, though, that John is using cause in terms of origination.

An Inadequate Tradition

A few years ago Jay Dyer critiqued Anchoretic Christianity on the grounds of an inevitable doctrinal development (this is more problematic for Orthodoxy than it is for Rome).   This is particularly evident in the doctrine of the Holy Spirit.  Someone could respond, via Basil, that Basil said the unwritten tradition always said the Holy Spirit was “God.”  Besides begging the question, that’s not really what Bulgakov is getting at.  The early Fathers did not develop a thorough doctrine of the Holy Spirit, leaving a lot of prepositions unqualified which later Latin writers would exploit.  For example, when Photius argued that the spirit proceeded ek patre monou, and claimed that such was the tradition of the Fathers, Latin writers quickly made short work of that:  numerous Fathers said at the very least that the Spirit proceeded through the Son.  I don’t think that’s a Filioquist reading, but neither does it line up with what Photius said.

Basil’s problem runs deeper.   While Basil is to be commended for clarifying person and nature to a degree, it was an uneasy clarification.   Basil’s Aristotelian use of ousia was a problem.  It seemed to Basil’s opponents that Basil was saying that if a hypostasis concretizes an ousia, then we have three concretized ousias (again we see that the Greeks could never get away from seeing ousia/essence in material terms).

A Shared Problematic

Bulgakov points out that both sides had the same presupposition:  whatever one may discuss about the Holy Spirit and his relation to the other persons of the Godhead, it will be primarily in terms of his origination from either one or both persons.  In either case, one is left with a dyad and never a triad:   if the Father alone generates both Son and Spirit, then we have Father and Son/Spirit; or if we take the Filioquist route, we will have Father/Son and Spirit.   Bulgakov notes that no side really got to the intratrinitarian relations.

Ousia as Spirit-Love

By contrast, Bulgakov sees the essence of God in a new way, free from Hellenistic constraints.  God is Spirit (John 4).  God is Love (1 John), and Bulgakov suggests that God’s being is love.  This definition points to three-ness and here Augustine was on the right track: Love implies more than one (and stop the analogy right there!).  Therefore, God’s essence is Spirit-Love (Bulgakov, 61).

Christianizing Hegel

The Hegelian overtones are heavy in the next few pages, and is my favorite part of the book.  Bulgakov writes, “The Son then is the hypostatic self-revelation of the nature of tthe Father (Hebrews 1:3)…the self-consciousness or hypostatization of the divine ousia of the Father; the Son is present before the Father as his Truth and Word” (63).  Bulgakov notes that these hypostases are mutually defined through their relation in the divine ousia.  The Father is not only revealed in his ousia through the Son, but he lives in said ousia by the Holy Spirit.

I know that sounds weighty, but it’s really not.  In biblical revelation we understand God the father to be the first person of the to-be-yet-revealed-Trinity.  In the New Testament we see Jesus saying, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father” (Jesus seems to be making positive affirmations about knowing God, contra the later tradition). We know that when Jesus ascends, the divine life lives in the church through the Holy Spirit.  At this point this is simple Sunday School stuff and Bulgakov has nicely tied it together.  Doesn’t this make a lot more sense than simply speaking about “ousias” and “essences” in an abstract, Greek way?  Yeah, I spoke of ousia, but I defined it the way the Bible defines it, as Spirit and Love:  Spirit-Love.

My take on the Driscoll uproar

(I realize this is older material, but still)

I’m not old enough to read the Driscoll’s recent book on sexuality in marriage. In some ways the Mark Driscoll has to be an embarrassment to the evangelical community. Complicating this embarrassment, though, is the fact that most Evangelicals really can’t answer him satisfactorily. Doug Wilson comes the closest.

For at least five years Mark Driscoll has been taking the case that Evangelicals should really enjoy sexuality in marriage. Ok, fine. This isn’t particularly new or interesting. Others have said the same thing for hundreds of years. At worst Driscoll is guilty of being late to the party.

His recent book, though, has taken the discussion (or heightened the problem) to a new level. (Yes, I realize I quoted a largely non-Christian site, but it does a good job of collating all of Driscoll’s wackiness.) Most see this book as a bizarre Christian sex manual. While it certainly is that for a good part of the book, I think we need to be fair (at least at the beginning) to Driscoll. Driscoll’s congregation has many who do not have good, biblical backgrounds. They are coming out of the worst aspects of pagan sexuality. They are approaching Driscoll with frank questions that otherwise would not be answered.

This is not a defense of Driscoll, though. I think the man is a clown, and I’ve thought that for years. However, he does raise the huge problem of a “scripture-only” hermeneutics: using Scripture-only, it’s hard to pinpoint that Driscoll is wrong. Here’s the problem: Scripture never says, per the context of marriage, that “sexual act A” is wrong. Personally, given much of the discussion, I disagree with Driscoll’s conclusions. Contra Driscoll, I do not think married Christians should take their cue from the worst (will not provide examples because this is a family-friendly site) of pagan sexuality.

Doug Wilson gives an extended and somewhat thoughtful response. I agree with many of his conclusions and agree with the reasoning behind his conclusions, but in the end Wilson simply cannot deliver on his argument. Wilson wants to ask concerning said practice, “Is it wise/safe/possibly enslaving?” I think those are good questions. The problem is that Scripture doesn’t answer them specifically.  What Scripture does tell us to do is take its insights and, having your moral skills refined (Hebrews 5:12ff), apply them.

  • While it is good that Evangelicals in the past 30 years have proclaimed how clean and “good” married sexuality is, they’ve gone overboard. It is one thing to say that married sexuality is good, it is another thing to be unable to shut up about it.
  • The danger here is that marriage is being reduced to sexuality. Instead of the spouse, specifically the wife ala Driscoll’s book, being one flesh (and complementing the husband, and vice-versa), this new Evangelical emphasis fetishizes the female and makes her simply an object (nominalism and all its attendant evils keeps coming up again and again!). C.S. Lewis describes this beautifully in That Hideous Strength.
  • Presumably, there are also medical issues relating to many of the practices Driscoll endorses. Wilson is correct to say that natural revelation (e.g., these medical issues) will not correct special revelation (Bible). Therefore, if this act entails damage to the human body, it is probably the case that St Paul would have condemned it in his condemnation of pagan sexuality (Romans 1, 1 Corinthians). Here’s the rub: it is nowhere specifically condemned. You are getting the (right) information from natural revelation.

I say all of that to say this: the bible is not meant to be a checklist on what you can and can’t do in certain situations. It is a script that is performed in light of the wisdom of the Church. This is what St Augustine and many other fathers meant by freeing the will. When I participate in the sacramental life of the Church, I am being changed as a person. My will is being liberated from previous snares and entanglements. I begin asking different questions. Instead of “Can we outdo the pagans in pagan sexuality?” rather, “How can I uplift my spouse?” “How can I wash my spouse in the Word?”

That said, of course we can outdo the pagans in sexuality.  The Puritans provide an excellent meditation on it.

Pseudo-Dionysius: Dooming theology to silence

I never quite understood the impact that Ps-Dionysius had on theology until recently.   (The Title is taken from a footnote in the Russian Orthodox theologian Sergius Bulgakov’s work The Comforter). Summarizing a host of monographs and risking oversimplification, one can say that Ps-Dionysius represented the final triumph of neo-Platonic thinking over Hebraic-Apostolic-Creational thinking (and I realize the infinite shades of Middle and Neo-Platonism apply, but few people can follow those discussions, so neo-Platonism is as good a moniker as any.  I can always advance something like von Harnack’s thesis if I have to).    True, it is Olivianus who informed me of the Ps-Dionysius problematic, but my critique has operated somewhat independently of his.   People criticize him, but few have actually answered him point-by-point.  You can begin here.

The Negative Way

Ps-Dionysius argues that as our ascent toward God continues, language falters–becoming more and more abstract, more and more negation.   As readers of Joseph Farrell recall, the more “abstract” talk-of-God becomes, eventually it doesn’t say any-thing, which seems to be Ps-Dionysius’s point.

A Problem by way of response:  this is not how Scripture reveals God.   Scripture is full of positive statements about God.  The most devastating critique is from Colin Gunton:

This worldview ought to have been rejected centuries ago on the grounds of a doctrine of creation in light of the Trinity.  The interaction of God and the world in Christ–with its implicit affirmation of the goodness of the created world, material as well as spiritual, implies a radical critique of the dualism of material and intellectual, sensible and insensible…But without that dualism, the way of ascent becomes impossible, cut off by the descent of Christ (Phil. 2)…who makes God known within the world, within the structures of space and time, not by abstraction from them” (Gunton 65).

Earthy Hebraic Christianity

When we go to the Bible for talk of “kingdom” and “heaven,” does the Bible sound like Ps-Dionysius?  Is the goal of human existence to abstract towards unity with the one OR eat and drink with Jesus in the Kingdom?  Or to look at it from another way:  would Ps-Dionysius be comfortable speaking the way the Bible speaks?  Ps-Dionysius talks about negating language on our unity to the One, freeing language by means of abstraction.  The Bible talks about blood, sweat, hair, and semen emissions.  Which world do you live in?  (Okay, that’s a bit crass, I confess, but it’s far tamer than Leviticus 18 or Ruth 3–go read conservative commentaries on Ruth 3:4, 7-8.  Daniel Block’s is the best.  He knows darn well what “uncovering the feet” really means in the Hebrew idiom). Is it any wonder that allegory arose in the Greek Christian tradition?  Adolf von Harnack was very wrong on some important things, but there is an undeniable grain of truth to his Hellenization thesis; he simply misplaced it.  I don’t have a problem with Hellenized formulas like impassiblity, provided at the end of the day we let exegesis, particularly Hebrew Old Testament, be the guide).

Works Cited:

Buglakov, Sergius.  The Comforter

Gunton, Colin.  Act & Being.

Language Helps for the Young Seminarian

You shouldn’t listen to me simply because I know everything.  I don’t.  However, I have made all the mistakes and if you reverse engineer it, you can see what to do.  Depending on the evangelical seminary you are going to, the curriculum will heavily emphasize the languages, sometimes to a glaring fault.  If you take the following considerations to account, your language study at seminary will be much easier (and these are the hardest courses).  I will focus more on Hebrew.  I minored in Greek in college and Greek is a Western language anyway, so it isn’t that hard to learn.  Hebrew is, though.

Textbooks

Go ahead and read, study, and memorize large sections of the textbook before you get to class.  Preferably do this in the three month interval between graduating one school in the summer and going to seminary.   Learn as much vocab as you possibly can.  It’s boring at times and modern day hippie educators say that’s the worst way to learn, but they can jump in a river.  It’s the only way to learn languages at the beginning (Yes, I know of the “immersion” technique, but since there aren’t any ancient Hebrew communities, that won’t work).  Ask the department which text they are using.  Grammars usually don’t change from semester to semester, and even if they do the content is the same.

Lexical Aids

Sadly, the best lexical material is the most expensive.  You can throw Brown-Driver-Briggs in the trash can.  It is much bulkier than other books and it simply isn’t that good.  At the very least you must get Holladay’s.  If you have an insanely rich backer, get Koeller‘s.  If you can’t afford either, van Pelt’s grammar has a very basic lexicon in the back, which combined with the vocab words at the end of the chapter, will give you a good enough vocab.

Workbooks

Go ahead and get the Basic Workbook and the Graded Reader.   Start working through the former immediately.  They will be assigned as homework assignments anyway.

Computer aids

I’m fairly certain much has changed in seven years, but when I was there many students got BibleWorks on their computers.  The profs frowned on it because it made translation too easy.  All you had to do was scroll your mouse over a word and it glossed and parsed it for you.  I would spend 30 minutes parsing ten verses when another student spent two minutes.  On the other hand, when you get to the exegesis classes, you will be required to put many passages in your paper in Hebrew font, complete with pointers and all.   Even if your Word Processor can do that, I didn’t have the intelligence with computers to work it.  Suppose you know how to type in Hebrew font, try putting a Dagesh Lene or a Vocal Shewa between the letters.   Yeah, good luck with that.  With BibleWorks all you have to do is copy/paste.  This literally takes hours off of your paper.  It’s pricey, but it might mean the difference between passing and failing.

Extras that you don’t need but are helpful anyway:

Vocab Reader:  van Pelt and Pratico published this one.  It gives you progressive lists of which words occur the most frequently. If you memorize certain lists, your ability to spot-read will increase.  Technically, you don’t need it, but it is a useful resource.

Old Testament Parsing Guide:  Parses every verb in the Hebrew Bible for you.  If you have BibleWorks you don’t need this.  Be careful how you use this, as it can become an “iron lung.”

A Messianic Hebrew Response to the Vincentian Canon

This is from an older debate last summer, but I want to link it to a sidebar and have it readily available and since I’ve been reviewing older Hebrew notes, this post, which was always in the back of my mind, has become more interesting.  It is the commenter “John”‘s response to the guys at Orthodox Bridge.  I do not necessarily agree with the last parts of his comments.  I do not think playing Paul against the rest of the Church is helpful or warranted.   Even if it were, “John” fails to make that case in any coherent manner.  The rest of his comment, the first 75%, however, is quite good.

What would the answers been to “Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est” had this statement been made c100CE by St John the Evangelist?

I suggest very different to those received by Vincent in 434CE . . .
At first, I will limit myself to just two – the “ubique” and “semper”.
And to just one issue, hermeneutics.

More than 90% of the Church at that time (c100CE) would have been still within the Jerusalem-Central orbit; and not heading in the Pauline direction of Justin Martyr or the Epistle of Barnabas (and finally Marcion) in their anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism [EDITORIAL NOTE:  anti-semitic is a worse than useless term.   True, Marcion was anti-Semitic, though I don’t think the early Christians were if properly understood.   Many Jews at that time were violent opponents of Christianity, and that needs to be considered.  On the other hand, the Hellenic worldview that some early Christians inherited was opposed to the earthy, creational Hebrew worldview, which problem is still with Anchoretic Christianity today) .

In the field of hermeneutics, they would have overwhelmingly been still using the Hebrew PaRDeS system. And NOT the two evil Hellenised systems: Allegory from Alexandria (the home of the Ptolemies) or Symbolism from Antioch (the home of the Selucids) – neither of which could credibly be used with Hebrew literature, especially Hebrew Sacred Literature, and produce an accurate result.

Thus the “quod ab omnibus creditum est” in the field of Biblical hermeneutics in many places would have been substantially different to that of Vincent’s day. And in 100CE they would have been interpreting St John’s Book of Revelations far differently with the Hebrew approach to apocalyptic included.

Hermeneutics changed substantially over those 335 years approx. From Hebrew to Greek methodologies (with all its misleading results), and in favour of a Constantinian Imperial environment.

Thus, Vincent’s aphorism can only be treated in an aorist manner for any particular era selected. Thus it would have been subtly different after every Ecumenical Council, and in the Latin west, subtly different again to the Greek east.

In any case, in a broader context with respect to the “creditum”, Vincent knew full well that the beliefs in the British Isles had not experienced the evolution that had happened within the Roman Empire up to his day.

Locally, in his own Lérins, there were two major strands present:
A) the majority strand which could trace its links back to its evangelisation by St Mary Magdalene, St Martha and St Lazarus,
B) the minority strand which was a more recent and post-Constantine Latin import.
For which strand was Vincent speaking? There were significant differences between the two.

Augustine of Aosta (later of Canterbury) found a significantly different Church to his own when he arrived in 597CE to commandeer the British Church for Rome. A Church in the British Isles which had changed little since Joseph of Arimatha’s first arrival in 36CE. The Church in the British Isles to 597CE within itself could more credibly claim the Vincentian canon throughout its 560-odd years until its Augustine than could either Rome or Alexandria in this same period.

Then what of the “Desposnyi” issue in 317CE with Sylvester? These Desposnyi challenged Sylvester’s legitimacy as well as his orthodoxy – something very different to their own. These Desposnyi were totally unchanged since Pentecost 30CE (and thus could credibly claim the “Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est”) for their entire history, Rome at that time was substantially different since the days of Linus, and thus could not. And then what of Damasus?

As for Jerusalem, it experienced a major disjunction in 135CE when a Greek bishop was installed to exploit Hadrian’s ban on Jews entering the city. An installation illegal (and illegal continuously to this day) as far as St James the Just and Desposnyi policy was concerned!

I could go on, but I trust that this disposes of the non-aorist nature of the Vincentian Canon.

Pax Vobiscum
J

His second response

Johnsays:

Robert,

Thank you for this.

Re: Manning (et al)

Perhaps you have not read the Council of Trent with sufficient thoroughness. I would hate to think so. In Rome, this “council” (unrecognised in Orthodoxy except by the fringe Peter Moghila) effectively reduced history to being merely a sub-set of dogma. And, de-facto, created the principle that history may be re-written as many times as was necessary to conform to the ruling ideology of the Pope (or Magesterium) of the day.

And this Roman interplay between re-written history and dogma constitutes the “Tradition” of the Roman Church ever since Trent. Contrary to what you say about “disrespect” for Tradition, this comment constitutes the very essence of Roman Tradition. This is how Rome’s Tradition can always change yet retain the illusion of changelessness.

As I observed elsewhere, this is a perfect example of an aorist Vincentian Canon in operation.

As an aside, this explains the origin of the shameless re-writing of history by the “politically-correct” of our day to conform to their own prejudices and presuppositions – none of which need have any resemblance to or connection with the facts of the time they purport to present. They learned their trade in Rome!

Both Manning, and his compatriot Newman recognised this principle in operation in their day, and so this quote of Manning’s, sadly is Not cynical, but is a sad, but accurate commentary on his Church.

Yes! I agree with you re the overall cynicism of Roman prelates. Most of them since Sylvester were cynical, and are even more so in 2012 – courtesy of the Vatican’s handling of the sex-scandal, but this sort of cynicism did not enter the calculus of the comment by Manning reproduced above.

I trust that this assists.
J.

John’s Third Response, which effectively ends the debate

Johnsays:

To all who have responded in their own way to my comments, and even to Robert who as yet has not responded, I say thank you and may God be with you.

Whatever the Orthodox Tradition may say about or claim for Vincent and his Canon . . . from the effluxion of time and circumstance in history, we have to recognize as fact that at least in the gentile Pauline-Imperial Church’s Latin West, both his “semper” and “omnibus” (for different reasons) simply cannot credibly survive outside an “aorist” context – especially the “semper”. There has been simply too much change there for any other credible alternative.

Let us consider further problems with this Canon . . .

# And then, what of the critical time between 325CE and 381CE (the First two Ecumenical Councils) in the Roman Empire?

At many points in this continuum, the “answer” to his observation could, with only minor tweaking, have come up as Arian! With the Orthodox of belief during this period of Arian ascendancy rendered persona non grata, and hence ineligible to be inclusively counted in the Vincentian formula.

# And then, what of the period 754CE – 843CE in the Byzantine East?

There could simply be no “omnibus” due to so many being Iconoclasts. Here, there is a clear diminution of the “omnibus” factor in Eastern Orthodox History. And that the “semper” here can only apply retrospectively to the Orthodox minority.

# And then, (commencing at different times for different regions), what of Greek, Turkish and Arabic Orthodoxy under Muslim dhimmitude?

While the degree of compromise and accommodation varied from place to place, there were still sufficient differences to be noted when compared against “snapshots-in-time” both from previous eras and, after the conversion of Russia, in Russia itself.

Even to this day for example, as a consequence of this compromise, the Arabs simply will not exegete Rev 9:1-12 and its “locusts” as prophetically applying to Islam – as they are required to do.

# And then in Russia after Patriarch Nikon’s “reforms”?

The “Old Believers” had a slightly more credible and recent claim to the Canon than Nikon’s “New Believers”.

And so, to partially answer a question I posed in an earlier post, the only way we can credibly salvage Vincent’s Canon in any unrestricted sense is to start in Jerusalem at Pentecost 30CE and organically link it to the all Jewish Jerusalem-Central Church of St James the Just at that time, and refuse to allow it to be dissevered therefrom at any time thereafter. And to continuously test its applicability, work forward in time from that point and place.

And to extend it to all gentile Churches organically related and remaining related thereto. Thus, this includes the Church of Mar Toma in India planted by St Thomas, the British Church planted by St Joseph of Arimathea (until at least 597CE), and the Church in southern France planted by St Mary Magdalene, St Martha and St Lazarus until it was displaced by a post-Constantine Latinised and Romanised usurpation.

We would also perforce have to allow the congregations in the Pauline Orbit to gradually (and for some over a period of centuries) drift outside the applicability of this Canon (and for some, permanently), for the sole reason to ease their consciences over the changes they have experienced down through the ages.

Finally, we also have to link its applicability with the concept of “apostolic succession”, and to mandate that the credibility and legitimacy of any true “apostolic succession” remain forever linked to that Jerusalem Church of Pentecost 30CE ant ITS “Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est”.

Pax Vobiscum
J

John’s Fourth Response

Johnsays:

Eric,

Thank you for your considered and courteous response.

Can I take some of your points, but not in the sequence you presented them. And here I sincerely hope that I am not misrepresenting you. If so, my mea culpa in advance.

You said:

% I think your bigger error is that you are arguing a straw man. . . .”%

I agree that I am arguing a “straw man”, although one not of my making, thankfully! This “straw man” which I am arguing was created since Constantine and before 381CE to try to ex post facto justify the entire revolutionary Constantinian Tradition – both Eastern (Greek) and Western (Latin) alike.

With the examples I have already provided, this segues into the second point in your quote:

%I think we can assume that he meant “almost everywhere, always, by almost everybody”.%

You are right to qualify the VC – especially with your Augustine vs Vincent allusion (thank you, why didn’t I pick that obvious one up?), however, we need to further broaden your quote into:

# I think we can assume that he meant for this Constantinian Tradition, “often everywhere, much of the time, by many”.

This in turn segues into your

“I think you may be on to something here.”

Which leads to . . .

And can I give you some context for what follows (please bear with me and you will see where I am going). What follows integrally deals with foundational ecclesiology, ie the Relationship between the “Synagogue” and the “Church”. And deals at a corporate level with the fifth Commandment of the decalogue as it applies to the Church in the light of Gen 12:2,3 and Matt 25:31-46 (Yeshua’s explanation of the Genesis text):

“Honour your Father and Mother (the Jews and Judaism) . . .”

After WW2 and after the manifest horror of first the Nazi and then the Romanov Shoah’s became fully known, certain questions were asked – triggered by the four questions below (similar to those asked in the Pesak Seder):
1. “How could the Church be so wilfully blind to, or worse – so collaborative with the Romanovs and Nazis?”
2. “What was it in the Church’s theological DNA that made this Romanov and Nazi nightmare and collaboration possible?”
3. “Who within the Church was ultimately responsible for this state of affairs?” and
4. “What do we in the Church need to do theologically to see to it that a new Romanov/Nazi Shoah can never happen again – especially with ostensible “Biblical” support?”

Inter alia, this forcibly removed Constantine as the de-facto “starting-point” for the Vincentian Canon and relocated it to 30CE, where I have placed it. And to cut a long sequence of regressions short; as a consequence of these two Shoah’s (for #3 & #4 above) we need to reappraise the Acts 15 issue, and its results from the perspective of the Jewish St James the Just and not Paul.

The “Letter” (15:23,30) was not just the contents of vv23-29, but the Epistle of St James (Yakov in the Hebrew) as well. And requires us to submit to the Jewish understanding of the decision of this “Council” (or Bet Din) as hereunder:

The Acts 15 Halakah

The Halakah on Church membership that came out of that Messianic Bet Din – the Halakah (and Midrash) that was to accompany, qualify and “interpret” all of R. Shaul’s efforts (and thus to be read together with all of his Literary output as an “authority” superior to any of it) – when read Jewishly, clearly spelt out the Messianic version of the Traditional Jewish case for membership of “the Nazarene Way”: Ostensibly limited to (Acts 15:29): abstention from what has been sacrificed to idols, from blood, from things strangled and from fornication; this encompassed and represented the minimum standards of a “God-Fearer”.

The first three represent the entire Kashrut spectrum (although not glatt-kosher) and clearly mandate a continuation of Kashrut for ALL believers, both Jew AND Gentile alike, thus refuting the idea that Peter’s earlier vision of “rise, kill and eat” (Acts 10:13) abolished Kashrut. And it vindicated Peter and Barnabas against Paul in Gal 2:11-13

The book of Acts makes a point of stressing that Paul was required to submit to the authority of the Apostles and Elders of the Church in Jerusalem and preach both the decree of the Jerusalem Council and the “Gospel” of Jerusalem-Central – and NOT his own!

(i) against the more radical of R. Shaul’s Gentile followers – following the teachings of Paul to their logical conclusion – who asserted the right for both Jew and Gentile alike to ignore the boundaries of “God-Fearer” wherever and to whatever extent they pleased – including that of Torah-compliance, and create their own eclectic criteria for Church membership,

– the Messianic Bet Din reminded them (in that list) that the already-established boundaries and expectations of “God-Fearer” were non-negotiable. And remained intact and unchanged in Yeshua’s New Covenant Community. And remained the unavoidable minimum criteria for gentiles who wished to join this Community, and thus to enter into any relationship with Yahweh – the God of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yakov. Something that R. Shaul (at their prodding) was to later explicitly spell out in Rom 11 and the “ingrafting” with olive trees.

(ii) against the non-Messianic Pharisees – these Scribes and Pharisees – the “Judaisers” who insisted that Gentile “God-Fearers” – whether Messianic or not, could not remain “God-Fearers” indefinitely but sooner or later had to go all the way in conversion to Judaism and become circumcised and follow all the outward finicky nuts and bolts of Jewish observance (including liability to temple-tax)

– the Messianic Bet Din reaffirmed their right to remain “God-Fearers” – but no less (!) for as long as, and for as many generations as they wished, without further “Judaic” challenge to their membership in the Church (and hence without liability to temple-tax).

No one other than the Messianic Bet Din, headed by Yosef of Arimathea’s appointee: Yakov, brother-by-law to Yeshua, and clearly under the Authority of the Johannine / Arimathean extended family would possess the Authority to influence and direct (as per (i)) these gentile radicals on such an important matter, especially when it was a matter involving an interpretation of the version of the gospel from the lips of none other than R. Shaul himself – who had converted them in the first place.

None other than this Johannine / Arimathean Messianic Bet Din had the Authority to take on R. Shaul on a breach of Halakah. To question and to challenge him and to enforce change and submission upon him – and win! And to insist that certain non-Pauline Halakah and Midrash accompany all his travels and qualify all his sermons and evangelization – if he (and his erstwhile”radical” followers) wished to remain within the Church!

That Paul did not subsequently comply with this order and went his own way is well known and is a another matter for another day.

I will leave it here for now, and may return to your other points later.

Pax Vobiscum,
J.

Review: Convict Conditioning

It’s somewhat overly bold and cliche to say “This book will change your life,” but this book really will change your life.  If you apply the principles in this book, you will never need to buy another weight, spend another dollar on gym equipment, or complain that you don’t have the time or space to workout today.   Paul Wade (assuming he actually exists, which I don’t think he does) demonstrates a number of principles that take the centuries-old technique of “bodyweight training” and puts it into a systematic fashion designed for growth.

Wade takes six exercises (or power moves) and gently walks the trainee through each of them.  For example, the goal for working out the back is obviously pull ups, and the super move is “one-handed pull ups.”  Few humans can do that, so Wade starts you off at “baby moves” and once you complete a certain progression standard (x sets at y number of reps) you go to the next phase (labeled 1-6).  This takes time and the willingness to fail.   Most people who have some strength training experience can usually start off at phase  3 or 5.

His technique “works,” plain and simple (though I have some problems with some of his suggestions, which I will list below).   Bodyweight training makes the body move against resistance in exactly the way God designed it to work.  As a result, you got stronger at a faster rate.   But you don’t simply get “stronger” or “bigger muscles,” though that certainly happens.  Because you are training in a way that the greatest athletes and warriors have trained for the past five thousand years, you also grow in joint strength, tendon strength and even neurological strength (your nervous system will get stronger on the “bridge” and “stomach” workouts.  You are forcing your mind to work in harmony with your body on moves that you really do not believe are possible, buy you to do them anyway).    Weight lifting can only give you a fraction of that kind of strength.

Pros

Even the most insane workout regimen in this book can be completed in under thirty minutes and most under fifteen.  For example, I have decent stomach muscles but I never really worked out my “abs” because I got bored doing the “Arnold” workout (4 x 25 crunches).  Wade explains that doing the body weight ab moves, you don’t need to do an insane amount of reps.   A sufficient number will do because these moves will simultaneously work out the lower back, hips, and lower abs.   (Getting a “ripped” six pack has more to do with diet and aerobics than reps).

For the first few months, bodyweight training has a “multiplier effect” on your strength.  Because each phase is categorically more difficult than the last, the body is forced to move to new heights.

Cons

I really have questions on his urging us to do one-arm chin ups.  Yes, it will mean you are insanely strong, but it also places an inordinate amount of strain on the forearms and for most people this will mean they have to lay off of workouts for a few weeks.  I really believe that one can get similar gains doing weighted chin ups (with a kettlebell; this way you don’t have to touch a weight!) which will also build forearm strength and eventually allow you to do one arm chin ups.

Conclusion

How will this book change your life?  Let’s be honest:  the workout moves in this book are brutal.   After you have punished your body like this, why would you ruin what you have accomplished by going and gorging on junk food?  Even someone with modest discipline levels knows better than this?  Further, since you are lifting your body in these moves, you need to keep your weight under control.   See what just happened:  this is a cut-and-dry plan for losing weight, getting in shape, and gaining more energy without having to do a metrosexual workout plan or buying some snake oil product.

Conspiracy convertskii = new age magic?

I am thankful to Jay Dyer for the following research.  One of the more interesting fellows in conspiracy research is Alexandr Dugin.  On the surface he is anti-postmodern, anti-New World Order, and appears to be a committed Russian Orthodox Christian.  Many convertskii–though certainly not all, to be fair–have become quite taken up with him.  He makes bold statements and appears well-read philosophically.  I was interested in his ideas for about two weeks, and then a few things tipped me off that this is headed in a bad direction.

  1. Dugin’s anti-New World Order statements quickly became anti-anything “West” statements.  Imagine a harder version of the anti-Western bigotry we see on some Orthodox forums.   There are many demonic things in the secular West, I don’t doubt, but these blanket statements are worse than useless.
  2. Roots in National Bolshevism:  National Bolshevism is a form of communitarian fascism that is open to Christianity and presents a strong national front against globalism.  Unfortunately, many adherents are openly atheistic and a house cannot have two masters.  Even worse, the symbol of National Bolshevism is still the hammer and sickle.  Most people really don’t know what that means, aside from some vague reference to Soviet Russia.  The Kabbalists who toppled the Tsar, though, knew exactly what the symbol meant.  It was a reference to the Demiurgos using a scythe to sever the connection between heaven and earth.  It is literally a Satanic form of atheism.  To be fair, Dugin distanced himself from the earlier elements of National Bolshevism, but the separation seemed to be over leadership, not doctrine.
  3. Chaos symbol:  This is where Jay’s analysis is very helpful.   Dugin essentially argues that his Eurasian Union is to use the West’s power against the West.  Chaos theory.
  4. Protecting the “Tradition?”  I’ve come to be suspicious of the Tradition element inherited and passed along by guys like Guenon.  Much of it is quite interesting, but if these guys are positing an ancient tradition that is tied with Egypt, India, and Babylon, then I have to really disagree.   To be fair, Dugin isn’t advocating allying with Babylonian magic.  However, consider his movement’s flag:

Compare with below:

Chaos magic symbol above

Unfortunately, it’s not a coincidence, given Dugin’s advocating using the West weapons against the West. That is chaos theory.

Many convertskii–those who have converted to Orthodoxy from Protestant sections–are promoting Dugin.  Let’s think about this for a moment.  These convertskii rightly see that the current US order is corrupted and fatally flawed.  They want a consistent, communitarian alternative.  Dugin’s model provides that.   I have to ask if they are aware of the consequences.