Did the Church Fathers teach theonomy?

These kind of questions give Eastern Orthodox apologists all the ammo they need against Calvinists.   The problem with the post-Bahnsenian theonomists is that they will scour church history for examples of “theonomy.”  Rushdoony really wasn’t as bad on this point as people will think (more later).  In order to prove church history is on their side, Young Turk theonomists will read church history sources and look for guys teaching theonomy.  The question then becomes, “What does theonomy mean?”  Does it mean some form of God-oriented social order which takes account of the law of God?  If so, then most everybody in church history is a theonomist.  It’s hard to see why Bahnsen even got in trouble.  Heck, RTS-Jackson even believes that (kind of).

That’s cheating, though.  Joseph Farrell has pointed out that everyone, even the pagans, believed in theo-krasia.  But theonomists will quickly rebut, “We see church fathers employing the judicial laws as still valid.”   Technically, that’s true.   They did employ some judicial laws.  My question is “Did they adopt the Bahnsenian hermeneutics that the judicial law in exhaustive detail is binding”?  The answer is clearly no.  Eastern fathers have a theoretical antinomian streak (2nd Commandment, anyone?  footnote1).  True, we do see some fathers like Gregory the Great arguing for the Sabbath, but that’s unremarkable on anyone’s gloss.

The problem is that Church Fathers were more interested in Christology, Trinity, and monasticism than they were in the social functions of the law of God.  To read otherwise is to commit the worst of anachronistic fallacies.

Footnote 1:  There actually might be more of a parallel.   Theonomists for the most part reject the practical applications of the 2nd Commandment, too!

Where I’m still appreciative of some Ortho guys, again

Many of my posts have been critical to claims made by Orthodox apologists, and one apologist told me “I do protest too much” (though no one bothers to tell the guys at OrthodoxBridge the same thing.  Most of their posts are about how wrong Protestants are.  What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander).  I don’t want to sound like one always harping on the same thing, so I decided to say something nice.  (Unfortunately, I realize some of the people I mention are associated with groups that will embarrass mainline Orthodoxy.  Too bad for mainline then.  It’s hard to see Tsar Lazar or anyone predating the Nikonian Revolution–and it, along with the later “reforms” by Masonic Satanist Peter the Great was a Revolution as thorough as the Bolsheviks’–would be appreciated by World Orthodoxy.  See if you can dig up Fr Raphael Johnson’s essay on the Serbian leadership’s de facto, but not de jure, recognition of Kosovo)

  1. Joseph P Farrell:  I know Farrell is no longer Orthodox, but still.  One can only stand in awe of his research.  He is a remarkably clear thinker and he teaches you to reason your way through a topic.
  2. Orthodox Nationalist:  I listened to Fr Matt Johnson every week for three years.  He does a good job summarizing different aims of the New World Order and he is remarkably good on exposing the occult and freemasonry.  I bring up on Orthodox boards how different mainline Orthodox (former SCOBA and the non-American equivalents) groups are openly affiliated with Freemasony and Ecumenism and no one will touch that issue.
  3. Sergius Bulgakov:  Bulgakov’s Sophiology is dangerously close to Gnosticism and I understand why Maximovitch’s group condemned him.  The problem is that few people in today’s Orthodoxy can say why Bulgakov is wrong (which is probably why yet another Russian Church council exonerated him–so who’s right?  Don’t answer that).  He is valuable in giving us an honest reading of the Fathers.  A lot of times you will meet the claim that the Fathers are united in saying x.  Bulgakov takes the Fathers on the development of Christology and Pneumatology and completely blows that claim out of the water.  And that’s what I love about Bulgakov–he thinks through the tradition.  I had a discussion with some Orthodox apologists I brought up tensions within Cyril’s Christology, and they responded, “Well, Cyril is part of the inspired tradition.”  Maybe he is, but simply asserting that doesn’t make the problems go away.
  4. Fr Seraphim Rose:  His biography is awe-inspiring, yet he is an embarrassment to World Orthodoxy.  At a time when Orthodox thinkers wanted to show how relevant Orthodoxy was to the modern world, Fr Seraphim moved to the wilderness, resurrected Holy Russia on American soil, and loudly proclaimed a few key distinctives: six-day creationism and toll-houses!   It was great.   He then added insult to injury, albeit in a generous manner:  he documented how the fathers believed in these topics.  This unspoken inference is silent but deafening:  any Orthodox thinker who disagreed with him on this points was specifically out of line from what the Fathers taught.   Inference number two:  if you find Fathers who disagree with Rose then you must also posit a division in the patrum consensus.  I don’t agree with him on toll-houses (though CS Lewis taught something similar in The Screwtape Letters) and I am not as pro-Russia as I used to be, but it is interesting to watch the bourgeoisie hem and haw.

Initial Thoughts on Farrell’s Two Faced God

Foseph Jarrell (name deliberately changed) has recently written a book critiquing the Christian notion of Yahweh (to put it in Marcionite terms, that meany Old Testament God). For those who have no intention of purchasing the book (and admittedly, it is hard to want to spend money on a book attacking one’s faith), a series of radio interviews are currently conducted here.

Jarrell, contrary to what one might expect, is not advocating atheism by any stretch. He still says he retains belief in some form of deity. Anyway, the critique follows along the following lines (which will be in italics; my response will be in normal type).

Yahwism (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) has its founding moment in an act of revolutionary violence in opposition to an established social order and/or religion.

I actually agree. The Hebrew religion started with a decisive attack (primarily rhetorical) on the pyramidal religion (think magic, worship of dead matter; proto-Freemasonry) of ancient Egypt. Farrell thinks this act of violence-in-opposition is bad. I really can’t find the problem in it.

Contingent upon that, he argues, Yahwism became a specific religion of the book, meaning you have to agree with the priestly class and their interpretation of the book.

I was listening to this in the car and when I heard this I almost inadvertently shouted, “Bullsh!t.” I am thinking he is letting his anger at Roman Catholicism, which may be justified, along with the Fundamentalist underculture of America, form his discussion of “Yahwism.” Let’s think about this for a moment: books really weren’t widespread until five hundred years ago. And even conservative scholars doubt the ancient Israelite (or Christian) had their copy of the sacred text only to have their understanding squashed by the Priestly class.

And let’s not forget Hitler et al.

Technically, he catches himself before he commits this fallacy. He notes that Hitler and Stalin were secular parallels of this religion.

Really, what do you say to this? It appears to be the case that he is arguing for some kind of paleo-Egyptian worldview, so can I accuse him of Freemasonry? Of course not, so if the argument doesn’t work then it doesn’t work now.

And all the mean things the Israelites did.

One thing I’ve noticed in these talks is the lack of specifics. Let’s specifically talk about the Israelite invasion of the Anakim. Go google all of the things the Amorites did in their religion (be sure to put your internet browser on “safe” before you do that). Okay, back. Now consider who/what the Anakim were: demonic offspring. So the Israelite invasion was a genocide, not of people, but of demons.

And Rome had the Inquisition…

In logic this is called the genetic fallacy.  However, he could have  strengthened this argument by first establishing a moral law, which he asserts but never proves.  Proving that, he could have done some historical analysis showing how the Inquisition was an outgrowth of certain Romanist ideas about religious liberty.  That actually would have been interesting.

Topological metaphor.

He has an interesting section on how all ancient religions have some form of a Trinitarian metaphor. Not really sure what that has to do with a critique of Yahwhism, but it is interesting.

I still listen to Jarell and buy some of his book. The radio shows are hard to listen to, though. I’m sorry to be crude, but it sounds like his host is orgasming every few second when he makes his point. Again, I know it’s crude, but listen to it and tell me differently. I’ll probably listen to the next installments to see if he moves away from what appears to be a partially auto-biographically inspired critique of “Yahwhism” to modern geo-politics, which Jarrell is outstanding on.

A communitarian reading?

Can texts be understood outside of the community which (supposedly) formed it?  For many years I was sympathetic to this line of thinking, and it does retain an element of truth.   However, it is also open to some philosophical dangers.  Let’s take the Bible and Traditional Community A (TCa).  TCa will assert that one can’t understand the Bible apart from TCa (which allegedly gave us the Bible).  But stop and think about that claim for a second.  Let’s take Genesis 1

And God created the heavens and the earth.

Multiple choice quiz.  Who created the heavens and the earth?
a. God
B. Satan
C.  Both (A) and (B)

The bible can be clear.   “But what about the hard to understand sections?”  Surely you don’t deny the Bible has those?  What do you do when you can’t reach an understanding in those sections? A lot of times I simply accept that I don’t understand it and leave it at that (for the moment).  I am honestly not bothered by that.   The advocate of TCa will say, “At least we can go to the Fathers (or the Pope) and get the answer.”   To which I respond, “No, you can’t.”   If for no other reason than half the time the Fathers don’t even deal with the texts that we consider “difficult.”  Read the Christological exegesis in Athanasius, Augustine, and the Cappadocians.  It is simply read in a non-Arian manner which isn’t that hard to follow.    That accounts for a large variety of the text.

If you want something like a handbook of interpreted texts, you won’t find it.   Yes, I am aware of Oden’s project.  I hope we are also seeing the irony in that Oden is a Protestant.

Let’s take another example.  Romans 5:12 clearly teaches a form of federal representation.    Even if you take the Orthodox reading that all man inherits is death (which is open to doubt), the fact remains that Adam represented me in some way.   Many who follow Romanides and Farrell will say “that just can’t be true.”  Well, does the text say it or no?

Let’s park it in the barn.  Does the text have an internal meaning or no?  If yes, excellent.  If no, then one must accept the premise that “We, the TCa, give the text its meaning.”  This, however, is nominalism.  There is no inherent truth until we assign it.

Athanasian creed and the dialectic

Around Christmas eve I found this Anglican blog taking the Athanasian creed (as a liturgical tool) to task.   The whole post is almost worth quoting in entirety, but some of the comments are just as revealing.   The Athanasian creed, falsely so-called, can be found anywhere so I won’t quote it.  The third point is what I am focusing on today.

3. The QV does not fit or conform to the biblical paradigm in that it begins with a consideration of the essence of God prior to any consideration of the distinct Persons of the Godhead, i.e., going from the abstract to the concrete. (Note that the Nicene Creed first confesses the Persons, and then goes on to explicate essence only with respect to the derivation of the Son and the Spirit from the Father.)

Implicit in the Athanasian creed are “relations of opposition” and the Filioque.  Further, these two are connected.  Given absolute divine simplicity as a framework, you cannot distinguish Father/Son/Spirit accept by relations of opposition.  This is more pointed in Aquinas who makes person to be relation.  This is the dialectic.  As Farrell notes,

Having assumed an absolute simplicity, the Persons can no longer be absolute hypostases, but are merely relative terms to each other, thus occuring on an even lower plane than the attribute proper….There is a subtle, but nevertheless, real play of the dialectic of oppositions here. One no longer begins with the Three Persons and then moves to consider their relations, but begins with their relative quality, the relation between the Persons, itself. In other words, there is an artificial opposition of one Person to the other two.

Joseph Farrell, Introduction to The Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit of our Father among the Saints, Photius the Great, Patriarch of Constantiople (2001), p. xx-xxi.

Rise of the Fourth Reich

One should retitle this book “A popular version of some of Joseph Farrell’s conclusions without the rigor and discipline of Joseph Farrell’s scholarship.”   Jim Marrs’ thesis is sound and not new:  an elite group has controlled Western politics and economics for the past 100 years.   This group is connected to or synonymous with the Anglo-American banking establishment.   Their modus operandi consists in playing different political and national factions against one another.
(note:  These are not all my thoughts on this book.  There are a lot of other musings about Marrs I have, but I won’t say them here because I am tired and the book isn’t that good and you should read Joseph Farrell instead.)
Strengths of the Book

Marrs has a very good section on the rise of Hitler and what happened behind the scenes in WWII.  Marrs relies heavily on Joseph Farrell’s research, and this part of the book is strong because of that (the second half is notoriously weak).  Marrs makes the interesting suggestion that the Nazis actually detonated an atomic bomb in Russia (and he gives the reasons why the Allies and Stalin would have covered this up.  I agree with him ).  Marrs highlights the various banking clans that funded and aided the Nazis both before the war and after the war.  Marrs has an intriguing chapter on Otto Scorzeny and the lost Cathar treasure.
Criticisms of the Book

Did Marrs’ thesis shift?   (I am open to correction on this one.)  Marrs’ main thesis is that the Nazi elite weren’t eradicated in WWII and/or Nuremberg, but rather made it to South America via the Vatican “ratline” (and Marrs is to be commended for pointing that out).  Further, he points out that these same elites eventually influenced American society and policy, and I suppose there is some truth in that.   On the other hand, it seemed that his earlier thesis is that an international cabal in London/New York financed first Lenin, and then when the Russians got too dangerous, financed Hitler to fight the Commies off.   Fair enough; I buy that.   What I don’t get is the connection between the international elite who created Hitler and the international elite’s relationship to present-day America.   Hitler’s crew is bad, to be sure, but it seems the more nefarious power is the group that made Hitler possible.  Marrs seems to forget about that.
The scholarship and research methods are about as bad as one can get.  Note:  I am not contesting the majority of Marrs’ facts.   I think for the most part he is correct on what he reports.  The problem is he does not cite his sources!  At all.   Yes, he does have a “sources” page at the back, including page numbers of books, but I don’t know to which arguments in what chapter he is referring.   True, I could double-check and make some intuitions, but the burden should not be on the reader for that.  That’s just simple clicking “insert endnote” in MS Word.    This is a half-assed junior high bibliography.  Even the joke of a research method known as APA is more respectable than this.
His New Age Conspiracies Get the Best of him.

While I am intrigued by the possibility that the Cathar’ treasure was taken from the Temple of Solomon, and that this treasure represented in some way an advanced form of “paleo-physics” (again, I am fairly open-minded here), Marrs did not elaborate on what was probably the most interesting point of his book.   Had he used real scholarship and evaluated the sources in a detailed, logical fashion, he could have shed much light on a fairly unresearched topic.  Instead, he mentioned it in passing and the book he “referenced” in the back was one of the New Age Gnostic pamphlets on Jesus being one of the dragon children ala David Icke!     I officially stopped taking Marrs seriously at this point.
He offers no real plan of action.  Towards the end of the book Marrs (rightly) points out that all political candidates are funded by the same people and eventually advance some form of the same cause.    There is really no way to stop them.  He makes vague appeals to the Constitution and has an interesting idea to “vote with your shopping cart” (buy local), but no detailed plan of action on how to stop the Fourth Reich.   To be fair, I won’t fault him too much on this point because given the structure of today’s republican government, there is no way to stop the moneyed elite.  America is down for the count (though resurrections are certainly possible).
The Second half of the book doesn’t say anything new.  I enjoyed the first part of the book.   The second part, unfortunately, felt like a collation of all the various rightwing and leftwing blogs attacking the government.   I agreed with most of the points, but it did not tell me anything new.
Marrs’ Logical Fallacies.  Marrs seemed to make the argument:  The Nazis did x.  George W. Bush’s administration does x.  Ergo, Bush is a Nazi.  He may well be a Nazi, and his grandfather certainly funded the Nazi party, but the above argument is an example of the fallacy “correlation equals causation.”
Misses other possible conclusions.  On one hand, it is not fair to criticize an author for not saying one’s own personal conclusion or hobby-horse, so this really is not a fault of Marrs’.  It is fairly obvious that Jews own most of the media, the lobbies, and the banks.   (Btw, that is not anti-semitic.  That is simply looking at the last names of the CEOs!).     Since that is the case, how does that square with Marrs’ claim (which I also believe to be correct) that the Nazis also control much of the media and banks?   Both claims are fairly true, but most people don’t accuse Nazis and Jews of being on the same side!

Don’t get the book.   Marrs has several radio interviews where he explains this in better detail (and the radio interviews are worth downloading.  Marrs is a gifted and enjoyable speaker.  He has a unique way of connecting to his audience).  If one wants to pursue further research in this area, read Joseph Farrell’s The Nazi International, Daniel Estulin’s The Story of the Bilderbergers, and Farrell’s Babylon’s Banksters.   Farrell is a gifted writer and employs easily-followable footnotes and is an actual scholar.  Estulin has a more focused look on the Bilderbergers and doesn’t get distracted from his thesis.


Coming Post(s)

I want to do a post in the future that shows the later Western view of the Trinity has duality and dialectic within it, drawing from Dr. Farrell’s works.   I actually thought did that post on my blog, but I can’t find it.  It’s probably in my own journals.   I am doing that because I got in a debate (or rather, did everything I could to avoid one) with a “Reformed Constitutionalist.”  He and I had actually hashed this out many times over the past year (with he often admitting I was right and he was wrong), but he kept asking how the West has a dialectical Trinity.  Fair enough. I’ll try to do a post on that.   Pre-reading for this topic is St Gregory of Nazianzus’ “Third Theological Oration.”