Of the (Amero)Russians, I was foremost

I get told that I know little of Orthodoxy.  It’s hard to know what to make of that claim.   Certainly with regard to Triadology, the Fathers, and Christology I know as much as the next EO apologist.  I certainly know more than the average Babushka.  Presumably, that’s not what they have in mind.   Usually it is with regard to criticisms I make of EO on tradition and praxis.

What is interesting is that from 2010-2013, both when I was pursuing Orthodoxy and later critiquing it, Orthodox converts and apologists were emailing me and asking for my articles on Trinitarianism, Scripture, Vladimir Putin, Slavic Monarchy, and Holy Russia (unless you can find those on archive.org, I have no idea how to access them).  But now that I disagree with EO conclusions, I suddenly “don’t know anything.” Wisdom is justified by her children!  It’s kind of funny, actually.

I taught myself the basics of Russian.  I can still read the alphabet and basic news headlines.   My vocab is rusty, but that’s because I decided to focus on Hebrew instead, seeing it would pay more dividends.  I then read all the Russian masters–not just the theological ones, but Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Pushkin, and Gogol.   In fact, I even look like Pavel Tsatsouline!   We have the same receding hairline and facial structures.  Which of the convertskii can say that?

pavel

I couldn’t have supported Gog and Magog

On one hand I am pretty sure I don’t know what Gog/Magog in Ezekiel really mean.   At most, we can say they are kings of the North and East.   I think most will agree to that.  When I was dialoguing with the True Orthodox/Slavic Nationalists they (correctly) pointed to a Russo-Iranian alliance aimed at Israel.   That’s fairly obvious geopolitical thinking and few would disagree.   I’ve since come out of that camp.  I didn’t immediately leave my anti-Israel thoughts behind.    I’ve had to re-evaluate what I think on Israel.  On one hand I am against the neo-con republican who thinks secular Israel is the most important entity in the universe.  Further, we must critique and reject some of Israel’s barbaric practices.   Indeed, Paul says they are “enemies of you” on this account.   Paul also says they still belong in God’s plan.   The most embarrassing moment for amillennial apologetics was 1948 (read Berkhof’s comments on premillennialism).

So if Russia and Iran attack Israel, whose side will I be on?  I don’t think Israel is the de facto good guy, certainly not secular Israel today nor the Talmudic rabbis.   But on the other hand, Gog and Magog are not good guys in the Bible, and God does promise a future for Israel (and that’s not just premillenialism; Bahnsen said the same thing).  Something just feels “off” about standing with Gog and Magog.

Thoughts on the New Russia

Among those who’ve switched to Orthodoxy is a renewed interest in Russia as the new focal point of truth, order, and civilization.   While that thesis is admittedly strange at first, it bears pondering for a moment.  I will consider the thesis, urge one to reflect on some legitimate insights it makes, then severely qualify it and suggest that its proponents are projecting their own values onto Russia and Putin.

Pros

  1. It is true that the Bilderbergs, an institution of Satan if there ever were one, hates Putin and wants his destruction.  (There has been some evidence of attempted assassination plots.)  Russian leaders are not invited to Bilderberg conferences.
  2. Russia opposes the satanic designs of Hillary Clinton and neo-liberalism.  American taxpayers on the other hand are forced to finance these plans despite their wishes.
  3. Contrary to how American leadership acts, Russia is a beacon of stability in the Middle East.
  4. Russia’s victory over the Israeli- and American-led Georgian army probably stopped World War III.

But consider this
(The convertskii have not seriously considered the problems that the New Russia faces)

  1. While it is true that there is a renewed interest in Orthodoxy among Russians, it seems it is too little, too late.   While there was a spike in the numbers in the 2000s, that has tapered off for now.
  2. Putin is a liberal, not a conservative and certainly not a nationalist.  It was Hackard’s article that really stopped me cold in my tracks in early 2012.
  3. While conservative Russians may share some of your values on sex and abortion, would you really feel at home if dropped off in Moscow?  Cultural values are not simply checking off a list on topics like abortion and homosexuality.  It is embodying the traditions of an ethnos, and these traditions are not interchangeable always with other cultures.
  4. Do you really plan on learning Russian? It’s hard for Westerners, and I say this as someone who is good at languages.

 

In which I commend my EO friends

I meant to write several appreciative posts of figures in Eastern Orthodoxy, but I never got around to it.  Instead, on a post where I relayed numerous Protestant difficulties with verifying oral tradition, it then turned into polemics, of which I had no intention.

Fr Seraphim Rose

Had I entered Eastern Orthodoxy two years ago, it wouldn’t have gone over well (I suspect).  I had read all of Fr Seraphim’s writings, including the magisterial biography done on him by Hieromonk Damascene (read it several times, actually). It is simply awe-inspiring.  I soundly resonated with all of his stands.   He mightily warned against several patriarchs compromising with Rome.  He sounded the trumpet against the attacks on Creation within the “conservative” camp of Orthodoxy (interestingly, the Protestant lay-apologist Phillip Johnson endorsed both his book on Creation and the biography; this is an example of a proper ecumenicism!).

And then I find otherwise conservative Orthodox guys ridiculing him and his beliefs.  One told me, “Anyone who believes what Fr Seraphim believed [presumably, the objector meant the positions on creation and toll-houses] is an idiot.”  I then quoted St Athanasius on toll-houses and St Basil on creation. Stuff like that, you know?

“But people turn Fr Seraphim into a cult!” they respond.  So?  What of it?  That is the case with numerous figures from history.  If only more would imitate his life-style (didn’t St Paul say something like that?).

Lessons we can learn from Fr Seraphim:

  • Eschatology:  He constantly said, “The time is later than you think.”  In the biography Fr Damascene documents how the world-system has converged in such a way that a one-world government is possible.   Of course, in his lecture on the end-times, Fr Seraphim comes off as embracing something akin to the amillennial view, identifying this present age as the millennium.  I think such a reading is problematic, but I agree with the essence of his talk.
  • Agrarianism:  This is another area that would make the bourgeoise uncomfortable.   The Platina Monastery was largely self-sufficient.  People ridicule agrarians.  What they don’t realize is that agrarian warnings are actually trying to save your life.   You are eating food that is pumped with all sorts of Monsanto death into it.  Further, when food becomes scarce during the time of Antichrist, it is places like Platina that won’t be starving.
  • Don’t embrace modernity:  Fr Seraphim urged people to acquire the mind of the fathers.  I tried.  I read through all of Schaff’s NPNF Series II.   The problem arose, however, when we try to make the fathers answer textual and cultural questions they weren’t asked.  Still, it’s better than the mindless conservative endorsement of post-1950s American mindset.
  • The Resurrection of Holy Russia:  Yet another area in which the bourgeouise were nervous.   NATO is the enemy of Orthodox Christian people’s everywhere.  Slowly.  Finally, are Orthodox Americans waking up to this fact.   Yet most are still too nervous to endorse Putin’s Russia (whom I fully support).  The reason is simple:  they really think and believe in a Republican president, all of whom have sworn mortal enmity to Russia.  We used to always pick on the Reformed people as living some mental contradictions.  Perhaps this is an area where Orthodox are not yet–to quote Van Til–Epistemologically self-conscious.

The Orthodox Nationalist

Fr Raphael Johnson‘s podcast have been a continual feast for me for three years.  In them I learned Plato’s Forms, Russian history, and late European philosophy.  He opened my eyes to the doctrinal compromises and made me realize and ask the question, “Could I really commune with Freemasons?”  (No, I couldn’t). I’ve probably listened to 80% of the podcasts at least four or five times each. Lessons learned:

  • While Holy Russia must be supported, not all of Russian history–even Russian monarchist history–is worth defending.  Peter the Great, as a Freemason, swore an oath to Lucifer.   After +NIKON Russia ceased to be a light on a hill and became an empire.  It ceased to be Jerusalem and became Babylon.  It requires wisdom to discern this.
  • Plato and the Forms:  I really began to appreciate Augustine, Eurigena, and Gregory of Nyssa in listening to Johnson explicate the forms.
  • Agrarianism:  He gave some practical advice on why agrarianism is superior for the brain.
  • Occult:  Much good stuff here.
  • Hegel:  for a while, I was a Hegelian.
  • True Orthodox and Calendar:  I’ve always been sympathetic to the Old Calendarists.

Retractare: Where I’m still appreciative of EOdox

While the early theme of this blog is showing where I cannot epistemologically commit to Eastern Orthodox communion, by no means do I intend to suggest they are wrong or that the past four years of my intellectual life were wasted.  Here are some areas for which I am (eternally) grateful:

  1. Christology.  I didn’t know Christology until I studied at the feet of the Eastern masters.   My seminary was a joke.  Our systematics course (at the time) devoted only one week to Christology, and then it was just showing how evil theonomists were.   It wasn’t until I read McGuckin and others did I learn Christology (and by extension, the Trinity).
  2. Father Seraphim Rose.  In many ways Fr Seraphim taught me how to be human (and sane!) in my spirituality.   The Russian tradition of prelest guards one from dangerous spiritual fantasies.  His biography still ranks as one of the most beautiful pieces of spiritual literatures.   The bourgeoisie Orthodox world is embarrassed by Fr Seraphim.  That’s because Fr Seraphim took the church fathers seriously and when he quoted them on toll-houses and creation/evolution, well that was too much.
  3. The Orthodox Nationalist.  Over the past three years Fr Raphael has been the main source of intellectual stimulation.  His podcast is second to none.   He taught me to see the connections between today’s Jewry and the global capitalist order, both of which are predicated on the destruction of all traditional communities, mainly Russia.  He also taught me Plato.

My thoughts on the Russo-Iranian (breaking) relationship

Even secular observers have noted that Russia is not part of the “new European western civilization.”  True, Russia is largely white and Christian, though of a different kind, but it is not the same as “western Civilization.”  Even when Western Europe was Christian, Russia was different.  At the same time, after the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia is not in the same league as the nihilistic West is today (cf Samuel Huntingdon’s The Clash of Civilizations).

From those fairly obvious points, the Eurasian school posits a new geo-political alliance that will counter the EU-NATO alliance.  Russia, China, Iran, Syria, India, etc would form economic ties that would shift the balance of power from Western Europe to Eastern Europe and central Asia.  Among other things this included Russia heavily investing in Iran’s nuclear program and in previously blocking sanctions against Iran.

Recently, however, Russia has appeared to reverse its relationship with Iran.  It has agreed to sanctions against Iran (though not with the same myopia suggested by the United States), refused the sale of S-300 missiles (which would destroy any Israeli plane in Iranian sky), and expressed alarm at Iran’s nuclear program.   So what gives?   I have several following suggestions:

  • As I understand it, the NPT says you can’t build new nuclear weapons.   Russia opposing Iran on this point isn’t that remarkable.  It’s simply upholding international law.  Of course, countries like the USA have never given a damn about international law, but there it is.
  • A strong if mentally-unbalanced Iran on Russia’s southern borders could easily destabilize that area, something Russia does not want to see.  This also explains why Russia, even given the sanctions, still does not want to see a pre-emptive strike on Iran.  That, too, would destabilize the entire region.
  • NATO has surrounded Russia with missile sites and military bases (some suggest that a tangential reason for the “War on Terror” is to surround Russia with American troops; it’s certainly happened that way). Obama’s advisor Zbignew Brereznski and Bush’s adviser Paul Wolfowitz have openly called for the destruction of Russia.  Russia must make all of her decisions with that uncomfortable fact in mind.
  • While I do like the idea of a counter-alliance against NATO-EU, the fact remains that Iran has always been an enemy of European Christians, more particularly Eastern European Christians.

However, some other conclusions on Iran:

  • I follow Stephen Walt’s analysis on Iran:  it really doesn’t make sense for them to acquire nuclear weapons.   The moment they launch one, the West (and Israel, with its illegal arsenal of hundreds of nukes) would immediately bury Tehran in radiation–and Iran knows this.  Iran would be more successful sponsoring groups like Hezbollah than risking it’s existence acquiring nuclear weapons.
  • I don’t buy the propaganda that most of Iran’s populace are secretly wanting to overthrow their regime.  If that isn’t CIA propaganda, nothing is.  Others have already refuted that.
  • That said, I really don’t see a happy way out of this scenario.  It looks like Israel will strike Iran soon.  (Interestingly, while I knew that Georgia and Azeribaijan were Israeli allies, I never counted on Israel using those two countries as bases from which to launch their attack.  I had expected Israel to fly over Iraq, something America would not allow.  This makes perfect sense).

Stuermer’s Biography of Vladimir Putin

This is a good biography. It is a fair biography. And the fact that it is written by someone connected with an anti-Putin institution like Harvard University is even more remarkable. Fair analyses on Putin are hard to come by. Most of the West, be it neo-conservatives or neo-liberals, believe Putin is Satan incarnate. His Russian nationalist admirers believe he is King Arthur resurrected. So which is it?

Stuermer is an economically-oriented German political scientist. Technically, he is anti-Putin, but he also understands the moves Putin makes. As a German, he knows that his country can’t openly oppose Putin’s Russia. He knows that to best work with Putin, one must understand him and to a degree, sympathize with him.

Yes, it is true that Putin is former KGB, but there is more to the story. Most of the KGB officers weren’t the bad guys from James Bond films. Nor where they the Gestapo-like men who would drag innocent children away from Church. Yes, that happened but that’s not the whole story. In any case, that’s not what Putin did. Putin worked with Securities in East Germany. He became a Colonel in the KGB because he thought he could protect Russian from future threats. He didn’t work to “spread the gospel of Marx.”

Putin’s position gave him a good view of how Soviet economics was collapsing, and if the situation allowed, how to rebuilld Russia.

Stuermer’s analysis of Putin’s Russia is mainly focused on the triumph and difficulties of Petrodollars, with a minor emphasis on PetroPolitics. After Putin stabilized Russia in the early 2000’s, he tapped into arguably the largest oil and natural gas reserves in the world. Russia became rich overnight. The problem, though, is that while Russia has political leverage with oil, other countries have to want to buy from Russia. And if other countries don’t/won’t buy from Russia, her oil becomes useless. This forces Putin to look for a more science-based economy in the future.

Putin’s most important moment was a speech in 2007. He warned the West that NATO’s days of playing God are over. The West cannot give international law the middle finger anymore. The unlawful bombing of Serbia will have consequences. If the West can defy international law, so Putin argues, who is the West to criticize Putin’s Russia on “human rights” violations? Stuermer, a Westerner, realizes the challenge and concedes the point to Putin.

Stuermer makes some interesting observations. While Russia lost millions of citizens and key military hardware in the breakup of the Soviet Union, it had the positive effect of removing a lot of potentially dangerous Muslim radicals from Russian territory.

Cons with the book:
Like any modern-day political biography, this book became dated in about 6 months. In our society events happen to quickly. A lot of Stuermer’s observation, therefore, are either wrong or irrelevant. Russia’s birthrate is not as drastic as it was 5 years ago. That tired old canard simply won’t work anymore. Russia was able to ride the recent economic crisis fairly smoothly. Stuermer criticized Russia for having troops in hot places like Moldova, Ukraine, and Georgia, but doesn’t NATO and the US have troops in every country in the world? This criticism is unfair.

All in all, this is a good and fair book.