The Pharisees of Sodom

June 5, 2012

(Musical selection A 07 The Pink Room)

EP is focused on Orthodox theology with a special eye to the theology of Maximus the Confessor. As such it is devoted to questions of historical and philosophical theology. It could be about other things relative to Orthodox theology such as Biblical theology as a discipline, but since I am not trained as a Biblical theologian, in the academic sense of that term, I tend try to limit myself to areas in which I have some competence. This is also why I try to steer the blog away from whatever happens to be going in the world, whether politics or the wider culture. There are plenty of other venues for that. I have a niche and I like my niche very much.

But every so often something pops up in the culture that impinges upon Orthodox theology. Of course the on going cultural yelling match (we haven’t yet begun to have an argument) about “Gay” marriage has had a flare up with the recent North Carolina state constitutional amendment. This I would usually ignore on EP except for the fact that David J. Dunn, has written for the Huffington Post an article as an “Orthodox Lay theologian” defending “Gay marriage” or at least objecting to it being banned.

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The Heresy of Calvinism. I

July 10, 2010

About a year ago, his Beatitude Metropolitan Jonah addressed the meeting of the ACNA at which he delineated a number of things that must be jettisoned were real ecumenical dialogue to occur between the Orthodox and this newest iteration of Anglicanism. Among the eschewed was what his Beatitude called “the heresy of Calvinism.” That very weekend, while attending a reception for my nephew John and his new bride Becca, her father, a minster of the Reformed Episcopal Church, and a friend of mine from some years back (more than twenty: we had attended seminary together, we both served as clergy in the PCA parish in Allentown, PA), accosted me wanting to know what was heretical about Calvinism. The following post(s) is my reply.

This, like any essay on some historical ism, immediately demands an explanation of what exactly that ism entails. The matter becomes more urgent when certain people wish to rearrange categories at one time more-or-less settled, and with these disputes I shall have little to say. By “these” I mean the suppliants of the erstwhile Bishop Thomas Durham (aka N. T. Wright) and his putative new readings of Paul, and the tentacles of such readings that have ensnared contemporary Reformed circles under the sobriquet of Federal Vision. To be just, federal vision predates N. T. Durham’s musings by decades, many tracing it back to the disquiet surrounding Norm Shepherd at Westminster Seminary in the early 80s. I remember at the time thinking Shepherd’s stance odd, and later in the decade, having fallen in with a circle sympathetic to Shepherd (the aforementioned PCA parish in Allentown) due to some sacramental and ecclesiological affectations on my part, I found Shepherd more to my newly acquired taste. It is all now too easy to see such readings’ incoherence and inconsistency, both with the Westminster Standards, and with Calvin (though I do not equate the two), and like the Finns with Luther, all seemingly suffering from a case of ‘deification envy’. Thus for them, claims to be “Calvinist” at best must come with the obscene caveat “Calvinism better-informed.” All the arguments about Federal Vision and its accouterments I shall leave to one side, for they do not concern the basic Orthodox critiques: perhaps they are of great weight, but not to the basic problems as the Orthodox see them, for they concern matters “after the fact”. That is, they don’t address the questions of predestination, satisfaction theories of the atonement, and human union with Christ based upon human nature’s redemption through union with the Incarnate Logos. Thus, whether one wishes to sail on R. C. Sproul’s end of the Reformed boat, or on Jim Jordan’s, it is all of apiece for the Orthodox.

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The Episcopalians Strike Back!

May 6, 2010

It seems that I’ve rustled the feathers of my recent Episcopalian acquaintance. He has responded with something that I think he wishes to present as an argument for excluding my view. Who would have guessed that such inclusive folks could be so exclusive? 

The reply is riddled with the typical left wing clap trap and moralistic superciliousness. But fortunately it gives me an opportunity, to point out another example of exactly what I pointed out previously, namely that what is offered there and being offered nationally by TEC is not Christianity, but something else. If you read the reply, there is no shortage of fallacious material to which to respond. Here he was quite generous and liberal.

The narrative grid in which my opponent places his response is that of fear. The root cause of all evil in the world, and specifically bad theology, you see, is fear. We construct grand systems of “oppression” and “separation” out of “fear.” We then become a mental ostrich loosing all sense, justifying “homophobia” and an army other left wing political bogymen. That might explain why he’s seemingly afraid of my view.

I would have thought that the basis for all bad theology would be to reject what God has revealed and taught. Notice the standard for good theology and bad theology is not what God has revealed but in some parochial disposition. But why take this culture’s disposition at this time as normative? The gloss that is given is also rather self serving and is in fact an idol of my interlocutors’ construction. It seems hard to find anything in what he professes that could point out error or failing in any of the left wing causes he seems to favor. Are left wing ideologies somehow morally perfect and exempt form the thirst for power? I seriously doubt they were immaculately conceived. (It seems I have problems with that notion across the board.) He is simply mirroring and projecting his own preferences, but we need a reason to think that his preferences are the right ones to have.

Appeals to “fear” and other emotional states are either too nebulous or question begging to do any argumentative work. In some cases, fear can be good. It depends on whether the fear is unwarranted or not. So what is the dividing line in that case are the reasons as to whether what is feared is warranted or not and not fear itself.

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Old Friends Long Gone

May 2, 2010

“Through the force, things you will see-other places-the future, the past, old friends long gone.”

During holy week this year I received an email from a friend back home in California. An old friend of mine had passed away in his home. His name was Bill Zuck. Some of my readers may have been fortunate to know Bill. He certainly got around. Bill was a very unique individual and and helped to acelerate my theological understanding. I’d like to say my bit here to remember him. 

I can only recall bits and pieces of what Bill related to me of his past. He was raised Plymouth Brethern and was originally from Pensylvannia. He acquired a degree in engineering and he never married. Through time, Bill went through a number of theological and philosophically changes eventually landing in Anglo-Catholicism with Thomism as his theological and philosophical grid. Eric Mascall and Garigou-Lagrange loom large here.  He worked until his retirement as a grocery clerk.

When I met Bill he was already in his fifties, though for a number of us, we were never quite sure how old Bill was really. He was our own Melchizidek. I suppose it wasn’t important.  What was important was that Bill had read everything, or practically everything.  Hence Bill’s eventual nick name-Infalli-Bill. When I was attending the then C.U.R.E Academy meetings in the early 1990′s in Anaheim, I met Bill. C.U.R.E (Christians United for Reformation-eventually this morphed into the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals) was the brainchild of the trinity of Rod Rosenbladt, Kim Riddlbebarger, and Mike Horton (probably with Shane Rosenthaul and Rick Ritche deserving honorable mention).  Every week the “Academy” would meet for a lecture, with usually a few hours with Q & A. They’d bring in some Reformed academic, sometimes a Lutheran or they’d have one of their own come in and do a series on all things related to the superiority of the Reformation to the modern corrupted Evangelical establishment.

Bill visited a number of theological discussion groups that existed in the Southern California area. He obviously came to rain on CURE’s parade.  Frankly, Bill either annoyed the hell out of people there or scared the living snot out of them. I was in the latter category. Bill had a grasp of the theology and literature of the Reformation that was every bit as good, if not better than our local advocates of the Reformation. He also had something else that Horton’s crew didn’t seem to have the slightest inkling of. He also knew Rome’s theology via Aquinas quite well. He was patient and fairly quiet, until Q & A came along. To be sure,  Bill was always in line to ask a question or rather to plant a theological bomb.  People became annoyed it seemed to me either because they couldn’t understand what he was asking (he was speaking Thomism after all and they had no translator) or they were peeved that he was making their pet teachers look bad.  Eventually things got so bad that they tried ways to keep Bill from asking questions. It didn’t work. Either he’d get in line any way or a proxy (like me) would pose essentially the same question. Or Bill would just wait until after Q & A was over and then ask Mike or Kim his question afterward. This gave to my eyes the first time I saw a Calvinist literally run away from a Thomist. ( Horton turned white as a sheet one evening when he saw Bill comming to ask a question and just ran away.)

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Why I Am Not An Episcopalian

April 12, 2010

For readers who do not know, I am a former Episcopalian. My personal history of religious affiliation goes something like the following. I was baptized Catholic but raised in the Episcopal church until my teen years. From then I’d attend the Episcopal church on Sunday and then Calvary Chapel for “Bible study” on Friday evenings with their youth group. This was on account of a number of reasons, not the least of which was that the youth group at the Episcopal church voted that I should leave since I wanted to read the Bible and not have pizza parties and such. The youth directors agreed given that the kinds of questions I was asking really required a “professional” response. This was after I became exasperated with the whole approach of, let’s sit in a circle and go around the room asking what each person thinks such and so verse means “to me.” At the ripe old age of 13 I blurted out, “I don’t care what it means to me, I just want to know what it means!”

To sum up, I eventually ran into the Horton/Riddlebarger crowd when I was about 17 and then became Reformed for a number of years. I then moved towards a more high church Anglican view, returning to what I had been raised with, ending up in the then, Anglican Catholic Church (ACC). Fortunately I met my wife in the ACC, who was also a life long Anglican, though her family had left the Episcopal church (TEC) earlier than I did and joined the then forming ACC. After a few schisms in the ACC and/or theContinuing church movement and a deepening in my grasp of Christology through an exposure to the teaching of Maximus the Confessor, my wife and I were received into the Orthodox Church.

Recently, I was reminded once again why I am not an Episcopalian. The reminder doesn’t explain why I am Orthodox but it does I think point to something that is worth thinking about and discussing. So the reminder came in a post on another blog that I saw through the WordPress blog feature of Tag Surfer. It allows me to see other recent blog entries across WordPress with similar topics as my own.

The post was by an apostatized Baptist of sorts who returned to “Christianity” through the Episcopal church. The post was an expression of his thoughts on “reformulating” the doctrine of the Trinity. What the post was, was in fact not a reformulation, but more an expression of his rejection of the Trinity and an expression of its perceived uselessness. I didn’t take the post to be overtly hostile, (I am sure he’s a nice fellow) but it wasn’t something that amounted to Christian thinking on the subject and that’s the point. This post expresses the typical adoptionistic Christology found among classical Unitarians and contemporary liberals. Jesus is the man who was more open to the divine or “Spirit” and so is a means by which one is in contact with “God” or “Spirit” and so moved or inspired to “social justice.” The other posts on Hell and other doctrines pretty much fall into the typical liberal, that is Unitarian teaching.

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Dr. Farrell on the state of Orthodoxy and the Anglican Continuum

June 29, 2009

These are some very good articles especially for converts both then and now:

Published in the Old Believer VI and VII


Our Mother Tongue

May 13, 2009

“The Eastern Church was held by the fathers of the English Reformation in respectful veneration.  The Book of Common Prayer bears traces of the influence of Eastern liturgies.  The Thirty-Nine Articles, while unhesitatingly affirming that the Churches of Jerusalem, Alexandria, Antioch and Rome have erred, expressly omitted any such allusion to the Church of Constantinople.  The Apology of the Church of England constantly refers to Eastern practice and doctrine, in refutation of the assertions of the Bishop of Rome that is the head of the Church or that he and the clergy and laity under his rule alone form the Holy Catholic Church, or that communion with the See of Rome is essential to the unity of the church.

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