A Hankadox Intermezzo

While my compatriots and I continue to gather and compile documents and information from many groups of former CRI employees across the country, I thought I would write a short piece. (I’ve included what I take to be some suitable musical accompaniment. ) Some critics no doubt think that my claims of Hank’Image result for Intermezzos theological incompetence and the evidence I gave in the previous post are a matter of cherry picking.  Likewise no doubt, some have wondered if the video I linked where Hank simply reads off of works by others without attribution is truly indicative of his lack of education. After all, everyone makes mistakes, right? You’re just being too hard on him, right?

All one has to do is listen to the BAM show on any given week to verify the truth of my claims. In any given week, Hank will make basic historical, philosophical or theological mistakes. The matter is compounded now by the fact that he is in theological territory that both he and his Biola trained staff are unfamiliar with.  Really none of the existing CRI material can help him navigate the halls of Orthodox theology or construct Orthodox answers to theological questions. As I noted before, the popular Orthodox literature from Bp. Ware, Frederica and others simply will not cut the mustard. (Ware is too general and Frederica really lacks the depth necessary to engage Reformation distinctives as James White recently demonstrated. It was easy to anticipate how the Reformed would have responded.) One has to read the primary sources. One has to read the secondary literature. And then one has to compress and articulate views, concepts and answers in an understandable way to your audience. In what follows I demonstrate that Hank and his staff really can’t do this and in some cases are acting in an apparently dishonest way.

Justification by Huhwhawha?

So take BAM show for April 27th, 2017. At about the 4 minute mark continuing to the 9 minute mark, Hank attempts to discuss the relationship between faith and works, specifically in relationship to James 2:24ff. Now for the bulk of what he says you only have to look at this sheet from CRI to see that he is cribbing from it. This a summary of the standard Reformed gloss on the relationship between faith and works. Faith and works are contiguous, that is, they exist together, but one does not participate in the other. That is, no human activity contributes to justification. This is why faith has to be an empty virtue. It is instrumentally valuable because it is a vehicle for the transfer of moral credit, but in and of itself it is worthless. All human activity is precluded from justification.

But Hank is unclear as to whether he still believes this or whether he takes this to be compatible with an Orthodox view of justification.  He begins by saying he’s going “back to what the Bible says.” Well if that is what he thinks the Bible says, then he must think that the Bible teaches Sola Fide, as the CRI doctrinal statement (article 6) indicates and that Orthodoxy is false. The fact that he doesn’t know that this interpretation is part and parcel of Sola Fide and hence incompatible with Orthodox teaching is yet further proof of his incompetence. After thirty years of theological study and interaction, this should be a cake walk.

He seems to think that he can maintain this position as an Orthodox Christian. He reiterates the tired trope that in Orthodox theology there is no dichotomy between faith and works. That may be true, but that doesn’t amount to an explication of their relation, which is what is required. A lack of dichotomy doesn’t amount to a claim of identity or any other kind of substantial explanation.  It is pretty clear that Hank doesn’t know how a non-Protestant gloss on James 2 would go. It also seems entirely lost on Hank that the view he articulated just is a sharp dichotomy between faith and works. That is the entire point of that interpretation, to exclude all human activity from justification.

Unfortunately for Hank, that interpretation of James 2 is not open to him. The Synod of Jerusalem (1672) reads as follows.

Decree 13

We believe a man to be not simply justified through faith alone, but through faith which works through love, that is to say, through faith and works. But [the idea] that faith can fulfill the function of a hand that lays hold on the righteousness which is in Christ, and can then apply it unto us for salvation, we know to be far from all Orthodoxy. For faith so understood would be possible in all, and so none could miss salvation, which is obviously false. But on the contrary, we rather believe that it is not the correlative of faith, but the faith which is in us, justifies through works, with Christ. But we regard works not as witnesses certifying our calling, but as being fruits in themselves, through which faith becomes efficacious, and as in themselves meriting, through the Divine promises {cf. 2 Corinthians 5:10} that each of the Faithful may receive what is done through his own body, whether it be good or bad.

That pretty clearly excludes the interpretation that Hank gave. What is more, the interpretation given by the Synod of Jerusalem is right in line with the teaching of Augustine, Chrysostom and many other fathers. And it is not substantially different from the Catholic Tridentine teaching either. Hank is unwittingly promoting Protestant theology contrary to his own professed belief in Orthodoxy.

Well, what would an Orthodox gloss on James 2 look like? It would look similar to a Catholic interpretation focusing on v. 26. “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” The relation of soul to body is one of animation or rather enlivening. It makes the body live for that is what soul means, namely life. Without the soul, the body loses cohesion and dissipates. The soul therefore makes the body be what it is and without it, the body lacks unity and cohesion. Furthermore, there are some other things to note. While the feature of assent in faith, that even the demons have, is not everything there is to faith, it does not for that reason cease to be genuine faith. It is just incomplete. Scripture at times speaks of faith in incomplete ways in other places, such as Hebrews 11:9, & 1 Cor 13:2. So the contrast is between a complete and incomplete faith, which is why the latter cannot save. (v. 2:14) Note also that the question is whether such a faith can save and not whether such a faith can be merely manifested or known to be genuine. The manifestation of faith through works functions as a supporting point for James’ conclusion, that such a faith can save.

But how is it that works complete faith? Our clue is in the works that James speaks of in 1:27 and 2:8. These are works of charity or love. Love and not the works per se fulfill the law. A better way to say this might be to say that it is the divine love that characterizes the works. As Paul notes in Rom 13:8-10 and Gal 5:14, love fulfills the law. This is why Paul in 1 Cor 13 picks out love as superior even to faith. (1 Cor 13:2) And further why Paul in Rom 5:5 indicates that the love of God is poured into our hearts. (WhatImage result for mosaic Apostle Paulever language that may be, it is not forensic language.) This is why Paul speaks of faith working through love (Gal 5:6) so that the requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us. (Rom 8:4). But why is it that love fulfills the law? Love fulfills the law because God is love. (1 Jn 4:16) In sum then, works or human activity under divine power or love makes faith complete. (James 2:22) This is why Christ’s example is paramount as are his sufferings, in which we as Christians are called to participate by taking up our cross to follow Him.

Theologically, it is important to note, that on this view, human activity participates in divine activity. So the wrong way to think about it would be to think of my acts and God’s acts as separate entities that are contiguous, that is as both occurring together and then classed together under a single heading. That would be akin to two men pulling a load, where to the degree that one pulls the other need not, so that the end result is directly collaborative. But this is not how a participatory model as I sketched above would view things. Rather, since our acts are participations in divine acts, by divine power (grace), the same act is both wholly mine and wholly God’s, which is why it can be said that it is not I who live but Christ in me and that these acts of mine please God. (Gal 2:20, 1 Thess 4:1)

Now, it doesn’t matter whether or not Protestant readers are persuaded by this interpretation. It is a fairly standard interpretation more or less, East or West. If one has read any of the primary or secondary literature on the Reformation debates concerning justification for the last five centuries or even a survey such as McGrath’s Iustitia Dei something like this gloss would be familiar. And one would know right off the bat that the interpretation Hank gives is just not compatible with Orthodoxy. But Hank after thirty years, still doesn’t know this. How is that possible?

The Crux of the Matter

The next example is Hank on Orthodoxy and the Penal Model of the Atonement. On May 2nd BAM show, Hank takes an email question at the beginning of the broadcast about article 6 of the CRI doctrinal statement. Now the question is how can Hank be a member of a church that denies the penal model and adhere to the CRI doctrinal statement. Hank cites a section from Bp. Ware’s book, which reads as follows.

“Where Orthodoxy sees chiefly Christ the Victor, the late medieval and post medieval west sees chiefly Christ the Victim. While Orthodoxy interprets the Crucifixion primarily as an act of triumphant victory over the powers of evil, the west-particularly since the time of Anselm of Canterbury (?1033-1109)- has tended rather to think of the Cross in penal and juridical terms, as an act of satisfaction or substitution designed to propitiate the wrath of an angry Father. Yet the contrasts must not be pressed too far. Eastern writers, as well as western, have applied juridical and penal language to the Crucifixion; western writers, as well as eastern, have never ceased to think of Good Friday as a moment of victory. In the west during recent years there has been a revival of the Patristic idea of Christus Victor, alike in theology, in spirituality, and in art; and Orthodox are naturally very happy that this should be so.” The Orthodox Church, 1982, p. 234.

After quoting the above section, Hank goes on to say that there is “nothing in Eastern Orthodoxy that says that you cannot hold to a Penal Substitutionary Image result for Kallistos wareview of the atonement.” (Approx 6 min mark) Hank then says that it is ultimately “a matter of emphasis.”

Now there are a number of things that have to be discussed here.  First, Ware’s book is not some Orthodox encyclical. It is an introductory text. And as consequence, Ware tends to generalize. Second, what Ware notes is of course correct, as far as it goes. While there are conceptual differences, all models incorporate language of penalty, victory, etc. because that language is biblical and traditional.  The question of course is how those terms are to be understood. Penal language in a Christus Victor model will not have the same conceptual content as it does in a Penal model. The meaning of a term is model relative. Much the same goes for Ware’s noting that western writers take Good Friday as a moment of victory. That is quite true, but even between Protestant and Catholic traditions, they won’t mean the same thing by “victory.” So there is conceptual divergence across the models. But none of what Ware says is what Hank presents it as expressing, namely that a Penal model is theologically permissible within Orthodoxy. All that Ware notes is that the different views or models incorporate favored terms or language. So Hank is just flat out wrong that this is a matter of “emphasis.”

More problematic for Hank, article 6 Image result for icon extreme humilityof the CRI Doctrinal statement does not aim to express a specific emphasis, but rather it aims to denote a particular model or theory of the atonement, coupled with the Protestant distinctive of Sola Fide. CRI was founded as a Protestant para-church business, which is why that Protestant doctrinal language is there, shocking as that may seem.

The respective models regardless of any shared terms, do in fact express different concepts. The Christus Victor model does not express the concept of the Father punishing the Son with the wrath reserved for sinners, no matter what penal language may sometimes be used by its advocates. The Christus Victor model turns on an entirely different logic than the Penal model does. The Christus Victor model posits an interior overpowering of death in maintaining the hypostatic union through death so that human nature becomes immortalized and hence impervious to the power of sin. Christ’s doing so reorients human nature through death towards resurrection for the entire race.

“You were slain, O Word, but were not separated from the body, which You shared with us; for even though Your temple was destroyed during Your Passion, the Person of your Divinity and humanity was still one; for in both, You are One Son, the Word of God; God and man…The fall of Adam resulted in the death to Man, but not to God, for though the substance of Your earthly body suffered, Your Divinity remained passionless, transforming the corruptible into incorruption, and showed it to be the fountain of Resurrection for immortal life.” Matins of the Resurrection, 6th Ode.

Likewise Vladimir Lossky writes,

“JuImage result for Christ harrowing of hellstice is not an abstract reality superior to God but an expression of His nature. Just as He freely creates yet manifests Himself in the order and beauty of creation, so He manifests Himself in His justice : Christ Who is Himself justice, affirms in His Fullness God’s justice. It is not that the Son effects an outlandish justice by bearing an infinite satisfaction for vengeance not less infinite than the Father. ‘Why,’ asks Gregory of Nazianzus, ‘why should the blood of the Son be pleasing to the Father Who did not even want to accept Isaac offered up in a burnt-offering by Abraham, but replaced this human sacrifice by that of a ram?”  Orthodox Theology: An Introduction, pp. 114-115.

And Dumitru Staniloae writes,

“Western theology, both Catholic and Protestant, has not known another modality of man’s liberation from sin except that of suffering death for him or the amnesty on the basis of a satisfaction offered to God. The Holy Scripture and the Holy Fathers see the solution beyond this external alternative, namely in God’s movement toward communion, which is also imprinted within the human being. In both other cases God remains external, punishing, or He places the human being from without into a movement of satisfaction.” The Experience of God Vol. 3, p. 113.

From insideImage result for Christ harrowing of hell this framework, the idea of the Father punishing the Son would only be an explanatory dangler doing no redemptive work since all the work is being done by Christ going through death and triumphing over it from within human nature. This is because the Penal Model was constructed to accommodate a Protestant soteriology and not a patristic one.

“Penal substitution then, is really a justification-eye-view of the atonement. The real roots of it are justification by faith. The legal color of it is really only the glow of its parent doctrine : justification by faith. This is why theologians have found it so limiting as a complete explanation of the cross. The truth is that it is not an explanation of the cross, but an explanation of justification. Penal substitution is, in effect, a justification for justification.”  Ben Pugh, Atonement Theories: A Way Through the Maze, 2014, p. 76

This is why it is not conceptually possible to graft the Penal model onto an Orthodox theological framework. And of course the Penal Model raises serious problems in Trinitarian theology and Christology. If the penalty for sin is the loss of communion with God, then either it is the case that the divine person of the Son loses communion with God and so is not consubstantial with the Father, and hence Arianism. Or there must be some other human person within Christ who suffers the loss of communion with the God and so there are two persons in Christ, hence Nestorianism. And the Orthodox are not alone in launching this criticism.

But probably the most important reason why one can’t hold to the Penal model and Orthodoxy is that none of the sources of Orthodox teaching from scripture on down teach it. And nothing in Ware says that they do. It is not found there and is in fact a later theological development constructed by Protestant authors in the 16th century. It is simply not Orthodox. Again it doesn’t matter for my purposes here that Protestant readers do not find this (or any of the above) to be a good objection or they don’t agree with the above Orthodox theologians. What matters is that as far as Orthodoxy concerned, the theory is rejected and this is pretty well known and yet Hank doesn’t know it. There aren’t a few notable priests that have written against it as foreign to Orthodoxy such as Fr. Bernstein and Fr. Freeman, both of whom are members in the “Welcoming Hank and Family to Orthodoxy” group. Maybe Hank could receive some basic catechesis from them? In sum, Hank is simply wrong that there is no reason why one can’t be Orthodox and hold to a Penal model of the atonement. And to the point, all of this is pretty easy to find out, but Hank for some reason doesn’t seem to know this.

Lastly, Hank openly denies the bodily assumption of Mary (BAM May 5th, 2017, 22 min mark). Well that  is going to be news to the Greek Archdiocese, especially Hank’s bishop, because they seem to think it is Orthodox teaching. Maybe the “Bible Answer Man” can go to tell his eminence Archbishop Demetrios to erase the Akathist hymn, yank that feast out of the Church liturgical calendar and stop issuing encyclicals for it every year?

August 15

“The Feast of the Dormition of Our Most Holy Lady, the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary is celebrated on August 15 each year. The Feast commemorates the repose (dormition and in the Greek kimisis) or “falling-asleep” of the Mother of Jesus Christ, our Lord. The Feast also commemorates the translation or assumption into heaven of the body of the Theotokos.”

And this is a feast day that is celebrated every year, so it is kind of hard to miss, especially if you claim to have been going to an Orthodox parish for upwards of three years. The Akathist isn’t exactly short, so you’d remember it.

So the question is, why doesn’t Hank know these things? Where are his clergy in terms of teaching him basic Orthodox teaching? So far as I can tell Hank has received no substantial instruction prior to chrismation beyond that of festival tracts and Ware’s book, which is why he is offering theological slogans, cliches and making pretty basic doctrinal blunders. So his clergy bear a responsibility for sending him out onto national public media to represent Orthodox teaching it seems with no real preparation whatsoever. And of course the wider question is, given that Hank’s show crosses jurisdictional lines how are other clergy in those jurisdictions whose congregations are influenced by Hank’s gross incompetence to deal with this on-going public doctrinal train wreck? Where are the clergy, the gate keepers and protectors of the sheep?

The above is why I say that Hank has always been incompetent and continues to be so. The problem he has now is that his Biola grad staff that ghost writes for him simply can’t help him.  Either because they really don’t understand Reformation theology or because they have no competence in Orthodox and Patristic theology, not to mention conciliar teaching, or all of the above.  It doesn’t matter what side of the theological fence one is on since the issue is not one of whether this or that view is true. The question is whether Hank was ever competent as the “Bible Answer Man.” And the answer is pretty obviously, No. The take away lesson for Protestants is that if you couldn’t see this before, then you’ve got a problem. And for the Orthodox, if you can’t see it now, you’ve got the same problem your protestant opponents do.

The Sickness Unto Death

Now we come to a very hard part. Hank has chosen to reveal that he has been diagnosed with a form of cancer. One of the many things I am not is a medical doctor, but I’d wager given his age and the type of cancer that this could well kill him, even with the best treatment money can currently purchase. Now I do not wish him harm and of course I don’t wish cancer or any other disease on anyone.  So what am I to say? Here is how I think about it. First I have a general sympathy for all human beings who suffer in this way. Second I recognize that everyone has a terminal illness already, aging. Everyone will die. Just wait long enough and it will surely happen. Hank just contracted a second terminal illness other than aging. At 67 years of age, he’s no spring chicken and he is no child. He’s had a fairly long life so far (and he might beat the cancer as well). So a clear recognition of mortality is always good to have in mind up front.

Hank has a lot going for him. He makes more money than the President of the U.S. (400k+) and so can afford all the comforts that this world can offer while he goes through chemo. Many people I know who are fighting some form of cancer have to set up Go-Fund Me accounts just to make ends meet, even with full medical insurance.  He lives in a 3.1 million dollar home that is quite spacious at over 9200 sq ft, with at least one second home of 4800 sq ft with a walk out golf course, relatively close by along with luxury cars for he and his children to drive. Presumably he eats well.  And Hank has lived at the top 1% for some time so even if he dies, his family is in a position to maintain that 1% lifestyle in perpetuity.

Now, I have nothing against possessing wealth per se, but as an Orthodox Christian two thoughts jump into my head. God gives such wealth for the benefit of others, namely the poor. And secondly it is one thing to make that kind of money drilling for oil, trading stocks or real estate and it is quite another to make it off the backs of ordinary people who send their sacrificial donations in every month without fail to a “ministry.” It is one thing to think of this giving as an abstraction and it is quite another to have processed hundreds of them every day as I did when I worked at CRI. You see the little hand written notes on the checks or donation slips. Single parents to old ladies who scrape together the extra cash at the end of the month to send in, thanking Hank for doing the Lord’s work, all the while you are aware of the little tricks and tweaks to get around the sales tax, squeeze out another dollar donation or further sales of Hank’s latest thing for some “gift.” And of course this is so Hank can live in a 3.1 million dollar mansion (kind of like Benny Hinn!). Yeah, that kinda sticks in your head. And of course there is that whole camel and needle problem as well. I bet its really tough to squeeze a 9200 square foot mansion through the eye of a needle.

And of course Hank got to the point of living in that multi-million dollar mansion by crushing to dust the careers, lives and faith of those CRI employees who had the courage and integrity to call him on his immoral actions. Those who could not be bullied into compliance or silence were terminated. Others he sued even while they lay dying of cancer. Hank had no mercy on any of them. Hank showed not the slightest bit of compunction or remorse. So I think of Hank’s victim’s who have received not the slightest bit of consideration. As much as I scratch my head, I can’t seem to remember someone forming a FB support group for Hank’s victims or anyone tripping over themselves to speak up for them. There are no accolades for them while they manifested true Christian virtues. All the pop Orthodox seem too busy falling over themselves trying to get to the foot of the stage so they can touch the hem of Hank’s digital garment in the “Welcome” group. In my mind, sympathy belongs with Hank’s victims first. But victims usually aren’t famous. They don’t make you feel important or powerful and they certainly don’t live in multi-million dollar mansions.

I also think that Hank has had thirty years with multiple attempts by various parties to ask for forgiveness and reconcile, following express commands by our Lord Jesus Christ. Hank has rejected all of them. Even our most recent attempts to begin a dialog to that end have been refused, most notably by the senior clergy at St. Nektarios, directly contrary to the express teaching of Christ and the Apostles and as far as I know the entire canonical tradition of the Orthodox Church. Now maybe there is some arcane canonical loophole saying that if someone makes more than half a million dollars, then they don’t have to repent and reconcile if they have committed gross evil, but I am thinking probably not. This of course wouldn’t the first time the wearers of vestments turned out to be worshipers of Mammon rather than the Holy Trinity, but maybe there is some secret loophole I know not what that justifies the choice of the senior clergy at St. Nektarios to set aside the teaching of Jesus and the Apostles. As things stand, I can’t see though how they aren’t now materially complicit in Hank’s sins. But who knows? Maybe its a “Greek thing?”

In any case, as things stand, Hank remains impenitent and impenitently receiving the sacraments week after week. The Image result for Orthodox confessionsacraments, Chrismation or otherwise won’t help him as long as he remains impenitent. The sacraments aren’t magic and we aren’t sacramental monergists either. They require actual cooperation. Now, you’ll have to excuse me for not having memorized the Rudder but I think the Apostle Paul is an adequate authority here.

“So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves.  That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world.” 1 Cor 11:27ff

Yeah, there’s that. Now whether this cancer is a judgment from God, I have no idea. But I do know that God can use such things to bring about repentance. So maybe this is what it takes for Hank to repent and seek reconciliation. I have no idea. But if it does, then it will have served a divine purpose. What I can say is that if I were in Hank’s shoes, regardless of theological commitment, I’d be thinking that now would be a really, really good time repent and get my spiritual  house in order while I am still able to do so. Yeah, I am pretty sure that that’d be going through my head on an hourly basis.

So when I get to the end of considering these factors, I am left with a general sympathy for Hank’s coming suffering and possible death while he remains impenitent. Do I pray for Hank? Sure. Is he at the top of my list? No. I’d be lying if I said that or that it is a daily occurrence. And to be honest, I have to rather force myself to do it. I’ve tried to do this for people who have caused me and my family great harm over the years. Do I like doing it? No. Is it beneficial for me? Yes. So, so far as I can see, the only way this changes things is for Hank. He now has a really good reason to repent and that right soon. Such repentance would help to bring healing and closure to many others and it of course would put this thirty year mess behind all of us. That is, Hank’s repentance is not only beneficial for his own salvation, but also for the salvation of his victims.

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