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Thread: Steven Anderson on Mount Athos

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    tWebber NorrinRadd's Avatar
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    My Lutheran relatives are always praying to one dead saint or another -- usually whichever one is supposedly in charge of finding lost things. It does seem to work for them, but I can't get past the necromancy aspect.
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    Department Head Apologiaphoenix's Avatar
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    I'm with Norrin on this one and yes, if the practice wasn't going on in the time of say, Justin Martyr, why should we find him saying something against it? If we find him making several statements on prayer and none of them talk about saints, then we have reason to be suspicious.

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    Professor KingsGambit's Avatar
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    I am unconvinced that there is a conscious intermediate state to begin with. As Glenn Peoples points out, there are only a few passages that cause the view difficulty, and they all seem to appear in contexts where the idea of a literal teaching is questionable (i.e. souls at the altar in Revelation, parable of rich man and Lazarus). Meanwhile, the image of death as sleep is prevalent through Scripture, and Daniel 12:2 and 12:13 seems to me to be a straightforward teaching that Daniel and others would sleep until the final judgment. I don't dogmatically hold the view as I don't think Scripture is entirely clear one way or the other, but this does present an extra hurdle.
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    tWebber Rushing Jaws's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Apologiaphoenix View Post
    Does Anderson's criticism ring true?

    Link

    ------

    What do I think of Steven Andersonís views on Orthodoxy? Letís plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

    For those who donít know yet, I am a thoroughly convinced Protestant. I have a wife who is interested in Eastern Orthodoxy and that did get me looking into issues of Catholicism and Orthodoxy. It really was something I never wanted to get into since I am one who tries to be ecumenical. Now I do have a greater understanding of both positions and still disagree, but I donít want people speaking wrongly against my brothers and sisters on the way.

    For those who donít know, Steven Anderson is this crazy pastor who thinks that we should kill all the homosexuals or that they should kill themselves. This is not to say that I think homosexuality is fine. I think Scripture is clear on the wrongness of homosexual practice. Itís also clear to me that weíre not in an Israelite theocracy based on the Old Testament Law.

    I also find it interesting that the video weíll be looking at has a description that says the real way to get to Heaven. Itís a shame that Pastor Anderson thinks that the whole point of Christianity is to get to Heaven. That is part of it, but the goal of the gospel is to bring honor to God and has an impact for this life and not just the next one.

    In this video, Pastor Anderson says that he is told that he needs to look into Mount Athos. Some of you might not know that for Orthodox people, Mount Athos is one of the most holy sites out there. I donít claim to fully understand that, but I know when Iím at the Orthodox Church and hear Mount Athos mentioned, itís a really big deal.

    The first thing he talks about is the idea of vain repetition. I understand the concern with saying the Jesus Prayer over and over and I do agree that some people could get into this being a rote thing that they do without any real motivation behind it, but the constant repetition does not equal vain repetition. Jesus condemns a certain kind of repetition, but He does not condemn all of it.

    The Jesus Prayer in my understanding is meant to change the person praying more than be a constant plea for mercy. Itís meant to make them think about who Jesus is. Itís up to the person to determine if theyíre being vain in their repetition or not.

    Next he mentions praying to Mary. Now I do disagree with this practice, but at the same time, Iím not ready to say everyone who has done such is being thrown into hell or is outside of the body. I would find it hard to condemn Christians across the centuries who have been doing this since whenever it started, and any Orthodox person who wants to convince me it started early had better bring some really good historical evidence to the table.

    The same will be said with praying to the saints. While I disagree with this, I am not one who thinks that there were no true Christians after the apostles died until Martin Luther showed up again. I actually think most Catholics while disagreeing with Luther would agree that the Catholic Church needed some reformation and change in it and there were corrupt practices going on. Any material about practices like this then I will not say further on but just point back to these sections.

    He also says something about the drinking of alcohol. He is right that the Bible condemns drunkenness, but it does not follow that it condemns alcohol, any more than the Bible condemning gluttony means that it condemns eating. The Bible condemns extramarital sex, but it thoroughly commends it between husband and wife in marital union. Jesus did not turn the water into grape juice at Cana.

    I want to say at this point also that I do not say this as one who drinks alcohol. My wife has come to accept that I am willing to change my diet in many areas, but I just never want to drink alcohol. If you can control it, I have no problem with you drinking it, but I will abstain.

    He then goes on to a monk carving a crucifix and says it is the making of idols even though we are told to not make any graven images. To begin with, if images are the problem, then what is going on behind Pastor Anderson in his own church video with watching a service live? Would we really say the problem with the image is that it is graven instead of that it is an image?

    The first person to be explicitly said to be filled with the Holy Spirit in the Bible is a man named Bezalel. Who was he? An artist. He made images that he was ordered by God to make. Now it could be that the Bible contradicts itself in such an obvious way, or else the prohibition is not against images, but rather against the use of images to worship.

    This is a point the Iconophiles brought up against the iconoclasts in the debates about the use of icons. At the same time, I want to be aware that yes, some people could treat icons and relics as if they were magic charms which is just as bad. The misuse of an object does not point to a lack of a proper use.

    He also says that the Bible says itís a shame for a man to have long hair and every priest and monk on Mount Athos has that. Samson also had it as that was part of the Nazarite vow. What is going on in 1 Corinthians is Paul is addressing practices of the day. How men and women wore their hair said something to their culture then. Were I to visit Andersonís church, would he want me to greet his wife with a holy kiss? Thatís what Scripture tells me I am to do.

    Pastor Anderson said that Jesus said to beware of the ones who go around in long clothing. Jesus was speaking more of the tassels on the garments and those were used to show a special kind of holiness. In other words, Jesus was against wearing clothes for the purpose of showing off your holiness. Itís not as if Jesus would have no problem with the scribes and Pharisees if they suddenly switched to shorts and T-shirts.

    He also has a statement about the prohibition of calling people Father. Now at this time, I also do not call priests in the church by the name of Father. At the same time, I recognize there are some ridiculous extremes that can be taken, such as the video my wife and I saw once about the man who called his parents by their names instead of Mom and Dad even to avoid breaking the commandment of Christ.

    He also looks at collections of skulls and femurs and other bones they have and says that the Bible says to bury the dead out of sight and to not touch dead bodies. Itís really a shame a pastor has such a poor understanding of Israelite Law and its relation to Gentiles today in light of the new covenant. My understanding is that these are gathered to remind the people of the resurrection that is coming.

    Thereís a part here where in what is apparently an aside he says that the monks are dressed like warlocks. I am sure in movies and TV shows and video games warlocks dress in these robes, but I am also sure that in real life, they could dress just like everyone else for the most part. As I say this, it is still morning and I am wearing my Legend of Zelda robe. I suppose Pastor Anderson is convinced Iím a heathen then.

    He also says that the Bible says that all those who hate me love death. He doesnít say who says this, but it is Wisdom in the book of Proverbs. This is said about the skull collecting, but does that equal a love of death? Does someone who grows up wanting to be a mortician then hate Jesus? This is not done to worship the dead but to honor the dead.

    He then goes and says there is no monastery or monk in the Bible. True. Thereís also no such thing as a pulpit or a pew in the Bible as well. I wonder if Pastor Andersonís church has a parking lot and heating and air system in it since those arenít in the Bible. His services are recorded, even though the Bible says nothing about that. If he wants to go the argument from silence route, I expect him to be consistent.

    Finally, in criticism, he says that Orthodoxy is closer to Eastern practices and he gives Buddhism as an example. The thing is, heís right and also wrong. I donít think itís like Buddhism, but it is closer to Eastern practices. What else is closer to that is the culture of the Bible itself. Pastor Anderson probably knows nothing about the eastern dynamics of honor and shame and agonistic societies. The Bible is itself not a Western book. It is a Middle Eastern one.

    He encourages people to come to the real Jesus and the real gospel. I encourage that, but I have many friends who are Orthodox and Catholic. We disagree on many things, but there is something we donít disagree on. We agree on who Jesus is.

    I am sure Pastor Andersonís motivations for this are noble, but his criticisms are way off the mark. I encourage healthy dialogue between Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox on our differences, but letís make sure they are informed criticisms. I also encourage that we try to recognize that others are Christians as well. Not all Catholics and Orthodox and Protestants are Christians, of course, but for the most part, the doctrines all agree on the centrality of Christ and His work in salvation.

    Letís try to focus first on what we agree on. Alright?

    In Christ,
    Nick Peters
    I have some sympathy with his position. Catholicism - which is criticised on many of the points mentioned above - can look extremely bizarre from the outside. Orthodoxy is in some respects perhaps even more alien, if only because it has played a far less prominent part in Protestant history, and in US Protestant history, than Catholicism.

    So I suspect a lot of his disagreements with Orthodoxy arise from a sort of culture-shock. The distance between the pastorís KJV-only Baptist Fundamentalism OTOH, and middle-of-the-road Anglicanism OTO, is very great; yet both religious forms are Protestant. Between that type of Anglicanism, and Catholicism, is a further divide - and this is all without contrasting KJV-Only Baptist Fundamentalism with Orthodoxy. It must require a great deal of imaginative sympathy for someone used to regarding the former type of religion as normal Christianity, to see Orthodoxy as also Christian - IMHO, one cannot expect people used to the pastorís type of Christianity, to see Orthodoxy (or any of the ancient Churches) as Christian. Some Fundamentalists do not think Anglicanism is Christian - so why would such people concede that those other Churches are Christian ?

    I think that those who deny the basic Christianity of non-Protestant Christianity deserve to be taken seriously, not brushed off. My understanding is that the monks of Mount Athos think of the Roman Pope in terms identical to those espoused by the late Ian Paisley (itself a striking co-incidence of opinion) - that is no reason to think ill of either them or of him.

    About this: ďHe then goes and says there is no monastery or monk in the Bible.Ē ISTM that St John Baptist behaved for most of his life (so far as we know of it from the NT) in a way remarkably similar to one of the Desert Fathers. Monasteries as such are absent from the Bible, but something like monasticism or the heremitical life seems not to be. It would be interesting to know more about the Rechabites, or the companies of the prophets. Though Christian monasticism is nothing, if it is not Christian. So from that POV, although there seem to be foreshadowings of Christian monasticism and heremitism before the Ministry of Christ, the Christian forms of that life presuppose the fullness of the Christian revelation.

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    tWebber Rushing Jaws's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by One Bad Pig View Post
    A prayer to Mary is one of the earliest prayers we have outside of the NT (3rd century). There are a handful of early instances of writings rejecting icons, but I recall no writings rejecting intercession of the saints from the first millennium or so - Nick, do you know of any?

    There's even a story in the OT showing the efficacy of relics (a dead man who touched Elisha's relics came back to life).
    A prayer to the Theotokos from about 250: https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/ortho...rayer-to-mary/

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    Thread Killer QuantaFille's Avatar
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    I've always wondered, wouldn't the saints need to be granted a level of omniscience in order to hear the prayers offered to them? How does that work?
    Curiosity never hurt anyone. It was stupidity that killed the cat.

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    tWebber Rushing Jaws's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by QuantaFille View Post
    I've always wondered, wouldn't the saints need to be granted a level of omniscience in order to hear the prayers offered to them? How does that work?
    What the Orthodox say, I donít know - though Origen touches on the matter in his treatise On Prayer.

    IMO, the Saints in Heaven do not need to be omniscient - they need to be, and in Heaven they are, full of Godís Love. The more people love each other, the more united with each other they are, and the better they know each other. Love attracts people to each other, and conforms people to each other. And this is true in normal human relations. But the Saints in Heaven are loved by God, so they are conformed to Christ, Who dwells in them by His Holy Spirit, and Christ is formed in them: they are, in effect, created, limited miniature editions of Christ - they are created extensions of Him. (That, ISTM, is part of what creatures are for - the Logos made man is the Exemplar and Model of all mankind, and of all creatures; to be created at all, is to be fulfilled only in Christ.)

    The Saints in Heaven have His Heart in them, His Mind, His Purpose, His Obedience, His Will, and (in due measure) His Grace. Since they share in His Sonship by adoption as sons, His Grace, His Life, His Spirit, His Sufferings, His Divine Nature (in a manner fitting their creatureliness), His Virtues, and in so much else that is His by right and theirs by His Grace, it stands to reason (to put it no more strongly) that His Love for the Church on Earth should be expressed through and by them. ďTheirĒ intercession, is simply His intercession, through them. They do in Heaven, in the full and unclouded Light of Godís Presence, what they did in the partial light of faith on Earth. We do not ďknow, as we are knownĒ - they do. They live the parts of 1 Corinthians 13 which we can as yet only hope for. So they are very much better off than we are.

    Considerations of space and of objections like the Overworked Telephonist problem - ďHow can a single Saint ďfieldĒ a million prayers at once ?Ē STM to make the mistake of transferring the conditions of Earth, to Heaven. Itís like thinking of the Ascension of Christ, *as though* the Glorified Christ were subject to the same conditions as a Saturn V rocket. If Christians can be ďseated in the heavenlies in ChristĒ, and yet be on Earth, why should the Saints in Heaven in Christ be unable to know of Earthly things whatever God wills them to know ? What the Saints are believed to be able to do, is not in origin from them at all, but is Godís Working in them.

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    Professor KingsGambit's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rushing Jaws View Post
    What the Orthodox say, I donít know - though Origen touches on the matter in his treatise On Prayer.

    IMO, the Saints in Heaven do not need to be omniscient - they need to be, and in Heaven they are, full of Godís Love. The more people love each other, the more united with each other they are, and the better they know each other. Love attracts people to each other, and conforms people to each other. And this is true in normal human relations. But the Saints in Heaven are loved by God, so they are conformed to Christ, Who dwells in them by His Holy Spirit, and Christ is formed in them: they are, in effect, created, limited miniature editions of Christ - they are created extensions of Him. (That, ISTM, is part of what creatures are for - the Logos made man is the Exemplar and Model of all mankind, and of all creatures; to be created at all, is to be fulfilled only in Christ.)

    The Saints in Heaven have His Heart in them, His Mind, His Purpose, His Obedience, His Will, and (in due measure) His Grace. Since they share in His Sonship by adoption as sons, His Grace, His Life, His Spirit, His Sufferings, His Divine Nature (in a manner fitting their creatureliness), His Virtues, and in so much else that is His by right and theirs by His Grace, it stands to reason (to put it no more strongly) that His Love for the Church on Earth should be expressed through and by them. ďTheirĒ intercession, is simply His intercession, through them. They do in Heaven, in the full and unclouded Light of Godís Presence, what they did in the partial light of faith on Earth. We do not ďknow, as we are knownĒ - they do. They live the parts of 1 Corinthians 13 which we can as yet only hope for. So they are very much better off than we are.

    Considerations of space and of objections like the Overworked Telephonist problem - ďHow can a single Saint ďfieldĒ a million prayers at once ?Ē STM to make the mistake of transferring the conditions of Earth, to Heaven. Itís like thinking of the Ascension of Christ, *as though* the Glorified Christ were subject to the same conditions as a Saturn V rocket. If Christians can be ďseated in the heavenlies in ChristĒ, and yet be on Earth, why should the Saints in Heaven in Christ be unable to know of Earthly things whatever God wills them to know ? What the Saints are believed to be able to do, is not in origin from them at all, but is Godís Working in them.
    That seems to render prayer to the saints as, at best, superfluous. But I do know Origen was a bit of a speculative thinker so there's a good chance he wasn't dogmatic about this anyway.
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    Must...have...caffeine One Bad Pig's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KingsGambit View Post
    That seems to render prayer to the saints as, at best, superfluous. But I do know Origen was a bit of a speculative thinker so there's a good chance he wasn't dogmatic about this anyway.
    Yes and no. In a sense, prayer to the saints is superfluous because we could just directly ask God instead. On the other hand, prayer to the saints establishes a sense of koininia with them. The church consists of the living and those who have fallen asleep. Since becoming Orthodox, I feel a much, much deeper connection to those who have gone before.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Apologiaphoenix View Post
    I'm with Norrin on this one and yes, if the practice wasn't going on in the time of say, Justin Martyr, why should we find him saying something against it? If we find him making several statements on prayer and none of them talk about saints, then we have reason to be suspicious.
    Prayer to the saints is emphatically NOT necromantic. The charge is akin to saying the practice is demonic, a highly serious charge (to say the least). Do you really want to go there?

    Also, argument from silence duly noted. Does Justin Martyr say anything about asking others to pray for him?
    Enter the Church and wash away your sins. For here there is a hospital and not a court of law. Do not be ashamed to enter the Church; be ashamed when you sin, but not when you repent. Ė St. John Chrysostom

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