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Against Hacking Christianity

A collection of Christian Polemics By Paul Anthony Preussler

Dominus noster Christus veritatem se, non consuetudinem, cognominavit


Our Lord Christ has said that He is the Truth, not Fashion. - Tertullian

Table of Contents:
Introduction
Prologue: A Letter to Reverend Jeremy Smith
The Apostolic Faith
Against Unitarianism
The Gnostic Theology of The Matrix
Love and the Bride of Christ
Celibacy and Christian Ascetism
The Impact of Canon Law

Icons of Christ and the Virgin Mary: The Role of Men and Women in the Church
On the Ministry of Women
Confessional Requirements of Methodism, and the Authority of St. John Chrysostom

Orthodox Doctrine and Homosexuality


The Challenge of Orthodoxy
Homosexuality, the Bible, and Church Tradition
In Response to Allegations of Prooftexting
The Imperative of Repentance
The Binding Nature of the Pauline Injunctions
The Propriety of Civil Disobedience Against The Church
Love, Truth, and Orthodoxy
Miscellanea

The Sanctity of Church Tradition


A Rejection of the Church As Hackerspace
St. Paul and Excommunication
On Transgressions of The Book of Discipline
Heresy in the United Methodist Church
The Importance of the Apostolic Faith
On the Nature of Hell
Orthodoxy, The Laity, and Freedom of Conscience

The Authority of Holy Scripture


Against an Unfaithful Translation of the Syriac Gospel
Dogmatic Fidelity and Hermeneutics
Regarding the Jesus Seminar
The Tragedy of This Tragic Gospel
Elaine Pagels and Gnosticism
Cutting Up The Bible

Sacramental Theology
The Baptismal Imperative
Pastoral Calling, and Communion with the Holy Spirit
Regarding Beth Moore
Orthodox Liturgical Innovation and Blasphemy
On Vernacular Languages, and Roman Hegemony
The Blood of The New Testament

Appendix I: Dialogue with David Mosher about Apostasy


Appendix II: The Doctrines of the Apostolic Faith
Catholic Christianity
Christian Orthodoxy
Holy Communion and Sacramental Theology

Appendix III: The Creeds

The Nicene Creed


The Athanasian Creed
The Apostles' Creed

Appendix IV: A Glossary of Heresy


Appendix V: A Prayer For The Methodist Church
Introduction

In my infancy, I was baptized into a beautiful Christian church; it was in this church that I was
raised. My earliest memories of this church, which is so dear to my heart, consist of attending it
with my grandparents, my mother, and father. This was a small parish church; the building was
architecturally remarkable, save for an exquisite set of stained glass windows. The Hammond
Organ, while lacking the elegance of a true pipe organ, nonetheless managed to impose its
thunderous presence in the sanctuary in such a way so that, as a small child, I could almost sense
the presence of the divine, through the subtle vibrations transmitted by the deep bass voices of
that splendid instrument. The altar was, inappropriately enough, at the south, but this did have
one tremendously pleasurable side effect when attending services in the morning, that being the
radiant light that would penetrate the sanctuary through the stained glass windows to the East,
which, as exquisitely as any Eastern Orthodox icon, told the story of creation, sacrifice, and
transfiguration that lies at the heart of the Catholic faith. Yet this was not a Catholic parish, but
a Methodist parish.
The Orthodoxy into which I was raised, in which we predictably sung the same hymns at each
festal occasion, decorated the church in the same solemn way, and invariably attended worship in
our Sunday best, with neckties and jackets obligatory for men, and skirts for women,
disappeared around the time I was eight or nine years of old. The pastor who had presided over
most of my early childhood, who had succeeded the one who baptized me, was replaced by a
female pastor, who immediately sought to impose a feminine stamp on the interior of the church,
adding overhanging pink drapes that many commented gave the sanctuary the resemblance of a
brothel. Soon the music changed; the Hammond organ was supplanted by a piano for most
services. This minister was very much in the tradition of modernizing left-wing theologians,
and her sermons consistently challenged and disturbed my understanding of the Christian faith
that I had heretofore happily grown in. I increasingly did not attend church, but instead, chose
to view the wonderful Coral Ridge Hour given by that late, venerable saint of Presbyterianism,
Dr. James Kennedy, whose passing in 2007 struck me with a sadness rivaling that of the loss of
my own grandparents. On one occasion, barely more than a year before he died, I had the
pleasure of attending his church in person, but passed up an opportunity to meet the great
preacher. He had, after the service, entertained a long line of parishioners who formed a queue; I
had not stood in this queue, hoping to catch him in the end. However, I looked into his eyes,
which were so tired, as he prepared to remove his clerical vestments, and I could not bring

myself to burden a man who had been in my life a father figure, supplying that catechetical
instruction that had disappeared from my own parish.
In due course, the female pastor moved on to another parish, in the connexional tradition that
prevailed in the United Methodist Church right up to the turn of the twentieth century. I have to
confess with some shame that I rejoiced when she left; I was delighted at the prospect of a return
to Orthodoxy. At least on the surface, the new pastor, who was both male and theologically
conservative, appeared to deliver on this promise, yet soon, it became clear, this was a man who,
while rigidly traditional in his Biblical hermeneutic, had no appreciation for the beauty of the
Christian liturgy. It was under his tenure that even the piano disappeared, to be replaced by a
Praise band, comprised largely of my teenage friends, in the youth group.
My patience for this man, who was a divorcee, came to an end when, following the death of my
grandfather, he grabbed my mother with some force in an ill-advised attempt to console her. I
later had a similarly disturbing experience with his successor, also male, also rigidly
conservative in his theology, yet without any appreciation for the beauty of the old Methodist
liturgy, when the latter pastor knocked on my door and demanded to speak with me, when I was
consumed with grief over the reported death of my father (a report which, mercifully, and
unbeknownst to both of us, was later shown to be false; my beloved father remains very much
alive at the time of writing).
Ultimately, these experiences made me realize that the beautiful United Methodist Church, the
most theologically Orthodox of the Protestant churches, surely the one closest in thought to the
Apostolic tradition, was being torn asunder by a false dichotomy between a right-wing,
evangelical, and to some extent fundamentalist sect, that valued the authority of the bible, yet
had no understanding for the depth or subtlety of the Catholic faith, particularly the liturgical
tradition, and on the other hand, an unabashedly liberal movement, which most likely instigated
this dichotomy in the first place, relentless in its determination to contradict, undermine or
obliterate our understanding of the Holy Scriptures received from the Fathers of the Church.
The width and depth of this divide makes a mutual accommodation, in the form of the
latitudinarian broad church mentality of the Anglican Communion, from which Methodism
originated, quite improbable, although not altogether impossible.
Rather, it seems the best solution is one based upon unity and reconciliation. Conservative
Methodists must be taught anew the value of Church Tradition, not just the traditions of
Protestantism, but of the entire history of the Christian church, through the Council of Nicaea,
Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Polycarp, Ignatius, the Apostles, and ultimately, Christ himself. The
Church, being the bride of Christ, should be understood as a unified body of Christian believers.
The United Methodist church, unbeknownst to most, may posess a limited form of Apostolic
succession. This comes not through the Anglican episcopate, and thence, the Roman Catholic
prelates from which they were forcibly divorced on the orders of the lecherous and indomitable
Henry VIII, but rather, through the Eastern Orthodox hierarchy, in the person of one Erasmus of

Arcadia, a Greek bishop who was visiting London in 1763. Wesley later in life, while unable to
admit to such an ordination, for such an admission would violate the Prmunire Act and expose
him to execution, refused to deny his ordination as a bishop through the chirothesia of Erasmus.
Thus, in our bid to reclaim our Catholic faith, Methodists must carefully study both the Apostolic
origins of the church, and the Eastern churches that we are in fact connected to. The Wesleyan
doctrine of holiness is equivalent to the Eastern doctrine of theosis; Wesleys understanding of
most theological matters resembles the Eastern churches more closely than that of any other
Protestant theologian. Thus, I wish to unify the Methodist church, by directing the attention of
its hierarchy, clergy, and laity to two authorities, firstly, the Eastern fathers, whose theology
resembles our own, more closely than that of any other church, and secondly, and most
importantly, the early fathers of the Church. Every Methodist should be taught at Sunday school
to recite the Nicene Creed, and Methodists ought to read Athanasius and Irenaeus alongside
Wesley, and certainly well before approaching the writings of Luther and Calvin, which while
espousing a superficially similar Protestant theology to Methodism, are actually quite alien to the
fundamentals of our faith.
An opportunity for promoting a return to the Apostolic faith has presented itself in the form of
the blog Hacking Christianity. Reverend Jeremy Smith, a typically brash young pastor of a
Methodist church in Portland, Oregon, has founded a blog, to apply the ideals of Christianity to
the life-hacking movement. The merits of this proposition I debate with him in several of the
exchanges that follow, however, it cannot be denied that his blog has provided an invaluable
forum with which to begin this important conversation. How this conversation ends depends on
the collective courage and piety of the entire Methodist communion. Do Methodists have the
necessary humility to utterly disregard the modern misconceptions of Christianity that have
become prevalent? Can they unlearn the schismatic inclination that began at the Hagia Sophia in
1054, when a Papal nuncio slapped a writ of excommunication on the altar as the Patriarch
prepared to celebrate the Divine Liturgy, and continued with the excommunication of Martin
Luther, and the intentional schism of the Churches of England and Geneva? Can they dare to set
aside their personal prejudices, and commit themselves to absolute obedience to the very
specific, very detailed instructions of the church fathers, regarding all matter of life? Only time
will tell. Yet I am convinced of one thing: if the Methodist communion fails in this objective, it
will be destroyed, for heretical churches can be shown through the experience of history to be
unable to withstand the test of time.
This collection of polemics consists of my replies to various posts by Jeremy Smith, or other
commentators, on his blog. It begins with a letter authored to Reverend Smith, in response to a
query posed by him as to my intentions, explaining in detail the purpose of this mission. It then
continues with topical sections of responses, directed at specific remarks which I felt warranted a
thorough theological treatment. However, I should warn the reader that the topical categories
into which I have sorted my responses are a form of loose organization, for one will find the
themes of scriptural authority and the importance of church tradition scattered throughout all of

the letters. Each category should be viewed as referring to the primary focus of the material, but
all of these categories overlap significantly.
I should like to close this introduction by expressing a sincere prayer, that in my efforts to refute
heresy and proclaim the orthodox faith, I am able to restrain myself from the sin of pride. To the
extent that I show arrogant contempt or cruel intolerance for those who have not received the
Apostolic faith as I interpret it, I sin against love. I also pray that my interpretation, to the
fullest extent possible for any human, born in sin, and into a sinful world, is as true to the
intentions of the Apostles and the cloud of witnesses of Christendom as possible, and I concede
the possibility for error exists. Thus, in all humility, and in deep fear of God, I present these, my
theological responses, to Reverend Jeremy Smith, and those who have associated with him on his
blog.

Prologue: A Letter to Reverend Jeremy Smith


Dear Rev. Smith:
In answer to your question, in writing each individual reply, I am replying either to your original
post, or to the post made by another commentator. My objective is to describe the traditional
doctrine of the Methodist church into which I was baptized, the same church that you are a pastor
of, or, in the exceedingly rare case where this doctrine is not compatible with the apostolic faith,
the correct alternative doctrine in that case. Wesley was the foremost of the Protestant
theologians, but he was not God, nor even Gregory of Nazianzus, and thus there are a few
aspects even in traditional Methodism which are partially heterodox, but on the whole, the
Methodist religion, at one time, more closely resembled the Apostolic faith than any other
Protestant sect, with the possible exception of some of the High Church Anglicans.
Now, it may surprise you to note that much of what you've posted on hackingchristianity.net I've
actually agreed with, and the maximum severity of error has usually been present in the form of
some individual commentators, including both your supporters and your detractors, some of
whom go beyond being theologically conservative, to outright nasty. However, in the past few
days I have grown concerned as I've been going through some of the older posts you made, by a
few specific posts you made which actually are deeply theologically problematic. The debate
about homosexuality that rages on is actually relatively theologically uninteresting; I find it
annoying how this has become the point where theological conservatives say "Thus far and no
further!"; they should have made a stand ages ago, at least as far back as the turn of the 20th
century, when you had the Modernist movement surface in the Roman Catholic church, and you
had Kirby Page writing Jesus or Christianity. In all fairness to everyone, some of the people
coming out of the woodwork to decry homosexual marriage in the UMC are clearly doing so for
the wrong reasons, that being, homophobia or hatred, as opposed to a desire to maintain the
apostolic faith. (It is for this reason that I am not content that the UMC should not follow in the
footsteps of the PCUSA in this respect; maintaining the Biblical stance on homosexuality is
neccessary, but it is only the first step, towards a phased recovery the apostolic faith that, if
possible, will occur over the course of many decades; if impossible, the UMC will instead
undoubtably fragment into two separate churches, one of them, like the PCUSA or the UCC or

the Episcopalians, suffering a terminal decline in membership, and open to any theological
novelty, and the other of the Mark Driscoll / 9Marks variety of fundamentalist cruelty).
On coming to your blog, I was initially deeply troubled, even nauseated, because I am also
someone who could be described as on the periphery of hacker culture; I've collaborated with
ESR and Rob Savoie, I belong to LUG, I manage thousands of servers and network devices, and
I write automation software. At first glance, your blog appeared to be mocking both my faith
and my line of work. However, it is true to say there aren't many Christians in hackerdom, as a
read through the Jargon File will attest, and I realized that your work does have the potential to
reach many of my colleagues, who range from dyed in the wool atheists, to theistic satanists, to
practioners of wicca, with a great many Buddhists and other practitioners of syncretic Eastern
religion in the middle. In addition, you have expressed views on sacramental theology that I
regard as being entirely correct.
Within recent weeks however, I have stumbled across some older articles on your blog which are
substantially darker. In these articles, which are admittedly not recent, with a few exceptions,
you express an affinity for process theology, which effectively denies the omnipotence of God
and is contrary to both Holy Scripture and Church Tradition; you interpret Matthew 22 in an
intentionally backwards manner that disagrees with that of virtually every Christian theological
authority from John Chrysostom to John Wesley; you are unable to say why Zacchaeus is saved,
and speculate as to the reason in a manner that borders on an endorsement of Pelagianism, and
perhaps more seriously, you echo the sentiment of Louis A. Ruprecht that posits the Gospel of
John being in opposition to that of Mark, and John or perhaps psuedo-John being a malevolent
usurper of the first century hierarchy; a book which I have read, and feel is based on nothing
more than a highly implausible and frankly illogical exegesis, that is at odds with all of the
recorded traditions of the church. It seems to me that you are at risk in joining Elaine Pagels in
this neo-Gnostic camp, that wants to say that every legitimate text, endorsed by Patristic
authority, that has come down to us, represents an evil attempt to repress women, and conceal
the true Gospel of Jesus, and we should abandon these texts, and dismiss the writings of
Irenaeus, of the Nicene fathers, and of Orthodox theology in general, and instead, reinvent
Christianity based on an idealized interpretation of a handful of moth-eaten scrolls buried in the
Egyptian desert.
Thus, in answer to your questions, do I have some hidden agenda in my work on your blog? The answer
to that is in the affirmative; I am working to illuminate the heresy, that has spread across your blog like
clouds of dust, that obscures the truth of traditional Christian dogma, not just for the edification of your
readers, but also for the salvation of souls, most importantly, yours. If you open the clay vessel full of
theological worms that is the Gnostic heresy, which you appear to be dangerously close to doing, you, by
virtue of your prominence attained through your blog, will not just be a heretic, but a heresiarch. In your
own commentary, you exhibit a dangerous lack of reverence; you seldom stress the need for repentence,
the reality of sin, the existence of actual dogmatic truth in the Christian faith, or the importance of fervent
prayer, in pursuit of the Wesleyan objective of holiness, or its Eastern equivalent, theosis; most
worryingly, there is a shocking lack of actual Biblical or Patristic quotation. Now, I am of the opinion
that laity cannot commit the sin of heresy; God would place an undue burden on them, and disturb the
order of the Church, if he required of them that they personally verify the dogmatic integrity of everything

their pastor teaches. However, you, as a clergyman, can fall into heresy, because it is your responsibility
to ensure the correct transmission of Christian doctrine to those under your pastoral care, especially
including those reading your blog, which has become your most visible ministry. To intentionally fail to
do so is to risk ones own salvation, and I say this as someone who is equally at risk, for my responses on
your blog constitute a form of ministry, and if I lead anyone astray, I do so at my extreme peril. The fact
that as humans, living in the condition of original sin, we are bound to make mistakes, is particularly
humbling to consider in light of this; I am increasingly convinced that Apocalypse 22:18-19 apply not just
to the Revelation received by John the Beloved Disciple on Patmos, but to the Christian faith in its
entirety; although their position at the end of the New Testament can be viewed as a historical accident, it
is in accidents such as these that the Holy Spirit works.
Now, not transmitting heresy, does not require an absolute uniformity in the Christian faith. What is
required is Orthodoxy, that is to say, correct glorification, as opposed to Orthopraxy. Within the
apostolic religion, the work of the Ecumenical movement has made it abundantly clear that the blessings
of the Holy Spirit have touched a vast range of people, who worship in a vast array of styles. Consider
the profound contrast between the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and the Anglo Catholics, yet both groups
are Christians, both follow the Nicene creed, and both adhere to the essentials of the faith. Our religion,
with four gospels, and a massive collection of other scriptural books, in different versions, not to mention
hundreds of different liturgical traditions, allows for more diversity than certainly any of the other major
religions by themselves, even including the rich array of different sects within Hindu. However, there is
a line that can be crossed, that does separate the Apostolic faith, the faith of Basil the Great, the faith of
Athanasius, the faith of John Wesley, from the faith of the heretics: Gnosticism, Marcionism, Arianism,
Socinianism, Sabellianism.
Now, in saying that such a line exists I am not saying that all members of heretical Christian sects are
damned. For that matter, I have every confidence that our Lord Jesus Christ, in His infinite mercy, will
deign to save as many as accept his love, even outside the defined boundaries of Christianity; we can say
for certain where the Church is, but it is much more difficult, if not impossible, to say where it is not.
Judge not, lest ye not be judged. However, it is entirely legitimate, and of Biblical precedence, to warn a
fellow Christian when they appear to be straying from the path. Without denying that I myself am a
dreadful sinner, I fear for the safety of all of those, yourself included, who appear to be stressing forms of
Christianity that de-emphasize the theology of sin and repentance, in favor of a theology of unequivocal
affirmation. I know many Methodist pastors who have devolved into glorified funeral directors; they do
not really believe the religion they preach; they view themselves as functionaries, whose job is to please
their mostly aged congregations by delivering uplifting sermons, and then to officiate over their funerals
when the inevitable occurs. Many of these are aware of it, yet unaware of the root cause for the decline
in our congregation, celebrate any younger congregants who come along, and are willing to do whatever
it takes to accommodate them spiritually, even if that means radically reinterpreting or outright rejecting
inconvenient scriptural verses.
The actual reason the United Methodist Church is deteriorating in North America, but not in Africa, is
because within North America, we have fallen into the trappings of heresy. The PCUSA, the ELCA, the
Episcopal Church USA, the UCC, and the other mainline denominations are in an even more advanced
state of decay, because they lack the integrated global governance of the UMC, which has acted as a
check on heresy; the theologically conservative African parishes, in concert with parishes in rural parts of

the US that have a similar worldview, will veto any changes that are entirely too dramatic. This was not,
unfortunately, the case, in the years leading up to the merger of the old Methodist Episcopal Church with
the Evangelical United Brethren, when much of this decay began. Ordinarily, I would not dare to
reproach a clergyman, for that would be the job of his bishop, but in our case, practically our entire synod
in North America is theologically corrupt, if not in whole, than in part. The most likely outcome is
schism, similar to what has already occurred in the Episcopalian, Presbyterian and indeed the
Congregationalist denominations. Yet such a schism would be tragic, because inevitably, mean-spirited
fundamentalists would take over the conservative remnant, and the liberal remnant would simply die out
altogether, or wind up merging with another denomination. Both would eventually disappear.
I would ask you to consider for a moment the impact of heresy on Christian communities. The Arian
sect, which briefly enjoyed a status as the Imperial religion in the years following the death of
Constantine I, had completely vanished by around 800 AD. The Ebionites and other Jewish Christian
groups that denied the deity of Christ in like manner disappeared. Marcionism was gone within 200
years of its inception. Gnosticism, the most pernicious and pervasive heresy to infect the modern church
survives (not counting modern neo-Gnostic groups such as the Ecclesia Gnostica), in the form of two
religions, Yazidism and Mandaism, but neither of these are Christian, the former having replaced or
mutated Christ into the person of the Peacock Angel, with Luciferian overtones (and a particularly strong
resemblance to the Islamic conception of the devil, Shaitan, or Iblis; the Yazidis have a taboo against
pronouncing words that begin with Shai interestingly), and the latter, worshipping John the Baptist
instead of Christ.
A more recent example of how heresy ultimately leads to apostasy can be found in the Unitarian
community. Unitarianism in its present form is a recent heresy, dating from the time of the Protestant
reformation; it originated in Poland under Fausto Sozzini, who organized the Minor Brethren, the
descendants of what is now the Unitarian Church of Transylvania. This was the first of many Unitarian
groups, united in the belief that the Trinity was not a Biblical doctrine. Yet historically, most Unitarians
were devout Christians; the Baltimore Sermon of William Ellery Channing displays a more vigorous,
devout, and authentic Christian faith than that heard from the pulpits of most Methodist churches today,
or indeed, in most posts on your blog.
Yet Unitarianism could not survive the cumulative damage done through the effects of heresy. The
majority of Unitarian Universalists today do not believe in Christian doctrine to any appreciable extent;
for that matter, Christian dogma is not a confessional requirement of the Transylvanian or British
Unitarians. Instead, we have churches that welcome atheists, Hindus, pagans, and all manner of
believers, who go to church for the sake of fellowship. Such interfaith fellowship is itself not bad; I
recently attended an uplifting interfaith service, but it should not come at the expense of our own religious
traditions. Unitarian Christianity, as such, is very nearly dead, and will not last much longer, as the
experience with Gnosticism shows. The last authentically Christian Gnostics, the Bogomils and the
Cathars, have been gone since the fourteenth century; the Manichees, who were related to Christianity
and probably authored The Gospel of Thomas, disappeared around the same time, although a Manichaen
temple disguised as a Buddhist temple survives in China. It is also debatable as to what extent the
Cathars or the Bogomils represented authentic continuations of historical Gnosticism, or were rather
merely innovative sects that happened to have independently re-invented the Gnostic heresy.

The undeniable fact, however, is that, against all odds, the Orthodox, Catholic brand of Christianity is the
only one that has survived intact for the past two thousand years. The Gnostics disappeared, in spite of
having an official policy of denying their faith, or of syncretically participating in the Roman Pagan
religion, when challenged by Roman authorities. The Arians disappeared despite overwhelming support
from the Imperial court in Constantinople; Athanasius is said to have fought Arianism Contra mundum.
Unitarian Christianity is disappearing as a discrete religion, despite many of the founding fathers of the
US, and many of the foremost British intellectuals, being devout Unitarian Christians (who were
followers of Jesus Christ first, and Unitarians second), who would most likely be appalled by what their
denomination had become (or for that matter, by what it had failed to become).
The UMC, despite the severe decay it has experienced, still has some denominational viability. Yet we
know that it is not enough. I would draw your attention to the Eastern Orthodox, the Southern Baptists,
the Roman Catholics, and other conservative denominations, that actually account for much of our loss.
The overall population of Christians is shrinking, but to a very large extent, within Christianity, what is
occurring is that conservative Christians are leaving liberal denominations and transferring to more
conservative ones, often denominations that are shockingly different from the ones in which they were
raised (consider the example of Peter Gilquist, and the numerous Protestant converts to Eastern
Orthodoxy, which is very different from Protestantism both liturgically and theologically).
My goal therefore is to educate Methodists on the beauty of the apostolic faith of Christianity, and of their
own legacy, which, while certainly not unspotted, is nothing to be ashamed of, for as Christian
denominations go, we historically possessed a theology very close to that of the fourth century Church.
Where the Bishops fail to do their job, by appointing to their own ranks and that of the presbyteriate,
people who do not hold the apostolic faith, my goal is to expose their error. In like manner, when
Methodists, even those such as yourself who seem to labor under what the Russians refer to as prelest, do
uphold the faith, as you have in several of your blog posts, I intend to give due credit.
Now that you know my intentions, I have a few questions for you to consider:
To what extent are you aware of your own sin?
Have you experienced in your life a profoundly positive impact resulting from repentance? If so, do you
think back upon this often?
How many hours a day do you devote to prayer?
Do you observe morning and evening prayer, the liturgy of the hours, or use the Jesus Prayer, Centering
Prayer, Lectio Divino, or another formalized system of Christian devotion?
Do you have a rule of prayer?
How do you interpret the historic mission of the Priesthood, the cure of souls? Do you understand that
as being your job? It is very obvious you do at least care about evangelism, as your blog demonstrates
that, and I do appreciate that tremendously.

How do you feel about the Christian creeds? Having seen that John Wesley did in fact include the
Apostolic creed in his Sunday Service liturgy, have you to any extent reconsidered your view of them as
weaksauce? Have you tried incorporating the recital of creeds in your personal devotional practices?
How much of your time do you spend studying the Gospel? The entire Bible? Commentaries on the
Bible? The Church Fathers? Have you read the Sayings of the Desert Fathers, or the Philokalia, or the
Ladder of Divine Ascent? For that matter, how much time do you spend studying the life and works of
John Wesley? (Presumably a fair amount in his case at least).
Do not feel obliged to answer these questions, which are by their very nature personal. Just as you in
your sermons seek to give your congregation something to think about, I in like manner seek to give you
something to think about.
Christianity is not a religion of sunshine and rainbows. It is not a religion that is completely happy and
upbeat, although it does have a very optimistic message, especially compared to some religions. I
personally find Buddhism to be very depressing; the idea that the entire cycle of life and death is evil, and
were trapped within it indefinitely; our only way out being utter oblivion, is extremely unsatisfying, and
I feel if more people understood what Buddhism actually seeks (and most Buddhists really dont, or are in
a state of denial about it, in my experience), it would not be on the rise as it is today. Christianity on the
other hand does have an upbeat message: we do not have to detach ourselves from our loved ones; we can
love people, we can love the world, matter is not, as the Gnostics would have us believe, evil, but is rather
good, and the work of God.
However, and this is the unpleasant aspect, at least superficially, we must understand our sinful nature.
We cannot help but sin, we cannot save ourselves, as the Pelagians do vainly boast; however, we must
fervently repent of our sin and pray to God for our salvation. The Epistle of James suggests that our faith
must be a living faith; we cannot, as Luther suggested, sin, and sin boldly, and expect that we are entitled
to forgiveness for such an act of sin. Our heavenly father has incredible patience, but there is a point
where our rebellion against His divine commandments for us reaches the point where it can only be
interpreted as hatred; if we preach an anomial Gospel, as Luther did, or preach that the moral imperatives
of God can be reinterpreted to suit the politically correct ideals of contemporary society, we do violence
to him. I would go on to say that in engaging in such conduct, we ourselves repeat the actions of
Caiaphas that led to the crucifixion of Christ; we engage in such pride that we are overtaken through
delusion, and become wholly susceptible to demonic influence. We give ourselves over to all manner of
strange and unnatural passions, of which we have no control. The result is that we separate ourselves,
perhaps permanently, from our loving and long-suffering Creator.
Yet there is hope. I do believe that in prayer, we can reconcile not just ourselves, but our brothers and
sisters, to Christ. Rejecting the baseless Protestant notion that prayers for the dead are ineffective and
contrary to the Apostolic faith, I pray fervently for the salvation of Martin Luther, for the forgiveness of
his heresy and his vile, hateful writings about the Jews, on the grounds of the profound good that was
accomplished through his translation of the Bible into the German language, and the reformation he
caused both within what became the Protestant North, and within the Roman Catholic Church itself,
which was forced through his actions to abandon its most detestable practices. In like manner, I pray for
the salvation of the Gnostics, and for the illumination of those still alive. What a glorious day it would
be if Elaine Pagels, for example, were to realize the terrible truth of the religion she writes about, and

repent of her views thus far, for indeed it is probable that Irenaeus was not in error when he connected
Gnosticism to the religion of Simon Magus.
It is of Gnosticism that I would urge you to be particularly careful of; this appears to be the heresy you
have veered closest to, and if you do become a heresiarch, it will most certainly be of some form of neoGnosticism. Gnosticism predates Christianity; I personally suspect it may be connected to the cult of the
God Most High mentioned in Acts; it saw in our Savior a convenient figure with which to appropriate.
Yet it is not a religion of light, but of darkness; the Gnostic sects are almost without exception exclusivist,
looking down with utter contempt on those lacking the divine spark that would lead to their escape from
this material universe. Different Gnostic texts, doubtless originating from a family of different, yet
related sects, ranging from Valentinism to Manichaeism to Cainism to modern day Mandaism and
Yazidism, have glorified Judas and other Biblical villains, while demonizing those traditionally
understood as saints (much like a recent sermon of Mark Driscoll demonized Esther), have uttered
profoundly misogynistic remarks (the famous quote from the Gospel of Thomas comes to mind), and
consistently depict Jesus as an angry, mocking deity who makes fun of people, who in his childhood
commits acts of murder; the Mandaeans (who are actually very nice people who I have some connection
with given my involvement in Syriac Christianity, as they speak a Syriac dialect and have been seeking to
build relations with the Assyrians) regard the Holy Spirit as evil. As beautiful a religion as Christianity
is, I consider Gnosticism to be an ugly religion; it is profoundly hateful when examined in the cold light
of day.
Now, if you cannot reconcile yourself with the doctrines of the Apostles, I would also urge you to
consider your career. He who persists to the end will surely be saved, but at present, it is debatable to
what extent you are actually persisting; the Apostle Paul warned the early church that if anyone came
preaching contrary to what He and the other Apostles taught, even if they were an angel from Heaven,
they should be excommunicated (for this reason, one might wish the Roman Catholics had viewed the
Marian apparition at Fatima with greater discernment). In your case, you have directly contravened
several Pauline injunctions, regarding homosexuality, and the role of women in the Church. If you
continue in this course, in a conservative denomination such as the UMC, I feel it will be more perilous
for you, than if you stop now and transfer to another religion more in line with your belief systems.
You could transfer to the PCUSA or the Episcopalians or the UCC; it would surely be less perilous to
preach in a sect of Christianity that has already diverged from the Apostolic faith, than to advocate such
divergence within a sect that still retains that faith, even if by the most tenuous and fleeting grasp. If you
should wind up being the one who places the proverbial last straw upon the back of the Methodist camel,
I would propose that might be very dangerous for the safety of your mortal soul. I will pray for your
salvation in any case. However, if you were to transfer to the Unitarians, that might be the best bet.
They could use an influx of liberal Christians; they would benefit from an increase of Christian thought
within their denomination, and you might well be able to speak the same theological language that they
speak. At the same time, since they have no pretense of maintaining any aspect of the Apostolic faith,
you would not be endangering your own salvation, and would not risk becoming a heresiarch.
Better yet, however, through intense prayer, you may be able to perceive the beauty of the apostolic faith;
to understand that we do not hate homosexuals, that we do not hate adulterers, but that rather, we are
merely called to be the salt and light of the world, to warn people of the importance of repenting, and of

living a blessed life in the fullness of Christs love, fighting against the temptation to sin, rather than
embracing it. I myself have often been tempted, and occasionally I have yielded to those temptations,
with disastrous effects. Yet I have in each case been saved through the loving hand of Providence,
through the divine synergy that occurs between myself, pursuing my Lord Jesus Christ in prayer and
repentance, and the Holy Spirit. The Church has made mistakes, to be sure. The early Church could
have done more about slavery; the Roman Catholics put millions to the sword and blasphemed the name
of Christ in the process; many conservative Christians practice a doctrinaire form of Christianity that is
ultimately devoid of light or warmth or spiritual beauty. Yet we cannot help but sin, due to the depraved
condition of the world, whether one subscribes to the Augustinian or the Eastern interpretation of original
sin. What we can help, is whether or not we act on the loving grace of God, that we continually receive
through the Holy Spirit, and in acting on that, and pursuing a life of holiness, as John Wesley so
passionately advocated, we can procure for ourselves and others their salvation.
Thus, my final recommendation for you would be to meditate on the doctrine of the Transfiguration. Just
as Christ was transfigured on Mount Tabor, many, especially in Eastern Christianity, feel that through
intense pursuit of holiness, or theosis, we can be transfigured in this life. This requires that we
passionately hate sin, and even more passionately love God, giving ourselves completely over to His
divine love. It requires intense ascetism, and fervent prayer, and during the pursuit of this objective, one
will frequently be horribly attacked by the devil, often in subtle and unexpected ways. Yet I feel the
rewards make this torturous path ultimately worthwhile. Ask yourself, have you yourself ever
encountered, or even heard of, any Christians that you have felt were transfigured? If you can sincerely
find an example of transfiguration in the world, there you will find the path towards the recovery of your
faith, and if you find that path, you will concurrently procure salvation not just for yourself, but for many.

The Apostolic Faith


Against Universalism
In response to an article by Rev. Jeremy Smith in which he depicts a diagram showing a spectrum of
views on salvation in Christianity, starting with Presdestination, continuing with Exclusivism, then
Inclusivism, then Universal Grace (soft), Universal Salvation (hard) and finally ending with Pluralism.
The problem with your diagram is that it suggests that a spectrum exists in which the middle ground is
somewhere in between inclusivism and pluralism; this is not a Biblical nor an orthodox standpoint to be
expressed within Christianity.
Firstly, the reality is that the accepted consensus within orthodox Christianity, adhered to by the majority
of Protestant denominations, the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox, and the
Assyrian Church of the East, as well as the majority of church fathers (with a few isolated exceptions) is
that all salvation comes through Christ. Now, the Eastern Orthodox take a rather agreeable view on this
subject; they do not in the manner of some Calvinists arrogantly assume immediate and irrevocable
salvation on the basis of their professed faith, but rather salvation as a process, and life eternal as the
reward lying beyond the finish long of a desperately challenging life-long struggle with sin. Martin
Luther, driven to the brink of insanity by the oppressive and heterodox teachings of the Roman Catholic
Church during its dark period (in which I would agree with him might be referred to as a Babylonian
Captivity, but which fortunately has been over since at least the era of John Henry Newman), felt

compelled to proclaim that we should Sin and sin boldly, but I feel that he was wrong to say that; even
if we do accept the doctrine of Sola Fide, which is not in and of itself an unreasonable doctrine, we should
not assume that our faith will continue without, at a minimum, the necessary repentance of, and aversion
to, sin; while mankind in this life cannot help but be in a state of sin, one should not openly and
enthusiastically embrace sin.
This takes us to the second point, which is that allowing for a universalist approach to salvation hampers
the missionary work of the church, and promotes sinful behavior. Surely, if one cannot help but be
saved, regardless of ones actions, then one might as well ignore the biblical proscriptions against
adultery, lasciviousness, drunken revelry, dishonesty, and cruelty to the extent one finds it advantageous.
The admonition of Immaneul Kant, that even if one does not believe in a God, one should act as if there is
one, becomes laughable in the face of such a view, and the Christian faith itself will not persist, which is
why the Unitarian Universalists have drifted away from preaching the Gospel.
Finally, and most importantly, I feel compelled to mention the very important observation by
Metropolitan Kallistos Ware of Diokleia (who is eminant both by title and on his own merits as an
intellectual and theologian) when he expressed clearly the problem with the view that all must be saved,
by pointing out that the one thing God cannot do is force us to love him; love that is enforced is in fact not
love. The gates of Hell, as CS Lewis put it, are locked on the inside. However, Ware points out that it is
legitimate to hope that all *may* be saved; it should also be noted that the Eastern Orthodox, in the
doctrine of Christus Victor, consider that Christ in the Harrowing of Hell gave those who had preceded
his ministry in this world the opportunity to follow him into salvation; I have seen a rather touching
Eastern Orthodox icon which depicts an empty and desolate Hell, with empty chains and shackles lying
about. However, another equally poignant icon depicts the Ladder of Divine Ascent, with Christ
leaning out a trapdoor at the top of a ladder, assisting those faithful climbing up it to safety, while winged
demons pelt them with arrows and capture those who falter. This nightmarish image accurately depicts
this world in which we live, in which we benefit continually from the grace of Gods creation, yet at the
same time continually suffer due to our sinful nature and the constant and pervasive evil temptation that
our adversary subjects us to.
The unfortunate and unpleasant truth, which I would propose John Wesley understood better than any
other Protestant theologian to date, is that we are completely lost without our Lord, who has given us the
free choice as to whether or not we will love and honor him, and who is both infinitely patient and longsuffering. It is both legitimate to hope and pray that all may be saved, regardless of their faith, as long as
we affirm that their salvation is purely the product of the grace of Christ; no one is saved through their
own merits; but we also cannot deny that one can surely just as easily be damned by ones lack of merit.
Thus as Christians, we are obliged to continually stress the importance of repentance and holiness, and
not to concede to the demands of modern secular thought just because we want to make people feel better;
we must not tell people what the want to hear, but rather, what they require for their salvation.

The Gnostic Theology of The Matrix


To UmJeremy, on the catechtical use of The Matrix trilogy:
This is one of the better posts youve made, as it emphasizes the fundamental Christian doctrine of love
and how this can overcome totalitarian systems of oppression; the ultimate example of this is the Cross,

which manifested itself in the ability of the early church to not only successfully resist the considerable
effort on the part of successive Roman emperors to abolish it, but also in the remarkable ability of the
Church to humanize the later empire.
Now, I do feel a few points should be made that may have been overlooked. Christianity subverts systems
of oppression through loving submission and verbal dissent. This important fact however should not be
misconstrued as meaning that all authority that we submit to is necessarily evil or oppressive. On the
contrary, the authority exercised by the ecclesiastical hierarchy in transmitting Gods commandments, and
the authority implemented by secular hierarchy in implementing them, represents to some extent an
instrument of Gods will (although people in authority must be careful to avoid the dangerous delusion
that evil acts they take are in any way subject to divine justification on the basis of their office).
Some mention should also be made of The Matrix trilogy. One could see in the last film from the series
(which is perhaps the most difficult to watch) a number of Christological parallels in Neo; this however
should not surprise the alert viewer, for in fact The Matrix could well have received the alternate title
Gnosticism: The Movie. The essential premise of the Matrix is closely related to Christianity, and this
manifests itself in the statements made by the Architect (himself a fictionalized Demiurge). Almost all of
the philosophy expounded in the Matrix is either Gnosticism or neo-Gnosticism (the Cartesian Evil
Demon). Because Gnosticism is a degenerate and heretical form of Christianity, and because the Matrix
trilogy talks about Gnosticism more frequently and more accurately than anything else (the technological
aspects of the Matrix are rather shabby and poorly done in comparison; there is a slight tragedy in that the
series could well have worked as hard SF, but the writers instead through choice or ignorance rendered it
as soft SF), the Matrix story will naturally offer substantial parallels to Christian thought, which at face
value may appear to be theologically instructive.
However, I would caution against clergy using the Matrix trilogy, however popular, to illustrate Christian
teachings, because of its Gnostic associations. While mentioning it in passing on a blog such as this, with
an intellectual readership, is probably not dangerous, using it an areas such as within a youth ministry or
seeker service might be catechtically dangerous, because the trilogy in addition to advocating certain
points compatible with the catholic Christian faith as practiced by the UMC and others in mainstream
Christianity, also advocates several key ideas inseparable from Gnosticism, which have in recent decades
re-emerged after nearly eighteen centuries to become the heresy du jour, specifically, the idea of a flawed
creator deity, himself created by a superior divine hierarchy, the idea of the superiority of the spiritual
realm to the realm of matter, and most importantly (and most prominently emphasized in The Matrix), the
idea of salvation through secret knowledge.
That said, as a Christian and as an enthusiast of SF (I am a huge fan of CS Lewiss Space Trilogy, as one
might expect), I do rejoice in seeing how science fiction can be useful to Christianity. However, there is a
need for discretion, and whereas citing the Matrix is most likely acceptable on this blog due to the
intellectual sophistication of its readership, I would advise the author to avoid using the example given
above in a pastoral sense, without also warning the audience of the theological danger posed by the
somewhat subversive Gnostic philosophy contained therein. For that same philosophy which provides the
element of love mentioned here, as well as numerous other parallels to the Christian faith, also contains
the essential falsehood that has led Christians astray since the time of Simon Magus.

That said, I would congratulate the author on this post, and express a desire for more uplifting material of
this source. I would also dare to give him a suggestion for a possible area of inquiry: the very uplifting
attitude of much of Star Trek towards religion (even Christianity, as in the TOS episode Bread and
Circuses), perhaps contrasted with the somewhat distasteful anticlericalism of the revived Doctor Who.

Love and the Bride of Christ


Regarding an apparent anti-Catholic smear:
Now on this subject, I myself have to say in the case of TalbotDavis, JM Smith, and James Appleworth, I
would point out to them that there is a great danger of reacting to the heresy that is infecting the
Methodist hierarchy in a manner that is overly polemic and perhaps vitriolic. Now, I am as revolted as
you are by a hand drawn poster full of homosexual symbols depicting a trans-sexual God (via the
indicator (s)he), but I in no way hate the Methodists who have fallen under the influence of this
confusion, nor for that matter do I hate transsexuals (actually one of my favorite SF shows in recent years
is Torchwood; I merely feel that homosexuals can find, to quote the particularly offensive speaker
referenced yesterday, more theological meaning, in the Unitarian church, or in another religion that does
not contain Christianitys particularly severe sexual requirements). In the case of UM Jeremy, however,
or the liberal speakers at that conference, i see loving Christians, in sincere and genuine pursuit of Jesus
Christ, and in UMJeremys case even with a sacramental theology that is essentially Orthodox, laboring
under what the Russians would refer to as prelest, inflicted upon them unknowingly and subtly by the
darkest and most deceptive forces known to the church.
This is why its very important to adopt an Eastern approach to sin rather than the degenerate approach of
Anselm or Aquinas or Calvin. I do not view sin as a legal infraction that is to be penalized, but rather as a
disease, resulting from the degenerate condition of reality itself following what in Western Christianity is
referred to as the fall; essentially, I believe in the doctrine of original sin, but not imputed guilt in the
manner of Augustine; my view on this is shaped by John Cassian. As such, i can recline in relative
comfort and simply pray for the salvation of liberal methodists who appear, at the surface, to be at risk of
some form of apostasy, without having to fear their certain damnation.
Now you yourself, speaking of damnation, used the phrase damnable heresy and this reminds me of an
important and relevant point. The Byzantine Triodion, in the week before Lent, features this rather
tragicomic rubric:
During this week the accursed Armenians fast from eggs and cheese, but we, to refute their damnable
heresy, do eat both eggs and cheese for the entire week.
The Armenians for their part historically took a similarly polemic view of the Byzantines. Their glasses,
like those UMJeremy alludes to, were tinted, but tinted with hate. Both churches anathematized each
other, and viewed each other with such polemic rage, that in the case of Cheesefare Sunday, the
Byzantines were essentially embracing a liturgical and ascetic practice for the entirely contrarian
purposes, limited to refuting the praxis of the Armenians. These differences have now been overcome,
and Armenian and Eastern Orthodox clergy cooperate, studying together the essential theology courses at
St. Vladimirs seminary, before moving on to upper division courses specific to their own respective
liturgical and cultural heritage.

This has several interesting ramifications for this debate. It is entirely possible that some accommodation
may be reached for liberal Methodists provided that liberal Methodists are willing to provide the same
accommodation to their conservative brethren. I would be appalled to see a schism, but I would rejoice if
a condition arose whereby a separate liberal hierarchy existed in full communion with the conservative
hierarchy, albeit limited in scope to the liberal parishes such as that of Portland; in this manner the liberal
clergy would not feel compelled to attempt to enforce their non-traditional theology upon those
Methodists who like myself prefer a more, shall we say, traditional approach.
In the same vein however it is important either way, regarding the still lingering issue of what has
generally been perceived by a multitude of readers as an anti-Roman smear on the part of one of the
conference speakers, that neither liberal nor conservative Methodists ought to make remarks that interfere
with the ecumenical process. The comments UMjeremy refers James Appleworth to fail entirely to
provide any theological explanation as to why specifically that speaker felt the way she did about the
Roman Catholic church. I cannot help but feel personally that to attack another Christian community
without providing any theological reasoning behind it is flamebait.
So while the polemics engaged in by UMJeremy on this blog against conservative Christianity, and those
engaged in by myself in opposition to his polemics, are entirely legitimate, ordinarily, in this case, the
sentiments echoed are not legitimate, because they are not reinforced with any theological reasoning.
In like manner, I do feel that the image that uses (s)he in reference to God is also flamebait; such a sign is
by its very nature not dialectical. Christian theology has been largely defined through dialogue;
Orthodoxy was only clearly defined after several centuries of opposition to heresy. Valentinus and
Marcion made a huge contribution to the early church, in enabling the polemics of Irenaeus, which
eventually led to the development of the confessional tradition that gave us the Creeds. However, when
one resorts to signs and sloganeering, one short-circuits the dialectic process of theology. Thus I would
urge liberal and conservative methodists alike to not insult each other with political signage; my favorite
image from the Jon Stewart rally a few years ago in Washington DC was of someone holding up a sign
which proclaimed Signs are not effective political discourse. While I did not agree with the political
sentiments behind the rally, I did very much agree with the message of that one sign.
Beyond that, I feel inclined to invoke one of my favorite theologians of our era, Kallistos Ware, who is
probably to the left of me on several theological points, but who I greatly adore. He always emphasizes an
irenic approach and the importance of dialogue. In addressing a conference of Roman Catholic bishops on
the subject of ecumenical reconciliation, he said I need you in order to be me. Surely conservative
Christians in our era need liberal Christians, in the same manner that the Orthodox church required
Valentinus and Marcion to allow us to define our theology. In like manner the Methodists need the
Romans, and vice versa. Can we not somehow work out a way to form ourselves into an icon of the Holy
Trinity in the form of our mutual love for each other?
In response to another post:
I think Chris the real trick here is that we need to see more actual love. There seems to be a lot of hateful
flamebait occurring; now usually I come to expect this from the extreme right-wing of Protestantism, the
Southern Baptists and 9Marks people, such as Mark Dever, but in this case its disturbing to see this kind
of spiteful polemic approach emerge from the other side, in the form of images that appear designed to

offend, like the poster, and also passive-aggressive remarks about other denominations. That said, it is
extremely important that we retain a sense of perspective and not allow ourselves to overreact.
Another example from the early church that might be helpful to consider here is the dreadful outcome of
the Nestorian schism. Nestorius took offense to the degree of Marian devotion he encountered upon
becoming Patriarch of Constantinople. To rectify the problem, he taught a theology based on that of the
Antiochian school which stressed the separation of Christs human and divine natures and stressed that
Mary was only the Christotokos, the birth-giver to the human person of Christ as opposed to the divine
Logos, with which it was in hypostatic union.
Now this naturally appeared to be Adoptionist heresy to the others, including the Alexandrian party.
Nestorius was excommunicated and the Assyrian church was separated from the rest of Christianity by a
schism which has still not been repaired (although progress is being made). Now Nestorius later agreed
with the Chalcedonian council at the end of his life, and it appears that the Assyrians, for the most part,
never believed the extreme form of Nestorianism that was initially implied, and rightly condemed at
Ephesus. However, the damage was done.
The problem did not end there, however, because this in turn caused another schism. In Alexandria an
over-reaction occurred to Nestorianism that is known as Monophysitism or Eutychianism. This was
correctly condemned at Chalcedon, albeit using a formula that the Syriacs, Copts, Armenians and
Ethiopians deemed to be itself Nestorian. This resulted in another schism, which has only now been
mercifully healed to some extent, at least in Egypt and Syria, although within the Ethiopian, Greek and
Russian communities there are many traditionalist hardliners who still harbor deep resentment towards
the other side.
In the same way, through an excess of hatred here, we risk another schism, and a very severe schism. The
theological problem of Nestorianism is trivial and barely a heresy; the actual theology of the Assyrians is
at worst heterodox. Yet here with the efforts to change the nature of the Christian faith in a fundamental
way, we face what would appear to be a more dramatic heresy than anything encountered since the
second or third centuries; a heresy more pronounced than that of Arianism, one that bases its theology on
a combination of a corrupt reading of the canonical NT coupled with an optimistic and biased
interpretation of almost all of the non-canonical gospels (of the Gnostics, Marcion, the Ebionites, and
others).
The Reverend Peter Owen-Jones, one of my favorite left-wing Anglican priests, host of the fantastic
documentary series Around The World In 80 Fatihs and Extreme Pilgrim, disappointed me rather bitterly
in his documentary on the Lost Gospels. He failed once to point out in unequivocal language that the
Gospel of Marcion was in fact anti-semitic. In the same way, I feel that we are also at risk of glossing
over many of the negative and deeply offensive aspects of the new, modernist theology that is being
promoted.
What is required is some form of consensus that allows liberal post-Christians and modernist Christians to
exist and avail themselves of the freedom of religion, and remain in a loving relationship with orthodox
traditions such as confessional Methodism and Anglo-Catholicism. The Ecumenical bonds that have been
established in recent years should not be destroyed by the influence of sociopolitical preference on

contemporary theology. At the same time, we must also avoid the resulting schism from causing damage
or persecution on the scale of the Nestorian schism or the Chalcedonian accident.
And finally:
By the way, to avoid indulging hypocrisy, I feel I myself must also at this point mention why a sign
referring to God as (s)he represents heresy. From both a Protestant standpoint of Sola Scriptura, and from
the perspective of Church Tradition the sign was horribly wrong. At no point in the Bible is God referred
to with the female gender, rather, God is referred to either in gender-neutral language (in the manner later
embraced in Islam) or as the Father, by no less a man than Christ. Christ likewise is identified using
masculine language as the Son.
This is not a smear against women; the most honored human being of natural birth was Mary. Just as
priests and bishops must be male, as they must form icons of Christ; women, as icons of the virgin Mary,
must be venerated and held above men within society. I myself very much favor the medieval sense of
chivalry to the extent that it exalts women and elevates them to a special status; for my part I feel like the
medieval poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight represents, or ought to represent, a normative Christian
theology of gender.
Lastly, the point should be made that it is unfortunate that once again, our UMC hierarchy did fail us by
not censoring the offensive image in question. Had this conference occurred even as recently as 1950, the
disturbing sign would simply have been discretely removed, in the same manner as the bishops of the
early Church, as they discretely removed from their parishes heretical material such as the Gnostic
gospels.
And:
Julie, let us take a look at the comment which has become such a huge bone of contention here and
elsewhere on this blog. The remark that began this controversy is as follows:

"She spoke about how her journey from Catholicism to Methodism was heavy impacted by how the
church gave theological meaning to her developmentally-disabled sibling, many gay friends, and
ultimately her sense of her self."
The problem with this remark is that simple: how does Catholicism fail to provide theological meaning to
the developmentally-disabled? I could buy the argument regarding homosexuality, even if I disagree
with it; in my view if its not in any way anti-gay to insist upon the traditional Christian restrictions on
sexual activity, which exist because of a Christian preference for celibacy versus sexuality in almost all
contexts, except that UMC teaching on homosexuality, at the denominational level, is actually the same as
the Roman Catholic teaching. Homosexuals are individuals of sacred worth, but within Christianity they
are required to, like the vast majority of Christians alive at any given moment, remain in holy celibacy. I
myself, although I don't consider myself gay, at different points in my life have actually experienced the
temptation towards homosexuality, yet I have resisted the urge purely on the basis of my faith, and the
strictures it places on me. This is also a major reason why I personally favor the theology of self-denial;
I feel that we Methodists could benefit from fasting more and indulging ourselves less.

However, what seems to be fueling the real fire of controversy is the remark involving the
developmentally disabled; it does seem to me that this controversy could have been avoided had the
author of this blog, and indeed La Rocca-Pitts, taken the trouble to explain precisely those aspects of
UMC theology that they feel give more meaning to the developmentally disabled. I personally have
always felt that some Baptists might inadvertantly (yet surely not intentionally) discriminate against the
developmentally challenged, yet I have never within Roman Catholicism (or indeed Methodism, aside
from some so-called "Methobaptists") encountered anything that troubled me, in that manner.
Purgatory, indlugences, Papal supremacy and so on all are frequently-raised theological bones of
contention with a wealth of polemic material on either way (and contribute to my remaining a Methodist
rather than 'crossing the tiber'), not to mention the horrible tragedy of the sexual abuse scandal, which did
so much damage to the entire Christian community and made people afraid of priests, but I haven't
personally come across anything that would seem to deprecate or diminish the role of the disabled.
Now within the Syriac Orthdoox Church, which I am very fond of, as UMJeremy can doubtless attest,
one Syriac congregation I visited had a severely developmentally disabled member, who in addition to
suffering from mental retardation, was also physically disabled to the point of being unable to eat. Yet
he was allowed to participate fully in the life of the church, in spite of occasionally accidentally disrupting
the divine liturgy, and was even given communion in an extremely careful manner; his father furthermore
also served as one of the ushers. Now I don't know if the Romans would be that accommodating; I don't
even know if the Methodists would be that accommodating, certainly, I can see how many Christians
might just recoil in horror, and fail to imitate the example of Christ, in caring for such an individual, that
said however, I personally want to believe that both the UMC in which I was raised, and the Roman
Catholics, would shower such a congregant with the same love showered upon him in the Syriac church.

Celibacy and Christian Ascetism


On how celibacy and ascetism is the highest ideal of Christianity:
Jamie, I feel this point also warrants some explanation; I just made a somewhat lengthy reply to BJohnM,
but I think I would be remiss if I did not answer your concern individually.
First of all, there is the Biblical preference expressed, for example, in 1 Corinthians 7:38 and 7:40. Our
Lord makes a similiar remark in Matthew: "All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is
given. For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some
eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs
for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it."
From these directives, we see both male and female celibacy elevated to a unique degree of importance.
The greater number of the holy Apostles are believed to have been celibate. The tradition of celibacy
continued in the episcopacy, and then we had the glorious moment in which Anthony the Great entered
the deep Egyptian desert to live the life of a hermit; all three forms of Christian monasticism (solitary
monasticism, the informal life of idiorhythmic monks, and the well-organized praxis of cenobitic monks
such as the Benedictines) resulted. You might well enjoy reading the Sayings of the Desert Fathers,
which is linked to from my profile.

That there could be any doubt as to the blessed holiness of the celibate, consecrated Christian life was
dispelled by the vital role Christian monasteries played in the next several centuries. It is entirely fair to
say that Christian monks literally saved civilization as the Roman Empire came crashing down. The great
works of classical literature were preserved therein; the Syriac monks translated the Greek classics into
Arabic for the use of the ascendant Islamic civilization, and later, Latin monks translated Avveroes and
Avicenna from Arabic into Latin, facilitating the work of figures such as Thomas Aquinas, and eventually
giving rise to the Renaissance. Monastic clergy such as Franciscan friars and Greek and Russian
hieromonks, played as important a role in the transmission of Christianity as anything else; before Luther
and the widespread availability of a vernacular scripture and vernacular liturgy, friars such as Franciscans
and Dominicans provided the only real direct access to Gospel teachings in the vernacular language in
Western Europe (within the East this was not as big a problem, as the Koine Greek, Classical Aramaic
and Old Church Slavonic languages remained generally accessible to the majority of Eastern Christians,
and were in many cases much closer to the vernacular than classical or vulgar Latin was to the languages
of Western Europe). Of course, all bishops and a very large chunk of clergy, including historically, all
Western priests, were celibate (although I am of the Eastern opinion that clerical celibacy is optional).
Setting aside the secular and ecclesiological accomplishments of celibate clergy and ascetics, which we
can measure, I think we also ought to consider the benefits of Christian ascetics that are by nature
immeasurable, that is to say, the extreme fruit of two millenia of fervent prayer on our behalf. Even now,
I feel safer knowing that the Athonite Monks, the Coptic monks at St. Anthonys, including Fr. Lazarus,
the last anchorite, and the Roman Benedictines, Trappists, Carmelites, Carthusians, et al, are praying for
me as well as for all of mankind together. Given the ill health of my spouse, my emergency plan in the
horrible event that she is lost has always been to enter a Christian monastery myself and dedicate myself
to a life of prayer (even now, although I am not personally a celibate, I seek to follow monastic discipline
by observing a rule of prayer and strict fasting restrictions, and I have gained extreme comfort from this
practice; I recommend it for all Christians who are distressed about anything; when you remove from
your life those aspects that are superfluous, and focus purely on God himself, you can attain an inner
peace that is so great as to be incomprehensible).
Ascetism is not works righteousness. I love Francis of Assisi, but I am troubled by remarks he
apparently made, to the extent that all sins he had committed, he had repented for. This may well have
been true, I hope it is, but I feel like I should close instead with a quote that emphasizes more than else the
continuing need for repentance and absolute love of God, and that echoes an idea that has tragically
become largely alien to a horribly large number of Methodists, both conservative and liberal:
When St Sisoes lay upon his deathbed, the disciples surrounding the Elder saw that his face shone like the
sun. They asked the dying man what he saw. Abba Sisoes replied that he saw St Anthony, the prophets,
and the apostles. His face increased in brightness, and he spoke with someone. The monks asked, With
whom are you speaking, Father? He said that angels had come for his soul, and he was entreating them
to give him a little more time for repentance. The monks said, You have no need for repentance, Father
St Sisoes said with great humility, I do not think that I have even begun to repent.
After these words the face of the holy abba shone so brightly that the brethren were not able to look upon
him. "My savior has come!" Then there was a flash like lightning, and a fragrant odor, and Abba Sisoes
departed to the Heavenly Kingdom.

Kim made one other comment that I feel I overlooked in my initial response:
and the beginning of monasticism came in the wake of it being advantageous to be a nominal Christian,
no longer subject to persecution or a three-year catachumenate.
The question of the catechumens aside, which I have already dealt with, this remark raises another
troubling concern. Does Kim mean to imply that monastic Christians, living in the desert, starting with
Saint Paul the Hermit, and continuing with Saint Anthony the Great, the Desert Fathers, the Anchorites,
the Benedictines, the Athonites, and their successors, are in some manner nominal Christians? It should
be stressed that becoming a monk did not exempt one from the catechtical requirements of the early
Church; although oikonomia might often have shortened the duration of catechesis from the canonical
three years in many cases due to pastoral neccessity. Nor were monks immune from persecution, Many of
the Desert Fathers (and Mothers, for there were celibate women also among the disciples of St. Anthony)
were martyred over the centuries. Examples of hieromartyrs include St. Moses the Black, the 10,000
Martyred Fathers of the Deserts and Caves of Scete, the 26 Monk-Martyrs of Zographou of Mt Athos;
many of the fabled 48 Martyrs of Cordoba were monks.
So to imply that Monastic Christians are in any way nominal is just a huge, sweeping insult against the
millions of saints who dedicated their lives to praying for us. It is indeed one of the more cruel things Ive
heard from anyone on this forum, and I very much hope that Kim opts to clarify or retract his remark.
Surely Anthony the Great, Benedict, and the numerous monks who followed them, whether they achieved
the glorious crown of martyrdom, or died in a more serene manner, are every bit as Christian as any of us;
in fact, I myself feel like that in some respects we are the nominal Christians, in comparison to our
illustrious monastic brethren (although certainly the church has always held that the monastic life is not
required for salvation; one does not become a monk primarily in order to be saved, but rather in order to
pray without ceasing not only for the salvation of oneself, but for the safety and redemption of the entire
world).

The Impact of Canon Law


In response to a list of objections given by Twitter to the impact of UMC Church trials (It should be noted
that Twitter imposes a severely limited limitation on the number of characters of each message, as a
result ,the objections given are in a highly compressed form of English, with severe and often vulgar
abbreviations. This compressed form of English is imposed by the technical nature of Twitter, and is not
necessarily reflective of the intellect of each individual poster, most of whom are in fact ordained
Methodist clergymen or seminarians:
I am going to review each of these concerns in detail. These are real concerns, and should not be
overlooked, but in my mind, they do not justify a departure from the Biblical and Apostolic faith of the
Church on the issue of homosexuality, or indeed any other issue. Now, on the problems themselves:
1. We arent hearing about all of the LGBT teens that kill themselves because their church doesnt love
them
Have any teenagers actually committed suicide on account of the UMC's doctrine on this issue? A quick
Google search reveals nothing. At any rate; the UMC does love them; the current theological position
explicitly affirms that homosexuals are of sacred worth. Yet this raises another important point. In the

Philokalia, the Ladder of Divine Ascent, and other texts of the Eastern fathers, it is warned that falling
into delusion frequently results in tragic outcomes such as suicide. The blame for any such suicides that
occur cannot be ascribed to the Church, for upholding Biblical doctrine, but to the Devil, who has tempted
and deluded these innocent children into sexual depravity. The UMC officially states that it loves
homosexuals; I love homosexuals. It is of vital importance that we do more to connect with them, in
love, and help them overcome the sexual derangement inflicted upon them by Satan.
Now, it must be stressed that any child suicide is a horrible tragedy; the worst tragedy possible. I have no
doubt that Christ will save the soul of any child driven to such despair. The way we can prevent such
suicides is to love our youth, even those who have sinful inclinations, and in love, train them to govern
their passions, through hesychastic devotion, the study of the Philokalia, and acts of Christian fellowship.
We are responsible for any suicides of homosexually inclined children that occur, but not because of our
doctrine on homosexuality, which is correct, but rather because the way we pastorally care for those
suffering from demonic attacks upon their sexual passions is entirely inadequate.
2. My UCC, Presby, Lutheran, and non-denom friends who LEFT the UMC without a trial or fanfare and
blossomed in another denomination
Individuals who are not comfortable with the doctrines of their church can either remain within and press
for reform, or leave to a different denomination. I have chosen to remain, to help guide the Methodist
church back to its scriptural roots; however, at some point in the future, if the UMC descends much
further into heresy, I myself will depart and most likely join one of the Eastern churches. In like
manner, from my perspective, though I consider laity to be in and of themselves incapable of heresy, if
someone who has been caught in the Satanic delusion of heretical or heterodox teaching leaves the
Methodist church for another church, that is a tragedy, but much less of a tragedy then if they were to
remain within the UMC fostering dissent. In particular, I feel homosexuals who wish to remain sexually
active, rather than adhering to the Orthodox doctrine, ought to join the Unitarian Universalist church,
which in my opinion is a good organization, which does promote morality in an inter-faith manner.
Those who we can't save, we can at least convey into the hands of an ecclesiastical organization that will
care for them and give them some access to the Divine.
3. The methodist middle who wants to do ministry, be church, dont like ugly.
The "Methodist middle" are primarily laity; the way we can retain them is to maintain our present
doctrine but affirm our love for homosexuality. Additionally, homosexuality should not by any means be
the main issue discussed pastorally. We can retain the Methodist middle through solemn and uplifting
liturgy, and through edifying preaching, that expatiates the scripture readings indicated by the lectionary.
Another good way to keep them in the flock would be to reinstate the practice of Love Feasts, one of the
more beautiful aspects of historic Methodism that has disappeared in recent decades. The Copts still
have Love Feasts, they call them "Agapes", charmingly enough. I have been to one, at a hierarchical
divine liturgy; it was one of the best meals I've ever had and it cost me nothing (although I made a
donation anyway).
4. The uncertain. Those who dont know what to think (about trials or sexuality). Churches cant just
ignore it

5. as people threaten to leave and cry foul, we never hear from all the people who have already left
In the interests of brevity, which is admittedly not my strong suit, I will answer these two together. Many
of those who have left the Methodist church in recent decades have been driven away by the weak,
spineless and uninspiring theology espoused by generations of liberal pastors. It is worth noting that the
more conservative denominations have not experienced the congregational losses that have plagued the
mainline churches; it is also worth noting that the UMC, the most theologically conservative mainline
church (and I believe the only one to still maintain Biblical doctrine regarding homosexuality), has
declined more slowly than its contemporaries, and is still the largest Protestant church in the United States
terms of total membership.
6. Silenced? People who want the UMC open & affirming but arent on board with the progressive
strategy of ignoring Para 341.6.

These people must repent, or alternatively they should consider the Unitarian Universalist church, which
has a theology which can accept homosexuality without self-contradiction.
7. the folk who thought twice & didnt go to a UMC church to experience Jesus for the 1st time bc of what
they saw on news
I doubt there are very many of these; the majority of new converts to Christianity are entering in through
those denominations which are more evangelically active. We are deluding ourselves if we think that the
UMC, in its present degenerate condition, has any meaningful impact in terms of evangelization; due to
our theological liberalism, we are a church that confuses prospective Christians and alienates them from
Christ, not a church that successfully receives them, and we've been that way since at least the 1960s.
8. most in my church barely know the BoD exists, never mind trials.
This is as it should be. The laity in general should not be disturbed in their faith through the unwarranted
discussion of ecclesiastical discipline. The BoD itself is largely irrelevant as far as laity are concerned; it
applies primarily to clergy. The only confessional requirement that I feel should be imposed upon
Methodist laity is conformance with the doctrine expressed in the 381 revision of the Nicene Creed, and
also the Athanasian and Apostolic Creeds, which together with the Holy Scriptures, contain everything
necessary for salvation. It is the responsibility of the clergy to develop the faith of the laity beyond these
basic confessional requirements.
9. had 2 young adults tell me this week they are reconsidering going into ministry in the UMC due to the
trials. Sad.
This is not sad; they would not make good UMC ministers because they do not agree with our
fundamental doctrine. For the same reason, I myself would make a rather lousy Sunni Imam. These
young adults should rejoice that they have avoided a lifestyle that would ultimately be poisonous to them,
and instead engage with humility and enthusiasm in whatever path the Lord has set out for them.
10. Homeless youth who find themselves such because parents claim Christ and then deliver
ultimatums.

Any parent who causes their child to become homeless, and refuses to provide them with shelter, ought to
be excommunicated from the Methodist church. Parents have a responsibility to care for their progeny
until their progeny have attained the ability to care for themselves. This responsibility is not negated by
the religious devotion, or lack thereof, of the youth in question; for a parent to render their child homeless
for deviating from Christian doctrine is to sin, absolutely, against love, and against the person of Christ,
and is in fact one of the most profoundly un-Christian things you could do. We sinned horribly against
our Father in Heaven; yet he did not abandon us to the devil. Rather, he sent his only begotten son to
redeem us, taking our sins upon himself, and trampling down death by death; Jesus, to procure our
salvation, descended into Hades and took Hades captive! Parents and their children must, in their
relationship, form an icon of the relationship between God and humanity; thus, anyone who would
abandon their child is anathema, and should be excommunicated accordingly.
11. we dont hear the voices of the people in pews who are there because they love God and love each
other. You know. Methodists.
The input of the laity in Ecclesiastical trials is irrelevant, except for purposes of avoiding schism. At the
council of Ephesus, Theodore of Mopuestia was not condemned, in spite of being the original author of
the Nestorian heresy, because his generosity resulted in many Syriacs revering him. After a while, he
faded from memory, and was duly anathematized in the sixth century, at the second council of
Constantinople.
12. We are ignoring all of the people that leave, the parents that have queer kids to raise, the people we
are supposed to serve
It is ultimately the responsibility of parents to raise their children, under the pastoral guidance of the
Church. I pity any parent however who ignores Christian doctrine and leaves the church, in order to raise
their child in sin. Such abuse is equivalent to that of those parents who evict their children from their
home; the only difference is that while the former ought to be excommunicated unless they repent; these
latter negligent parents effectively excommunicate themselves. We must pray for their repentance and
their return to holy Communion.
13. My non-progressive friends who dont want to be known for who they exclude but who they work
alongside. Praxis > Orthodoxy
All I can say to this is lex orandi, lex credendi. To say that praxis is superior to Orthodoxy is an inane
statement; Orthodoxy encompasses praxis as well as dogma. What we pray is what we believe;
therefore, our prayers themselves must be Orthodox in order for us to participate fully in the Apostolic
faith.
14. We are not hearing from GLTBQ employees of churches at risk of their own sort of trials.
The Church must assure all employees and indeed all laity that it is not about to go on a witch hunt to
seek out and expel all homosexuals. Such would be profoundly unchristian. Sin is a private matter
between the sinner and God; the church must only exercise discipline in limited cases, primarily against
ordained clergy who fail to teach the Apostolic faith, and laity who sin openly and rejoice in their sinful
nature. Employees who are not in the ministry should only be fired for reasons that amount to

administrative misconduct. Everyone in the UMC is a sinner; clergy, laity and secular employees alike.
It is the role of the church to help its family move towards a state of greater holiness, in approach of God.
15. We dont hear from those who struggle to be celibate, whether gay or straight, & how little support
they get 2 live out covenant.
This is a valid point. The UMC has a horrible record when it comes to Christian celibacy, owing to its
Protestant roots. However, I rejoice in the fact that a few years ago, the first Methodist convent opened
up. I hope to see many more Methodist monasteries open in the years ahead; all Methodist pastors should
be required to attend training in pastoral care for celibate Christians, and the UMC should have an official
system of cenobitic, idiorhythmic and solitary monasticism. We ought to pay the living expenses of
monks, whether solitary or communal, who dedicate themselves to a life of prayer, and we ought to have
among the ranks of our clergy friars or hieromonks, and both male and female hierodeacons. What is
more, we should phase out married Bishops, and set out to have an entirely celibate prelacy by 2050. We
can restore the office of Chorepiscopi, a sort of junior Bishop, who can be married, and these married
Chorepiscopi would replace the District Superintendents.
16. Central Conference folks without instant twitter, facebook, (irrelevant; I'm not going to comment on
this)
17. The silent victims are folks in the pews who pay for these trials. GC is the forum to get change. Dont
bankrupt the Church.

The cost of ecclesiastical trials is part of the necessary overhead of running an organized religion with a
structure of canon law. That said, steps should be taken to reduce the cost. If we transition to a model
where we replace our salaried, married Bishops who live in the world, with monastic bishops whose basic
needs in terms of food and shelter are provided for, but who are not otherwise compensated, we could
dramatically slash the cost of clerical trials. The advocates for each side could be drawn from the ranks
of the unpaid monastic clergy, and a panel of unpaid monastic bishops would decide the case; in doing
this, the costs of a church trial would be minimal.
18. We dont hear from those who feel marginalized by a discipline that promotes a only the holy
public face.
If people feel marginalized by the Christian faith, then clearly they are ignoring the Holy Spirit that calls
them to Christ. A divine synergy is necessary to approach the Church; this synergy requires active
participation on the part of the human, and this participation is possible only for those who have some
degree of spiritual receptiveness. Someone who is a slave to their sexual passions, or is utterly absorbed
in the zeitgeist of contemporary society, will not be able to answer the universal call to Holiness. Many
of these people were baptized Christians; this remarkable fact demonstrates the utter failure of our
systems of catechesis within the UMC.
19. Persons who r generally LGBT supportive but who value work w/in structure feel beat on when they
raise this is our rule .

I am LGBT supportive, in that I love gay people, have gay friends, and consider them to be of sacred
worth. But Christianity requires that they conquer their own sexual passions, and restructure their
homosexual relationships into platonic friendships, and either redirect their sexual passion towards the
opposite sex, or alternately, learn to suppress it in its entirety.
20. basic clergy and laity integrity issues are swept under the rug in place of hot topics
I would agree that the efforts of people to get the UMC to abandon Biblical doctrine on homosexuality are
a huge distraction from the normal work of the church, which is to celebrate with joy the Holy and Life
Giving Mysteries. However, the unworthy cannot receive the Eucharist in safety; for to someone in a
state of sin, the Eucharist is poison. Holy Communion requires repentance, thus, the secondary mission
of the church is to help people realize the sins they have committed, and repent of them. In the Roman
Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions, this is accomplished through personal confession to a priest,
but in the Protestant tradition, and in the Assyrian Church of the East, it is accomplished in a more
general way, through the petition to God for forgiveness in the liturgical general confession. Both are
valid; I do like the Anglican approach of offering personal confession to those who seek it. "All may,
some should, none must."
21. We may not be hearing from candidates. I know I have been told to not be outspoken about anything
while in process.
Candidates must be scrutinized closely to see that they truly believe the Methodist understanding of the
Christian faith. Those who are unable to devote themselves to teaching our faith, in its entirety, do not
belong in the clergy of our church.
22. young people who struggle with staying in the church because of how certain people treat their
LGBTQ friends.
Laity who mistreat homosexuals in any way should be privately censured, and if they persist, excluded
from communion. It is meet and right to warn homosexuals that the Bible and the Church says what
they're doing is wrong, but it is evil to treat them in a cruel or degrading manner. I have gay friends, who
are aware of how I feel about their sexual orientation, but that does not stop us from loving one another in
human fellowship, as Christ has taught us.
23. these persons often feel theyre made pariah when they honestly care abt persons involved. how 2
keep in convo?
We must indeed keep homosexuals in the conversation, by constantly reminding them of the fact that we
do love them; we merely wish for them to develop the ability to develop a mastery over their own sexual
passions, and not to yield to the constant and unending temptation of the devil. If they occasionally slip
up, they will not be condemned for it; but like all sinners, myself included, we must expect them to
persevere in their journey towards God, to the end, that they may win the infinitely valuable prize of life
eternal in Christ.
24. working in DC I have heard from many former UMs who want nothing to do w/ a church that permits
such things as church trials

This is a ridiculous statement. All organized religions have some system of discipline. Even the
Unitarian Universalists will conduct ecclesiastical trials when a clergyman is accused of some form of
abuse. I would challenge whoever said this to name one single religion, anywhere in the world, that does
not have some system of discipline or regulation. Consider the Burning Man festival; it has a strong
religious element, it features a temple, and several liturgical acts, and allows its participants to engage in a
huge array of freedoms, including the ability to enjoy the festival in the nude. However, it also has a
strict set of regulations, and its own corps of volunteer security guards, the Black Rock Rangers, to
enforce it (they are almost directly equivalent to the sextons and ushers of Christian churches).
25. Silent casualties LGBTQ who dismiss their call to ordination or drop out of the process
Someone who does not seek to control their sexual passions, and instead wantonly engages in
homosexual activity, or heterosexual activity outside of marriage, is not fit to be a clergyman in an
Orthodox, Catholic church such as the United Methodist Church. They should work for the Unitarians,
the Episcopalians, or another denomination that allows such activity.
26. Until NO queer kid is shunned, degraded or bullied by church, I kinda dont think theres a more
important, life-saving issue.
The church should never shun or emotionally abuse children struggling with homosexual temptation. It
should instead, with the utmost love, teach them how to distinguish right from wrong, how to resist
temptation, and how to control and direct their passions to the glory of God. This is perhaps our most
important responsibility, and one at which the UMC has utterly failed in recent decades, hence the current
crises.
27. Good point about candidates. Bet the UMC is losing good people to denoms where at least you know
where they stand.
People who cannot follow Methodist doctrine cannot be Methodist clergymen; but I sincerely pray that
God will bless them in their chosen career in another denomination or indeed in another line of work. We
must not forget however that the narrow door leads to salvation, and many good people stumble on the
way.
28. The young people interested in ministry but who either have LGBTQ friends or are LGBTQ. Its
alienating and discouraging
I have gay friends, and am presently in the discernment process for ministry (I presently work in IT but
have grown weary of the tribulations of secular life). I am not discouraged, but rather encouraged, by the
UMC upholding the Biblical doctrine.
29. Young people who want to leave but found the church and the people in it to be their only support on
LGBTQ issues.
These young people should continue to be supported, even as the Church also seeks to help them control
their passions and attain holiness, growing in Christ Jesus.
30. These people love God and love to serve him but are disheartened by the messages they hear from
outcomes of these trials.

They should not be disheartened; if they truly love God, they will keep His commandments in joy. I love
how the Eastern Orthodox view Great Lent as a time of joy and celebration; a joyous fast as they move
closer to God through ascetic self-denial.
31. Those who have orthodox faith and enjoy being in denomination with folks who believe differently
than them
The Unitarian Universalists have many Christians among their ranks, even some who are relatively
orthodox. However, true Orthodoxy is practiced in an Orthodox church, as we are saved not
individually, but as a community. This requires that we unanimously repent of our wickedness,
collectively uphold the commandments of God, and together enter into Holy Communion with our Lord
Jesus Christ.
In response to certain remarks by John Thomas: Jeremy, youve hot the nail on the head. Its not
primarily about marriage equality, its about standing up for LGBTQ youth who are told in UMC
congregations they are less-than or even evil. its about standing against (but dialoging with) African
UMs that dont know of other ways to interpret the clobber verses of the Bible . The lack of prophetic
witness is disheartening.
The Africans correctly interpret the Bible by adhering to the same, correct interpretation of them held by
the Church Fathers. Are you daring to suggest that Ss John Chrysostom and Gregory of Nyassa, among
others, got it wrong? Because if you do that, youre also saying the Jews got it wrong, both before and
after Christ, compared to their pagan neighbors, who actively embraced homosexuality, and if you say
that, then youre effectively engaging in a form of implicit anti-Semitism (at least against Orthodox and
Karaite Jews).
Regarding prophetic witness, we do not have the right to claim the charisma of prophesy to radically
reinterpret the Christian faith in a manner that is almost diametrically opposed to its historic teaching, not
just on homosexuality, but on many other issues, while still calling ourselves Christian. Im sure youll
write this off as a clobber verse, but consider Revelations 18-19. We can use the teaching charism to
develop Christianity in response to new issues, such as the ethical questions posed by new technology,
but homosexuality is nothing new; it is an ancient practice, and one that has always been viewed as sinful
in the Judeo-Christian faith (except by heretics such as Gnostics, and the revisionist theologians of the
present).

Icons of Christ and the Virgin Mary: The Role of Men and Women in
the Church
On the Ministry of Women
Christianity, and the Judaic religion that preceded it, were differentiated from the majority of ancient
faiths by virtue of their singular respect for women. Biblically, the heavenly ideal referring to the
resurrected as Neither male nor female implies a lack of gender preference. This was not reflected in
Gnosticism, which contrary to popular contemporary thought, was always extremely misogynistic (and
indeed, in discarding the Old Testament and writing off the God of the Israelites as a flawed, incompetent
demigod, the Gnostics also discarded the numerous protections for women one can find within the Torah,

which uniquely among those early religions passed on to us, in general apply reciprocal privileges for
men and women). Particularly offensive is the dreadful quote from the Gospel of Thomas (which was
almost certainly not written by the Apostle Thomas, but rather by one of the disciples of Mani), in which
Christ is alleged to have indicated that women must make themselves male in order to enter the
Kingdom of God.
That said, in recent times, Protestantism in general, including the UMC, has failed to properly respect
Church Tradition regarding the role of women. Patriarchy should not be viewed as evil or undesirable;
indeed it is worth noting that the heads of most of the larger Eastern churches enjoy the dignity of
Patriarch. Nor can we discard the Pauline epistles, which clearly restrict the ministerial activities of
women in certain respects. The ministry of women is not prohibited outright; rather, the epistles appear
primarily to restrict the exercise of pastoral authority over men by women. Thus, the practice in some
churches whereby nuns in a convent require the pastoral assistance of a male priest to celebrate the
sacraments is probably either supererogatory or misogynistic, depending on your perspective. The early
Church implemented the injunctions of the Pauline epistles by actively using women in the Diaconate, but
not ordaining women to the ranks of Presbyter or Bishop, and this seems to me to be a reasonable
approach that is true both to the demands of the Pauline epistles, and the overarching Biblical requirement
for the chivalrous, equitable and deferential treatment of women by men. Prior to the Council of
Chalcedon, these women were generally widows, over the age of sixty, but the Council of Chalcedon
reduced the minimum age to forty and clarified the requirement of absolute celibacy for the office of
Deaconess. Historically, within the Western church, male priests were (and still are in the Roman
Catholic Church) required to be celibate as well, although in the East the marriage of priests (but not
Bishops) has always been tolerated. As a confessional Methodist, I feel that the United Methodist Church
should begin a return to the Biblical, traditional approach to ordination, but at the same time it must be
made clear that this is not an endorsement of misogyny or sexual discrimination against women, in any
way, because the same Bible that limits the ecclesiastical role of women also conveys in unequivocal
language the equality of Gods love for both genders, and an expectation of the same conduct on
ourselves.
Whereas the United Methodist Church has gone too far in its pursuit of sexual equality, to the point of
ignoring the Pauline epistles, others have gone too far in the opposite direction. I read with horror of the
abuse associated with groups such as 9Marks, Sovereign Grace Ministries and so forth. Biblical
domestic discipline and other horrors are beginning to become more common in these groups, and this
must be rejected as a manifestation of crypto-Gnosticism, the pernicious heresy that seems to afflict all of
Protestantism in our time.
To which UMJeremy replied:
Paul, I was really starting to like you. I like a good debate with someone who is intelligent and
substantivethough long winded, but I am too.
But you are United Methodist and dont believe in having women as clergy? Boggles my mind.
One segment that I didnt include from Dr. Beck is this one:

I dont think this notion of dividing Gods nature between the genders is cogent or biblical. Jesus, as
a single, reflected the full image of God. Thus, in conforming to the image of Jesus every person, of
whatever gender, is called to reflect the full image of God
If we believe Jesus reflected the image of God in Gods fullness and offers Gods salvation to all people
who seek to reflect the image of God as well, then all who are called to share in that reflection dont need
to have male genitalia to do it 100%. I have no problem disregarding the weight of Tradition when it is
biblically, theologically, and reasonably wrong.
The Christian faith enshrines Mary at a position higher than that of any clergyman. Next to Mary, who is
enshrined at the Council of Ephesus as Theotokos, literally Birth Giver to God (to reject this is to
embrace the Nestorian heresy, which Anglicanism and Methodism ostensibly repudiate); next to this
height of glory, clergymen are utterly insignificant. In fact I would go so far as to say that in the grand
scheme of things, in the Christian faith, women hold a substantially more important position than men, by
virtue of Mary, indeed, by their lack of male genitalia. The knightly codes of Chivalry in Western Europe
established a system under which women were not only treated with deference, but defended against any
offense to their honor or personal dignity. Compared to this, clergymen are of substantially reduced
importance, thus, I interpret the strictures of Apostolic tradition (including the Pauline epistles
themselves) limiting the episcopal and presbyterial office to men (and to celibate men in the case of the
former), as being, if anything, compensation for the fact that the higher glory of both Mary, and implied
through motherhood, is denied men.
This very minor restriction does not prohibit female heads of state or heads of government; the strict Salic
law of continental Europe that historically prohibited women from assuming the throne of countries like
the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is surely biblically and theologically wrong. Why should women desire
the priesthood, when they can follow in the footsteps of Margaret Thatcher and Queen Victoria, and rule
nations? What is more, they are not denied the ministry; orders up to the ordained rank of Deaconness
remained open to them under the early Church. Christianity, following the apostolic traditions that limit
the priesthood to men, is also the least misogynistic of the ancient faiths, having granted protections to
women both Biblically and in canon law not present in other religions, and having enshrined Mary to a
position exceeding that of all other humans, with human fathers (indeed, the doctrine of the Assumption
as adhered to by the Roman Catholics and Syriac Orthodox grants Mary a direct assent to heaven in a
manner similar to that of Elijah, an honor not granted to any of the Apostles).

What is more, the application of spiritual economy allows us to derogate slightly from this regarding
those already ordained; I would be opposed to defrocking all female UMC clergy. I am merely opposed to
the ordination of any more female presbyters or bishops, in violation of the Pauline Epistles. I would
propose that, when this restriction is implemented, it be applied only to those born in the year following
the enaction of the measure, so those already in the seminary, and those children promised a pastoral
career, could complete it. This would be justifiable under the principle of economia to reduce the potential
for schism, and to avoid imposing poverty, hardship and humiliation upon those who were misled by the
church into pursuing a career that was, from a purely Biblical perspective, inappropriate.

Lastly, it should be stressed that the male genitals have no bearing upon the restriction of the priesthood
to the male gender. If we look at the Apostolic Canons, Apostolic Canon 21 specifically says An eunuch,
if he has been made so by the violence of men, or if his virilia have been amputated in times of
persecution, or if he has been born so, if in other respects he is worthy, may be made a bishop. Thus, the
absence of male genitalia from a biological male, provided it was not the fault of an act of self-mutilation,
as prohibited under Apostolic Canons 22, 23 and 24 (and, accusations of which contributed to the
posthumous condemnation of Origen), did not preclude such a man from ascending to the highest clerical
office. Since Bishops were required to celibate, furthermore, requiring functional genitalia would have
been pointless anyway. What is more, Canons 22, 23 and 24 could presumably be derogated, as most of
the Canons are, in the interests of economia (since the Apostolic Canons are extraordinarily strict;
probably a third of all Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholics would be excommunicated if they were not
offset via economia where required, for in these two churches the Apsotolic Canons remain a binding part
of canon law). The Christian faith is not a legalistic one in the manner of Rabinnical Judaism, but we are
still obliged to follow the commandments of the New Testament (and indeed the Old Testament still
provides the means by which sin can be ascertained, in many cases, the difference being, failure to
comply with the 613 mitzvah codified in the Talmud, or with the literal exegesis of the Old Testament
text as practiced by the Karaites, is expected, and we can repent for these sins and be forgiven).
I should lastly add that, to my knowledge, support of the ordination of women to the priesthood and
diaconate is not a confessional requirement of Methodism. I was baptized into the United Methodist
Church and am a member; I consider myself a High Church Methodist, who pines for the Methodist
Episcopal Church, and not a United Methodist. I also consider myself to be Catholic and Orthodox, by
way of Wesleys apostolic succession via Erasmus of Arcadia. I adhere to the Nicene Creed, the
Apostolic Creed, the Athanasian Creed, and the dogmatic definitions of the first seven Ecumenical
Councils, as well as the imperatives of John Wesley. This does not in any way grant me righteousness or
any improved state of morality versus the rest of the world; I would, in the manner of Kallistos Ware,
deny that I have been saved, and instead propose that, like the rest of the Christian faithful, and those
outside the Church who receive the grace of God, I trust that I am being saved, with the hope of universal
reconciliation, but the understanding that the only act beyond Gods power is to force us to love Him.
Compared to the Coptic and Syrian Christians who are martyred daily, who prior to their martyrdom lived
in a state of greater orthodoxy and piety, and who fasted with greater severity than what I myself am even
capable of, I am pathetic; likewise, like all members of our present depraved generation, I pale in
comparison even with those Methodists of the first half of the 20th century.
Confessional Requirements of Methodism, and the Authority of St. John Chrysostom
Kim Wrote: Paul Anthony Preussler: if you refuse to accept the ordination of women, then you have no
reason to be a United Methodist. This issue was long ago resolved and is no longer under discussion,
let alone debate. Its interesting that you are willing to accept some errors, e.g. Baptist heterodoxy and
liturgical ignorance for the sake of the oikoumene but not others.
Also, John Chrysostom, while being eminently quotable (genuinely golden-mouthed) on compassion
and justice at times, was also virulently anti-Semitic (as was Luther.) To base all doctrine strictly on the
teachings of the fathers and rulings of the early church without regard to their cultural limitations is
problematic at best. One could easily argue from Scripture and early church practice that the church

should be both communal in its finances and pacifist in its witness and that the conversion of
Constantine and establishment of Christendom was the beginning of the Churchs corrupting compromise
with the worlds values and departure from Jesus teachings and witness. (it was.) As I recall, Wesley, not
only the Anabaptists, subscribed to this view, and the beginning of monasticism came in the wake of it
being advantageous to be a nominal Christian, no longer subject to persecution or a three-year
catachumenate.
Accepting the ordination of women is not a confessional requirement of Methodism. I do as a matter of
principle avoid all parishes with female senior pastors. I have every right however to remain in the
church into which I was baptized, as a confessional Methodist, fighting for reform and a return to the
Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant faith of my ancestors, and as an added plus, I have God on my side.
It is you who shows your intolerance by suggesting that I have no place in the modern UMC. Many
would disagree. My faith is based strictly on that of the teachings of Christ our Lord, in the Old and New
Testaments, the teachings of his All Holy and Laudable Apostles, and the interpretation of those teachings
carefully developed by the early Church up through the Fourth Century (I also acknowledge all seven
Ecumenical councils, although I do feel that the schisms of the fifth century were somewhat of an
aberration; they stemmed from Nestorius engaging in ill-advised theological innovation, and stand as a
stark reminder of the danger of deviating even slightly from the Apostolic faith). It strikes me that you,
in and of yourself, represent the dangerous intolerance of the new liberal Christianity; would you object to
me if I refuted the doctrine of the Trinity, or if I said that the Holy Spirit lives within us, or that Christ
was not literally resurrected, or was merely a good teacher, or if I affirmed salvation was possible not
through Christ but on a more universal level? I am merely serving as a custodian of that Holy Tradition
that we have received; from the fathers of the early Church, from their illustrious successors such as John
Cassian, Symeon the New Theologian, Gregory of Palamas, Francis of Assissi, even Martin Luther,
despite his major errors, and certainly our beloved John Wesley, the hero of Anglicanism and of
Methodism alike.
Now, let us take a look at some specific allegations you make about the faith of the early Church. John
Chrysostom was not by any means virulently anti-semitic; he affirmed the validity of the Jewish Old
Testament in its entirety (unlike the heretic Marcion, for example), and worshipped a Jewish God,
incarnate as a Jewish Messiah. His "Homilies against the Jews" at no point advocated violence or
subjugation of them in the manner of Martin Luther; nothing in them even comes close. Chrysostom was
angry at attempts by the local Jewish synagogue to subvert his ministry (he was at the time Bishop of
Antioch), by poaching his parishioners,. In particular, several of the women of his congregation were
attending the synagogue more frequently than they were attending the services in his own church, and
were fascinated by Jewish ritual practices such as the blowing of the Shofar on Yom Kippur. Now this
fact to me is interesting, because Judaism in its modern Rabinnical form is primarily a hereditary religion
inherited on matrilineally; it does not Proselytize; it does except converts, but discourages them heavily,
Judaism in the form we now know it, going back at least as far as the eminent scholar Maimonides,
affirms the salvation of Gentiles through adherence to the Noahide Laws. Now, in his homilies, John
Chrysostom was objecting to local Jews actively proselytizing, and trying to convert members of his own
congregation, which was in Antioch. While some might well have been ethnically descended from the
Israelites, we are talking about a predominantly Greco-Syriac population in a city that had always been

under Gentile control; never was Antioch within the borders of the Kingdom of Israel (in fact the founder
of Antioch was one of the generals of Alexander the Great, Seleucus I Nicator).
So who were these Jews, who differed so much from every Jew we encounter in the Old Testament, and
every Jew we encounter now, by virtue of their missionary zeal? The question is fascinating to consider.
Though I do not deny for a minute the Judaic identity of his opponents, I am unable to clearly identify
them as either Rabinnical Jews or as Karaites; Orthodox Rabinnical Jews do not proselytize, and most
certainly would not proselytize towards women, whereas the Jews that Chrysostom found himself in
opposition to did proselytize, and actively seeked to convert his Christian congregation undo Judaism.
This is baffling to one who, like myself, is a scholar of Judaism and a great lover of our sister religion.
The Orthdoox Jews pride themselves on not proseltyizing; the Karaites did it for a time, but they are not
believed to have existed as early as the late fourth century, when John Chrysostom wrote his "Homilies
Against the Jews." One cannot help but wonder in sheer amazement who these Jews were who
Chrysostom railed against; they cannot be clearly identified as being a part of any of the traditions we
consider Jews today. Many scholars believe they were a Jewish-Christian sect, such as the Ebionites.
This is possible; elements in Chrysostoms homilies however suggest that these Jews were, if not
dominant, then very prominent in Antiochene society; this makes the question as to their identity even
more intriguing. This may well have been a form of Judaism, perhaps a Hellenized Pharasaism, with
influences from Gnosticism, Platonism, and the Cult of the Most High God encountered by Paul in his
travels across Classical Greece.
Whatever it is, it is now extinct; while its worship bears superficial similiarity to that of the Rabinnical
and Karaite Jews who we know today, at least in so far as the blowing of the shofar (and Chrysostom
alludes to a solemnity of the worship services, which suggests some of the Ashkenazi and Karaite
traditions, but not to the same extent the Sephardic ideal), the aim of this unusual form of Judaism in
seeking to convert Christians, who were largely Gentiles, to the Jewish faith, is completely absent from
any form of mainstream contemporary Judaism. Now, this also raises one other valid point; when
Christian clergymen at present evangelize the Jews in an aggressive manner, they are (in many cases
rightly) condemned as anti-Semitic. In the same manner that the Jews seek to protect their flock from the
missionary efforts of Christians, John Chrysostom had every right to engage in coutner-missionary
activity of the same sort, to prevent his own flock from being eroded by these most interesting and
unusual practitioners of Judaism (who themselves may very well have been Judaizing Christians of some
sort, such as the Ebionites). Now, the language in these homilies Against the Jews is at times heated,
but one should also remember that contemporary with John Chrysostom were equally heated polemics
directed at Christianity from leading Jewish authorities.
The historic prayer known in Judaism as The Eighteen Blessings, in response to Christianity and other
new religions emerging from Judaism in the first century AD, became in effect Eighteen Blessings and a
Curse; the curse being directed against heretics of any sort (which would seem to apply to Christianity at
least by implication, although the Medieval Jews, under fear for their lives against the very real and
despicable anti-Semitism of the Crusader-era Christendom, vehemently denied that the Nineteenth item
in the prayer of the Eighteen had Christians in mind as a target. I am inclined to believe them on this
point; in that even if that particular aspect to their liturgy was originally added with Christians in mind, it
does indeed not identify us by name, and I do sincerely believe that the majority of Jews, when
pronouncing the prayer of the Eightteen, do not have any intention of cursing us upon their lips. We, on

the other hands, frequently have had curses against the Jews on our lips; Martin Luthers despicable antiSemitic tracts, filled with scatological imagery, represent the nadir, but one can also not help but object to
the historic mistreatment of those Jews living in Rome, by the government of the Papal States, who one
would think ought to have held themselves to a higher ethical standard. For that matter, the older form of
the Tridentine liturgy, that was revised by Pope John XIII in 1962, on Good Friday, condemned the
Perfidious Jews; this has now been removed and is not present in the version of the Tridentine mass
celebrated in either the Roman Catholic Church, or indeed in the otherwise rather disagreeable SSPX.
One should also mention in closing on this point that curses directed against heretics in general were by
no means an exclusively Jewish phenomenon; many of the old liturgies are full of them. The old Coptic
liturgy cursed Nestorius, the old Assyrian liturgy cursed Cyril, and the Greeks and Armenians frequently
cursed each other in their own liturgical works. It is with great joy that I can report that most of these
liturgical curses have been removed from the prayer books of nearly all of the Apostolic churches. On a
more positive note, I am of the opinion that the Jewish prayer known as the Eighteen is itself the
original inspiration for the very important part of our Christian liturgy known as the Great Litany, in
which we ask God to bless a wide array of different things, including the safety of the Church and of the
whole world, all those in civil authority, the abundance of the seasons and the fruits of the earth, and so
on. In closing, on the issue of John Chrysostom, he was no more anti-Semitic than a Jewish Rabbi would
be, if he objected to a Methodist priest aggressively trying to convert members of his Synagogue. Thus
his status as one of the great saints of our religion can remain untarnished. Furthermore, even if he were
wrong on the point of the Jews, that would in no way invalidate his teachings on homosexuality, which
are correct; their correctness can be verified by virtue of their correlation with the specific instructions of
the Apostle Paul, the canons of the early Church, and the similar remarks of other Church Fathers, as well
as the Torah, and indeed Christ himself, who stressed the importance of not yielding to lascivious
temptation.
I should also point out that its rather rich to accuse John Chrysostom of anti-Semitism, when saying that
the Christian teaching on homosexuality (which is identical with the Jewish one) is wrong is an inherently
anti-Semitic position to assume; it requires us to say that all Jews before Christ were in fact sinning
compared to the Greeks, Romans, and Chaldeans, in banning homosexuality, and it requires us to say that
all Jews since Christ have continued to sin in the same manner. Thus it is not I, nor John Chrysostom,
who are anti-Semitic, but rather Kim himself, for daring to say that the Torah, given to the Jewish people
by our very God in Heaven, is in fact morally wrong. One either has to say that the Jews erred in their
receipt and application of the Torah, which is inherently an anti-Semitic proposition, or else, that the God
who gave them the Torah was himself morally repugnant; this leads one to a Gnostic or Marcionist
worldview, in which the creator deity of the Old Testament was an evil, flawed and incompetent
Demiurge, and not the father of Christ. That is also an inherently anti-Semitic position to assume,
because it states that the Jews for so many millennia have been worshipping an evil demigod. I, on the
other hand, believe that my God gave them the Torah, and that the Orthodox and Karaite Jews have
rightly abided in it, and will in time be gloriously reconciled with their Christian brothers and sisters; we
share a common heritage and worship the same God, and surely, we will be saved together by our Lord.
Now, before continuing onto the subject of Wesley, the corruption of the Church Catholic at the hands of
civil authorities, and the status of the early church, I wish to briefly correct a minor error you made. I
tolerate the theological error of Baptists on the grounds, not of oikumene (Ecumenism), although

Ecumenical reunification is in fact my objective in tolerating it, but rather on the principle of Oikonomia,
that is to say, spiritual economy. You complain of the strict nature of the canons of the early Church;
and of the three year period of instruction before baptism. The canons of the early church were
exceedingly severe. These canons are in fact still in full force in the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox
churches, but they are almost never applied to the full extent possible; indeed, almost since their very
inception, the norm has been to use a principle known as Economy (oikonomia in the Koine Greek) to
derogate from these canons wherever it is deemed pastorally beneficial. Thus, for many centuries, it has
been possible to be received into any of the apostolic churches that share the canonical heritage of the
early church, in a matter of mere weeks.
The early Church was not by any means a legalistic religion; the canons established norms of behavior
and set the gold standard as it were for conduct by clergy and laity alike, but these rules could be relaxed
wherever it was deemed appropriate in light of the Divine Mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, for
the forgiveness of sins, and the salvation of souls; that as many as possible might partake of the Divine
Nature and attain Life Everlasting. To put it another way, the Bishops of the early church should not be
viewed as trial judges, presiding over cases of criminal law, meeting out harsh sentences as indicated, but
rather, as physicians, working to cure the horrible disease of sin in the most appropriate way, with the
knowledge that each and every human created by God is unique and worthy of sacred love. In fact, in
most of the Eastern Christians, the juridical concept of sin as we understand it in the West is avoided; the
Eastern fathers prefer to see sin not as a crime that must be punished, but as a disease; the Church exists
to treat and where possible cure those diseases in those willing to approach it, including the very serious
disease of sexual depravity, which has ruined so many lives and caused the spread of so many more
diseases, both spiritual and physical.
Now, Wesley himself, as an Anglican, most likely regarded the Anabaptists as heretics; I certainly do, but
whether or not he took that view is irrelevant. Wesleys teachings are relevant and important to the
extent that they affirm the sacred tradition of the Church; and in most cases they do; of all of the
Protestant reformers, Wesley is by far and away the most Catholic and the most Orthodox. However, it
is right to say that the influence of the Roman Empire had a deleterious effect on the Christian church, but
not the effect you would expect. Constantine made Christianity the official religion; he convened the
council of Nicaea to settle the question of the Arian heresy and initially enforced its ruling. However, he
himself did not convert to Christianity until his deathbed, and he was baptized by an Arian bishop.
Subsequently, his successors reversed is policies and favored the Arians against the Christians; as a result,
the Orthodox Catholic Church was persecuted right through fourth century, until finally, just before the
Council of Constantinople, the persecution stopped. Athanasius himself was said to have fought Contra
mundum against the Imperially-sponsored Arian heresy. Ambrose of Milan and his loyal congregants
barricaded themselves in what eventually became the great Duomo, the Cathedral of his hometown, and
resisted for days on end the attempts of Imperial troops to evict them in favor of the Arian party (a sort of
fourth century Occupy movement; perhaps the earliest sit-in in recorded history). The persecution
intensified under Julian the Apostate; it only finally subsided in the late fourth century, facilitating a few
glorious years around the Council of Constantinople, when the dreadful Arian heresy had finally been
defeated, and Christians once again lived in peace around the Empire. Then the Emperor had the bright
idea to make Christianity the official religion, and began using civil authority to persecute heretics. The
first heretic executed by the Romans was a Spaniard, Priscillian, convicted of harbording a somewhat
Gnostic worldview. Now, the reaction of the early church might surprise you; many of the leading

ecclesiastical authorities of that time harshly condemned the execution, including Ambrose of Milan,
Pope Siricius, and Martin of Tours.
The next several centuries of Christian history can largely be interpreted as the Imperial government
meddling in ecclesiastical wars, and fighting a long, bitter power struggle with the Bishops, which the
Bishops in the East ultimately lost. The Pope in the West won, although only after years of subservience
to the Carolignians; his victory elevated him to the status of an Imperial ruler, and was almost directly
responsible for the later excesses of the Roman church after the great schism in 1054. Almost every
heresy that plagued the Christian church, starting with Constantine I, enjoyed official Imperial support:
Arianism, Monothelitism, Iconoclasm. The only exceptions, which as heresies go are also rather minor,
are the divisive Christological heresies of Nestorianism and Monophysitism; here, however, the Empire
exacerbated attempts at an ecumenical solution, by using military force to oppress the heretics, interfering
with attempts at reconciliation within the Church. Prior to this, there were several minor schisms in the
second, third and fourth centuries over matters such as the timing of Easter, that were ultimately resolved
through great prayer and ecclesiastical mediation, but it was the Emperors who put a stop to this, through
foolish and unwarranted meddling; ecumenism at knifepoint, if you will. The event that ultimately put
the western Church into a tailspin however was the Great Schism of 1054, followed almost immediately
thereafter by the Crusades, one of the most bloodthirsty acts ever to be engaged upon in the name of
Christ; the Crusades were bitterly opposed by almost all Eastern churches, with the exception of the
Maronites.
Now, should we consider the cultural context of the early Church when evaluating its theology in
comparison to our own? Most certainly; the church of the first, second, third, fourth, and even the early
fifth centuries existed in a predominantly secular Roman society, very similar to our own, albeit even
more depraved; a world in which slaves were sexually abused by their owners, a world in which people
bathed daily in communal baths, in the nude, often with both genders present, with many baths reported
to have attached brothels, a world in which gladiators fought to the death in the arena, in a process eerily
reminiscent of our own reality television, which has not yet reached the level of a lethal elimination
contest (in the manner of the rather good Doctor Who episode Bad Wolf), a world which gave us the
earliest recorded Novel, Petroniuss Satyricon, which eroticizes paedophilia even of the most deplorable
form (in one scene a contemporary reader can encounter only with absolute horror and revulsion, the
author describes in erotic language the rape of a seven year old girl by a sixteen year old boy). It should
be noted that in ancient Rome, the Satyricon was a bestseller; as is witnessed by the fact that it is one of
the relatively few works of Roman literature that has been handed down to us through the generations,
essentially intact. That was the cultural context of the early church: a secular world, much like our own,
albeit with every depravity a Christian should revile intensified dramatically. The Gnostic heretics of
the first century, as described in St. Irenaeus of Lyons classic Against Heresy, resemble strongly the New
Age religions one can find in places like Ojai, San Francisco or Brighton.
From this sick and depraved world that was the early Roman Empire, somewhere in the fourth century, a
remarkable transformation began to occur. The Byzantine Empire rose from the ashes of the old pagan
order, and was almost infinitely better from a Christian mindset. This was an Empire that revered God;
the Roman Army itself evangelized the Gospel among its ranks. The Gospel of Jesus spread throughout
all of the Empire, even those provinces that it was, as a result of the decadence that had previously
absorbed it in the third century, in the process of losing. The Western Roman Empire disintegrated,

leaving a patchwork of independent Christian states in its wake, as the so-called Barbarians themselves
acquired the Gospel, and became as civilized, if not more so, than the Romans who they now conquered.
The Byzantine Empire in the East held out a bit longer, and its legacy survives in the beauty of eastern
Christianity. Yet these secular states, Christian though they were, were still ruled by sinners, and were
still guilty of sin. The great sin of the Imperial governments of Constantinople, and of the Carolignian
Empire of the West, was a tendency to meddle in Ecclesiastical affairs, which pitted Church against State
in a constant struggle, that was in the West only resolved when the Pope himself was able, through
intense cunning (and at the expense of his own Christian conscience, I would argue) able to elevate
himself to a status akin to that of the old Roman Emperors; in the East, on the other hand, the Turks
ultimately crushed the Byzantine Empire, and from that moment forward, tended to leave the Christian
population alone, albeit occasionally inflicting on them various forms of social degradation (such as the
tax of Christian boys, who were forcibly removed from their parents to form the fanatic Janissaries, after
the seventeenth century). That is the history of the early Church, the terrible, dreadful, wonderful
history, by which the Gospel of Christ was made known to the world. Now, as our Christian society
rapidly implodes, largely due to the resurgence of heresy, and we risk returning to the depravity that
characterized the Roman Empire before Constantine I, the teachings of the Church Fathers, such as St.
John Chrysostom, have never been more urgently needed.
As long as I remain a Methodist, I will proudly fly the flag of Orthodoxy, and work within to reform the
Methodist church, that it might serve as an instrument by which the teachings of the Church Fathers are
disseminated.

Orthodox Doctrine and Homosexuality


The Challenge of Orthodoxy
In response to this post from Rev. Jeremy Smith criticizing Bishop Wallace-Paget for opposing a
homosexual marriage in her District, to be performed by retired Methodist Bishop Talbert, in which he
likens Wallace-Pagets opposition to the opposition of Alabama clergymen to Martin Luther King, Jr. in
1963.
I myself am a network engineer and kernel developer, although I would not presume to call myself a
hacker, which denotes both participation in the hacker subculture as defined by Eric S. Raymond and
others, and recognition by a known hacker as a peer; I am also a baptized United Methodist. Thus in
theory, as a Methodist technologist, involved in open source software development, and working with
hackers, if for reasons of modesty and cultural values not himself one, I should be agreeing with this
article, and denouncing the mean spirited traditionalists who want to oppress gay people.
However, I find myself unable to follow the trail that this blog has apparently blazed specifically with
people like me in mind, for these reasons. Firstly, the current canon law of the United Methodist Church,
defined via a conciliar process at the General Conference, prohibits gay marriage, and defines the practice
of homosexuality as incompatible with the Christian faith as we have received it, while at the same time
recognizing homosexuals as being individuals of sacred worth, who should not be persecuted or hated by
Christians, but rather loved, following the example set for us by our Lord. Regardless as to how one feels
about the morality of this doctrine, Bishop Talbert is violating canon law and his holy orders by engaging

in an act of ecclesiastical disobedience, failing to respect the authority of the church hierarchy and its law,
which is neither Biblical nor in keeping with the traditions of the Christian church since the first century.
Beyond that, however, I find myself feeling not unlike Thomas More, as he was compelled on moral and
theological grounds to reject the marriage of Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn, in that I am unable to accept
that homosexuality is compatible either with Biblical teaching or with twenty centuries of Church
tradition. The Apostle Paul in Romans 1:27 unambiguously denounces homosexuality, furthermore the
Mosaic Law, which according to orthodox Christian tradition, was a divine revelation of God. The
Church Fathers themselves, from Clement to Irenaeus to John Chrysostom, unambigously maintain this
doctrine. Even Marcion appears to have maintained this doctrine, and the Nazarenes and other Hebrew
Christians who rejected the Pauline epistles certainly maintained it, due to their continued adherence to
the Torah. The only possible way out of it in early Christianity would be through some of the more
extreme Gnostic sects, yet even then, I have never come across an example of homosexual marriage.
Finally, within Methodism, the founder of this denomination, John Wesley, was himself a devoted
Anglican, and indeed remained so until his death; he did not engage in schism; in appointing Thomas
Coke as a superintendent to the Methodist communion in the United States, an act he engaged in in
extreme reluctance, he was merely providing for the former Anglican parishioners in the US who were
effectively expelled from the Church of England after the Revolutionary War (and indeed the Episcopal
Church, USA, was forced to have its first bishop ordained by the Episcopal Church of Scotland, hence the
Scottish influence on the historic American Episcopal liturgy). The Church of England never censured
Wesley for this act, and he died as a faithful member of this church. Even now, the Church of England
does not permit homosexual marriage, and there can be no doubt that this doctrine was in even greater
force within the 18th century.
Now, that said, for homosexuals who desire some relationship to Christianity without changing their
lifestyle, there are three options that can be entertained without recourse to illicit marriage in the United
Methodist Church. Firstly, many Protestant denominations have allowed homosexual marriage, in spite of
the theological objections I outlined above; surely a practicing homosexual would feel more welcome in
one of these denominations, such as the United Church of Christ. A second option presents itself in the
form of new denominations that are unrelated to traditional Christianity, such as the Ecclesia Gnostica,
and the Metropolitan Community Church, which have permitted homosexuality from the outset on the
basis of a clean theological slate, provided by the formation of a new confession. Finally, there is the
option of Unitarian Universalism, which affords participation in a syncretic religion, allowing its
members to relate to those aspects of Christianity they feel comfortable with, while also integrating
elements of other faiths, and avoiding those aspects they might find offensive. I would propose this is
ultimately the best theological option in this regard, short of simply embracing atheism or another religion
altogether, such as neopaganism, in that ultimately the Christian faith, if adhered to honestly and without
respect to contemporary sociopolitical opinion, both in scripture (in the Old and New Testaments) and
according to ecclesiastical tradition, only provides for two modes of sexuality, that being lifelong
heterosexual, monogamous matrimony, and lifelong celibacy. It should be noted furthermore that among
the Apostles and Church Fathers, a clear preference for the latter exists, but the need for matrimony is
accepted and recognized, and furthermore, matrimony is used Biblically as a metaphor to explain the
relationship between Christ and the Church. The only theological way around this is to discard both the
Old Testament and the Pauline Epistles, as well as the entire body of orthodox Patristics. The truth can
hurt, but as we assured by our Lord in John 8:32, also sets us free; we are also guaranteed freedom of

religion in the United States, and thus one should not feel compelled to remain in the Christian faith if one
cannot accept its essential doctrine.
Homosexuality, the Bible, and Church Tradition
Against UMJeremys opposition to a Judicial Council ruling that the Social Policy prohibiting
homosexuality is legally binding upon the UMC in North America:
In determining that this Social Principle has the binding force of canon law, the Judicial Council is acting
to prevent a schism, and to maintain twenty centuries of Church Tradition. The UMC cannot go its own
way on this in North America without alienating the African churches, which increasingly represent the
real strength of the denomination. In a sense, the extraordinary heroism of Methodist missionaries in the
past two centuries, who endured torture during the Angola Crises of 1957 and numerous other incidents,
is paying off, by serving to keep the UMC fully in line with the orthodox traditions of the church catholic,
handed down to us from the Apostolic Era.
Specifically, the Apostle Paul unambiguously forbids homosexual practice in Romans 1:26-27, and
Corinthians 9. Discarding or ignoring these epistles violates sola scriptura, and requires redefining the
canon of the New Testament in such a way so as to produce a heretical and degenerate religion only
nominally related to Christianity, e.g. Gnosticism.
Beyond that, if we look at the early church, aside from some of the more antinomian and misogynistic
Gnostic sects, homosexual relations were prohibited with a severity remarkable even for the highly strict
early church. Canon 71 of the Council of Elvira imposed a lifetime excommunication on pederasts. The
practice was also prohibited in Canon 17 of the Council of Ancyra, by Gregory of Nyassa in his
Canonical Letter to Letolus of Mytilenne, and in Canon 14 of the Council of Tours, Canon 3 of the
Sixteenth Council of Toleda, and in the Corpus Juris Civilis of Justinian, which was heavily influenced by
the hierarchy of the still-unified Byzantine-Roman church (which would not be separated through schism
until 1054). It should be emphasized that for Gregory of Nyassa, who was by all accounts a relatively
liberal theologian, who among other things advocated a doctrine of apocatastasis (of the sort that
contributed to Origens later condemnation), to speak out against the practice, shows the serious degree of
distaste the early Church held to it.
Augustine of Hippo, whose influence in Western Christianity is immeasureable, held the view that sexual
pleasure itself was sinful, and that sexual relations were only acceptable in Christianity due to the
neccessity of procreation (some heretical sects went further than this, in imposing complete celibacy). In
Eastern Christianity, on the other hand, sexual pleasure itself was historically not viewed as sinful within
marriage, to the extent that it served to strengthen the bonds of love that were necessary to ensure fidelity,
providing a healthy environment for the rearing of children, and ensuring that the marriage itself served as
an icon, representing the relationship between Christ and his Church. However, celibacy remained the
ideal, hence the historical universal requirement for episcopal celibacy, and the requirement of
presbyterial celebacy in the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church (which is probably supererogatory,
given that even the exceedingly severe Apostolic Canons allow the already married to be ordained to
ranks up to that of Presbyter ).

In general, the overwhelming evidence suggests that the early Church was differentiated from the secular
society of the Roman Empire largely by its revulsion at the sexual excesses of Roman society before
Constantine I. The oldest novel extant, Petroniuss Satyricon, was not by any means remarkable in
pederastic protagonist, nor in depicting paedophilia in an erotic context; the sexual abuse of boys was de
rigeur in Roman society, and sexual relations between consenting males were permitted, provided the
social hierarchy was preserved (i.e. a patrician, engaging in relations with a plebe, would be scandalized if
found in the passive role). Much of the sexual abuse was directed at slaves; the horror perhaps reached its
zenith in the household of Caligula, whose reign was either contemporaneous with, or in the years
immediately following, the resurrection of our Lord.
After the Church assumed a position of cultural, theological and social hegemony following the Edict of
Milan, this sexual society largely vanished. Even the remaining pagans, such as Julian the Apostate, did
not engage in the same degree of excess that had characterized the Roman Empire during the first and
second centuries. What is more, the Roman Empire, relatively speaking, compared to earlier civilizations,
actually had a stronger concept of sexual morality, compared to ancient Greece, or for that matter, the
Chaldean Empire (one of the oldest epic poems to remain partially extant, Gilgamesh, features two
protagonists in a homosexual relationship). Within the Roman Empire, there was substantially more
moderation (homosexuality was not romanticized as it was in ancient Greece; there was nothing like the
Theban Sacred Band, for example), and sexuality was officially limited to the norms imposed by the
Christian church in the reign of Justinian. Thus, we can see a clear move away from the celebration and
romanticization of homosexuality in ancient Greece, to the more moderate society of ancient Rome, to the
environment of the Byzantine Empire, whose culture was shaped more by the early Church than by
anything else, which had implemented the essentials of the regime of sexual behavior legally enforced
until the 1950s.
Now, as a matter of fact, Christianity does not require a civil government to oppress or subjugate
homosexuals, in fact, the appalling treatment of Oscar Wilde and Alan Turing (whose name is revered
amongst real hackers), was not in accordance with Christian principles. Yet, the Church clearly has had,
since the era of Paul, at least, an aversion to homosexual practice, and the dramatic change enforced by
the hierarchy upon the ascendancy of the Christian faith in the fourth century was a move to restrain
sexual behavior of all sorts, imposing upon the Empire a code of sexual morality largely the same as that
of the ancient Israelites, as defined in the Torah, according to the Orthodox Christian interpretation, by
God the Father.
Consequently, if the Judicial Council of the UMC had ruled any other way, they would be effectively
saying that:
1, God erred in allowing Mosaic Law to classify homosexuality as a sin.
2. The Israelites erred in prohibiting homosexuality prior to the incarnation of Jesus.
3. The Apostle Paul erred in maintaining this prohibition in his Epistles to the Romans and to the
Corinthians.
4. Christ either erred in making Paul an Apostle on the road to Damascus, or alternately, Paul was a liar,
and by extension erred further in condemning sexual immorality and lasciviousness in Mark 7:20-22.

5. The early church erred in imposing canonical penalties up to and including a lifetime exclusion from
Holy Communion for homosexual laity.
6. Gregory of Nyassa, the younger brother of Basil the Great, erred in condemning homosexuality.
7. Every generation of Christendom that has lived between the Apostolic Age, until the liberalization of
the church beginning in the 1950s, including those that produced John of Damascus, Thomas Aquinas,
Gregory of Palamas, Martin Luther, and John Wesley, erred in the same way, as did Erasmus when he
repented of his homoerotic attractions for another clergyman early in his career.
8. Orthodox Rabinnical Judaism erred in maintaining the Torahs prohibition against homosexuality, and
erred in codifying it in the Talmud; Karaite Judaism erred in the same manner, and this error has been
made by every Orthodox Jew and every Karaite Jew until the present, including the translators of the
Masoretic Text and Maimonides.
9. By extension, all Jews going back to Moses (at least) also erred; presumably, since widespread
objection to this provision of Mosaic Law was not recorded amongst the Israelites, the error extended
further (we do know that the Aramaic civilization that produced Abraham was tolerant of homosexuality,
but at some point in between Abraham and Moses it seems probable that the attitude changed).
10. By extension, the ancient Israelites, Gods chosen people under the Abrahamic covenant, from which
Christ our Redeemer was born, were actually more immoral, and not less immoral, than the Aramaic
peoples, the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Romans, and other civilizations surrounding them.
11. By extension, the remarkable change in the sexuality of the Roman Empire after the adoption of
Christianity by Constantine I, was a change for the worse; thus, Christianity made the Romans more, and
not less, depraved.
Thus, removing this doctrine necessitates the abandonment of any pretext of the catholic faith and of
orthodox doctrine as transmitted to us by John Wesley and the Anglicans; it requires us instead to create a
new religion, an inherently anti-Semitic which, in the manner of the Gnostics and Marcionists, demonizes
the God of Israel, demonizes the Jewish people and Jewish law, declares the Apostle Paul either a liar
about his apostolic ordination, or as having been in error in his epistles (something even the Marcionists
and most Gnostics avoided), and which declares the social change the Church Fathers imposed upon
ancient Rome to have been a step backwards. The resulting faith, which the Episcopal Church, USA, the
Presbyerian Church USA, and the United Church of Christ now practice, is thus a dishonest form of
Unitarianism, masquerading as traditional Protestantism, and one that unlike Unitarianism proper, is also
anti-semitic. Heaven forfend that the UMC should follow the same path into irredeemable apostasy and
heresy.
I added this post:
One other interesting fact that I forgot to mention in my initial post was that in the early Church, celibate
clergy were furthermore set to be deposed if the basis for their celibacy was an aversion to womankind
(under Apostolic Canon 51). Thus, aside from homosexual activity being classified as a sin, as outlined
above, the early Church seemed to hold the view that any horror or aversion to the opposite sex was, to

quote Canon 51, "blaspheming against Creation." Thus, monastic celibacy, fasting, and other forms of
self-denial were permissible only in the face of voluntary resistance to suffering:
" If any bishop, presbyter, or deacon, or any one of the sacerdotal list, abstains from marriage, or flesh, or
wine, not by way of religious restraint, but as abhorring them, forgetting that God made all things very
good, and that he made man male and female, and blaspheming the work of creation, let him be corrected,
or else be deposed, and cast out of the Church. In like manner a layman."
That said, under this canon, the celibacy of homosexuals would not be sinful per se, provided the celibacy
was not the result of an aversion to the opposite gender, in like manner, the abstinence of bisexuals would
be unimpeded. However, this canon, taken in conjunction with the Pauline epistles, and the other canons
of the early church, and the Torah, indicate that homosexuality is a sin, and a sinful inclination, that is to
be struggled against, along with the inclination towards heterosexual promiscuity, adultery, gluttony,
avarice, and so forth. Not worse than other sins, per Christ's injunctions himself, yet still, something to be
repented of.
Regarding the trial of a priest accused of performing a homosexual marriage:
The problem with what youre proposing Christie has to do primarily with the Pauline epistles. The
apostle Paul repeatedly condemns homosexual conduct and calls Christians where possible to a life of
celibacy, and where impossible to marriage (the gold standard of Christian sexuality however is complete
lifelong abstinence, which historically has been required of bishops). The early church interpreted Paul
literally in this respect, as is witnessed by the wealth of canon law and patristic statements regarding
homosexuality.
Now just because homosexuality is prohibited within orthodox Christianity does *not* mean that we hate
homosexuals. I myself very much enjoy the British SF series Torchwood, which features a bisexual male
protagonist. But in all honesty and fairness to everyone, the character of Captain Jack could not be
admitted to communion in a church maintaining the catholic Christian faith (which includes, for the time
being at least, the UMC), much less be married therein.
Now that said, if a clergyman were to discretely perform a homosexual wedding, as a private citizen, and
not as a Methodist pastor, I could not object personally; as far as Im aware that is not against canon law.
Perhaps it should be. However, one thing is for certain; if you ever have enough delegates at the
General Conference [to change the UMC doctrine on human sexuality], you will cause a schism, of the
sort that has already rocked the Presbyterian Church, USA, and the Episcopal Church, USA, where
congregations are leaving en masse to join the ranks of Eco and the ACNA respectively. This would in
my mind be tragic.
Surely within the current Methodist doctrinal formula, that affirms homosexuals are of sacred worth, but
calls them to celibacy, we should be able to reach some sort of concord, on the basis of ascetism. I feel the
UMC ought to take a generally anti-sexual road at this point; the historic Christian position is to stress
celibacy wherever possible. Augustine considered all sexual activity not for the purpose of reproduction
to be a sin, and all sexual pleasure to be of a sinful nature. I dont agree with Augustine on this point, but
perhaps this gives us an interesting theological perspective to consider. We can sidestep the dispute over

sexuality by deprecating it altogether; we can say that homosexuals are uniquely blessed because they are
in fact called to chastity, which is superior to sexuality.
And:
John, first of all, while homosexuality is forbidden, homosexuals in and of themselves are not
condemned; in that homosexuality deviates from the Biblically mandated modes of sexuality (which are
holy celibacy, and heterosexual marriage, with holy celibacy clearly the preferred route for whoever can
adhere to it), it is no worse than any other sin, per the words of our Savior.
Now, it is true that Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:9-10 do not use the word
homosexuality, indeed, they do not condemn those who feel homosexual inclinations. Rather, they
prohibit homosexual activity. Let us take a look at the relevant passages in Romans:
26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use
into that which is against nature:
27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward
another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of
their error which was meet.
In reading these, there can be no doubt that they specifically prohibit male-male and female-female sexual
relations. In the Roman Empire, these were widespread (although not to the same extent as in ancient
Greece), however, unlike in our modern world, they were very frequently non-consensual, with slaves
routinely being the victims of what was later classified under the English common law as the offense of
buggery. It is obvious that rape was a target of these prohibitions, yet clearly, the prohibitions are not
qualified in this manner, and also apply to consensual contact.
Now, in my mind it is highly fallacious to say that Pauls prohibitions on homosexual contact, or for that
matter, the much harsher penalty prescribed in the Old Testament (which mandates the death penalty;
fortunately Christianity does not require literal observance of the Mosaic Law, and the Jews themselves
had a very high standard of evidence and generally only executed one person every seventy years for any
capital crime according to the Mosaic Law, whether it was homosexuality or idolatry or witchcraft or any
other offense), are in some respect not valid, because Paul does not use the contemporary term
homosexuality, for in the Biblical passage quoted above, there can be no doubt that Paul was in fact
referring to what we now refer to as homosexual contact. As homosexuality was exceedingly common in
the Roman Empire, it seems doubtful that a specific term would even be needed to refer to it as such; in
like manner, it became much rarer in the centuries following the adoption of Christianity, although it
never disappeared in its entirety, and the use of a specific term to refer to it is a relatively recent
phenomena.

It is equally fallacious to consider that the passage is not in full force because it is only mentioned eight
times within the Bible. Eight times is certainly enough to prohibit something. In the case of autoerotic
practices, one can make a case that they are allowed; that the blindness of Onan actually was imposed in
response to Coitus Interruptus, and certainly (perhaps for reasons of decency), Paul did not appear to

comment on it. Christ commands us to avoid lascivious conduct of any sort, and I am sure we all to some
degree are guiltless of violating this exhortation, regardless of our sexual orientation.
This takes us to the most important point: Christianity in general abhorrs sexual expression of any sort.
This is an inherent aspect of our religion. To the Church Fathers, sex was at best unimportant, a secondary
benefit of marriage; the Patristic texts show a continual struggle to de-sexualize the decadent and
depraved society of the Roman Empire. In our modern era, when so many young people struggle from
forms of sexual addiction, including addiction to pornography, it seems to me that we should reaffirm
these traditional teachings. We do not have to go as far as Augustine did; we can affirm the validity of sex
within marriage, but I think we should stop there, and we should definitely also say that even within
marriage, sex is at present over-emphasized. Sex should be a secondary consideration of heterosexual
marriage, something that facilitates reproduction and strengthens an existing emotional bond, but it
should not be a primary consideration. Engaging in heterosexual adultery is a sin just as homosexual
activity is; to divorce and remarry is adulterous (although the Orthodox allow it on the ground of
oikonomia).
I myself feel that the UMC canons regarding sexuality do not go far enough; a pastor who divorces his
wife ought to be immediately defrocked; whereas one who is divorced against their will ought to be
required to take a leave of absence and to enter a church-governed spiritual retreat to facilitate healing; in
the manner of the Orthodox church they should be required to remain celibate for the duration of their
presbyterial tenure. We may even wish to consider the possibility of canonical penalties, to be applied to
laity who engage in divorce without justified reasons (such as physical abuse, emotional abuse or
infidelity).
Regarding Dawg-ma, I must stress that orthodox Christianity, of the sort still practiced by a significant
percentage of Methodists in North America, and the vast majority in Africa and elsewhere, is quite
different from the legalistic religion of the Pharisees, and even that of Orthodox Judaism. In Christianity,
while there remain strict moral regulations, we can be assured that we will receive the forgiveness of God
in repenting; the depraved condition of creation resulting from original sin makes our sinning inevitable.
We should not however follow Luthers advise that we should sin boldly; this was probably the most
heretical utterance of Martin Luther, and along with his anti-semitism, causes me to regard him as
heterodox (although his efforts to make a vernacular Bible accessible have hugely benefited all Christians
in Western Europe).
I should also state that within the UMC, or most Christian churches for that matter, clergy and indeed
laity are protected from the unilateral application of canon law, and have the right to a trial if charged
with a violation. This is of vital importance, as it prevents us from being the victims of capricious
persecution at the hands of vindictive clergymen and laity. One comes across horror stories of incidents in
9Marks churches and other authoritarian churches where a congregant is unilaterally excommunicated
and shunned for disagreeing with some aspect of the ministers leadership; if UMC ministers such as
UMJeremy had the power to unilaterally excommunicate me every time I raised an objection to some
aspect of modern theology, I would have been ejected long ago. Fortunately, they do not; in like manner
the laity cannot unilaterally destroy the careers of clergymen by raising false accusations. The difference
between the church and, for example, a major corporation, is that here due process exists.

What is more, it is not simply an HR decision. Defrocking a minister is far more serious than firing an
accountant; ministry is a lifelong commitment to the church, almost like a marriage. The canons of the
Early Church clearly emphasize the importance of deposing clergy only for major offenses, and contain
procedures for reinstating clergy unjustly dismissed by an abusive prelate.
In Response to Allegations of Prooftexting
BJohnM wrote:
think John, perhaps I wasnt clear in my reasoning. Let me attempt to clarify. If one elects to take one or
eight verses from the Bible, and interpret those, out of context, in some attempted literal sense, and use
those to make any group of people less than others, then one ought to be obligated to use the same
logic and tests in interpreting and abiding by every other verse. Who is the person qualified to decide
which verses are literal and which are not? Thats my point. Im all for having a dialogue on the entire
Bible, but only with the starting premise that it is not infallible and inerrant based on our modern
understandings of people and the world (the issue of slavery being one good example). That it was written
by men at a time well after Jesus lived (for the New Testament anyways), and that we all struggle with the
interpretation of these verses. Paul Anthony appears to submit himself and his view as the final answer,
based out of context interpretations of a very scripture. I only submit that if hes intent on doing that for
those particular scriptures, hes obligated to the same standard for them all.
To which I reply:
BJohnM, first of all, Id like to point out that your remark could be interpreted as being anti-Semitic, in
that both the Karaite and Orthodox Jews do make a sincere effort to follow the entire Levitical code, the
Karaites through a Protestant-style analysis and the Orthodox Rabinnical Jews via the Talmud, a
codification of the Oral Torah observed by the Pharisees (I would also say that objecting to the traditional
Christian doctrine on homosexuality is inherently anti-Semitic in that it requires us to say that all Jews
before Christ were more, and not less sinful, than their Greek, Babylonian and Roman oppressors, and it
requires us to say that all Orthodox and Karaite Jews after Christ have been sinful to the extent that they
observe the Levitical Code in this regard. I am not prepared to say that about our pious brethren from
what could be described as our sister religion.)
However, in terms of Christianity, you miss the mark substantially because were not talking about the
Levitical Code. Rather, we are talking about the specific instructions of the Apostle Paul in three separate
Epistles. Now you can say Im wrong to interpret them the way I do based on the fact that they only
appear 8 times; this is fallacious, in that we should not rate sins against other sins or deny their sinful
nature depending on how many times they are referenced. However its also fallacious because we know
exactly how the early Church interpreted these instructions.
Gregory of Nyassa in his Canonical Letter to Letolus of Mytilenne,, along with Canon 71 of the Council
of Elvira, Canon17 of the Council of Ancyra, by and in Canon 14 of the Council of Tours, and Canon 3 of
the Sixteenth Council of Toledo,. among other ancient sources, restrict various forms of homosexuality
ranging from pederasty to monks sleeping two to a bed. The Corpus Juris Civilis of Justinian, which was
the first legal code to be explicitly based on the teachings of the early Church, reinforced the practice. So
it is simply not historically accurate to suggest that within the Orthodox, Catholic faith this practice is

allowed. So while we can say that homosexuality is certainly no worse than any other sin, and we are all
guilty of different sins, it is a huge leap to go from there to saying that we actually should make a habit of
engaging in that specific sin. One might as well propose that we habitually engage in adultery or
fornication (in the manner of the LibChrist movement).
Ultimately, if one bears in mind the canons of the early Church and the teachings of her Apostles and
Fathers, one can say beyond any doubt that the early Church took an extremely dim view of this practice,
and indeed of all sexuality. Pauls epistles show a strong preference for celibacy; Christ himself expressed
this, but stated that those unable to maintain a celibate life could well be married. The extreme preference
for celibacy is why ultimately all Bishops were celibate, and why Anthony the Great left metropolitan
Egypt to venture out into the deep desert, founding the great institute of Christian monasticism, on among
other things, a complete denial of all forms of sexual expression.
This in my mind is highly desirable. Now it is fair to say that Christians are not literally bound to the
Levitical Code; as it is well expressed in the NT, the consensus is that the Levitical Code cannot really be
completely adhered to, because there seems to be an effect I would call the conservation of sin, in
which attempts to avoid sinning against one aspect of it result in accidentally sinning against another.
That said, Peter and James the Just certainly didnt fault Jews for trying, and I dont think Paul did either;
that was not his point. Rather, we can rest assured of forgiveness to the extent that we violate it, and also
we are no longer required to implement the governmental sanctions the Levitical code requires. We can
very happily say that the Puritans in fact sinned greatly in the Salem witch trials, and that it is quite wrong
to put homosexuals to death. I love homosexual figures such as the actor John Barrowman; Ive even
known some closet homosexual clergy and I love them dearly. I just maintain in accordance with church
teaching, that the church traditions regarding homosexual practice ought to be maintained.
What this means is that simply, homosexuals have a unique and exceedingly blessed calling to holy
celibacy. First, they must overcome any actual aversion they have to the opposite sex. The canons of the
early church require that clergymen who are celibate because they actually hate womankind must be
deposed; I think we can safely extrapolate this to say that its sinful either for gay men or for lesbians to
engage in misogyny or misandrogyny. Once this aversion (which is often triggered by a horrible
experience at some point in life) can be overcome, the path of blessed holy celibacy can be followed.
Now, if someone then backslides and succumbs to temptation, even a large number of times, they can
expect to be forgiven. This is the beauty of Christianity. When we say something is wrong, from a
theological standpoint, we dont mean that God is going to damn you for it (unless of course you fail to
repent), or that the civil authorities should kill you for it, but rather, simply that it is wrong and is to be
avoided.
So whereas the Levitical Code, which from the writings of the Apostles and the statements of Christ
himself, we can safely say still represents the normative definition of what is sinful and what isnt (with a
few specific exceptions, such as the release from symbolic aspects of the code), the difference is that
within Christianity, there is not a judicial or legal means of penalization for violating it; we can be assured
of forgiveness. Thus the Levitical Code ceases to be a strict legal framework that must be adhered to, and
instead becomes a standard that should be aspired to, while following the strict instructions of Christ and
his apostles; that we are to love God with all our heart and mind and soul, love our neighbor as ourselves,
and so forth.

The pericope regarding the woman who had engaged in adultery perhaps offers us the greatest insight on
this point; it represents to the fullest degree the difference between Christianity (and indeed contemporary
Orthodoox and Karaite Judaism) and the old Second Temple Judaism and militant forms of Sunni Islam.
Christ prevented the execution of the adulteress, and instructed her to go forth and sin no more. In doing
this, he stopped what was a cruel abuse of the Law, giving the sinner a new life in the fullest sense of the
word, however, he did this without denying the sinful nature of adultery.
I think this shows us clearly how to do Christianity: in a spirit of intense love and repentence. We cannot,
in the manner of Martin Luther, sin and sin boldly; we are not utterly released from the Law and granted
carte blanche to transgress Gods instructions at will; our faith is not anomial. Rather, we are called to a
life of prayer, a life of repentence, in many respects, a life of self denial (represented by the Orthodox
practice of fasting more than half of the year) in pursuit of Christ, who we are to love above all other
things; and a life in harmony with our brethren, who we are to love as ourselves.
I feel like contemporary Protestant Christianity has actually become a very mean-spirited religion, in the
manner of Gnosticism. The emphasis is on secret knowledge, in this case, of the Gospel; we emphasize a
spiritual rather than a bodily resurrection, and what is worse, we position ourselves as a social and
intellectual elite. Catholics and Orthodox Christians are viewed with derision, regardless of whether one
is on the right wing (the militant Calvinist/9Marks/Southern Baptist school) or the left wing (essentially
BJohnM, you, along with say, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church USA, and a vast array of
other contemporary liberal Christians, liberation theologists and neo-Gnostics).
What I think John Wesley was really after, with the Holiness doctrine, was to return Western Christianity
to its roots. Holiness is almost directly equivalent to theosis, or deification. God became Man in Christ so
that we humans could become like God, participating in his divine energies (while his essence remains
utterly unknowable). For this theosis to occur, an extreme degree of spiritual discipline, which Wesley
emphasized in his Methodist societies, which had a very strict juridicial praxis, with troublemakers
quietly ejected, is required. The Methodist societies represented a new form of ascetic Christianity,
accessible to those living the secular life, but in many respects modeled on monasticism. In the UMC, I
feel we should return to this model, deprecating sexuality, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, craven materialism,
and the trappings of our modern, decadent and depraved society. In pursuit of this noble objective, we
should let the teachings of Church Fathers guide us in correctly interpreting the Bible, and we should hold
fast to Church tradition to the fullest extent possible.
The Imperative of Repentance
In response to someone saying they are shamed to be Methodist following the conviction of Pastor
Schaeffer and his suspension for 30 days for performing a gay marriage:
Amanda; we should be apologizing to God; repentance for our myriad sins should be the main focus of
our lives. The Bible, for reasons I've explained elsewhere, reinforced by the traditions of the early
Church, allows for two modes of human sexuality: heterosexual marriage, and holy celibacy, with
celibacy being the preferred route. If homosexuals were to, instead of indulging their sexual appetite,
dedicate themselves to prayer, they would be happier and more fulfilled. Therefore, if the Methodist
church deviates from classical Christian teaching on this point it is actually harming homosexuals by
denying them the inner peace possible through prayer and celibacy; in the same manner that it would

harm heterosexuals by affirming adultery or fornication. I myself on occasions have experienced


homosexual temptation, although I'm now in a heterosexual marriage; if I lose my spouse I will become a
celibate monk. Homosexuality is no worse or no better than any other sins; it is a sin to hate
homosexuals, or to mistreat them; Turing and Oscar Wilde were horribly treated, in a sinful manner.
That said, within the *Christian* religion, the Orthodox, Catholic doctrines of our faith, that Methodism
historically affirmed, impose severe limitations on human sexuality. To suggest any change here would
transform the Christian faith into a form of Gnostic religion.
There are alternative faiths for those unwilling to give up homosexual pursuits, such as Unitarianism. For
that matter, there are heterodox Christian denominations such as the PCUSA, the Episcopal Church,
USA, and the UCC. If you are so ashamed of the UMC for maintaining its historical doctrine, in order to
be honest to its faith as interpreted by the majority of its congregants, and to avoid a schism, you should
consider these alternatives. The Episcopal Church, USA, is very similar to the UMC, in that it shares a
common heritage in the pre-revolutionary Anglican churches in America, has the same polity, and very
similar worship. For that matter, Unitarian Universalism is a formerly Christian religion that has
discarded all the strictures of our Orthodox faith. I myself like the UUs because of their stress on the
importance of religious tolerance, which I agree with. I heartily recommend the UU for anyone who
does not want to give up sexual expression in the manner required by Christianity.
Within our faith, however, and especially within the Methodist tradition, driven as it is by the Wesleyan
doctrine of holiness, there is a substantial emphasis on giving up secondary pleasures such as alcohol,
drugs, sex, and so forth, in order to move closer to God, in continual prayer and love of Jesus Christ. We
are called upon not to be inclusive or welcoming, but rather, to call the world to repentance, to be the light
and salt of the earth, and to pray without ceasing; most especially, to pray for those outside the church.
Non-Christians can easily be saved, especially through prayer, according to orthodox Christian doctrine;
as Christians are in fact held to a higher moral standard than non-Christians, I would propose it is actually
safer for someone who feels a homosexual inclination and does not want to pursue a celibate life to
remain outside the Church. It is generally believed that, with God at least, ignorance is a valid excuse,
but intentional defiance is utterly contrary to the spirit of repentance that Christianity requires.
The Binding Nature of the Pauline Injunctions
MG and BJohnM make several misleading statements here that require a closer look.
I will begin with MG. The Bible does indicate that divorce is sinful; it is my view that any time a
divorce occurs, this, as Christ indicates, constitutes a form of adultery. Divorce is a reprehensible act and
in my mind any married clergyman who divorces his spouse ought to be deposed. Adultery of this sort
is, in the eyes of God, clearly no different from homosexuality; but adultery that destroys a marriage,
from a purely social standpoint, does substantially more damage than an isolated incident of homosexual
activity outside of marriage. The Roman Catholics err however in not allowing it; this approach led to
the Anglican schism and the murder of numerous women throughout history; the Eastern church allows it
but frowns on it to an extreme degree; if a divorced person is remarried, the joyous aspects of the
marriage liturgy are omitted and the prayers assume a more penitential tone. I very much feel this ought
to be adopted in the UMC, which historically stressed affirming marriage in a number of interesting ways
that the contemporary church, in its blandness, has abandoned (there was a prayer service led by a

minister, where married couples would affirm their love for each other, that has become quite rare, and I
think this is a great tragedy).
Now you raise another interesting point on dietary laws. The early Church, going back to the apostles
Peter and Paul, considered the Kosher laws to be symbolic, along with circumcision; these laws served to
define Jewish cultural identity. However, it is certainly not wrong for Jewish Christians to follow them.
Within the early church, the Council of Jerusalem (which is described in Acts) abolished these as binding
requirements on the faith, but did retain one important dietary restriction, that being a prohibition on
eating the blood of anything strangled, derived from Noahide Law, which is the baseline standard of
morality Jews feel ought to be applied to Gentiles. I make it a point to not knowingly violate this
restriction, and I feel the importance of this ought to be emphasized in our society.
Now, there is another interesting and related point, which is fasting discipline. The Christian church has
historically fasted two days each week, on Wednesday and Friday; on these days, at a minimum, meat
other than seafood should be avoided; preferably, all meat, as well as animal products and vegetable oil.
This degree of fasting is also adhered to in the 40 day fast of Great Lent as it is practiced in the East,
except on weekends. The Oriental Orthodox practice the most extreme fast in the form of the Rogation of
the Ninevites, which is based on the Jonah story, which is of particular importance to the Syriac and
Assyrian communities as they view the Ninevites as their literal ancestors; this fast, which is also
followed by the Armenian and Coptic communities, is an example of an Old Testament practice that has
been preserved in the modern church since at least the sixth century. Then there is the Eucharistic fast;
abstinence from food and most forms of drink for at least three hours, if not twelve hours, before receipt
of Holy Communion. Christians following Eastern fasting discipline spend a little more than half the year
fasting to one degree or another; Roman Catholics also fast to a substantial degree, and I believe it is time
for these practices to be adopted within the UMC; if we really care about the starving of the impoverished
people, and of the health consequences of obesity, fasting, giving the excess food to the poor, and availing
ourselves of the accordant weight loss, while at the same time growing in our faith through the ascetic
discipline this provides, is a win-win scenario. The early church in a few cases did intentionally deviate
from Kosher requirements to forge a distinct Christian identity; the Jews historically fasted on Tuesdays
and Thursdays, but within Christianity this was changed to Wednesday and Friday to commemorate the
betrayal and crucifixion of our Lord. I myself do not follow Kosher, therefore, but rather the Eastern
Christian fasting discipline (although I consider Roman praxis in this regard to be equally valid). It
should be stressed that failure to fast, within Christianity, is not a sin; fasts are a devotional exercise, and
make one happy, by bringing one closer to God.
Now, on to your next point. The Bible nowhere specifies the subjugation of women. What it does do is
define a scenario of sexual relations that I feel the Church did the best job at in the Medieval period, with
the chivalric practices. Christian orthodoxy, following in the teachings of Paul, does not require women
to be subjugated; it does indicate that they, like men, should avoid adorning themselves in a vain manner
("with gilt trinkets"); it also reserves the priesthood for men. The traditional theological interpretation of
this is simply that, because the priest or Bishop must vicariously represent Christ in consecrating the
Eucharist, the holders of that office must be male; however, the early church did have deaconesses, and
from a theological standpoint, there is no other ministerial function not open to women. Nor does this
restriction mean that the early church subjugated women or viewed them as inferior; while there was
some sexism, on the whole, the early Christians, and the Jews before them, practiced greater gender

equality than any other ancient society (there were matriarchal societies, the Numidians come to mind,
but here it was the men who were subjugated). One interesting manifestation of this still visible today is
the idea that Jewish identity is transmitted on a matrilineal line.
Now let us continue on to BJohnM. While Christians realize that the Torah cannot be adhered to in an
infallible degree, at least in its Biblical form (the Rabinnical Jews, to make it work, turned it into a
consistent law code in the form of the Talmud and repsonsa literature), that does not mean we should not
make a sincere effort to follow its moral imperatives. We will fail, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't
try; we just should not, in the manner of the Pharisees, consider that we have succeeded, and that it has
made us righteous. Now, a few specific aspects of the Torah which relate to Jewish cultural identity
were specifically invalidated by the Apostles, yet other provisions, including that relating to
homosexuality, were continued, and in fact Jesus Christ substantially tightened the restrictions on divorce.
Whereas a Jew could in general obtain a divorce with a clean conscience, Christ removes that possibility
for Christians.
Now, let's take a look at how we know that the moral imperative regarding homosexuality applies to
Christians. Firstly, the Apostle Paul condemns the practice in Romans, Corinthians and Timothy. Jude
1:7 condemns sexual immorality and reiterates the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Our Lord himself
condemns lascivious behavior. Fornication and adultery are also condemned; Christians are clearly
called, Biblically, to remain sexually pure, either through holy celibacy, the preferred route, or through
the institution of heterosexual marriage.
Now, the most compelling reason to avoid homosexuality, from my perspective, is not just that its
condemned within the Bible, but that the traditions of the early Church maintained these condemnations.
As Irenaeus pointed out, one can, by selecting Biblical verses out of context (proof-texting), distort the
Bible into saying whatever one wants it to; this was a favorite tactic of the Gnostics. This is why it is of
utmost importance to follow to the fullest extent the teachings of the early Church; it is my opinion that
the Church Fathers through the fourth century, possessed through the grace of the Holy Spirit the
definitive interpretation of the Bible. It was the early fathers who defined what the NT canon was; it
was the early fathers who taught us to interpret them. If it were not for them, the Church, if it were to still
exist in any form, might follow the anti-semitic faith of Marcion, or the anti-materialistic dualist
spirituality of Gnosticism; we might in the manner of Arius deny the consubstantiality of Christ with the
Father. I can assure BJohnM and MG that I am not proof-texting, or seeking to create an original
interpretation of the Bible to pursue my own objectives, in the manner of contemporary Protestants of
both conservative and liberal persuasion, rather, I am merely echoing the sentiments of the Church
Fathers. If they can show me where I've misinterpreted Patristic opinion, then I will of course yield to
their view, but given that all of the churches which prioritize Patristic thought (the Eastern Orthodox, the
Oriental Orthodox, the Assyrians, the Eastern Catholics, and to a lesser extent the Romans, and some
Protestants, such as John Wesley, and conservative Anglo Catholics such as the ACNA) stress these same
doctrines, I would view that as unlikely. A simplistic way of looking at this moral equation would be to
take the shared teachings of the aforementioned denominations, and then compare them with the early
church; any that remained could be considered definitive, and the UMC is then shown to be in error to the
extent that it deviates from them.

Now, how do we know that the Church Fathers objected to homosexuality? Aside from the canon law
examples I cited earlier, and the Corpus Juris Civilis, we have some of the most compelling evidence
from St. John Chrysostom, widely considered to be the greatest preacher of all time. Chrysostom's
contribution to the Christian liturgy is immeasurable, yet he also made huge contributions to the traditions
of Christian philanthropy; with his fire and brimstone rhetoric, he shamed the upper classes of
Constantinople into giving away a substantial portion of their income, and in so doing founded hospitals,
hospices, schools, and numerous other components of social infrastructure, following in the footsteps of
Basil the Great and Gregory the Theologian; with whom he is remembered as one of the Three Holy
Hierarchs in the Eastern Orthodox Church.
What did John Chrysostom have to say on homosexuality? In his fourth homily on Romans, the saintly
patriarch of Antioch and later of Constantinople declared that "All these passions then were vile, but
chiefly the mad lust after males; for the soul is more the sufferer in sins, and more dishonored, than the
body in diseases. But behold how here too, as in the case of the doctrines, he deprives them of excuse, by
saying of the women, that they changed the natural use. For no one, he means, can say that it was by
being hindered of legitimate intercourse that they came to this pass, or that it was from having no means
to fulfill their desire that they were driven into this monstrous insaneness. For the changing implies
possession. Which also when discoursing upon the doctrines he said, They changed the truth of God for a
lie. And with regard to the men again, he shows the same thing by saying, Left the natural use of the
female."
Chrysostom's standing within orthodox, catholic Christian doctrine, of the sort adhered to by John
Wesley, among other Protestants, lies utterly beyond question. His interpretation of Paul's epistles can be
considered definitive in every sense of the word; to deviate from it is to read it incorrectly. And here we
see him clearly defining the orthodox doctrine on homosexuality. Now, given the choice between siding
with the sociopolitical opinion of our modern, depraved society, or of aligning myself with John
Chrysostom, there is simply no choice; I must align myself with John Chrysostom because his role in
witnessing the Christian faith is immeasurable; the impact he alone has made on my life, in terms of
bringing me to my God, invaluable.
Now, one last point should be addressed. Do I personally ignore Biblical injunctions on occasion? Being
a sinner, the answer is unfortunately yes; sometimes I forget, sometimes I get angry and sin deliberately.
To this extent, this reflects my depraved nature, due to original sin. This is why I stress the importance
of continual repentence, self-denial and ascetism, to increase in holiness, as John Wesley stressed, and to
slowly reduce one's inclination to sin. Surely, as Abba Sisoes said, I cannot know if I have even begun to
repent, yet this does not mean I shouldn't try. As a Christian and a Methodist, I feel compelled to urge
my fellow Methodists to adopt the same course of deep repentence, and to return to the path John Wesley,
and the laudable, honorable and glorious apostles, martyrs and theologians of the early Church, have set
out for us.
Rick Miller wrote:
Actually, Paul, the apostle Paul never affirmed the sinful nature of the act of homosexuality. He
affirmed the sinful nature of certain men and women committing unnatural acts of passion with
members of their own sex. He also noted that they paid for this in their own bodies. While we can
speculate, the exact context to which Paul is referring is lost to us. A little more careful exegesis will go a

long way to not make problems where they dont exist. Aside from that, the thrust of Pauls message is
that we are all sinners and fall short of Gods intent for us, and we all need Gods grace expressed in
Christ for salvation, be we homosexual or heterosexual.
To which I reply:
Since the early Church interpreted this as referring to homosexual contact (see the Homilies of St. John
Chrysostom), we can say with certainty that Paul was in fact referring to homosexual activity per se. It is
important to remember however that Paul, in his epistles, does not deny homosexuals access to the love of
Christ through repentance and forgiveness; Pauls goal is to promote reconciliation and a conversion of
character, not to pass judgment or pronounce condemnation. Engaging in sexually deviant conduct cannot
be said to cause damnation, and we must stress this point. Christ can and will save as many as possible
regardless. It is the duty of the church not to judge, but rather to educate people on what sin is, as the
Bible and the Fathers have taught us, and to call them to repentance, that they might make peace with
their Lord, and enter into Holy Communion, for the remission of sins and participation in the life of the
world to come.
The Propriety of Civil Disobedience Against The Church
This is not a question of what bothers or does not bother a few conservative methodist elders in their
day. Unlike slavery or segregation, which were always widely opposed within a large segment of the
church (the Biblical commandment enforcing the separation of the Jewish people having been explicitly
lifted in the NT, and replaced by an alternate directive mandating the separation of the church from the
depraved aspects of civil society), and only defensible with a twisted hermeneutics at odds with the
historic teachings of the Church, the Christian church has always said that homosexual behavior is a sin.
Paul said it, Jude said it, I would say Christ implied it; Gregory of Nyassa and John Chrysostom said it;
the Bishops at several early church councils said it. The Cloud of Witnesses that testifies to our faith is
nearly unanimous in objecting to this.
Nor should anyone cite the delusional exegesis of Matthew 6; the Greek word used therein, while it can
mean servant (as the KVJ translated it), can also mine child or boy, and cross-checking that passage
against the Aramaic Peshitta indicates that it was in the latter context, referring to the son of the Roman.
To my knowledge Roman homosexuals had not yet developed the so-called Leatherdaddy culture, so
when the NT indicates that the individual in question was the son of the General, we can take its word for
it.
This issue is nothing like segregation or racism. In the case of homosexual behavior, what were talking
about is the same thing we object to with heterosexuals, that being, an inability to control ones passions
and only procreate within the context of a holy heterosexual marriage; failing that, the extremely blessed
route of holy celibacy in the footsteps of St. Anthony the Great, St. Benedict, St. John of Damascus and
so on presents itself. If I had to make a rough guess, Id say at least 75% of church fathers were
themselves celibate, either voluntarily or due to their episcopal office. One of the main aspects of Roman
culture that the early church rightly opposed was Roman sexual promiscuity, which was in fact much
worse than that of our society today, but it is shocking to see the degree to which we have devolved
towards the truly dreadful condition of ancient Rome (we abuse sex slaves, but unlike in Rome, its illegal

to do so; we do not yet have gladiatorial combat to the death, but Reality TV at times seems disturbingly
close).
The role of the church is to be the light and salt of the world, to call people to repentance. In the
unfortunate case of homosexuals, in the Victorian era through the 1950s, they were treated in a manner
lacking the appropriate Christian charity. Wilde and Turing were savagely abused by the British
government, resulting in their premature death. However, while adopting the fullest attitude of repentance
about that, we must still maintain our historic position, calling homosexuals to a life of holy celibacy.
Fifteen minutes of devout fervent prayer are infinitely more rewarding than fifteen minutes of mere
sexual pleasure.
Which takes us to the root of the problem. People like jay johnson want to redefine the church from an
agency that proclaims the received morality from God, calling the world to repentance, into an entity that
merely tells people whatever they want to hear, whatever it is that will make them feel good inside.
Whatever sexual appetites you have, this new church will bless. Whatever desires you have, no matter
how far removed they are from the Biblical imperative of repentance, the new church will endorse.
The ultimate form of this can be found amongst the Charismatic heretics who preach the so called
Prosperity gospel. If there ever was an actual heresy that deserved the adjective damnable (which
came up in an earlier conversation this week), it is this gross impiety, which seeks to reduce the Christian
church to nothing more than a talisman with which to secure temporal and worldly success. The liberal
Christians preach a version of this heresy, only instead of praying for the individual material wealth of the
layman, they pray for certain other goals which are entirely of a materialistic nature, some of which are in
and of themselves laudable, but the problem is, these goals are prayed for in exclusion to the actual moral
message of Christianity.
The Gospel shows us that this life is but a mere foretaste of the heavenly glory that awaits us, as we are
bodily resurrected. A trumpet shall blow, and we shall be raised! Raised incorruptible! Free from the
inescapable despair of a world ravaged by original sin, we will be able to live in bodily form, in close and
immediate proximity to our God, participating in an everlasting heavenly liturgy, and separated from the
anguish and depravity that defines our present lives. I daresay that that is an infinitely more compelling
prospect, then a degenerate theology designed to justify a trivial and insignificant amount of sexual
pleasure on behalf of those who we should instead recommend the consecrated life. and with it, vowing
perpetual chastity, stability, and conversion of character.
Love, Truth, and Orthodoxy
Don Nelson wrote:
As one who served in the United Methodist Church as an ordained elder in the Oklahoma Conference for
10 years before I could no longer abide by the Doctrinal bias and bigotry I experienced from those in
leadership positions I find any and all references to Biblical and Apostolic Faith absurd and
nonsensical. If the UMC was to truly adopt a Biblical approach it would follow Wesleys If your mind be
as my mind and truly minister to the human condition as it exists in a very diverse world. But that will
not happen so long as there are those that cling to an archaic and draconian set of dogmas. It is time for
the UMC to move into the 21st century and stop trying to resurrect the dark ages.

To which I replied:
There is nothing draconian about the faith of Orthodox Christianity. We affirm the sanctity of life and the
sanctity of human sexuality. Men are inherently sinful, and must learn, through spiritual formation, to
control their passions. Almost all of the excesses of American society that liberals and conservatives alike
object to are the result of decadent indulgence, the result of people not disciplining themselves. Obesity
results from failure to control ones appetite, succumbing to the sin of gluttony. Suburban sprawl, the
corporate financial scandals, the massive debt, all result from various forms of avarice and materialism.
The single teenage parents, the spread of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, and other horrors,
are all largely the result of people failing to discipline their sexual appetites. The vast numbers of
homeless and mentally disturbed people and the huge numbers of casualties on the roads due to impaired
driving, are the result of people yielding to the demonic temptation to abuse substances. All of these are
failures of self control.
How possibly is the church being archaic and draconian, in stressing the importance of the Catholic faith,
the faith of John Wesley, which stresses abstinence from alcohol, control of sexual passions, generosity,
simplicity of living, and humility? If every American did as the church historically taught, this country
would not have degenerated into its current nightmarish condition. Shame on you, and everyone like you,
who argues that, in this dark hour, when the teaching of Gods divine Word has never been more
important, that the church should instead abrogate its holy and sacred responsibilities and merely affirm
the depravity of contemporary society.

Julie Arms wrote:


Paul Anthony, at 10:54am you say deluded these innocent children into sexual depravity. The UMC
officially states that it loves homosexuals; I love homosexuals. It is of vital importance that we do more to
connect with them, in love, and help them overcome the sexual derangement inflicted upon them by
Satan. Just stop it. Stop it now. This is EXACTLY the kind of spiritual violence we speak of you claim
to love homosexuals and then you turn to derogatory and demeaning language. Depravity?
Derangement? You think this is how one expresses love and sacred worth? THIS is why people
leave the church.
I need to ask are you unaware that any number of homosexuals in the UMC are preachers kids? Im
not just bringing that up because of Rev. Frank Schaefers trial but because of knowing others. Do you
not think/realize/know that those kids were in fact well raised in the faith, had sufficient parental &
pastoral care, and yet were still harmed by the UMCs doctrine as it impacted their own lives.
Also, your #8, re the laity: The BoD itself is largely irrelevant as far as laity are concerned untrue.
Since 50% of the delegates voting on church law every General Conference are laity, every lay person
SHOULD know what is contained in the BoD.
I could go on & on but right now, if I should say more, it would be with anger as my guide, not grace.
To which I replied:

Julie, you need to let go of your anger, and set aside your preconceived notions about the moral and
ethical precepts of modern society, if you wish to understand the Apostolic Faith of Christianity. Through
intense prayer and fasting, you may be able to reach an understanding of where Christians such as myself
are coming from. To quote Georges Florovsky, I want you to look at my faith. It is a very ancient faith, a
very beautiful faith.
The most loving thing a parent can do in raising their adolescent children, whose sexuality is effectively
in the process of asserting itself, is to guide them to direct their natural sexual impulses in the right
direction: towards heterosexual monogamous matrimony; not heterosexual promiscuity, which is every
bit as bad as homosexuality from the standpoint of Christian morality. Indeed Augustine himself sinned in
this manner in his Manichean youth; his great remorse over it caused him to, in later life, assume a very
negative attitude towards sex in general, which is perhaps excessive, but nonetheless I do revere much of
what St. Augustine has to say, as did John Wesley.
I love homosexuals. I cannot condone under any circumstances their actual sexual activity. They have
effectively lost control of their passions, due to demonic influence, and have succumbed to temptation.
However, they are not damned because of this; it is no worse than any other sin, and if repented of, it will
be forgiven. The most loving thing one can do in many cases is to warn someone that theyre making a
huge mistake, giving them a chance to perform an emergency course correction, which in many cases can
be quite painful, but is ultimately beneficial. To put it another way, as I see it, my homosexual friends are
like other friends Ive had who were intoxicated, and were about to drive away from a party. I stopped
them; I blocked their car using my car and was in the process of calling the police, to prevent them from
potentially killing themselves; fortunately, they calmed down and got the message, and thus the situation
was resolved peacefully. However, had I allowed them to drive off intoxicated, and they had perished,
their blood would be on my hands. I could not live with myself; nor can i live with myself if I fail to let
my gay friends know how I feel. I never tease them, I never torment them, I never insult them. However,
when they are depressed, I offer them spiritual guidance, and in at least one case, I was able to make a
real difference in their life.
What is more, your argument that people leave the church because of this view is utterly fallacious. I
cant recall once hearing a Methodist minister in recent years preach a sermon on homosexuality. The
reason why references to it in the historic texts of Christianity are so scarce is simply because it was
always assumed to be a perverse act, and was simply not discussed; relatively few people engaged in it,
those who did were in the closet so to speak, and the church functioned. Erasmus, the famous
theologian and contemporary of Martin Luther, had a homosexual affair in his youth, which he later
repented of to a profound degree. What is more, if your reasoning behind the decline in UMC
membership were correct, one would expect to see a proportionately greater decline in the membership of
more conservative denominations, but in fact, those denominations are growing in size considerably. The
Eastern Orthodox, the Southern Baptists, the PCA, the new eco denomination, and a wave of independent
churches, and the Roman Catholics, are all seeing an influx of converts from liberal mainline Protestant
denominations.
I would say that in fact, the liberal theology you espouse actually alienates people from the church, for the
simple reason that it is in fact hateful. The abrasive language of liberal apologists, the absolute intolerance
for dissenting viewpoints, the dehumanizing and frankly demonizing way in which conservative

theologians such as myself are discussed, and furthermore, the complete rejection of church tradition, not
just relating to homosexuality, but also the male priesthood, the traditional liturgy, the beautiful
traditional hymns, the love feasts, and all of the other wonderful things we once did in the Methodist
church, all serve to alienate ordinary people of moderate social and religious conscience.
I myself have experienced nothing but love from conservative pastors, but on several occasions, not even
in a theological context, but rather in a pastoral care context, I have been savagely mistreated by liberal
pastors within the UMC. On the night my grandfather died, a liberal clergyman manhandled my mother,
who was weeping uncontrollably, in a misguided attempt to calm her down. On another occasion, when
my father was taken to the hospital, and a false report came in that he was dead (in fact, he was alive and
recovering, but an aide accidentally pulled up the wrong file), a liberal pastor happened to be at my house
talking to my mother. Upon hearing the news, I ran to my room and locked my door; he pounded on my
door and demanded to talk to me. I refused. Most recently, I was savagely abused by a liberal pastor of
the parish I had attended since 2006 when I requested that he spend some time counseling me about
spiritual concerns relating to my fathers illness. Most of the actual pastoral care I get now comes from a
Methodist pastor who lives about 30 miles away from me, in a parish too far away for me to regularly
attend, and a local Episcopal priest who happens to be theologically conservative (hes like one of five
conservative priests left in the Episcopal church). So my experience with liberal clergymen on a personal
level has been one filled with incidents of extreme spritual violence; and at the hands of liberal
theologians such as yourself I have been the recipient of derogatory and demeaning language.
Now, this bears the important question: what is the correct Christian response to this misbehavior? The
answer can be summed up in two words: love and prayer. As you are a (presumably) layman, by my own
standards I will not write you off as a heretic, since in my view only clergy are actually capable of heresy;
rather, I will regard you as someone who disagrees with me, and I will pray that in the manner of George
Whitefield and John Wesley, you might at least be able to reach the ability to agree to disagree with me
in terms of this theological discussion. And I will pray for your wellbeing, the safety of your immortal
soul, and I will thank God for the fact that you clearly are a person who is full of love and concern for the
disadvantaged members of society. The love that underlies your anger is beautiful; I beg you to pray and
attempt to discern more closely the will of the Holy Spirit, so that you can apply that love in harmony
with Gods divine energies and attain theosis.
Now, regarding homosexual children of Methodist pastors; if a Methodist pastor fails to correctly raise
their child in the Biblical doctrines of sexuality, that is a great tragedy. Some of these children may well
have been abused by their parents, and since their parents were clergymen, by the church as well, and this
in fact might account for their homosexual orientation. I would say that they were not in any way harmed
by Methodist doctrine, rather, they were harmed by hypocritical and incompetent pastors who failed to
communicate that doctrine in a loving and supportive manner, due to a lack of prayer and inadequate
pastoral training (the UMC has founded many fine seminaries, but I fear several of them are not quite up
to par these days).
Lastly, regarding the laity; the laity should not in general be concerned with the Book of Discipline, or
indeed with any manner of ecclesiastical governance. I personally feel that the limits of lay involvement
in church operations should be control over the finances (the laity should be completely responsible for
the front office of the church, that is to say, the management of its accounts, properties, and so on), and

also the ability to veto the appointment of a Bishop. When a clergyman is appointed in the Eastern
churches, the congregation customarily proclaims Axios (literally He is worthy!). However, in
history, there have been a few cases where such a proclamation has not been forthcoming. As the
Methodist church reforms itself to assume a state of greater Orthodoxy, the degree of lay involvement in
ecclesiastical affairs should be limited to the ability to veto the appointment of clerics, and the ability to
impeach clerics who are negligent or malfeasant in their pastoral duties, as a backup system in cases
where the disciplinary trial system fails.
Miscellanea
John Thomas wrote:
I believe that the acceptance of LGBTQ people in early Christainity has been written out of history, we
hear of gay saints, and interpretations of scripture far more inclusive than the prevailing interpretation
today, even the word homosexuality is a recent invention. We dont have original manuscripts of the
church fathers and mothers, and they had no concept of sexual orientation You can easily watch Fish
Out of Water or Matt Vines YouTube video on the issue for more information. At the end of the day, I
know it my heart that, as Bishop Tutu said: my God is not a homophobe I would not be a Christain today
if I believed the things you say, its as simple as that. The Holy Spirit still works and like slavery,
treatment of native Americans, womens ordination, and racial civil rights the UMC will one day
apologize for its stance.
You wont find many stats of the LGBTQ youth who are bullied to death due to the treatment in UMC
and by other Christians, but if you worked in the LGBTQ community for any length of time, you would
witness the stories of hate by UMs and others who preach the inhumane love the sinner, hate the sin,
with projects like GLSEN, TrevorProject and many local efforts, theres also the issue that, due largely
conservative Christain beliefs in families of LGBTQ bullying and suicide, that such deaths be not
classified as hate crimes or have any trace of LGBTQ connotation, similar to the stigma of families wrh
members who died of AIDS (talk about another failure of the church to be the church!)
To which I replied:
What you are saying is simply untrue. The oldest New Testament manuscripts date from the second
century, and the New Testament together with the Old are the single best attested works of antiquity. The
oldest manuscripts of Plato, Aristotle, Homer, Virgil, Herodotus, and other classical authors were written
centuries after the original autograph, yet their authenticity is not disputed. Disputing the authenticity of
the New Testament text is rather pointless, considering that more manuscripts of it survive, than of any
other writing from antiquity, with the exception of the Old Testament. As far as the writings of the
Church Fathers go, most of the surviving manuscripts of them date from the Middle Ages, at a time when
homosexuality, while forbidden from the church, was still widespread, especially in the form of
pederasty.
It is a ridiculous exercise in revisionist history to say that the Church Fathers tolerated homosexuality,
given that we have homilies by St, John Chrysostom, pastoral epistles by St. Gregory of Nyassa, the
instructions of the Apostle Paul himself, and the Torah, for that matter, which all concur in condemning
the practice. Any doubt over the correct interpretation of Paul can be resolved by the canons of the early

church, and the teachings of John Chrysostom and Gregory of Nyassa, among others, two of the most
respected saints of the early church. The vast cloud of witnesses unequivocally condemns the practice.
Regarding gay saints, the only two saints it is argued were gay are Ss. Bacchus and Sergius; however,
there is some doubt as to whether they even existed, or were rather a hagiographic myth created in the
wake of the persecutions of Julian the Apostate, similar to the later mythos surrounding St. George; none
of the ancient documents regarding them indicate that they were in a relationship that was sexual, and the
Armenian Orthodox church considers them to have been a father and son. Erasmus, the 16th century
theologian, struggled with homosexuality, and it is believed that John Henry Newman struggled in like
manner in the 19th century. It is beyond doubt that many of the saints in the great cloud of witnesses
experienced homosexual temptation, and many of them probably succumbed to it at one point or another,
but the important thing to remember is that they were ashamed of it, and repented of it, and thus it is not
generally recorded in their hagiographic narrative. One can be homosexual, and be a Christian saint, as
long as one struggles to control ones sexual passions, and repents fervently whenever one succumbs to
temptation.
DeLyn Celec wrote:
@Paul Anthony Preussler Why do you refer to an entire continent of people, i.e.: The Africans, as one
people who agree lock-step with one another? It doesnt matter what you believe about LGBTQ issues;
people on the African continent are at least as diverse as your own culture and it is insulting to
homogenize all views into one.
To which I replied:
I am referring not to the population of Africa, which is widely diverse. I should know, as someone who
used to work in Ghana, for Ghana Telecom; within Ghana alone there are many different tribes, each with
its own language and customs, and they are all very beautiful; the Ashante, the Fante, the Dagbon, I love
that country; as an added plus, my driver was from Burkina Faso. He was a Muslim, and I was best man
at his Islamic wedding; I flew all the way to Africa so I could be there for him. So dont even think about
lecturing me on diversity! I also routinely enjoy Ethiopian food (it really annoyed me when the only
Ethiopian restaurant in Accra, Lalibela, closed, as that was one of my favorite restaurants; no air
conditioning, but the food was so spicy, it would make you sweat to the point where you didnt notice the
heat), and attend Coptic Orthodox church services on Saturday morning. Africa is one of the most diverse
continents.
In referring to the Africans, I am referring to the African parishes of the United Methodist Church,
which were established in many cases through the heroic work of missionaries, including my own great
uncle, who is still alive, nearly 90 years old. He worked in Angola, the Congo and the Gambia. In the
1950s he was one of several Methodist missionaries to be imprisoned in Angola, taken to Lisbon, and
tortured in the central prison by the cruel fascists of the Antonio Salazar dictatorship, for daring to preach
the Methodist faith against the wishes of the Lusotropicalist dictatorship. He and his wife also routinely
battled with tropical diseases during their work, including malaria, falaria, and various other illnesses; one
of their children died from such a disease at the age of 17. However, the work they did paid off. They
founded communities, where there is now proper food, sanitation, and shelter, for thousands of people,
and at the same time preached the Gospel of Christ to people who had never before heard it.

Their parishes, across Africa, and others like them, practice a much more Orthodox form of Methodism
than the degenerate form of our faith that is currently practiced in America. I believe our religion will be
saved by the Africans. I should also note in closing that there is a substantial pan-African movement, of
Africans from all different tribes, cultures and ethnicities, who long for a united Africa, and also there is
the African Union. So it is quite proper to speak of the Africans as a group, for many of them urgently
wish such union, in the same manner as one can speak of the Americans or the Europeans as a group (and
to the same degree that Americans and Europeans are culturally and indeed politically united).

The Sanctity of Church Tradition


A Rejection of the Church As Hackerspace
In reponse to this article by Rev. Jeremy Smith:
In college around the year 2001, I took my only computer class. It wasnt even a college class. It was a
class offered by the Association of Computing Machinery (a college social/professional group of
computer nerds) that taught the basics of HTML in about 5-6 hour-long classes.

That was it as far as my academic web education. Since that date, I began installing and hosting my own
websites, installed a phpbb-based forum and created my own custom theme and plugins, ran websites for
clients (including entire Methodist organizations), and finally designed and continue to host this website
at HackingChristianity.

How did one non-academic class lead to my ability to understand PHP, CSS, HTML, XHTML, and some
javascript? Simple. I broke things. And that same process, I believe, could be a parallel for how faith
development will happen in the future of the Church.
Computer Coding
Via Lifehacker, I saw this blog post that outlined exactly how I taught myself all those languages and
continue to learn them today: I broke the code and tried to understand why.
Now before you take a proverbial hammer to your favorite website, you should know that you cant just
break anything with reckless abandon and expect to learn something. You have to take a methodical
approach and break one thing at a time, then analyze the results of your changes. When breaking things,
you should be looking for the relationship between parts to understand their function in the whole.
Delete one line at a time to see if its necessary for your goals.
Delete one line at a time to better understand its function. Even if you think you know what a line does,
try deleting it anyway to test your assumptions.

Change variables and function arguments to see if you can manipulate them in a way that matches your
mental model.
Swap the order of various lines to see if things can be done out of order or if theres some significance
to the sequence of operations.

Theres the method. Delete one line at a time and see what changed. Or move lines around and see if the
functionality is the same. Or change the variables and see what changes. Inch by inch, one can adapt
current code to fit any situation and you learn it in the process.
As you test each line, youll start to build a mental model and make corrections to other assumptions you
made previously. Soon, the whole picture will start to make senseReverse engineering isnt the only
way to learn and it should always be backed by more formal material whenever its available. In fact, I
would argue that tutorials become more valuable once you have some of the context mapped for yourself.
If you learn best by diving into problems head on, breaking stuff is one of the fastest paths to
understanding.
Theology

I think people learn what they think about God the same way I learned computer coding: by trial and
error.
Few of us apply a systematic theology to the way we think about God. Few of us begin with one of the
tenets of systematic theology (starting with God, or Ethics, or Humanity, or some reality) and then build
our understanding of God from that central point. No, we create theologies on-the-fly: based on
experience, based on bible stories, based on charismatic preachers or formative events, based on
tragedies, based on successes, based on girlfriends influences, based on ex-husbands diatribes. We
cobble together our theologies and enlightenment is when we make these disparate thoughts make sense
for a brief second.
Furthermore, I think one can do theology the same way one can learn coding: by breaking things.
Lets take what one believes about God: God is omnipotent (can do everything) and God is omniscient
(knows everything). What if you struck one of those out: God is omniscient but not omnipotent. What
would you end up with? Would you recognize that God? And if you felt more comfortable with that God,
you could study theologies that also reduce their conception of Gods power (such as Process Theology).
By changing one tenet, you get to be more self-critical and see how the rest of the tenets relate.
In short, breaking our pedestrian theologies can help us become more systematic and holistic in our
beliefs and understandings of God and our world. So perhaps fellow hackers can get something out of
applying a systematic approach to their homespun cobbled-together pedestrian theologies. And in doing
so, they may discover new ways to think about God or solve age-old problems. In their best forms, they
reach out and gather communities of people to challenge and tinker and eliminate doctrines and restore
them.

Church as Hackerspace
Perhaps the future of church is a form of hackerspace where creativity is encouraged, doctrines are
challenged, heresies are debated and weighted, and spirituality is embodied and tried out.
Perhaps the future of church isnt found in emotionally-charged and manipulative worship services where
reactions are calculated; rather, they are in the experiments, the laboratories, the co-laboratories, where
we co-labor together and make meaning, spiritual breakthroughs, and action plans to share our
knowledge and our hopes with others. Perhaps theological hacking can be the Fourth Wave of
Hackerspaces that take over emptying Sanctuaries and re-purpose neutral locations.
That would be a fascinating future of Church, wouldnt you say?
Thoughts?
As someone who works as a professional in the IT industry, and is a devout Christian, baptized into the
Methodist church, I find this article to be deeply offensive, on several levels.
Firstly, it is presumptuous for someone who is not a professional, whose computer skills, from his own
description, are mundane at best, to attempt to draw an analogy between his own enthusiast-level
computing and the work of those who have attained a sufficient level of artistry to be considered
hackers. The majority of actual coding done even by industry legends such as Bill Joy or Eric Raymond
is tedious and exacting; the clever hacks reduce the workload, but hackers deplore programs that are
hacky, that is to say, built around trivial shortcuts, almost as much as they detest software bloat. The
best computer scientists are those who are able to attain a mathematical grasp on the underlying methods
of computation, which can be learned through the study of works such as Donald Knuths The Art of
Computer Programming, which is a ponderous, intense and demanding read, spread out over several
volumes, comparable to works of systematic theology such as Karl Barths Church Dogmatics, Kallistos
Wares The Orthodox Church, and the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas.
That said, within computing, learning by trial and error does have its place, but only when accompanied
by, and in concert with, the great intellectual works of the discipline in question, the canon of computer
science, as it were. Without that material, ones quest for knowledge will be fruitless. You cannot simply
sit down at any computer and begin to write your own programs; you must have enough knowledge to
setup your development environment, and to understand the different tools and their operation, such as
the text editor, the compiler/interpreter, and the debugger and related diagnostic programs. In actually
doing this, one will come to understand the reason why trial and error works well in computer science:
because with computers, unlike with most fields, empirical knowledge of the results of ones work is
available rapidly, in many cases instantly. This was not always the case; early programmers working with
punch cards had to wait hours for the results of their program, which in many cases could only run at
great expense; consequently, a mastery of the underlying theory was a prerequisite to actual operation. A
minor bug could be catastrophically expensive both in monetary cost and wasted time. Even now,
software engineers, that is to say, programmers who are also licensed engineers, who produce software
for embedded systems in safety-critical applications in heavily regulated industries such as health care
and avionics, must be able to mathematically prove the operation of their work. In recent years, poor
software engineering in SCADA systems resulted in the successful implementation of the Stuxnet

cyberweapon; an attack on control systems for devices like pacemakers might prove deadly in the years to
come, and it is for this reason that the USAF and other armed forces around the world are devoting
substantial portions of their budgets to the defense of mission-critical networks.
Thus, even in computers, where learning by trial and error is easier than in virtually any other profession,
due to the rapid availability of hard, factual knowledge, mastery of the canon of intellectual knowledge is
essential, especially for safety critical applications, in order to defend against subtle bugs that only
manifest themselves in certain edge cases, yet can result in death. This kind of empirical evidence
becomes extremely scarce in the soft sciences, like economics and psychology, and disappears altogether
in disciplines such as theology. John 1:18 tells us that No man hath seen God at any time; the only
begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him. Empirical knowledge regarding
God is, on a scientific level, unobtainable. Thus, we can conclude the following three points: firstly, trial
and error programming is beneficial, but primarily by virtue of the ease by which empirical evidence can
be obtained, secondly, for safety-critical applications, deep theoretical knowledge is also imperative, so
that programs can be mathematically proven before field deployment, and thirdly, with theology, the kind
of empirical data that makes the trial-and-error method used by programmers work is simply unavailable.
Now, let us, in the spirit of the commenting out one line at a time trial and error approach much lauded
by the author, suppose for a moment, that empirical knowledge about God enabling trial-and-error
theology to work was readily available. Would such be appropriate for ecclesiastical use? Could the
church function as a hackerspace? No, for the simple reason that the church is, by nature, a safety-critical
environment. The function of the church is firstly, the celebration of the sacraments, chiefly, the
Eucharist, secondly, prayer, and thirdly, the spiritual and moral edification of the believers through
catechesis and the liturgy (including the Bible readings and the homily). The mission of the church, as
John Wesley would have understood it, is the cure of souls. It is to this end that rectors, vicars and curates
are appointed in the Church of England, of which John Wesley was a curate, and from which what
became the Methodist Episcopal Church was reluctantly separated only as a terrible consequence of the
Revolutionary War. This mission, which has as its objectives ensuring the moral and ethical behavior of
parishioners, and more importantly, of facilitating their salvation in Christ, is the most safety-critical task
conducted anywhere on Earth. Even if God were immanently accessible, and the experience of prayer was
akin to interactive, or even batch-mode, computing, the theoretical knowledge required for safety-critical
applications would still be expected of clergy. A collegial environment, like that of a hackerspace, might
be present in seminaries, in such a world, but not in parish churches.
Given the lack of empirical data, however, the importance of theoretical knowledge in Christian theology
is even more important. There are two sources of data acceptable for use in Christianity, the holy
Scriptures and Church Tradition, the former of which is unchanging, and the latter of which progresses
only very slowly, to the extent that anyone who attempts to deliberately affect a change in their lifetime
more often than not finds themselves ex communicated and branded a heretic (see Arius and Nestorius).
John Wesley understood this, which is why he fastidiously adhered to the doctrine of the Church of
England, and worked primarily to make the presence of the Church more ubiquitous, a fact that has been,
and should be the goal of any Christian evangelist, starting with the Apostles. Perish the thought that the
church should cease to be understood as a eucharistic community, as a place and time for the intersection
of the human and divine, where one, in the words of the deputy of Vladimir who visited the Hagia Sophia
during the service of the divine liturgy, one could not tell whether one is in Heaven or on the Earth, to the

mundane, worldly environment of a hackerspace. As delightful as hackerspaces are for those who are
professionals or enthusiasts in the world of computers and related emerging technology (such as 3D
printers), it would be appalling to see the Christian church reduced to nothing more than a glorified Linux
users group. Fortunately, it will also not happen, at least not on a large scale, because anyone who
attempts it will simply cause a schism, which will increase the patronage of more traditional
denominations. It is worth remembering that the United Methodist Church is experiencing a decline in
membership in the United States, and an increase in membership in Africa, where the clergy is much
more sober and traditional, and meanwhile, increasing numbers of younger Christians are expressing a
preference for a more liturgical, solemn Christianity (hence the increase in membership being experienced
by some Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches),
Rev. Jeremy Smith responded to the following rebuttal: thanks for your substantive post. It is difficult to
address all of your points in a single comment, but I did want to reply on a few things.
1. Hacking is a term that is broader than applicable solely to computer professionals who have incredible
mastery over particular systems. With the rise of life-hacking and making thoughtful tweaks to your
everyday life, hacking has a broader term than merely endeavors by professionals. So while your clear
knowledge and expertise in the computer realm is clearly a worthy argument, it is not definitive of the
field. Given that the predominant number of life-hackers are not computer professionals, in fact, your
experience may be less shared by the field than you might think. I understand the offense that may be felt,
but it is not a universal experience of people who consider themselves hackers.
2. The approach suggested a way to bring a systematic approach to a pedestrian theology. Unlike
computer programs where we start with a systematic and expand it or rework it, humans do not do that
with their understandings of God. Due to the lack of empirical data (which you pointed out) available
about God, the necessity of a piecemeal amalgamation of theologies is more rampant. The approach
above attempts to reign in the piecemeal approach by applying a systematic approach: changing one
thing at a time and see what image of God you end up with. Its not empirical, its not replicable, it wont
turn into a movement, but it can lead to personal discovery.
3. Finally, I really disagree that the church is an environment dependent on professionals who provide
systematic care of the priestly aspects of the church. The entire ethos of the Methodist movement
historically is dependent on laity who would hold one another accountable in love, collect the penny
tithes, run the church while the professionals were on horseback. It took the church 100 years to give
laity the right to vote, yes, but no one would doubt that the laity have much more power in the UMC than
in the RCC or the TEC. While this blog celebrates theological education and is critical of the move
towards part time pastors who are not religious professionals, they are not the core of the church. Nor
can laity mold themselves to the religious professionals because we move them around in our itinerant
system. So I would claim that the Methodist system is the closest to a hackerspace of many other
denominations, and indeed I celebrate that.
In response to your first point regarding life hackers, I would propose that the technological theme this
blog has is reflective of the debt owed by so-called life hackers to the real hackers, people like Eric S.
Raymond, Ken Thompson and Bill Joy. Hacker culture developed as a counter-cultural movement among
computer science students at MIT beginning in the late 1960s, and then spread across the embryonic
Internet to other network-connected CS departments over the course of the next decade, and became

associated with the UNIX operating system, and in the 1980s these hackers entered into the commercial
space. The Free Software movement, starting with Richard M. Stallman, continued the development of
Hacker culture, and from this, open source emerged, and from that community, the first life hackers
arose. However, for those who actually are hackers, the use of the term hacker by someone who is not
accepted as a member of the hacker community by other accepted hackers is considered to be indicative
of a lamer, that is to say, of a mundane individual who lacks the hacker nature. Hacker culture is
inherently elitist, and the values of hacker culture are probably not compatible with Christianity as such,
which is why among hackers such as ESR alternative religions (Wicca, Neo-Paganism, Setianism) and
parody religions (The Church of the SubGenius). Life hacking, in that it represents a development of the
hacking approach to lifestyles, inherently owes a huge debt to hacker culture, but the real hackers will
always view life hackers who are not actual hackers with derision. This also should call into question the
desirability of importing any aspects even remotely connected with Hacker culture into Christianity;
having worked with hackers, and experienced the soul-crushing effects of modern Geek culture at its
worst, I would propose that a better course of action would be to evangelize Christianity into Hacker
culture, but this cannot be done in any way that glamorizes or idealizes the values of Hacker culture itself,
because these essential values are not compatible with the Christian faith as understood biblically or
through church tradition.
Now, on your second point, first of all, computer programs do not start with a systematic and expand it
or rework it. Rather, a computer program executes instructions, which may or may not transform input
into output, depending on the purpose of the program (in functional programming, all functions that
produce side-effects, which ultimately includes all input/output functionality, are viewed as unclean and
are isolated from the rest of the pure program, for example). In any case, the output is immediately
available, and this facilitates the iterative development methodology, or to be more blunt, trial-and-error.
The primary output of Christian faith however is not available until after death; though we do receive
grace in this lifetime, the Christian is also exposed to enormous pain, in many cases far more pain than
would be expected of one pursuing a secular existence, as Ignatius of Antioch could attest. In addition, we
cannot deny that other religions are equally capable of promulgating morality or generating a sense of
spiritual fulfillment in this life. Thus, if we are to be true to the Christian faith as received by John
Wesley, any kind of output-driven theology, such as that resting on personal revelation, should be seen as
dangerous, and possibly leading to soul-destroying delusion. The Eastern Orthodox Church, into which it
is probable that John Wesley was secretly ordained a bishop in 1763, in particular stresses the extreme
danger of prelest, or spiritual delusion, and their aversion to it has been fruitful, in that the devastating
schisms and spiritual abuses (such as the sale of indulgences) that have torn apart Western Christianity
since 1054 have not occurred in the East.
This takes us to your third point. Prior to its merger with the Evangelical United Brethren, which was also
a superb church that probably would have been better off remaining on its own, the Methodist Episcopal
Church was a bastion of theological and ecclesiological stability. There were occasional tensions,
sometimes even dramatic, but nothing on the scale of the internal strife in the Church of England between
the Low Church and Anglo Catholic factions, the fractious and permanent disintegration of the Baptist
communion in North America, or the feuds and schisms in the various North American Lutheran synods.
The 1962 Methodist Episcopal Book of Worship contains the rubrics for John Wesleys original Sunday
Service, and those for 1962 Methodist worship services, and the lack of variation between the old and the
new is striking; a minister in that era could have switched back and forth between the two without

attracting much attention. While it is certainly true that from the beginning, the Methodist movement
actively depended on the laity in a manner that far exceeded what was seen in many other contemporary
denominations, this lay involvement did not entail a communal participation in the process of theological
development. Rather, what facilitated the active lay ministry which characterized the original Methodist
Associations in England and the Colonies (the latter of which were forced to assume the role of parish
churches after the Church of England stopped appointing clergy for the United States in 1783) was
facilitated through the theological consensus that existed throughout. The essential Christian faith, as the
Church of England understood it, was uniformly and consistently taught by the Methodists, who in
England did not patronize non-conforming meeting houses, but were rather directed by Wesley to receive
the Sacraments from Anglican clergy during normal Sunday services. Granted, there was some leeway in
the Latitudinarian C of E in the 18th century, which allowed Wesley and George Whitefield to famously
Agree to disagree on the question of Armininianism vs. Calvinism, but on the essential doctrines, as
enumerated by the Articles of Religion and the Nicene Creed, there was complete consensus. This
consensus allowed laity to evangelize effectively, as their task was to simply proclaim the doctrines that
they had been taught; the kind of dogmatic experimentation you suggest did not occur, and had it
occurred, it would certainly have been immediately suppressed, with the approval of Wesley himself.
I am not calling for the restriction of Methodist ministry to seminary-educated, ordained clergy, since
having an M.Div and an ordination does not guarantee the transmission of orthodox Christian doctrine (as
the recent experience of the Episcopal Church USA demonstrates). Rather, I am calling for Methodist
laity, and most especially Methodist Clergy, to understand their role not as being life-hackers but rather
as the guardians of sacred tradition. The historic faith we have been entrusted with, which is manifested in
Holy Scripture, the Articles of Religion, the theological determinations of the Ecumenical Councils, the
Nicene and Apostolic Creeds, and the liturgy (both the Rubrics, which originate in the Anglican liturgy,
albeit with some simplification by Wesleys hand, and the Hymnals; Methodism has benefited from a
particularly rich hymnography worthy of Ephrem the Syrian), is a priceless treasure, and should not be
trivialized; neither should it be disassembled and reassembled according to the Hacker ethic as if it were a
glorified bash script. The laity are a particularly important part of maintaining this church tradition, even
laymen who do not serve as lay ministers (who are now regrettably referred to via the demeaning moniker
of lay servant); if anything is responsible for the relative preservation of orthodoxy within Methodism
compared to the other mainline denominations, it is the involvement of the laity, particularly those in
Africa, who act as a stabilizing counterweight to the disruptive elements that dominate some parts of the
American connexion.
Finally, I can assure you, as someone who is not frequently at hackerspaces, that the only part of a
Methodist church that approximates one might be the Sunday School classroom, albeit not in a
theological way. In an actual hackerspace, those present are generally concerned with making something,
and the experience is not unlike that of Sunday school students in drawing theologically themed pictures
or engaging in other crafts projects, however, unfortunately, the hackerspace is often at times a very adult
world far divorced from the brightness and altruism of the Sunday school classroom. For an adult
however in pursuit of the intersection of humanity and divinity available through worship, neither
environment is likely to bring a sense of spiritual fullness. Of course, the immanent experience of the
divine is only half of the equation, as I pointed out before; other religions can do this as well, and so can
heretical branches of Christianity (I have no doubt that members of the Ecclesia Gnostica benefit from
enormous spiritual fulfillment). This is why the preservation of doctrinal integrity is vital; we cannot help

but do a terrible disservice, perhaps the greatest disservice possible, to the laity, by neglecting the
traditional Christian faith, since it is not merely their life, but their mortal soul that is at stake. A pastor
holds the most safety-critical profession, as a software engineer can, through negligence or incompetence,
only kill you in the present, but, according to the traditional understanding of the Christian faith, an
incompetent, negligent or malicious pastor can lead you to eternal damnation. This last bit, not unlike
John 6:53-58, is a difficult pill to swallow; for those unable to face it, the Unitarian Universalist Church
beckons (perhaps in a manner not entirely unlike that of an open sepulchre). The Syriac Orthodox sing a
rather nice hymn in their variant of the Divine Liturgy of St. James the Just, that concludes with Behold,
there springs up different teachings from all parts. Blessed is He who begins and ends in Gods teaching.
I have no doubt that John Wesley would agree with it.
In a second post, I added:
By the way, I should add that the lay involvement in Methodism, and conciliar nature of Eastern
Orthodoxy, act as barriers to dangerous, rapid change which can cause schism. The Roman pontiff can,
with the stroke of a pen, effect sweeping changes to Roman Catholic doctrine, which can lead to
disastrous results; the liturgical innovation following Vatican II gave us the SSPX, which has successfully
turned religious intolerance into a glamorous luxury brand. Thus, any changes, even relatively minor
changes, run the potential for schism; in hacking, changes occur so frequently that most serious projects
(even those related to Life Hacking) involve the use of change management systems of some sort such
as Git. When one considers the enormous impact an ill-advised or enforced change can have on the
faithful, by creating dissension or schisms, and beyond that, the potential impact on the spiritual health
and future of the parishioners, the thought of introducing that level of dynamism into the Ecclesiastical
sphere should be enough to terrify anyone. A Church that attempted to becoming a hackerspace would
instantly lose at least half of its elderly parishioners, and would also alienate the numerous younger
Christians who actively embrace liturgy and reject the open-plan Calvary Chapel style of worship (even
you yourself show some inclination in this direction, as your recent post on church architecture
demonstrates); the remaining parishioners would find themselves in a state of spiritual flux, and would
eventually become desensitized to change itself. Given that, I would estimate that within decades, the
church would most likely cease to be Christian; this happened to the Universalists and it can happen in the
Methodist church if we compromise dogmatic stability.
St. Paul and Excommunication
In response to a post by UMJeremy suggesting that Paul did not espouse excommunication:
It is greatly misleading to propose that the Pauline epistles depict an early church devoid of
excommunication, when, on the contrary, the primary New Testament basis for excommunication is
derived from them.
1 Corinthians 5 unambiguously advises the Corinthians to separate themselves from immoral persons, on
the grounds that "a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump."

2 Thessalonians 3 directs the removal of idle persons living off of the generosity of the church, whilst
being able to work, yet making no contribution on their own effort to the well-being of others.

Romans 16:17-18 authorizes the excommunication of divisive people and troublemakers, those who cause
scandal; in effect, schismatics. This warning was echoed in the pastoral epistle to Titus.
Galatians 1:8-9, which is charmingly quoted in the hymn sung before the Epistle reading in the Syriac
church, represents the Biblical basis for the use of the word 'anathema'; in instructing churches to
anathematize those who teach false doctrine. These instructions were echoed in 2 John, suggesting that
the practice of anathema was not confined to the Pauline school. 2 John interestingly enough largely
deals with the growing threat of Gnosticism against the early church, and is particularly relevant now, in
an era when blasphemous Gnostic gospels are thought to provide access to a 'historical Jesus' not found in
the canonical New Testament.
Lastly, speaking of the Gospels, Christ himself outlines a dispute resolution procedure that involves
excommunication as a last step in Matthew 18:17.
We furthermore know without a doubt that the obvious exegesis of these passages is the correct one, that
they were not merely allegorical in nature, because the early Church practiced excommunication with an
intensity and severity that is unheard of in modern times. Yet the remarkable thing to consider is that as
severe as the early church was, the heretics were worse; Fr. John Behr of St. Vladimir's Seminary gave an
excellent lecture, available on YouTube, where he points out that the early church was more willing to
accept a degree of diversity in thought than the heretics who separated from it, such as the Marcionists
and Valentinists, who tolerated no dissent from their officially mandated theology. History suggests that
the early church ceased to be a broad church around the time of the Council of Ephesus, when Nestorius
was anathematized; this lead directly to a schism that has permanently separated the Assyrians; a similar
schism occurred at Chalcedon albeit on a much larger scale, although this schism has now been resolved.
It seems that after a century of fighting the Arian heresy, the fifth century church, living in the terrifying
world of the Western Empire on the brink of collapse, had a rather short fuse. In the modern era, where
we benefit from slightly more social stability, in that our decadent society more closely resembles Rome
of the second century, it is possible to exercise more pastoral economy, especially with regards to the
laity; however, I am of the opinion that the modern UMC has become rather too tolerant, in North
America at least, of those willing to discard the traditional Christian faith in favor of a new synthetic
religion more in tune with modern political opinion.
I should also add that there is a reverse implication of the original post that is rather sinister, that being the
inability of members to leave. I am comforted, as a dissident, confessional Methodist, that if worse comes
to worst, I have the freedom to leave the UMC and associate with another denomination. This condition
historically did not exist, and in fact exists only due to the Church being ripped apart by schismatics and
heretics; the Methodist Episcopal Church in North America was forcibly separated from the Church of
England by politics, and Im not sure Wesley would be entirely happy to see that the Methodists in
England had left the established church. That said, beginning with the burning of Priscillus, (an event I
consider to mark the end of the golden age of the early church, when its decisions and moral authority
were above reproach), the religious freedom guaranteed by the Edict of Milan disappeared, and in the
middle ages, the Latin Church was very much like the Hotel California; you could leave it only at the
price of your mortal existence. This contributed to Protestantism, but in the case of the Reformed
tradition, nothing changed, as witness Calvins role in the burning of a heretic in Geneva.

I would say the most important freedom we have gained as a result of the independence of this country,
and perhaps the only worthy result of the Enlightenment, has been religious freedom. One is no longer
compelled to endure the obvious corruption of Christian doctrine at the hands of a morally bankrupt
hierarchy. Yet there are many who wish to change this; one pervasive trend among the 9Marks churches
has been towards attempting to deny church members the right to leave, and using communications
between pastors to make cross-town church changes impossible. The SSPX campaigns not only for the
restoration of the Tridentine mass (a laudable goal in itself), yet also for the suppression of religious
liberty (a less laudable objective, and one that ironically, were it to be achieved, would most likely mean
the end of the SSPX itself).
The experience of the early church of the first four centuries however suggests that the early Church was
certainly not something that you could join, but not leave, or be expelled from; on the contrary, many left,
including many heretics, who left of their own volition to form rival religions long before being
pronounced anathema, and many were forcibly excommunicated, for offenses ranging from murder to
sexual immorality to promoting dissent. It would have been ludicrous for the same church which
continually saw its clergy and laity murdered at the hands of Roman authorities to attempt to deny the
religious freedom it required from its own membership; in the same light, I would propose that when a
modern church attempts to deny the importance of freedom of religion, is when it ceases to become a
valid member of the body of Christ, and instead descends to the level of a heretical cult.
There is one remaining point that should be made here. There is a valid pastoral direction in which the
author of this blog can, and in my opinion, should move. While I feel that it is wrong to say that
excommunication is inconsistent with Pauline theology, when in fact, to my knowledge, Paul is the only
Biblical author who uses the word 'anathema', and indeed most NT authority for excommunication is
derived from his Epistles, and it is equally wrong to suggest a church that we cannot leave, even if we
want to (for this would reduce the modern church to something like the dreadful fifteenth century Roman
Catholic Church, or to the level of Scientology or any number of other modern cults that are like
flypaper), there is a valid point to be made against the aberrant practices of some Protestant communities,
particularly those associated with 9Marks, the Southern Baptists, and the PCA (which has fallen far since
the death of James Kennedy).
Specifically, it should be stressed that:
- The freedom of religion is unassailable, and as important as the freedom of expression.
- The liberty we enjoy to depart individual congregations that we feel have strayed from Biblical teaching
should be exercised where needed, without scorn, but with great caution, as it is a sad outcome, like a
divorce.
- Laity should not be prevented from leaving by their confessional hierarchy under any circumstances; the
freedom of resignation should never be questioned.
- Clergy should not encourage or require their parishioners to shun those who leave; they should never
publically criticize individual parishioners or former parishioners in order to cause humiliation or social
isolation; they should not abuse their authority in this or in any other respect to the detriment of those
under their care, and those who do, should themselves be anathematized and excommunicated.

- The need to avoid capriciously excommunicating laity and subjecting them to psychological trauma
does not extend to a universal tolerance for misbehavior; those who disrupt church services, for example,
must be ministered to in a different manner from the rest of the flock, and some must occasionally, and
dreadfully, be excommunicated; lastly, the need to exercise extreme economy when dealing with laity
does not extend to the granting of an unlimited line of credit to clergy for doctrinal or dogmatic abuses;
clergy must be expected to conform fully to church tradition, canon law, and most importantly, biblical
teaching, and in their personal dealings, must be beyond criticism.
- Regarding political opinions, the individual politics of laity and especially clergy, to the extent that they
do not violate the canons, traditions or scriptures of the church, should not be questioned; one can safely
be a political liberal or a political conservative, and a pastor, provided one does not politicize the clerical
office in such a manner that discredits the congregation or the faith. Pastors should understand their
mission not in political terms, or as the pursuit of a political agenda, but rather, as a mandate to effect the
cure of souls.
I feel the author of this blog has elsewhere expressed a desire to move in this direction; and I believe that
this is an area where he could apply his liberal worldview, in the manner of Kallistos Ware, among others,
for the good of the church, provided the temptation to rebel for the sake of rebellion against the perceived
strictures of orthodoxy can be avoided.
In response to UMJeremys claim that Wesley opposed the Nicene creed:
It is generally accepted that Wesley was secretly consecrated a bishop by the Eastern Orthodox bishop
Erasmus of Arcadia (awesome title, by the way); when questioned on this later in life, Wesley refused to
deny it, but had he admitted it, he would have exposed himself to execution for violation of the
Prmunire Act. Given the theological strictures of the Orthodox church, it is doubtful that Wesley would
have been consecrated had he rejected Nicea. The fact that Wesley omitted that paragraph from the
Methodist Articles of Religion proves nothing; I myself feel it is an accidental oversight.
Beyond that however, this raises an important question: what strictures does accepting the Nicene Creed
in its Constantinoplean revision from 381 impose upon Methodists? It requires us to affirm a belief in the
Trinity (which we know Wesley affirmed); it requires us to affirm the consubstantiality of the Trinity and
to reject any form of Arianism (and Wesley was most certainly not a follower of Arius), and it requires us
to reject Docetism (which was also clearly rejected by Wesley). Lastly, it implies belief in the resurrection
of the dead and life everlasting, which Wesley and most other Methodists certainly hold.
Now, one should also mention that the article Wesley omitted also mentions the Apostles Creed and the
Athanasian Creed; the former is (mostly) a subset of the Nicene Creed, and the latter is dogmatically
identical to the Niceno-Constantinoplean Creed of 381; the Council of Constantinople essentially took the
original Nicene Creed and modified its language to incorporate the additional qualifications posited by
Athanasius in his long and bitter struggle against Arianism. Arians had attempted to circumvent the
original Nicene creed by exploiting ambiguities in its language; Athanasius created a new creed with the
loopholes closed, and at Constantinople, these additional provisions were rather ingeniously interpolated
into the original creed, giving us the contemporary form of the Nicene Creed, sans the filioque. I should
add that while Athanasius is amongst my very favorite fathers, a Christian worthy only of adoration, his
creed does not read as smoothly or as eloquently as the revised creed adopted at Constantinople.

So in omitting the aforementioned paragraph from the Articles of Religion, was Wesley denying the
creeds serve a purpose? Certainly not; John Wesleys original Sunday Service for the Methodist
Episcopal Churches of North America, a simplified version of the office of Morning Prayer from the
Anglican Book of Common Prayer, mandates the use of the Apostles Creed. This seems to suggest that
the authors original suggestion that Wesley was in some way ambivalent towards, or in opposition to, the
Nicene Creed, may be misguided, for these reasons:
1. In omitting the aforementioned paragraph, Wesley did not single-out the Nicene Creed; all three of the
creeds used liturgically in the Church of England are mentioned by that article.
2. John Wesley, in his Sunday Service liturgy, mandates that the Apostles Creed be said every Sunday
morning in Methodist churches in North America.
3. All aspects of the living faith contained in Wesleys theological writings (which are not generally
considered to be systematic, in the manner of Thomas Aquinas, Karl Barth or even Kallistos Ware, I
should add) are compatible with the Nicene creed in its 381 recension. Wesley at no point in his career
preached Gnosticism, Arianism, Marcionism, Docetism, Nestorianism, Chilliasm, or any other heresy
(except very possibly and very much inadvertantly, by virtue of the Church of England culture of the
time, a minor form of iconoclasm).
Wesleys faith was so close to that of the Eastern Orthodox Church that they apparently made him a
bishop; even if Erasmus of Arcadia did not in fact ordain Wesley, the Methodist faith in its original form,
on the basis of its own dogmatic definitions, as opposed to the ambiguous orthodoxy of the Anglo
Catholics, more closely resembles that of the Eastern church (and indeed, that of Rome prior to Vatican I)
than any other Protestant communion. In practice, the Anglo Catholics tend to be more Orthodox, but
their faith has always been at least somewhat at odds with the dogmatic definitions of the Church of
England in the Articles of Religion and the Book of Common Prayer.
On Transgressions of The Book of Discipline
Now, believe it or not, Im all for Methodist clergy following all parts of the Book of Discipline; clergy
have an absolute obligation to obey the instructions of their Bishop, as affirmed in the canons of all seven
Ecumenical councils, and in virtually all other councils of the early Church. This includes obeying the
bishop in trivial details such as the correct reporting of membership forms. Any failure to follow the
canonical instructions of the church hierarchy is a sin, even if through negligence, although such is not
grounds for being defrocked in most cases; intentional disobedience, such as that of Frank Schaeffer, is
grounds for deposition or demotion if the ancient canons are followed.
Now of these specific elements in the book of discipline that are not being followed, item 1 on the list is
heterodoxy; the Baptist practice of not baptizing infants, despite what the Baptists say, is not true to the
faith of the early church; it is a 16th century innovation. This is not as severe however as the blasphemy
of performing a homosexual marriage; it is a violation of church tradition, but does not directly contradict
the teachings of the New Testament, and is thus mere heterodoxy. Item 2, however, rebaptizing, unless
the prior baptism was invalid (due to a failure to use the correct baptismal formula, i.e. baptizing in the
name of Creator, redeemer, sanctifier rather than Father, son, and holy spirit) is heresy; specifically, it

is the heresy of the Novatianists and Donatists, who insisted upon rebaptizing Christians who lapsed
during the Imperial persecution prior to the Edict of Milan.
Items 3 and 6 are huge transgressions of the ecclesiastical responsibility of clergy as well, although not
heterodox or heretical per se. However, of everything listed there, UMJeremy only cites one thing that is
outright heretical, that being, the practice of rebaptism, and even this is a heresy only by way of the
definitions of the early Church; if it were not for the condemnation of Novatianism at Nicaea, and the
struggle of Augustine against the Donatists, we would not have any way of knowing about them and
condemning them as heresy, per se. In the case of performing a homosexual marriage, however, this runs
directly afoul of Pauls proscriptions of homosexual activity. Even the Southern Baptists, who are for the
most part utterly ignorant of the praxis of the early Church, are able to see how this is wrong; when one
combines the Pauline injunction with the mass of canon law forbidding homosexuality, and other patristic
statements by Gregory of Nyassa, John Chrysostom and others, one considers that Frank Schaeffer ought
to have been deposed, not suspended. As I see it, he is getting substantially more slack than he is entitled
to, as he is frankly an apostate, a blasphemer, and a heretic, guilty of sacrilege of the most obvious form,
and beyond that, guilty of dereliction in his pastoral duties to God and to his congregation. If Schaeffer
wants to perform gay marriage, he ought to work for the Episcopalians, or the Unitarian Universalists.

Heresy in the United Methodist Church


To ignore the ecumenical councils and the church fathers is perilous; they defined the New Testament
canon and the creeds and symbols of our faith. If one says that Patristic thought is irrelevant or not
binding upon contemporary Christianity, one discards the Christian faith of the past two millenia, in favor
of a new, degenerate form of Christianity akin to Gnosticism. As I support freedom of religion, I have
no objection to people doing this within civil society; what I do object to is the continuing and relentless
attempt, using the most unethical and aggressive means possible, to undermine the existing faith of the
Methodist church.
When you say things like "Jesus was considered a heretic" and give that as an excuse to justify your own
departure from His teachings, you are desecrating the church in which I was baptized, the church of my
parents, grand parents, and great grand parents. You are relentlessly attacking and disfiguring my
cultural and religious heritage, and not just mine, but the heritage of every other Methodist, a substantial
portion of the religious legacy of the United States and the UK. You are forcing us to leave the
denomination that we were baptized and raised in; you are in effect ransacking our spiritual homeland.
Now I would not object at all to you doing this within a new church. Nor for that matter can I really
object to it occurring within the Unitarian community, since the UUs have never embraced any form of
Christian orthodoxy. However, for individuals such as Dr. Jenkins and Rev. Ota to attempt to disfigure
my faith, is to violate me personally; this is why I myself and other confessional Methodists are
determined to resist, in a spirit of love, these changes.
Aside from the assault on our cultural and religious heritage, there is also an even more pressing concern
for us: the fact that you are in effect encouraging people to sin. Christianity is a religion of repentance,

of turning away from evil. When you endorse sinful practices, whatever they may be, whether its murder,
alcoholism, sexual immorality, you are frustrating the work of Christ, not aiding it. Nowhere in any of
the canonical Gospels did Christ release us from the obligation of morality, or encourage sexual
promiscuity; on the contrary, his message is one of reverent chastity, humility and obedience, in a state of
love for God and for our fellow men.
There is also a huge moral danger in Ota's message, in that it seems to imply heresy is good and
acceptable within the Christian church. While it is true that to some Jews, Christ was a heretic, that does
not mean that the Christian church is inherently a free for all. Since the Apostolic era, there has been a
definition of heresy. Simon Magus is widely considered to be the first Christian heretic; some believe
Peter's initial journey to Rome was one in pursuit of Magus, with Peter clearing up false teachings
propagated by Magus en route (in a sense, the propagation of the Gnostic heresy predates that of the
Catholic faith, and it is certainly fair to say, regardless of whether that particular story is true, that heresy
facilitated the definition of Christian Orthodoxy. I can say that something is orthodox because of the
experience of heretics).
If Christian heresy were allowed to run rampant, as Fran Ota suggests, if there were no restraints within
the church hierarchies against it, we would see something similar to what is forming within the Episcopal
Church, USA, or any number of other fallen mainline denominations; we would see something not
entirely unlike the UU church. Specifically:
- An even faster decline in church attendance.
- Abandonment of all liturgical traditions; the 'contemporary service' would become normative, and the
hymns of Wesley would no longer resonate through the nave.
- The widespread use of Gnostic gospels and other apocryphal material.
- The complete abandonment of any pretense of sacramental theology, coupled with the use of
degenerate, blasphemous performances of the sacraments (celebrating the Eucharist with milk and honey,
rather than wine and bread).
- The utter disregard for the teachings of the Apostle Paul, or of any other figures within Christianity
other than Christ himself.
- The general disregard for anything Christ says in the canonical gospels, where it is inconvenient in the
context of modern society; where necessarily, the priests of such churches will instead quote the noncanonical Gnostic texts in opposition to the canonical texts.
- The Ebionite or Soccinian fallacy, that Christ is not the Son of God, consubstantial with the Father and
the Holy Spirit, in one Godhead, but rather a mere moral teacher to be respected.
- The Marcionite view that condemns outright the Old Testament and the moral precepts of Judaism upon
which Christianity was founded.
Now on that last point, yes, it is true that Christ did react against the excesses of Phariseeism. Yet I see
Christ also being at least as concerned within the Gospels with the anomial abuse of the Sadducees; the
Pharisees at the very least cared about obeying God's law, whereas the Sadducees preferred, like Rev. Ota

and Dr. Jenkins, to ignore it whenever it was inconvenient, paying liturgical lip service to it in the life of
the Second Temple, but not making any effort to actually follow the commandments. This was easy for
the Sadducees, as they did not believe, like so many modern Christians, in the doctrine of resurrection.
Pharisees on the other hand, for all their faults, did at least try to live righteously; they did at least
sincerely believe in God, and were interested in more than the mere superficial appearance of faith. I see
Christianity as a form of repaired Phariseeism; I think we can interpret the Gospels largely as God's
response to the desire of His people to conduct themselves morally, for voluntary reasons. The Old
Testament is filled with stories of intransigent Israelites who had to be coerced into follow the Law using
the most dire means available to God; on the contrary, with the Pharisees, we see a people who sincerely
wanted to follow the Law, and not in reaction to some imminent plague sent upon them from on high.
I would define this moment as a seminal moment; perhaps this was the dawn of human maturity. It is
interesting to note that a large portion of the world's largest religions date from within a thousand years of
the birth of Christ; after years of following the sacrificial cults of pagan Polytheism, at the time of Christ's
birth, mankind was ready to emerge from the shadows into a genuine spiritual maturity. Now, naturally,
the Pharisees did not get it right; we cannot, as Pelagius vainly suggests, save ourselves in the eyes of the
Lord. The Pharisees were arrogant, self-righteous and legalistic; Christ set forth to correct these
measures, and also facilitate the resurrection of mankind through His great sacrifice; the ultimate victory
of love against sin. Thus, I see Christianity as a form of corrected Phariseeism, with the desire of
humans to obey God redirected into the most legitimate forms of expression; I think it is worth noting that
a very large swathe of the Apostles, including Paul, were Pharisees. I can't recall any off the top of my
head who were Sadducees, although that said I have no doubt that Christ's message did call a great many
Sadducees to a life of religious devotion.
Now, the vast majority of errors in the Christian church today are mere heterodoxy; in my mind most laity
are incapable of heresy; congregants are the victims of heresy on the part of their elders, and not the
heretics themselves in most cases. It is the responsibility of Christian theologians, bishops, pastors and
others in the ministry to correctly transmit doctrine; intentional refusal to do so is in fact heresy.
Accidental refusal to do so, in furtherance of an existing heresy or schismatic error, I would classify as
mere heterodoxy. Now, this does not mean that the heretic or heterodox clergyman, and certainly not
their communicants, are necessarily damned; rather, it means that incorrect and erroneous teachings,
which can have a deleterious effect on the moral, spiritual and indeed physical well being of the
congregation, are being transmitted, and these errors must be corrected.
Now, what defines heresy, as opposed to mere heterodoxy, or well-intentioned error? The propagation
of teachings condemned as heresy by the early Church, the refusal to obey or teach the precepts of the
Nicene Creed, and the intentional deprecation of, or deviation from, those scriptures determined by the
church fathers to be canonical, is clearly heresy. It is also heretical to invent new doctrine that complies
with the letter of the Nicene Creed, yet subverts it in a more subtle manner; historical examples of this
later condemned by the ecumenical councils include Nestorianism, Eutychianism and Iconoclasm.
The erroneous teachings regarding homosexuality themselves are a mere side-effect of the dissemination
of pre-existing heresies in the UMC. Many Methodists have, unwittingly, developed a number of
delusions (the Russian term which is most appropriate is 'prelest') regarding the Christian faith, including
a docetist view that considers Christ's resurrection to be merely spiritual, an Arian view that considers

Christ to not be consubstantial with the Father (I know a local Methodist minister who has confessed to
me his Arian theology), a Nestorian heresy that denies Mary's status as theotokos, and that wrongly
denies the unity of Christ's humanity and divinity, an Adoptionist view that considers Christ to have been
naturally born, and a a Gnostic view that condemns the material world and stresses a spiritual afterlife in a
pleroma-like Heaven, rather than the Biblical and Patristic doctrine of Bodily Resurrection.
Each of these heresies works in concert with the others to undermine the faith, so that after these heresies
have been in effect in the UMC for mere decades, the damage has been severe enough so that we see this
unpleasantness. Methodist clergy and theologians who have fallen into the trap of heresy must urgently
repent; it is not too late to avoid a tragic schism in the UMC, but the hour is late, so to speak. We must
return to the ancient faith of the Fathers, to the faith of John Wesley, even to the faith of our own
grandparents, before it is too late.
Kim also wrote:
If I my ears didnt deceive me, I have heard clergy take a vow to uphold both the rules and worship of the
UMC. Besides re-baptism private baptism, Clergy, including bishops, regulary truncate The Great
Thanksgiving, partly because of our poor record of seminary education in the history and practice of
liturgy.
But who would bring charges in that case, or, for instance, against a bishop who callously disregards the
Discipline and Judicial Council by totally neglecting consultation with church and pastor in making
appointments? Who oversees a bishop and can also protect whistle-blowers?
Also, why, if war is also deemed incompatible with Christian teaching, as it is, do we not only allow
but promote clergy involvement in the military instead of bringing charges?
To which I reply:

I have the utmost respect for peace churches such as the Moravians, the Quakers, the Mennonites, and
others. I also love the absolute non-violence of the Jainist religion. Historically the Christian faith
prohibited Roman civil administrators, soldiers and gladiators from joining unless they renounced their
violent profession. This did change following the Edict of Milan, a change perhaps motivated by the
death of soldier martyrs such as Ss George, Sergius and Bacchus (the latter of whom were not, contrary to
popular contemporary opinion, a gay couple; the Armenian church believes they were father and son,
while other Patristic sources regard them as brothers). With the Byzantine Empire now actively seeking
to defend Christendom from external threats, it made sense to pray for it. This later extended into a
practice among most Christian churches to pray for all those in civil authorities, even those rulers of
governments that are in fact opposed to the Christian faith. Consider this prayer from the Diptychs of the
Divine Liturgy of St. Mark:
The kingdom of Thy servant (N.) whom Thou hast justified to rule on earth, keep Thou in peace and
fortitude and tranquillity through victory; subdue under him every foe and adversary, be they of foreign
nations or his own; take hold of shield and buckler and rise up to help him; bring forth the spear, and shut
the way against them that persecute him; overshadow his head in the day of battle; set the fruit of his loins
upon his throne; speak good things to his heart for Thy Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, and for all

Thy Christ-loving people; that we also in his tranquillity may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all
godliness and purity, which we find in Thee.
This prayer is remarkable, in that it stems from the divine liturgy that was once used by the Greek
Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria (as opposed to the Coptic Orthodox Church), an extreme minority
population in Egypt of ethnic Greeks who were generally in opposition to both the Islamic majority, and
the Coptic minority. The ruler who they pray for, however, is without a doubt the sovereign Prince of
Egypt, a vassal of the Ottoman Empire, the same Empire that defeated the Byzantine Empire and that
oppressed Christians throughout the Middle East, at times with great severity. Thus, it is right for
Christians to pray for civil authorities, even those who are opposed to us.
Finally, it is of vital importance that Christians provide chaplains to any military service that will allow
one. I would propose that no one is in more need of receiving the ministry of the church than those men
in front line combat, subjected to the extreme psychological torture inherent in killing other men. In some
cases, many Christians would argue the use of lethal force by the military and police services is
necessary, for the protection of innocents, and I personally agree. However, that does not make the job
any easier for those who, in loyalty to their country, are forced to carry it out. These people are human
beings, of sacred worth, and require the love of the church, and the religious counseling provided by
chaplains.

Is war incompatible with Christian teaching? Yes, to the extent that it is immoral, according to our
religion, and also a violation of International Law, by the way, to wage an offensive war for reasons of
material benefit, such as territorial gain or the acquisition of riches. It is not immoral however to defend
others (not yourself; here we must turn the other cheek), but others, innocents; families with children, the
civilians, as it were, from the violence and depredation that others would inflict upon them. Thus, while
a Christian can in my opinion reasonably opt out of military service, and it is immoral to persecute
members of peace churches, those Christians who do chose to fight for the safety of others should not be
treated with contempt by the church; rather they should be loved, even revered as heroes where
appropriate, and chaplains should be among their ranks, risking their lives in order to ensure the spiritual
welfare of the troops, who every day, in the course of their job, stare down the face of death. If anyone
deserves to hear the gospel, it is these men and women.
The Importance of the Apostolic Faith
Wahoo Lon wrote:
I see that youve posted modifications and a personal edit of a statement of faith elsewhere on the web. If
you can change the statement of faith why cant the connection?
The fact of the matter is that we are Protestant and therefore dont receive tradition dictator of our
modernity (with which you seem in a fight against). But use tradition as a piece of the Wesleyan
quadrilateral. I dont recognize an experience of grace in what you write. These acts of penance you
recommend are without umc precedent and harken to Catholicism or orthodox traditions.

A church that treated divorced persons in the manner you suggest would not last long in America. A
church that treats gay people as it does wont last much longer. The stridency and gracelessness you
propose will cause the death of the church.
To which I reply:
Firstly, Happy Thanksgiving. I attended a beautiful interfaith thanksgiving service at one of the last
conservative Episcopal parishes in the country; the Methodists were also there, as well as a Jewish
congregation and an Islamic delegation. I felt in seeing Gods children reunited in prayer, a foretaste of
the heavenly liturgy that awaits us in the world to come.
Now, nowhere have I modified a Methodist or other statement of faith. There is a very blessed and kindly
man named Dave Mosher who runs a blog Against Apostasy, with the best of intentions. Unfortunately
his theology has been shaped largely by an Evangelical and Baptist tradition which does not understand
the importance of the ancient creeds. I have been working to persuade him to accept the Nicene Creed,
and also to not condemn as apostates those who practice infant baptism or believe in the real presence of
Christ in the Eucharist (which is in fact the more ancient faith, as far as we can tell from the writings of
St. Justin Martyr).
I am working to advocate a general return to the faith of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church,
which at present I fear exists more as an abstract concept than as a single unified entity, despite Ignatius
IV of Antiochs claim to the contrary; but I do not believe the Gates of Hell have prevailed against it.
Rather, the Christian community has dispersed across the globe, and a result of the immense amount of
time that has passed, and the immense distances involved, theological consensus and full recollection of
the specific dogma of the Church Fathers has been lost for many, especially Western Christians.
Thus, much of what I advocate may seem alien to someone raised solely within the traditions of
degenerate, contemporary Protestantism, with its crypto-Gnostic overtones. It may seem to be Catholic or
Orthodox, and thats because it is. Protestantism is valid only as a reaction to the Roman Catholic
Churchs heterodoxy and clerical abuse in the years leading up to the Lutheran schism; I dont feel it has
anything new to offer theologically that wasnt already there in the faith of the early Church, although that
said, many Protestant traditions, freed from the oppression of Roman abuse, became distinctly beautiful. I
love the liturgy and faith of the Scandinavian Lutherans, the early Moravians, the early Methodists, the
early Congregationalists in the US, and some of the Presbyterians. However, most of this has been lost,
and what were left with is the burnt out shell of a Christian culture. To recover our faith, we must look to
the East, to revive the traditions of the Catholic and Orthodox faith including its strong emphasis on
repentance and spiritual renewal through asceticism and continuous prayer, its iconographic theology, and
its profound emphasis of the importance of Holy Tradition.
Now, of all the Protestant churches, two came closest to the Orthodox, Catholic faith: the old Methodist
Episcopal church into which I was baptized, and the high-church Anglicans (known as Anglo Catholics).
While the Anglo Catholics are hanging on in the form of the Province of the Southern Cone, the
schismatic ACNA, and other like-minded groups, the Methodists, even conservative Methodists, have
largely lost sight of the Orthodox, Catholic tradition they inherited, along with Protestantism, from John
Wesley, who it is generally believed was secretly ordained as a bishop by Erasmus of Arcadia in 1763.

The Wesleyan Quadrilateral is entirely compatible with Orthodox, Catholic Christianity. The Holy
Scriptures are ultimately the supreme source of Christian doctrine. The Holy Tradition shows us how this
faith was received by the Church Fathers, guiding our interpretation; we must remain faithful to this
tradition at all times. Occasionally, in analyzing scripture and tradition, anomalies arise, and where they
arise, reason exists to guide us. An example of the proper use of reason is in deciding whether to apply the
traditions of the church with the full force of Arkriveia, or whether to derogate them via Oikonomia, as
dictated by pastoral neccessity. Another legitimate use of reason is to address theological questions that
were not faced by the Church Fathers, primarily relating to the impact of modern technology;
contraceptives, nuclear weaponry, and genetic engineering being among prominent examples. Finally, the
experience of grace is the last part of the quadrilateral, and I would say, the most important from the
perspective of individual devotion. It is the experience of our faith that convicts us of it; I myself have
experienced the tender embrace of the loving hand of God, and I feel God is in the process of saving me;
through his grace alone I have survived the loss of my beloved grandparents, the severe illness of my
father and my fiancee, and many other hardships.
The experience of grace however is personal; there is an epistemological limitation in how we share it
with one another (unless perhaps one is a telepath; unfortunately I cant count Deanna Troi amongst our
midst). I can only tell you that I myself have experienced the real presence of our Lord and Savior Jesus
Christ in the Eucharist, since I first received it at the age of five in my Methodist parish; I cant prove it to
you; in like manner, I have to accept on the basis of faith whatever you tell me about your experience of
the Holy Spirit.
However, the experience of grace is of vital importance, which is why I feel more Methodists should
commit themselves to incorporating significant aspects of daily prayer and repentance in their lives. I
have greatly benefited from the use of the Jesus Prayer, and strongly recommend it, along with the
Orthodox practice of fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays (which is difficult at first, but beneficial over
time), and where possible, observing the liturgy of the hours, at least in the form of morning and evening
prayer. Having a rule of prayer is a boon to Christian spiritual formation.
Lastly, I should also add, your point that no church in America could survive with the severity of faith
that I advocate is refuted by the fact that the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox, the Roman Catholics, the
Assyrian Church of the East, and for that matter, the remaining conservative Protestant denominations,
which are very strident in upholding their traditional doctrine, namely, the PCA, the Southern Baptists,
and the LCMS, are doing fine, while the liberal mainline churches are hemorrhaging members.
The only liberal church that has had any success at all is the Unitarian Universalist communion; I would
argue this is because the changes liberal theologians such as yourself want to make to the Christian faith
are fundamentally incompatible with it; attempting to reconcile it with it in the manner of the
Episcopalians, the United Church of Christ, the PCUSA, and to a lesser extent, the UMC, produces
profound cognitive dissonance which alienates parishioners. The UUs do not pretend to maintain the
Christian faith, except as one of many possible belief systems within their community; as a result,
Unitarians do not feel the sense of confusion that arises among Christians who find themselves in the
midst of heretical worship services.
I was at a ELCA Easter service, which was liturgically traditional and rather beautiful, albeit led by an
extremely liberal pastor. He said, Was Christ Married? Possibly. at one point in the liturgy; when he

said this, one could almost feel the respective stomachs of most of the congregation turning in agony. The
fact is, for people raised in the sincerity of Christian faith, the dogmatic apostasy modernist theologians
advocate so stridently (much more stridently than most conservatives; since you seem concerned about
strident dialogue) to be almost physically painful, in some cases, quite literally nauseating. In fact, when I
initially stumbled across this blog, I was literally taken ill by some of the posts; but with great effort and
prayer, I was able to settle down, appreciate the inner beauty in the person of UMJeremy and the nobility
of his intentions, however misguided his actions are, and to begin my work of polemic response. The
dialectic theology this produces has been very helpful to me personally in defining my own faith, and this
is why I advocate religious freedom. However, it is of vital importance that to preserve the Protestant
churches, we not allow the corruption of contemporary heresy to advance any further, but instead return
to the ancient and beautiful faith received from the Holy Apostles through the Ecumenical Councils; that
faith which is truly Orthodox and truly Catholic.
On the Nature of Hell
First of all, I have to begin this post by saying that confessional Christians will never get off your back,
until such time as you either resort to censorship, violating the ostensibly open source aspects of this blog,
or begin to do your duty as a Methodist clergyman and actually proclaim the Apostolic faith, rather than
continually seeking new ways to undermine it.
On a lighter note, before I continue, I should also mention that most of the best science fiction has strong
theological undertones. Nineteen Eighty Four, Dune, 2001, and for that matter, many of the best episodes
of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, not to mention the Gnostic theology of the Matrix, and so on. You should
not swoon when you encounter theology in SF, as awesome as it usually is (except in the universe of the
revived Doctor Who, where all religions except atheism are harmful delusions and all clergymen are evil
villains), for most of the more distinguished works of science fiction have a strong theological dimension,
or at the very least, significant theological parallels.
Now, much of what you said about the experience of hell is valid. It is possible to suffer a foretaste of hell
in this life; I myself experienced such pure horror upon the death of my grandparents, and at other
unpleasant life experiences, and this horror does indeed, as the Buddhists suggest, result from the loss of
one to whom you have become attached, like a rubber band suddenly snapping back in your face.
However, it is deeply wrong for a Christian to think that attachment should be avoided, in the manner of
the Buddhists. Buddhas worldview is essentially Love hurts, and causes hate, so dont love or hate
anything, but renounce attachment. The end goal of Buddhism, once one has renounced all attachment
and attained Nirvana, is to be blown out, released from the cycle of reincarnation. Therevada theologian
Gunapala Dharmasiri has said that this should be viewed as extinction, as opposed to the attainment of
some blessed existence in heaven.
In contrast, within the Orthodox faith of Christianity, we believe that a trumpet will sound, and all will be
resurrected bodily, raised incorruptible, to face the dread judgment seat of Christ. Those who are to be
saved will enter the world to come, whereas those damned, through refusing to repent of their sins and to
accept the love of God, will spend an eternity in hellfire. Our God is love, but is capable of wrath, where
this wrath is defined as a righteous movement of Gods divine energy against sin and evil. The Wrath of

God is a holy and divine force that we can interpret as correcting the damage done to His creation through
our own sin, and the evil designs of Satan.
Satan is not a mere mental concept, but our true adversary. Many people fall under demonic influence,
which in Eastern Orthodox theology, chiefly manifests itself in the form of prelest, or delusion. Prelest
can result from errors as simple as prayer with imagination, and can lead to insanity in this case, argues
St. Symeon the New Theologian, among others. The Philokalia advises against extended periods of
solitary prayer with the hands extended upward in the orans position (frequently seen in Buddhism,
interestingly enough), as this leads to this form of madness.
Prelest is a truly frightening concept, and like thermal entropy, and death itself, is so disturbing that I
cannot help but believe that it is true. Demons can tempt us through false visions, through misleading
dreams; our own self-conceit can cause us to easily fall into prelest (this happened to me more than once;
I have a tendency to vainglory which occasionally has manifested itself with disastrous effects, but I have
been saved in each case through Christ Jesus). Demons may offer us gifts, appearing to grant us insights
into the future. In any spiritual matter, an extreme degree of discernment is required to ascertain whether
or not one is interacting with the legitimate forces of God (vis a vis his angels, a Christophany, or the
action of the Holy Spirit), remembering the warning of St. Paul (If anyone comes to you preaching
contrary to what we have taught, even if it were an angel from Heaven, he should be excommunicated). It
is worth noting that several of the most important Church Fathers ultimately fell victim to Prelest, Tatian
and Tertullian being the most prominent examples, but one might also possibly include on that list
Origen, Eusebius of Caesarea, Theodore of Mopsuestia and Nestorius (although I personally would admit
at least half that number from my definition). I was horrified by the way, when I recently conversed with
a local Methodist minister who had never read any the writings of any of these church fathers; his
ecclesiastical scholarship apparently started with Martin Luther. This was not a conservative preacher
either, but rather one of the more liberal pastors in the district.
As terrifying as prelest is, and as easy as it is to fall into it, it is also easy through Christ Jesus to escape it,
through sincere prayer and repentance. Many Church fathers also advise that it can be dispelled by
making the Sign of the Cross; these are ancient voices from the early Church, and I am inclined to believe
them, and to regret deeply the fact that for some unpleasant reason doubtless related to anti-Roman
reactionism, Protestants, with the exception of the Anglo Catholics and a few other related groups, do not
cross themselves.
Now, UMJeremy does say something valid when he says that the Hellish foretaste can often be avoided in
community. It worries me that he fears that this is where confessional Christians would take issue; on the
contrary, it is the Orthodox doctrine that we fall as individuals, but are saved together, in communion with
Christ and the fellowship of saints which Paul refers to, that being, the faithful membership of the Church
on Earth and in Heaven. However, here is where we must absolutely renounce the Buddhist doctrines,
and this is where confessional Christians should take offense: the Buddhist idea essentially does put Satan
in our mind, by ascribing all suffering to attachment, and the Karmic cycle. This, to the apostolic faith, is
anathema.
Christians are saved together, as a community, through our attachment to that communion. We must
absolutely attach ourselves to our fellow believers; CS Lewis suggested that the same burning, passionate

love we experience for those of the opposite gender whom we wish to marry, will be directed towards all
of our brothers and sisters in Heaven (albeit bereft of the biological desire for sexual reproduction, and the
pain of rejection). Of course, we can reject this love; as CS Lewis also says, the gates of Hell are locked
on the inside. This is of course why the Universalist view that all MUST be saved is wrong, and
unacceptable. The one thing God cannot do is force us to love him; love that is not freely given is not love
at all.
Consider however the burning attachment to His children that prompted God, in the person of Christ, to
allow himself to die. This is the ultimate attachment; for God to be so profoundly attached to his Children
as to suffer death itself would have been a concept incomprehensible to the mind of Siddhrtha Gautama,
This overpowering attachment in the form of altruistic love is the emanation of God, who is love, and is
what prompted God to endure the greatest conceivable pain in order to procure our salvation. Kallistos
Ware suggests that Christ, in descending to Hell, did truly experience Hell, as Hell, in the Orthodox view,
can be interpreted as the place where God is not. This implies a temporary separation from the Trinity,
which, from the standpoint of God, must be the ultimate pain possible, to be disconnected from the
unchanging, immutable and eternal unity of the Godhead in order to die as a man. Of course, the
Orthodox view about Hell is also rather cheerful, and helps us to dispel both our fears of the terrible
impact of prelest and of the pain of Hell. The sting of death is sin, but Christ has treampled down death by
death; the Paschal Homily proclaims of Christ that He descended into Hades and took Hades captive! Hell
has been swallowed up in Victory.
Thus, in spite of the horrors inflicted upon us, through the degenerate condition of the world resulting
from original sin (whether you interpret this in the Augustinian manner of imputed guilt, or in the
environmental manner of John Cassian, I myself personally favor the latter view), through our own evil
designs, and through the ceaseless plotting of Satan our adversary against us. The devil works ceaselessly
to achieve our derangement, to undermine our faith, and ultimately, to destroy our souls; he delights in
misery. Expect temptation until your last breath! warns St. Anthony the Great.
However, through the all-redeeming sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ, we can escape this horrible fate,
both in this life and in the life of the world to come, through repentance. He who endures to the end will
be saved. We must persevere; we must not succumb to the temptation of devils and fall away in the
manner of Tatian or Tertullian. Rather, we should consider our life on this earth as a constant struggle, a
pitched battle between ourselves and the temptation to sin, the workings of the devil; we are the athletes
of God, racing to win the crown of victory, which is life eternal, as St. Paul has said. This is a race we can
win, all of us, regardless of race, gender, or physical or mental impairment, for our Lord is merciful and
fervently desires our salvation. We are indeed saved in a community, through a divine synergy between
ourselves and the Holy Spirit; by attaching ourselves as profoundly to our fellow Christians as Christ did
to mankind as a whole.
Orthodoxy, The Laity, and Freedom of Conscience
Gordon Wells wrote:
RE: Comments (many) by Paul Anthony Preussler. I have read all your comments as listed above. Paul
you are certainly well read, articulate and know of what you speakfrom your perspective. This is

where I get snarled up. I do not believe you, nor any one else, has the authority to tell me how or what I
should believe.
I am a life long (75 yrs) United Methodist. I like being a United Methodist because we can all have
divergent views and still get along. At least that is the way I was brought up! How is it that we have
arrived at this point of You are right and those that do not think/believe your way are wrong. I do not
expect nor want a dissertation in response, just wanted you to know what an old Methodist hears when
you speak.
To which I reply:
Gordon, allow me to clarify: I do not presume to tell you, a layman, what you *must* believe. I value
how the US Constitution absolutely protects religious freedom, freedom of conscience is the most
important freedom, and Christs death on the cross ought to serve as a rather poignant reminder of its
importance. Nor would I dare presume to say that one is damned for not adhering to the Orthodox,
Catholic, Apostolic faith of the Christian Church; God forbid. In fact God does literally forbid; Judge
not, lest ye not be judged. I am certain that, through the infinite mercy of God, a great many people, with
any luck, the majority of the human race, will accept the love of God through the saving grace offered in
the person and the actions of Jesus Christ. What is more, I love the study of theology in general; I see in
the vast majority of religions a legitimate pursuit of the divine, which manifests itself in the form of
beautiful architecture (Shinto temples, Islamic mosques), beautiful liturgy (the Alevi semah, the Whirling
Dervishes), and beautiful deeds (the absolute non-violence of Jainists, the generosity of the Sikh people).
Surely, these faiths represent a sincere and beautiful reaching out of humanity towards the loving hand of
its Creator, and God will not ignore those who have not received His Gospel of Peace.
My purpose in countering heresy through polemics is rather, to preserve and defend the traditions of the
Orthodox Christian doctrine, received from the early fathers, and transmitted to us in the Methodist
tradition through the work of John Wesley, whose Protestant faith could truly and properly be called
Catholic, in the sense that it represented that which always has been believed by everyone, everywhere,
according to the definition of St. Vincent Lerins. My polemics are aimed not primarily at laymen, but at
the clergy of the Methodist church. They are the ones responsible for teaching you, and other laity, the
Christian faith; they are not mere functionaries whose purpose is to mechanically administer the
sacraments, but are also preachers, called to serve as our spiritual fathers, to proclaim the Gospel and
ensure the correct transmission, and indeed reception, of essential dogmatic foundation of Christianity.
When a clergyman such as UMJeremy fails to do this, it does violence to the Christian religion in three
ways: it endangers the immortal souls of the faithful, by corrupting their understanding of our faith with
false and misleading concepts, many of which have previously been condemned throughout the history of
the Church as heresy; it threatens to prevent or obstruct the cure of souls of future generations of
Christians, by boiling away the communion of pious believers who have received the faith, into which our
descendants would otherwise be raised, and lastly, it destroys the cultural heritage of Christendom, by
obliterating the unique beauty of our religion, which is surely a tragedy for anyone who loves religion in
general, even one who is not themselves Christian.
Of these concerns, it is the second problem posed through the transmission of heretical doctrines which is
most troubling. The easiest way to acquire a religion is to be born into it; proselytizing is very hard, and is

successful only in rare cases, and with the direct intervention of the Holy Spirit, On the other hand, when
a newborn Christian is baptized, according to the Orthodox faith, we believe that the Holy Spirit
automatically effects a rebirth within their noetic faculty, ensuring their immediate presence in the
communion of saints, that Paul speaks of, into which they will be raised. Even without infant baptism,
being raised into a religion still leads to loyalty, in most cases, as the experience of the majority of world
religions testify. Thus, what heretical pastors are actually doing is destroying the Christian religion, to
paraphrase George Orwell, in the past, the present, and the future. They destroy it in the past, by
obliterating our beautiful cultural and liturgical heritage. They destroy it in the present by corrupting the
faith, alienating the devout and confusing the weakminded. They destroy it in the future, because if their
actions are unchecked, in fifty to a hundred years time there will not be a community of pious, Orthodox
Methodists in which to be raised.
Heresy causes Christian communities to degenerate into apostasy, usually within just two or three
centuries. Consider the Unitarians, who were devout Christians at the time of the American revolution.
While a minority still consider themselves Christian, the majority have abandoned the religion, and the
Unitarian Universalists do not insist upon any doctrine as neccessary for salvation. God forbid that the
Methodist Church should devolve into that. Another example of heresy resulting in apostasy, and
eventual ablation, can be found in the Arians; no members of this fourth century heresy, which was at one
time dominant, and the religion of the Roman Emperors, who until late in the fourth century actively
persecuted Orthodox Christians, survive. The last Gnostic Christian sects, the Bogomils and the Cathars,
died out before the Renaissance (some say the Waldensians were related, but I personally doubt this, as
their doctrines are rather different, and closer to that of the other early Protestants, motivated primarily by
a mistrust of the authority of the Roman prelates). The two largest remaining Gnostic faiths, that are not
contemporary revivals, are the Yazidis and the Mandaeans; the former worship Taus Melek, the Peacock
Angel, who has obvious Christological characteristics, but is also clearly identifiable with Lucifer, and
especially the Islamic conception of Shaitan, leading the Muslims to regard them as devil worshippers.
The Mandaeans on the other hand worship John the Baptist rather than Christ, regarding him as a false
Messiah (or as some, seeking ecumenical dialogue, amusingly suggest, a Book messiah, owing to the
fact that the word in their Syriac dialect for false also means book). They may in fact be descendants
of the original disciples of John the Baptist, but more probably, they were a Christian Gnostic sect that
eventually discarded the Gnostic Savior of Christ in favor of his forerunner, owing to the pernicious
aspects of Gnosticism.
Thus, I am here not to tell you, the layman, what you must believe. Rather, in humility, I seek to describe
the faith of the Church Fathers, as I have received it, and as I believe it to be true, which I feel that United
Methodist clergymen are obliged to transmit. Should you believe this faith? Probably, but to quote Pope
Francis, who am I to judge? Your beliefs are ultimately between you and God, however, Methodist
pastors have absolutely no right to destroy the religion into which I was baptized, the faith of John
Wesley, and of the Church Fathers, the vast Cloud of Witnesses, and the holy Apostles, received from
God himself iin the person of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The Authority of Holy Scripture

Against an Unfaithful Translation of the Syriac Gospel


I am a huge enthusiast of Syriac Christianity; I have substantial contacts in both the Syriac Orthodox
Church and the Assyrian Church of the East; as they use languages derived from Classical Aramaic, not
dissimilar to that spoken by our Lord, I believe they are of unique value to Christianity. They have also
been horribly persecuted, now and in the past; on two separate occasions, 50 to 95% of Church of the East
laity were martyred (in the 14th century under Tamerlane, and again in the Turkish genocide of 1915);
likewise, the Syriac Orthodox church lost around 95% of its laity in 1915, along with several other
Christian communities in Turkey who were similarly persecuted (I believe the Armenians, who are in
communion with the Syriac Orthodox, suffered the highest body count, but they also represented the
largest Christian population in Turkey at that time; the Syriacs and Assyrians from what I understand lost
a much larger percentage of their total population).
However, I can definitively assure both the author of this blog and any interested reader that the
aforementioned quotation does not accurately represent the Peshitta. Here is the same passage from the
oldest Peshitta translation, the Etheridge Bible:
Our Father who art in the heavens! be sanctified thy Name. Come thy kingdom. Be done thy will, as in
heaven, also in earth. Give to us the bread of our need to-day; and forgive us our debts, as also we forgive
our debtors; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil. For thine is the kingdom and the
power and the glory to the age of ages. For if you forgive men their trespasses, your Father who is in
heaven will forgive you also. But if you will not forgive men, your Father also forgiveth not your
trespasses unto you.
Here is the same passage, from the Murdock Bible (a translation of the Western Peshitto, as used in the
Syriac Orthodox Church; basically the Peshitta but with Revelation and the Catholic Epistles; also my
personal favorite NT translation):
In this manner, therefore, pray ye: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name: Thy kingdom
come: Thy will be done; as in heaven, so on earth: Give us our needful bread, this day: And forgive us our
debts, as we forgive our debtors: And bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is
the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever: Amen.
Here is the same passage from the critically acclaimed contemporary Lamsa translation:
Therefore pray in this manner: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven so on earth.Give us bread for our needs from day to
day. And forgive us our offences, as we have forgiven our offenders; And do not let us enter into
temptation, but deliver us from error. Because thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory for ever
and ever. Amen.
Now, some additional points should be made regarding the Peshitta:
1. The Classical Aramaic text lacks versification. Rather, it is divided into pericopes, arranged
sequentially according to the Lectionary in a Gospel Book, which is venerated as an icon in the Syriac
Orthodox church. In the Assyrian Church of the East, the priest uses his knowledge of the text to inform

the congregation as to the verse number, and then as he reads it silently, translates it in real time to the
modern East Syriac dialect spoken by ethnic Assyrians, which is sufficiently different from classical
Aramaic so as to not be mutually intelligible.
2. The Peshitta New Testament is not substantially different from the Majority Text; it has more in
common with the King James Version, than the KJV has in common with the New International Version
or other modern critical texts.
3. Where the Peshitta diverges from the Majority Text, it tends to do so in a manner that favors a
conservative, Orthodox interpretation. Consider this text from Matthew (chapter 8, verse 6), often cited by
the homosexual lobby as evidence of Jesus blessing a gay couple:
And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented.
In the Peshitta, on the other hand, the text reads as follows:
Murdock:and said: My Lord, my child lieth at home an is paralytic, and badly afflicted.
Lamsa: Saying, My Lord, my boy is lying in the house, paralyzed, and suffering greatly.
This translation accords with Church Tradition which states that that passage referred to the son of the
Centurion. Although this reading is slightly at odds with a similiar passage in Luke which is interpreted
the other way, it is nonetheless interesting to note how the Peshitta tends at all times to affirm orthodoxy.
I believe the Peshitta is particularly valuable, because it was produced in the fourth century before the
Chalcedonian schism, before the NT canon itself had been finalized (hence its omission of Revelations
and the Pastoral Epistles, which the Syriac Orthodox translated at a later date); the Syriac fathers
translated it to replace the deeply flawed gospel harmony known as the Diatesseron (ascribed to the
second century Syriac theologian Tatian), which the Greek fathers of that time concluded was heretical.
Whereas the Greek texts developed organically, the Peshitta, in my mind, represents a snapshot of the
New Testament as the fourth century Church understood it. Thus, it is invaluable as a proof text for any
scriptural analysis.
UMJeremy believes were possibly in a computer simulation, and in Process theology. I was
disappointed, and replied accordingly:
I had not noticed this post before, but sadly, it has caused me to realize the root of the apparently heretical
doctrines propagated by Jeremy Smith. Firstly, advocating a worldview that we are in a computer
simulation, comes dangerously close to Gnosticism; the Matrix was basically Gnosticism: The Movie.
Gnosticism is an evil heresy; along with Marcionism, Arianism and Iconoclasm, among the worst
heresies Christianity has suffered.
Process theology is itself inherently heretical, because it denies the omnipotence of God, it denies the
immutable and transcendental nature of God, and as such, is inherently un-Biblical. Thus, in identifying
himself as a process theologian, UMJeremy is effectively admitting that he rejects traditional Biblical
teachings about God, in favor of what amounts to New Age mysticism.
Dogmatic Fidelity and Hermeneutics

UM Jeremy wrote:
Upside-down reading of the Scripture
The lectionary text for this week is Matthew 22:1-14 (CEB/NRSV), the Parable of the Wedding Banquet.
The temptation is to do an allegorical reading, meaning that each character represents a real-life person.
The king as God, the kings son as Jesus, and the unworthy subjects who kill the kings messengers as
those who persecuted and killed prophets, and especially those who persecuted and killed Jesus and his
apostles. This makes sense and it has made sense to most of the commentaries Ive read, from John
Wesley on down.
But Im with Dylan on this one: I cant wrap my head around seeing the King as God. And if I cant do
that, then the whole parable becomes something utterly different.
The kings burns buildings down, not just seek justice for the killers, but burns entire cities. This is the
God says elsewhere an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth not a city for a killed servant. And the king
judges and dismisses a person on sightthis is the God of eternal love and forgiveness who has forgiven
me and every reader of this blogthis king represents God?
Why is a story of a God who burns down peoples houses in this bible? Were used to it in the Old
Testament, but in the New Testament a God of fiery wrath and destruction isnt found anywhere other
than Revelation and one or two scenes in a particular Gospel called Matthew.
Maybe Ive been reading it wrong. Maybe the King isnt God at all. Maybe the King is a King.

If so, then maybe this isnt a story of how God deals with backsliders or those who reject God and God
burns them in fire. Maybe this is a story of how we ought to resist when the Empire and the World tries to
bend us into shapes we do not recognize.
Reversing the Text
Some historical perspective: In the time of Jesus, Israel was occupied territory. Like any occupied nation,
it would likely respond to the Empire around it in one of two ways. It would either fight them off by force,
or it would try to preserve their values and their customs. Israel did both: They had zealots who fought
the empire with armed resistance, and Pharisees who taught rigid law abiding lessons and kept their
culture pure and isolated from the Empire.
Why is this relevant? Look at the text again. When the king came calling, some went away to their homes
and businesses and isolated themselves from the kings wrath. Sound like anyone weve just mentioned?
And some took and killed the kings servantssound like anyone weve just mentioned?
If you were an original hearer of this story, that might be the immediate connection. Some isolate from
the king and make their places pure, some do violence to the king and are destroyed. Israel did both but
now the Zealots have been killed. The Pharisees are losing by attrition the number of impure people they
exclude to keep the holy pure. So whats the better option?

Luckily theres a third option. Remember the end of the story? The countryside is in flames from the
kings wrath. People are gathered probably awkwardly at the kings banquet (hello your majesty, thanks
for burning my city down, wheres the wedding cake?), and in their midst stands a garmentless man. Not
just a poor man for history tells us that at a wedding, robes were given to the attendants at the door, so
this man intentionally did not wear the robe. The king is enraged, angry, asking why the man has no
garment, no wedding robe. The man is silent and is thrown into the darkness.
Now wait-a-minute, thrown into the darkness and is silent before a king. If I was a first-century Jew, that
would spark a memory of Isaiah 52-53, the suffering servant. The one whose suffering will ease the pain
of a nation. The one who is silent before kings. The King reacted in the only way he knew how: violence.
For us today, do we know anyone else who was silent before his accusors, was bound at his hands and
feet, and thrown into darkness? A few chapters later Jesus is in front of his accusors, first the judean
leaders, then Herod, then Pilate himself. He is crucified at the outer edges of town where the lights do not
play. He was bound at his hands and feet, and the words of the Centurian this ought not have
happened

When the world comes knocking at your door, demanding your allegiance, demanding you trade your
values for its values, you can fight, you can flee, or like Jesus you can participate in your world but not be
conformed by it, not be bent and unrecognizable by it.
Reshaping The Message

The story starts with a king knocking at peoples doors and getting them to do what he tells them to do.
Maybe this isnt a story of how God deals with backsliders or those who reject God and God burns them
in fire.
Maybe this is a story of how we respond when the world comes knocking and tries to bend us into a
shape that we dont want to be in.
We know a bit about this, dont we? Weve been bent into a shape of a mom who gives all her time to her
kids and takes none for herself.
The shape of a dad who was is demeaned at work so he can put food on the table.
The shape of an elder parent moving in with their daughter when they lose their home to foreclosure.
The shape of a youth who starves herself to fit into skinny jeans.
The shape of a boy who doesnt want to play sports but is forced to to be accepted.
Many of us have been bent into shapes that we wouldnt have thought of being in years ago.
If you think back to years ago, would you have expected to be in the shape you are in today?

We are all being bent by the world, and we come to this text today not to be guilted into confessing God is
king, but to see what help we can have when we have to respond to the world around us.
Remember that Jesus is the one telling this parable. In utter contrast to the worldly king, Jesus will give
His life rather than take life. A few chapters back in Matthew 11:22, Jesus says from the days of John
the Baptist until now the kingdom of God has suffered violence and the violent take it by force. If we
isolate ourselves and seek purity, kicking out non-conformity, then the kingdom burns, and our only hope
is a man who refuses to bow down to any king other than the one who sent him. The kingdom of heaven
suffers violence, it is not delivered from it.
You are invited to build the kingdom, a kingdom opposed to all other kingdoms who rule through violence
and force. If we are called to be kingdom builders, we will have to make the same choice. We can flee
from responsibility, we can react in violent and unhealthy ways, or we can suffer together through the
rough patches and emerge the other side wounded, bent, broken, but a little patch of the kingdom is
redeemed.
We started this conversation because we were uncomfortable with the image of God as an unrighteous
king. We will always be tempted not only by a kingly God, but that we can be kings too. Jesus sets us free
from this temptation to become kings and rule our kingdoms with harsh judgment. As long as we feel
personally charged with deciding who should pay for their sins and how, there will be no rest for us
not only because there is always some crime which we might feel charged to avenge, but also (and
perhaps more importantly) because when were caught up in the vengeance cycle, those dark places we
see and lash out at in others are bound to be projections of unacknowledged and therefore unhealed dark
places in ourselves. In other words, people seeking vengeance are treating something that isnt the
wound, leaving the real wound to fester.
Jesus is the suffering servant. And Im convicted that he invites you to resist the temptation to judge, try,
and convict others today, and instead find new ways to suffer together when the world tries to bend us out
of shape. And when we struggle together, there in our midst is a garmentless man, taking the brunt of the
worlds force, taking the edge of the knife, taking our sins and rendering them powerless over us, if we
only trust him to do so.
May all your images of God as a harsh judge be replaced by a God who sent Gods son to redeem the
world.
May all the moments when you suffer violence for the kingdom be helped by knowing our Lord Jesus
Christ suffered violence but was not overcome by it.
May when you look at your life and see it bent out of shape, do not be afraid. Our God is with you, and
you can hide, or you can protest, or you can stand in silent refusal. And whatever you choose, God will
never ever leave you alone.
Thoughts?
"Human King" replied:

I believe youre absolutely right Coon. Parables are meant to challenge a person to repenting, or
rethinking about old ideas, old ways of understanding who God really is and what He really wants and
what this life is ultimately about.

A lot of these interpretations that say that the King is God and the son is Jesus read a lot into the story
that isnt there. The city represents a purification of the city of the killers? The innocents are okay though,
despite being in these cities? Where did it say anything about that in the parable? Seriously, where do
ideas like this come from?

To me, you are on to something Mr. Smith. It makes even more sense about the King really just being a
King when you go back and look at the original Greek translation. In Greek, the words it uses for King
are Anthropos Basilyooce.Which literally translates to a human king. The King isnt God. Thats
simply not what Jesus said.

Now, if you want to argue about whether or not the kingdom of heaven is like how its described in this
parable, thats another story. And somehow, I dont think it is. I think this is a parable describing what
the Kingdom of God isnt, not what it is. And that line about how Many are called but few are
chosen.I think thats sarcasm personally. A jab at the mentality and arrogance and fear that this
understanding of who God is produces. Thats just my opinion though.
Rev Sarah replied:
Ill point to a sermon by a fantastic preacher who has a similar read on this text:
http://sarcasticlutheran.typepad.com/sarcastic_lutheran/2011/10/sermon-on-the-worst-parable-ever.html
To which I reply:
Alex is right to point out that this delusion exegesis (which in the audacity of its error, resembles that of
Episcopal Church USA Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schoris heretical interpretation of Acts
16:16-34) resembles Marcionism; it is saved from proper Marcionism by a reference to the
proportionality of divine justice in an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, but it is certainly at least
somewhat crypto-Marcion; it also conveniently ignores the fact that God did in fact destroy entire cities
for disobeying him, as any resident of Sodom or Gomorrah would attest, had they not in fact been
vaporized. And has Human King even bothered to read the verse in question? Surely the fact that it
begins with The kingdom of heaven is like rather than The kingdom of heaven is unlike refutes his
argument.
Regarding to the main thrust of UM Jeremys interpretation, which is so far at odds with that of nearly all
the church fathers that it borders on blasphemy, the problem with it is that it falls on its face when
compared with Christs very similiar parable offered in Luke chapter 15, when Christ, at dinner with the
Pharisees, engaged in what theologians like to call the Parabolic triple play. This parable says
essentially the same thing, albeit it does not feature the King burning cities to the ground, and more

emphatically stresses that God, like the King, will not tolerate the well-off ignoring His call, but will
instead round up the suffering to take their place at the wedding banquet; the wedding being celebrated
that between Christ and his Bride, the Church.
Regarding the parable contained within Matthew, the view of St. John Chrysostom was that the burning
of the city is an example of Christ prophesying the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, which was a
recurrent theme in much of Christs Gospel. Chrysostom argued that God gave an interval of 40 years
between this sermon, and the actual destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman legions, in order to give the
Jews time to repent, and indeed many of them did, becoming the founding Apostles of the Early Church.
In like manner, the correct interpretation of the fate of the man refusing to wear the wedding garment
(who is not stated as being naked by the way), is not that this was Christ, but rather, an example of
someone who refuses Gods love and saving grace, which we certainly have the right to do. By not
wearing the wedding garment, this man was defying the authority of God, and was damned to the outer
darkness, that being Hell, in punishment.
The importance of the orthodox understanding of this passage to Christian dogmatic theology cannot be
overstated. It is from here that we learn that Many are called, but few are chosen, and that Hell is a
place filled with weeping and gnashing of teeth; yet equally important, it is in the Orthodox
interpretation of this passage, held universally throughout the Church Catholic, by Protestants, Eastern
Christians, and Roman Catholics alike, that we learn of Gods loving-kindness; those who are damned are
damned through refusing His divine love; in their absence, God selects the poor, the disabled, the meek,
all as many as they were found, both bad and good, and in this manner the wedding was furnished with
guests.
Thus, from the Orthodox interpretation of this passage, which is surely the correct one, on account of its
correlation with a similar parable given in Luke (you can argue that Matthew and Luke were both
retelling the same story, or more probably, that Christ told the same story twice, slightly differently,
which as a human act is certainly not without precedent; one could say that my beloved Metropolitan
Kallistos Ware has practically made a career out of it), we learn of both Gods divine justice, and his
saving love. His justice, in punishing those who defy his authority, or refuse his love, and his gracious
mercy, in inviting even the lowest members of society, the poorest of the poor, the maimed and disabled,
to his Heavenly Banquet. The Orthodox interpretation of this passage is so important, that one could
reasonably say it contains the entire message of the Holy Gospels. To refute it is to go beyond any known
heresy, and depart into outright blasphemy, attacking the Christian faith for pure perverse joy that comes
from destroying something beautiful.
I should add that Rev. Sarah should be ashamed of herself, and should likewise consider resigning, for
daring to attack not only this parable, but the equivalent in Luke as well. This utter blasphemy does
indeed reverse the meaning of the text, turning the Gospel upside down; it inverts it to the extent that it
utterly obliterates the heart of the Christian message; that being, we are all horrible sinners, yet we are
offered forgiveness through Christ Jesus, a forgiveness we must chose voluntarily to accept, by repenting
of our manifold sins.
UM Jeremy also wrote about Zacchaeus:
Ive been reading Zaccheus wrong my entire life.

But its ok. Theres many more to blame.

The story of Zaccheus in Luke 19 is about a dude who wants to see Jesus so he climbs up on a tree. Jesus
says, dude, Id like to eat at your house. The dude is like dude, totally and the crowd is like dude,
that guys bogus and the dude says dudes, Ill right now give away half my stuff and repay anyone I owe
big time. And Jesus is like dude, awesome, salvation is here.
OK, that was the surfer version.
Heres the real problem. I have several childrens storybook versions of this story. Heres how it reads
the end (verses 7-8).
(1) Zacchaeus heard what the people were saying about him, and he must have known that they were
right. So he said, Listen! I will give half of everything I have to the poor! And if I cheated anyone, I will
pay them back four times as much!
(2) Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the
poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.
(3) People began to criticize Jesus because he was going to the house of a sinner, but Zacchaeus was a
repentant sinner. He was sorry for the bad things he had done. He told the Lord that he would give half of
his possessions to the poor, and if he had cheated anybody out of anything, he would give back four times
that amount.
(4) When Zaccheus had welcomed Jesus to his house, he made a promise. Here and now I promise to
give half of whatever I earn to the poor. Ill also give back four times whatever Ive cheated from others
in the past. He bowed his head. Zaccheus knew who Jesus was. He was ready to change his life for Him.
Those are the childrens story versions. #2 is exactly what the NRSV reads.
But look at how King James interprets the line:
And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord: Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and
if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.
And the new Common English Bible is similar:
Zacchaeus stopped and said to the Lord, Look, Lord, I give half of my possessions to the poor. And if I
have cheated anyone, I repay them four times as much.
Theres a problem. The verbs are in the present tense in the bible passages above. The verbs are in the
future tense in the childrens versions.
Why is that important?
If they are future tense (Zac will do these things) then its a story of repentance and turning your life to
Jesus.

If they are present tense (Zac already does these things) then its a story of claiming ones actions are
unnoticed by the crowd and Jesus affirms them.
The greek supports the present tense. However, the New Interpreters Bible Commentary argues for the
traditional reading of future tense, given its form of confession and the couplet by Jesus at the end that
seems to describe a change in Zac as evidenced by Salvation is coming to his house.
As with any bible story, a multiplicity of conclusions are supported by a multiplicity of translations and
knowing that even being inspired by God doesnt mean the Gospel writers had perfect Greek written.
But Im finding a lot of meaning in this alternative textually-supported interpretation.
It can be a story of the power of gossip. The crowd had claimed Zacchaeus as a terrible person due to his
status. But Zac shows the reputation does not hold water. The crowd is the sinner and Zac is still a sinner
but shows how he makes up for his shortcomings. What is the crowd doing other than spreading
falsehoods in this passage?
It can be a story of the power of naming and standing up for ones self. The crowd named Zacchaeus.
Zacchaeus spoke the truth. Jesus affirmed the truth. By claiming his name a son of Abraham, Zac named
who he was against who they thought he was. Perhaps then the lost Jesus refers to is the crowd not
Zacwell, Zac too.
It can be a different understanding of Salvation being not an event but a person, as Jesus says salvation
has come to this house could be a reference to Jesus and not the changed heart that dictated an event of
salvation.

What do you think? Was Zacchaeus referring to his past actions or his future promises? Either way, what
causes Salvation to come to his house?
I myself would not mind seeing a bible that uses syntax highlighting to represent, with different colors, all
remarks ascribed to Jesus, all ascribed to God the father, or to the Trinity as a whole, all ascribed to the
Holy Spirit, all those ascribed to Prophets or Apostles speaking in the Holy Spirit, all those ascribed to
angels, all those ascribed to demons, and all those ascribed to the devil. This would make for very
interesting reading indeed.
To which I reply:
Jeremy, how can you be a Methodist minister, and dare to ask what caused salvation to come to the house
of Zacchaeus? Are you seriously advocating the Pelagian doctrine of works-righteousness?
The correct answer is that Zacchaeus was saved through his living faith in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Also, fun fact: many believe that Zacchaeus, after his salvation, took the new name which we render as
Matthew, and was the pharisee who dined with Jesus, the scribe who wrote down the sayings of Christ,
which ultimately became the Gospel of Matthew, or an Aramaic proto-Matthew, and ultimately, it was
this Matthew, nee Zacchaeus, who was elected to replace Judas as treasurer.

This, like many hagiographic legends, cannot be verified, but its a beautiful story, and while the
chronology doesnt quite line up (although in all fairness, only the Gospel of John has a perfectly viable
chronology), it is otherwise entirely plausible.
Regarding the Jesus Seminar
Regarding the Jesus Seminar, it should be noted that they have absolutely no scientific proof to back up
their claims about which verses are authentically the words of Jesus and which ones arent; the Five
Gospels ultimately just indicates which verses they collectively think Jesus said, and which ones they
collectively felt were interpolations. Since none of them were actually there, it is merely the result of
collective opinion, and the opinion of a handpicked assortment of liberal theologians at that; to my
knowledge, not one member of the Jesus Seminar was theologically conservative, or from a conservative
denomination (no Eastern Orthodox, no Roman Catholics, no Southern Baptists for that matter). If the
composition of the Jesus Seminar more accurately reflected the demographic and psychographic
composition of the Christian religion, and excluded from its ranks those who are by their own admission
not Christians, but atheists or post-Christian Jesusists, the outcome of its work would be dramatically
different.

Given UMJeremys enthusiasm for hacking, I would propose he also ought to reconsider his stance on
red letter bibles; anyone involved in computer science, whether as a programmer, systems
administrator, or network engineer, will know of the value of syntax highlighting. Not all programmers
like it, but the vast majority do; it is a system whereby the text editor you are using automatically color
codes your words, as you type them, to indicate to you how your program will interpret them. For
example, in the vim text editor, strings (that is to say, representations of text) are color coded red,
comments are color coded blue, and other parts of the language are color coded in amber, green, cyan, or
magenta, as appropriate. Like the Bible, text editors even provide the equivalent of versification, in the
form of automatic line numbering, which is a must, because most compilers, if they detect an error, will
report it to you on the basis of which numbered line of code in your program contains it.
The Tragedy of This Tragic Gospel
This older post of UM Jeremy represents the theologically most significant (and potentially heretical)
article on Hacking Christianity that I have yet to address. The relationship between John and the
Synoptics is almost infinitely more important to the theology of the Orthodox, Catholic faith of
Christianity than any of the other subjects Ive addressed during my polemical tenure on this blog, such as
the ever nagging and unpleasant debate over homosexuality. For truly the heart of the Apostolic faith can
be found in how one reconciles John, with the Synoptics, and the Pauline epistles.
I have a copy in my library of The Tragic Gospel, and in general found it to be a poorly-researched work
of sensationalist drivel. However, dont take my word for it. Read it for yourself, and experience the pure,
unadulterated irony with which the author rests upon every dubious and unproven assumption that
underlies modern Christianity, and then on this foundation of sand, constructs the heretical mansion of his
main argument: that John tried, in his gospel, to appropriate the authority of Peter, of Mary Magdalene, of
Paul, of Thomas, of Luke, of Mark, and of every other Christian theological authority of the first century.

Among the assumptions used towards implementing this grand design:


1. John was, in the authors mind, definitely authored after 90 AD, thus the actual author could not be
John the Apostle, but was rather the psuedepigraphical contemporary of Ignatius the Episcopalians
euphemistically referred to as John of Patmos.
2. The above not withstanding, we are asked to believe that this was due to some power struggle that
actually apparently did exist between John and the other disciples.
3. Mark is reduced from the scribe of Peter and the first Bishop of Alexandria, to a mysterious, shadowy
figure, a Roman tragic author in the Greek tradition, who sought to unify the early church through writing
the first Gospel.
4. The Church tradition that Matthew was the first Gospel is ignored; the modernist view that says Mark
is older is held as being above question, despite the recent and well publicized hypothesis that posits an
older, now lost Aramaic Gospel of Matthew, which was a primary source for Mark and the other
Synoptics, and which itself was later translated and completely rewritten by a Mathetist into the Koine
Greek gospel we know today, quite possibly after Mark and Luke had already been written.
5. The Gospel of Mark is dated after all Pauline epistles, which seems rather a stretch in light of its
claims to be the first gospel; most conservative dating posits its authorship as having occurred around 58
AD, whereas Paul it is believed was executed around 64 AD.
6. The statement in John commending the care of the Virgin Mary to the beloved disciple is mocked as
the authors attempt to usurp other ecclesiastical authorities, including Luke. The traditional ecclesiastical
history, that featured Luke the Evangelist living with John and Mary, and acting as a physician to the
Theotokos, after the martyrdom of Paul, is not mentioned, as one might expect.
7. The authenticity of the Gnostic gospels compared to the Canonical gospels is not questioned; nor does
the author mention the fact that the Gnostics have been dated with reasonable certainty to the late second
century; none of them can be shown to have the same antiquity as the Canonicals, even the Gospel of
John.
However, the most fundamental problem with the book is that the author interprets John not mentioning
something as being equivalent to John speaking in opposition to something. The Synoptics mention Christ
praying fervently in the Garden of Gesthemane, and asking the Father to relieve him of this unbearable
cup. John does not, but does mention him stating that this cup has been apportioned to him, to the
centurions who come to arrest him. Yet are these statements incompatible? Surely not; rather, when taken
together, they depict the God-Man Christ daunted, in a manner true to His humanity, at the terrible fate
that was to befall him: painful crucifixion, followed by temporary separation from the Trinity, in order to
procure our salvation. Surely any human would ask the of his Father the same question. Yet the
realization was clear: there could be no other way. Thus, when Jesus said to Peter: Put the sword into its
sheath. The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it? he was affirming the conviction of
purpose that had fallen onto him, now that it had become evident that it was by this way, and no other,
that His children could be saved from their sin. The synoptics depict the fear of even the bravest soldier
before going into Battle; John depicts the resolve that naturally falls upon them when the Enemy comes
into view, and their duty becomes clear.

Of course, the most compelling evidence that John was not an antithetical rebuttal against Mark is simply
the fact that the early Church accepted both as canonical, while rejecting the Gnostics, a fact
demonstrated by the composition of the Diatessaron from all four Canonicals by Tatian, and the writings
of Iraeneus, among other innumerable sources. The Gnostics tried to play the game of Lets write a
psuedepigraphical Gospel in order to undermine the theology of the church on numerous occasions, in
some cases, such as that of the Gospel of Peter, coming very close to success, however, in each case they
were foiled, by the fact that the divergent theology of their gospel, combined by the lack of historical
witness to it, clearly demarcated it as forgery. In the case of John however, its apostolic authenticity is
well attested throughout Patristic tradition, and none of the church fathers perceived any legitimate
incompatibility between its theology and the theology of the Synpotics; for its reason, it was included,
whereas the false Gospels of Thomas, Philip, Mary, Judas, Truth, and Peter, along with the truly horrific
Infancy Gospel of Thomas, which in depicting a malicious young Jesus killing his schoolteachers out of
spite, and bringing clay birds to life, is the stuff of nightmares, were excluded.
Indeed, there was never even any controversy about whether or not these false gospels should be
accepted; their condemnation by the hierarchy of the Apostolic Church was unequivocal. In contrast, the
exclusion of the Shepherd of Hermas, the Apocalpyse of Peter, and the Epistle of Barnabas, and the
inclusion of the epistles of Jude, 2 John, 3 John, 2 Peter, 1 and 2 Timothy, and the Apocalypse of John,
were highly controversial, and the debate that ultimately gave us the canon in its final form raged
throughout the fourth century, although compared to the Arian controversy, it was a storm in a teacup.
Finally, and most importantly, much of John is best understood in light of the Synoptics; likewise, the
Synoptics are best understood in light of John. The major theme of Mark is Christs attempt to keep secret
his true identity, as the Son of God, but even then, Mark preserves an element of mystery, which is
resolved when one opens John to find out that this Son of God is in fact the divine Logos, the Word of
God himself. Both Mark and John are better understood in light of the Nativity story of Matthew and
Luke. Finally, the post-Resurrection narratives in Luke and John complement each other; the Doubting
Thomas episode explaining what gave the Disciples in Luke-Acts such complete confidence in the bodily
resurrection of Christ, who based purely on the Luke resurrection narrative, would seem rather spectral.
The Apostle Thomas also brings to the surface a huge problem with qualifications of this theologian, for
he suggests that he agrees with the view espoused in the Gnostic Book of Thomas the Contender that
Thomas was the twin brother of Jesus Christ, a view so completely heretical that it alone destroys any
credibility the author might otherwise have.
However, even if this were a competent theologian, with solid credentials in teaching the Apostolic faith,
writing this book, it would still be impossibly flawed as a work of Biblical commentary, for its central
premise, that the Gospels of John and Mark are in opposition to each other, is manifestly untrue, as a
simple reading of both Gospels, along with the related commentary of the Church Fathers, most
especially Irenaeus, will demonstrate.
If John were really authored by a megalomaniacal psuedepigraphical figure (or perhaps, given the
authors assertion that by the time the book was written, all eyewitnesses, including implicitly the Apostle
John himself, were dead, the undead Ghost of John, or John the Beloved Zombie), seeking to ruthlessly
discredit all other important personalities in the theological life of the first century church, then surely, he
would have bothered to include a Nativity story. He would not have allowed his gospel to, in any way,

rely on the others, for this, or for any other important details of Christs life, including the Last Supper,
which John clearly alludes to in Chapter 6, without describing in detail in the chapters leading up to
Christs betrayal, in spite of clearly having had time to do so.
One man did in fact attempt to usurp the Apostolic hierarchy in exactly the same way that the author of
This Tragic Gospel alleges, and that mans name was Marcion. Marcion, a Greek merchant, was of the
opinion that the God of the Jews was a wrathful, evil, hateful figure, and could not be reconciled with, nor
identified as the heavenly father of, Jesus Christ, in spite of Christ explicitly identifying the Jewish God
as his father throughout the Gospels, and in spite of this identification being maintained throughout the
epistles and in Revelation. Thus, Marcion edited the Gospel of Luke, to remove all content that alluded to
a connection between the Jewish God, who was recast, in the manner of the Gnostics, as an evil demiurge,
and Jesus Christ, and in like manner edited a subset of the Pauline epistles. He then banned the reading of
all other gospels by the members of his schismatic sect.
Sadly, rather than retelling the oft-forgotten and oft-misunderstood story of how an anti-Semitic heretic
attempted to hijack the early Church in Rome to suit his own prejudices, the author of This Tragic
Gospel sought instead to imagine a similar conflict having occurred, where none in fact existed, and had
the audacity to accuse John the Son of Zebidee of the same offense that was in reality perpetuated by
Marcion. Thus, the real tragedy is of this book is not the nature of the Gospel of Mark, nor the scope of
Johns ambitions, but the manner in which an enmity has been implied where there was none; the
integrity of a holy Apostle impugned, and the dogmatic integrity of the Christian faith called into
question, by a man who, by virtue of his own theological opinions, can clearly be identified as
sympathetic to Gnosticism, or at least the whitewashed, politically correct form of Gnosticism
championed by Elaine Pagels.
Elaine Pagels and Gnosticism
Regarding Elaine Pagels, Sue wrote:
Have you read Beyond Belief by Elaine Pagels? She argues that Iranaeus was the architect of teh canon,
insisting on the fourfold gospels and considered John the foremost gospel because it taught clearly that
Christ was the Son of God. She also cites Origin who wrote,
John does not always tell the truth literally, he always tells the truth spiritually. Beyound Belief page
118.
I think Pagels makes some excellent points about the role of Johns gospel in the canon.
Irenaeus was not the architect of the canon; it is generally considered that Tatians gospel harmony, the
Diatessaron, which harmonizes the four Canonical Gospels, predates Against Heresies by at least twenty
years. Even if the Diatessaron were contemporaneous with Irenaeuss magnum opus, the fact that it
sought to harmonize these four gospels into one single narrative indicates that they, and they alone, had
been accepted by the early Church as canonical in years prior.
What is more, Pagels own scholarship is frequently of a dubious value. In Beyond Belief, she
conveniently ignores the fact that, according to the Gnostics, Jesus Christ was in fact the Son of God, or
rather the son of a God, the latest and most important in a succession of Gnostic deities to exist in the

Pleroma, that emanated from Bythus, the impassable and unknowable arch-creator deity. In Gnosticism,
Christ came to liberate those humans who happened to have a spark of the divine within them from this
evil material world, the creation of the Demiurge, an incompetent or malicious creator deity whose
existence in Valentinism resulted from a failed attempt by Sophia to procreate asexually. What is more,
the Gospel of John was actually favored by some Gnostics, including Valentinus, for identifying Christ as
the Logos, which furthered their theology; if Irenaeus was willing to stoop to unethical lows in
furtherance of his theology, he would have branded it heretical and omitted it from the canon, rather than
including it. It should also be noted that Origen (with an e, my dear, not an i; his original Greek name
being Origenes) was later designated a heretic; his views are not authoritative nor representative of the
early church at large. Many have noted that the Gospel of John is in many respects the most historically
plausible of the four canonical Gospels; it is the only one on which the journeys of Christ can be plotted
coherently on a map, and it is the only one to offer an account of His passion that corresponds with the
known facts about the Jewish celebration of passover (the other Gospels, by all accounts, including that of
Eusebius of Caesarea in his Ecclesiastical History, got it wrong on this key chronological points).
The problem with Pagels is that her interpretation of Gnosticism is idealized, and not based on a realistic
understanding of the true horror the Gnostic faith actually represented. Pagels constantly seeks to portray
Gnosticism in the most positive light possible, but what she describes is really a non-existent religion, the
faith that she wants Gnosticism to be, and not the faith that it actually was. Gnosticism was a dreadful
heresy, featuring a Christ who was not, as Pagels and others might wish to say, fully human and not
divine, but rather a Christ who was fully divine, and not in the least bit human; an all-powerful, elitist and
vengeful God who made fun of those lacking the intellectual capacity to understand his secret teachings;
the spiritual faculty required to comprehend this information alone would lead to salvation, which was
described as complete escape from this material universe, and the reign of the demiurge, into a purely
physical realm above, the Pleroma.
Gnosticism was misogynist, (the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas attributes to Christ the unpleasant saying
Surely any female who makes herself male will enter the Kingdom of God), elitist (the Valentinans,
among others, believed that most humans lacked the inner divine spark necessary for salvation, and were
thus condemned to remain in this evil and degenerate material world for all eternity, under the tyranny of
the demiurge; spirituals capable of attaining salvation could look on them only with contempt), docetist
(the Gnostic Christs physical body was a mere illusion, and He was in their mind incapable of death or
suffering; the Islamic idea that it was Judas who was crucified in his place had Gnostic origins), and
prone to occult rituals that can only be described as disturbing. Indeed one Gnostic sect celebrated a
horrific, blasphemous form of the Eucharist, in which semen and menstrual blood were consumed in lieu

of bread and wine.


Pagels, however, would rather we picture Gnosticism as an upbeat, positive religion, in which
Christ isnt God, or a God-man, or even the Son of God, but rather, as the Unitarians suggest, an
enlightened teacher, showing us, in the manner of Guatama Buddha, how to liberate our soul and
attain a sort of spiritual Nirvana. She ignores outright the misogynistic aspects of Gnosticism
(many Gnostic sects eschewed women, some were exclusively homosexual, and a great many
prohibited marriage or sexual reproduction, viewing it as a great evil to bring new children into
this evil material world, to live a lifetime oppressed by the demiurge) and instead reinterprets it,

based purely on an isolated text, the Gospel of Mary, and an ambiguous passage featuring a
lacuna in the Gospel of Philip, as feminist, although the identity of not one feminist Gnostic
heresiearch remains. The passage in question, from the Gospel of Philip, she translates as [But
Christ loved] her more than [all] the disciples, and used to kiss her [often] on her [mouth].
However, a lacuna exists right there; to insert mouth, even in brackets, is terrible scholarship,
for there is nothing in the rest of the text that indicates whether or not he would kiss her [often]
or indeed [passionately] or for that matter [lightly], on her [mouth], [forehead], [hair], or another
part of her anatomy. Indeed, given the dreadful obscenity of the religion that depicted Christ a
six-year old Christ murdering his next door neighbor, and given the sexual nature of many
Gnostic rituals, it unfortunately not beyond the realm of possibility that the missing word
referred to an unmentionable part of the anatomy. We simply do not know how the original text
of the Gospel of Philip actually read, and whether or not it meant to imply a loving, platonic
relationship between Christ and Mary, or something altogether less wholesome. I am troubled
however by the apparent eagerness on the part of Pagels to demonize Irenaeus and the other
Church Fathers, and worse, to sexualize this fragmentary apocryphal Gospel, exploiting its
lacunae and scandalizing the Church, apparently for the somewhat petty cause of advancing the
feminist theological agenda.
Cutting Up The Bible

UM Jeremy wrote:
Thomas Jefferson disagreed with parts of the New Testament and considered them irrelevant (or too
supernatural) to the core parts of the Christian faith. He famously published his own New Testament
with sections edited out, entire books missing. Its been called the Jefferson Bible.
History repeats itself with the advent of the Conservative Bible Project, an online effort to re-translate (or
perhaps rewrite) the bible to better reflect their concept of conservative ideals. From the link (yes, this is
serious):
As of 2009, there is no fully conservative translation of the Bible which satisfies the following ten
guidelines:
Framework against Liberal Bias: providing a strong framework that enables a thought-for-thought
translation without corruption by liberal bias
Not Emasculated: avoiding unisex, gender inclusive language, and other modern emasculation of
Christianity
Not Dumbed Down: not dumbing down the reading level, or diluting the intellectual force and logic of
Christianity; the NIV is written at only the 7th grade level
Utilize Powerful Conservative Terms: using powerful new conservative terms as they develop;defective
translations use the word comrade three times as often as volunteer; similarly, updating words which
have a change in meaning, such as word, peace, and miracle.

Combat Harmful Addiction: combating addiction by using modern terms for it, such as gamble rather
than cast lots;using modern political terms, such as register rather than enroll for the census
Accept the Logic of Hell: applying logic with its full force and effect, as in not denying or downplaying
the very real existence of Hell or the Devil.
Express Free Market Parables; explaining the numerous economic parables with their full free-market
meaning
Exclude Later-Inserted Liberal Passages: excluding the later-inserted liberal passages that are not
authentic, such as the adulteress story
Credit Open-Mindedness of Disciples: crediting open-mindedness, often found in youngsters like the
eyewitnesses Mark and John, the authors of two of the Gospels
Prefer Conciseness over Liberal Wordiness: preferring conciseness to the liberal style of high word-tosubstance ratio; avoid compound negatives and unnecessary ambiguities; prefer concise, consistent use of
the word Lord rather than Jehovah or Yahweh or Lord God.
Thus, a project has begun among members of Conservapedia to translate the Bible in accordance with
these principles.
Read the rest of the entry, including the examples and try to not either cry/weep/laugh/or HULK
SMASH. It is just insane. I cannot pretend to have a neutral position on this. As Rod Dreher says:
Its like what youd get if you crossed the Jesus Seminar with the College Republican chapter at a rural
institution of Bible learninThese jokers dont worship God. They worship ideology.
Truth. Even the Jesus Seminar or Red-Letter Christians dont cut out parts of the biblethey merely
elevate verses over others. Everybody does that, even the hardest of literalists. So this is a farce. There, I
said it. It would be funny if it werent obviously an honest effort.
This is a bad.hack, one that negates the dissonance that every follower of Christ ought to experience and
replacing it with a biblical echo-chamber that only sends back conservative rainbows in reply. It either
will hurt Christianity by playing to peoples (especially, typically, conservatives) need for certainty, or
will expose the bible as neutered without the dissonance of thought and expression.
But dont take my words for itthe author of a 2004 translation/compendium of the original Jefferson
bible had this to say:
[Jefferson] decided that the rules of the club to which he wished to belong were not the rules he wanted to
play by. So instead of changing clubs, he changed the rule book by literally cutting and pasting together
only the sections that he found relevant to his interpretation.
In short, this has no more place in public discourse than the LOLcats Bibleexcept that one is HILarious.
This Project is just scary dumb, written by people without any of the values of either Conservatives or
Liberals, and hopefully in the annals of time it too will end up on the cutting-room floor.

To which I replied:
While I am by no means a fan of the politicization of the bible, this posting represents a profound
misinterpretation of the objectives of the Conservative Bible. The Conservative Bible no more
represents taking a pair of scissors to Holy Scripture than do any of the inclusive-language
translations of recent years, such as the Today's New International Version, and perhaps less so,
depending on your perspective. What Thomas Jefferson did was to select certain passages from
the Gospels that he felt contained the moral philosophy of Jesus Christ, and that philosophy
alone, devoid of possible sources of confusion, such as the accounts of miracles; he created this
project initially for the catechesis of the Indians, on the view that their reception of the Christian
faith might be aided if they were asked only to believe in the teachings of Christ, and not in the
miracles worked by Christ, which are from the subjective experience of our daily lives,
impossible and astonishing. As it happens, this was not the case; the miraculous wonders of
Christ have surely drawn more to the gospel than they have turned away. In any case, as time
passed, Jefferson grew progressively more attached to the project; he profoundly loved the
morality of Jesus, and viewed it as the definitive system of ethical philosophy. It appears he
also had some religious appreciation of Christ, although most likely in the sense of some
contemporary deists or Unitarians; Jefferson most likely viewed our Lord as the Son of God, or a
Son of God, but not as God Incarnate. That notwithstanding, I would say that the Jefferson Bible
represents a beautiful example of a Christian devotional project. I say that as someone who
actually rather dislikes our third president, for other reasons; I have toured both the slave-trading
castle of Elmina in Ghana, and the slave quarters at Monticello, and in light of this, one does
rather wish that Jefferson devoted more energy to practicing the system of morality he valued so
highly.

Do Christians have a right to 'cut out' the parts of a Bible they like? Certainly; it is entirely
legitimate to selectively quote the Bible as a devotional exercise (which is honestly what
Jefferson's main motivation became), or for catechtical purposes, to stress a particular point, or to
compose hymns, liturgies, or personal devotional texts. My mother used a selection of verses,
quotations of Jesus Christ, to annotate a cookbook she composed for her local Methodist parish
(I'm rather fond of the selection, and have arrayed it myself for my own devotional purposes,
devoid of the recipes, which are rather good, if I may say so myself, but of no use to me, as I am
a both dreadful cook and an devoted patron of the local restaurants). Another rather more
prominent example of selective cutting and pasting of the Bible can be found in the Gospel Book
used in many churches, especially the Eastern churches. The Gospel book contains a subset of
the verses in the Gospel, arranged in order of the Lectionary, as opposed to in their natural order
within the Gospels themselves. The book is lavishly decorated with icons, or in the case of the
Assyrian Church of the East, bound in solid gold; it makes a beautiful sight to behold, and is
customarily venerated by the congregation at the end of Syriac liturgies. A similiar book exists
for the Epistles, and the Old Testament readings. Surely UM Jeremy would not suggest that

creating specially bound selections of Biblical texts, arrayed according to the Lectionary, so that
the reader does not have to go thumbing through the pages in the midst of the liturgy to find the
right passage, constitutes a "bad hack." In like manner, creating a subset of BIblical passages for
personal use, which is what Jefferson did, is entirely legitimate.
What is not legitimate is failing to accept the Apostolic tradition regarding the meaning of those
verses; it is in that manner that we cut the Bible to shreds, not literally, but theologically, by
disregarding the historic interpretations and reinventing the Bible to mean whatever we want to
mean, in some cases changing the words to accomplish that foul objective. Neither the proposed
Conservative translation, nor the gender-neutral translations such as the most recent edition of
the NIV, represent cutting away the Bible in the manner of Jefferson. Rather, they simply take
preferred readings of the diverse array of texts, that reflect their preferred theological or
sociopolitical viewpoint, and translate accordingly. The main difference is that, unlike most
"inclusive language" translations, the Conservative Bible Project is honest about its ideology and
its intentions. However, in both cases, while neither project is actually cutting away the text in
the manner of Jefferson, they are arguably doing violence to the meaning of the text, or at least
running the risk of such violence, by translating with an agenda, as opposed to translating in such
a manner as to preserve the traditional interpretation of the Biblical texts as received from the
Church Fathers.
I myself use a multitude of historical Bible translations for my study. A dreadful monoglot, I
cannot read Koine Greek; I am struggling to learn Latin, and once I've mastered it, I'll move on
to Classical Aramaic and the Estrangelo script. However, in the interim, I'm forced to read the
Bible in my native tongue; to avoid misinterpreting it on the basis of flawed translations, I find it
best to rely on several. My three primary Bibles are a Murdock translation of the New
Testament, from the West SYriac Peshitto, a King James Study Bible, and the Orthodox Study
Bible. The latter features an original translation of the Septuagint, and uses the NKJV as the
basis of its New Testament translation. When in doubt of the meaning of a New Testament text,
I cross check between the KJV or NKJV, the Peshitto, the Vulgate-derived Douay Rheims, and a
copy I have of the NIV, which, being based on the Minority Text, provides a textual
counterweight for edge cases. The commentary between the KJV study Bible and the Orthodox
Study Bible is a study in opposites; in like manner, the KJV relies on the Masoretic text, the OSB
relies on the LXX.
Modern scholarship suggests a nuanced view of these translations is appropriate; the Jews may
actually have taken a razor to the Old Testament, excising the Apocrypha and the Christological
references in the Old Testament text, in the manner UMJeremy objects to, however, the extreme
accuracy in textual transmission provided by the Masoretic text, in the form of the statistics
compiled for each chapter, is invaluable. Additionally, the quotations of the Old Testament in
the New Testament at times suggest the Septuagint, but at other times, the Masoretic, and the
Dead Sea Scrolls suggest that, like the New Testament itself, prior to the Masoretic text, the
Tanakh consisted of a variety of different text types and traditions (including of course the

divergent Samaritan version of the Torah, which notably differs from the Jewish Torah in
including an eleventh commandment, an injunction against polygamy). To a large extent, it
appears the Apostles quoted from a continuum of Tanakh sources, ranging from the Septuagint
on one hand, to versions closer to the Masoretic text on the other, thus you cannot go wrong by
having both.
In summary, it is of vital importance that we avoid doing any violence to the Holy Scripture; and
the way to do this is not to refrain from excerpting selected verses for specific devotional,
liturgical or educational purposes; God forbid. Rather, we must avoid rewriting the Bible to say
what we want it to say, in our minds, or through the politicization of translations (which I
maintain, Jefferson, for all his faults, is not guilty of). Bearing in mind the multitude of
manuscript traditions, we must cross check our readings between multiple editions of the Bible,
to verify that a verse means what we think it means. Most importantly, we must read the
Patristic commentaries, to understand how the Church Fathers interpreted it. Lastly, we should
study other commentaries as well; to understand divergent views of scholars later deemed
heretical, or of more modern scholars well outside the Apostolic tradition, such as the extremely
conservative Calvinist theologians who wrote the commentary of my King James Study Bible.
I have found the Orthodox, Apostolic tradition of Biblical commentary to be the only one that is
internally self-consistent, but the way I discovered that was by comparing multiple translations
taken from different manuscript traditions, and then the commentaries thereof. One can see the
light most clearly when contrasted against the darkness, and that light clearly illuminates the
Apostolic tradition of the Catholic church. For an intellectual Christian to take any other
approach to the Bible, especially the dreadful approach of rewriting it, either in one's head, or
literally, to mean what one wants it to mean, rather than what it actually means, is to tear the
Word of God to shreds.

Sacramental Theology
The Baptismal Imperative
Jeremy Smith wrote, regarding his refusal to perform a Baptism:
I declined to perform a baptism.
That sounds like an incredible statement from a Christian pastor. Baptism is the key word in the Great
Commission, to baptize all the nations. Baptism is the entry point into the kingdom of God. Baptism,
according to some understandings, wipes clean original sin and offers anyone a fresh start. Baptized
members show up on our metrics and dashboards and make us clergy look effective! Why, oh why, would
I deny baptism to someone? [somewhere, the batphone to the Board of Ordained Ministry is ringing]
Its not what it sounds like. Rather, it is a continuation (and conclusion) to our three-part series on
Baptism fails, or flawed understandings/practices of baptism in United Methodist Churches. We first
talked about having baptisms after church. Then we talked about churches that prefer adult baptisms

and put infant baptisms as a second-rate event. Today, we look beyond the institution to the individuals
flawed understanding of baptism. Read on
In my first year of ministry, the first baptism I was asked to do came in. I got a phone call from a woman
who had not attended church since she was 18 (15 years prior) and she wanted her newborn daughter to
be baptized. She had set the end of September as the date for her childs baptism, and then started calling
churches in the area to find one to perform the baptism on that day.
She called my church, the local United Methodist Church. After the pleasantries and purpose of the call
were discussed, heres roughly the conversation that took place (I wrote it a long time ago for another
blog at the time, so I cant fill in the details anymore):
So Pastor, can I get my child baptized?
Im very glad you want to get your child baptized. However, there is one area that has not been
addressed. Baptism is not just a promise to your daughter.
What do you mean?
I mean that baptism is not just an individual action, where your daughter is blessed into entry into the
Church. Along with that, and affirmed in our baptism liturgy, is a promise from the congregation to care
and nurture for the child, or even the older convert. Baptism is not just an individual action, but a
reception into the community. So it is very important that baptisms are offered to members of the church
and to members children.
So you only offer baptisms to members of your church?
Yes, thats correct. We strongly believe, not only as Methodists, but also this pastors conviction, that
baptism is a community promise, and it is difficult to keep up the promise if you are not part of the
community.
I see.
So, from my perspective, you have two choices if you want this church to become involved. I will happily
offer a Naming ceremony for your daughter, where we recognize her name, speak of her name, and the
importance of naming in Christian faith. Thats not christening or baptism, but it is a meaningful event.
The second option is that you can join as a member at the same time as your daughters baptism. I would
take it on faith that you would support the church with your prayers, presence, gifts, and service.
Thank you.
Would you like to come in and talk about it?
Yes, I think I will.
I would ask that you pray about the options before you, and also check out other churches in the area that
offer baptims. It is possible given the great diversity of Christian beliefs that you will find one with a

different perspective, but I think you may be surprised how many churches consider baptism to be their
concern also, not just the familys.
She never came in and I found out later that another church held the ceremony for her family, they made
an offering, and then never came back.
While there are certainly denominational and theological differences in the Christian perspective
regarding baptism, I (and this may be a shocker) agree with my denominations stance on this. We
already talked last week about how baptism is reception into the community of the church, the church
pledges to raise the child, and they were being denied that by churches that held baptisms after church.
We also talked about the importance of infant baptisms being done in the presence of the full
congregation. And today we examine why infant baptisms are typically done for children of members of
the church.
By Water and the Spirit is the accepted and well-written explanation of Baptism (its a resolution, not
church law), and in it is this section on why baptisms are best for those who pledge to raise their child in
the church:
The baptism of infants is properly understood and valued if the child is loved and nurtured by the faithful
worshiping church and by the childs own family. If a parent or sponsor (godparent) cannot or will not
nurture the child in the faith, then baptism is to be postponed until Christian nurture is available. A child
who dies without being baptized is received into the love and presence of God because the Spirit has
worked in that child to bestow saving grace. If a child has been baptized but her or his family or sponsors
do not faithfully nurture the child in the faith, the congregation has a particular responsibility for
incorporating the child into its life.
Understanding the practice as an authentic expression of how God works in our lives, The United
Methodist Church strongly advocates the baptism of infants within the faith community: Because the
redeeming love of God, revealed in Jesus Christ, extends to all persons and because Jesus explicitly
included the children in his kingdom, the pastor of each charge shall earnestly exhort all Christian parents
or guardians to present their children to the Lord in Baptism at an early age (1992 Book of Discipline,
par. 221). We affirm that while thanksgiving to God and dedication of parents to the task of Christian
child-raising are aspects of infant baptism, the sacrament is primarily a gift of divine grace. Neither
parents nor infants are the chief actors; baptism is an act of God in and through the Church.
So, there ya go. My first time to be offered a baptism and I decline it. I felt bad, a bit, and I got into
intense conversation with my Board of Ordained Ministry for my more by-the-book understanding of
baptism into a faith community. But it is an important belief to me, and coincidentally (thankfully!) my
Church.
Many people especially occasional churchgoers understand baptism to be a ticket that must be
punched if their child is to go to heaven. That is a very misinformed understanding of baptism. Baptism
is a sign of Gods parental love and a means of Gods grace. It is a cleansing and a rebirth, burial with
Christ and a sign of the hope of resurrection. It is a visible sign of initiation into the Church.
In reality, I didnt deny the baptism. I gave the family the chance to join the church, to become open to
the spirit flowing through our congregation, and would take it on faith that the woman would raise the

child in the faith. That would have been fine. They chose not to take that option and chose the path that
their consumeristic approach to baptism allowed for, which was a drive-thru baptism to receive the
sacrament and then go on. In my opinion.
Now, six years later (almost to the day!), I might have a bit of a different stance. If they were a professed
and active member of another Christian community, and were asking for a baptism in another church for
some reason (divorced parents, gay parents, etc), then I would likely have had a different decision. Even
our most hardline of Wesleyanists out there, they still allow the Sacrament of Communion to be given to
any baptized Believer. So I would likely have given the Sacrament of Baptism to any committed
Christians child, even of another denomination. Trusting the work of God to work through another
community? Maybe.
In this series, weve brought forth an ideal: Baptism, infant and adult, is best celebrated in the community
of the church. It is not an add-on to the service, infant baptisms are not done outside of Sunday worship,
and baptisms are done to members (with some exceptions) of the church. Baptism involves the
community in ways that allow the grace present at the Sacrament to multiply and pervade longer than the
moment. I hope you found some level of inspiration from it.
I felt that Jeremy Smith did this woman and her child a huge disservice, for these reasons:
Here I fear UM Jeremy failed the child in question, although ultimately his failure was corrected by
another pastor in a different church. Honey, and not vinegar, is of vital importance in pastoral care,
especially of marginal Christians such as this mother. One must exercise every possible degree of
oikonomia in ministering to these wandering sheep, to bring them back into the fold.
Baptism is not a purely symbolic act, but represents a genuine spiritual rebirth, that is effective on the
recipient even if they are unaware of it. This is why we reject the doctrine of Believers Baptism; if one
must understand ones belief in order to be baptized, this either means that baptism is not necessary for
salvation, or alternately, and more horrifically, that all who die as children, and the mentally impaired, are
damned. Even Augustine did not venture such an appalling sacramental theology of baptism. The Eastern
Orthodox believe that baptism works on the Noetic faculty of the soul, connecting our innermost personal
identity, functioning at a level that is almost infinitely below the level of conscious thought, with the
saving grace of the Holy Spirit. Thus, the infant would be blessed, and have a connection with his Savior,
even if he later in life never set foot in a church again. UMJeremy squandered a marvelous opportunity to
convey the greatest blessing it is possible to give, for reasons of church participation that are ultimately
rather petty.
He also missed a great opportunity to minister to the mother. After the Baptism, the opportunity would
present itself to follow up with the mother on other occasions; to encourage her to attend again, for her
child to be blessed, and for subsequent baptisms, if she chose to have more children. As her child aged, he
could have encouraged her to bring the youngster to Christmas services, and to Easter services, and
eventually, to allow the child to participate in the youth programs. In like manner, he could have
ministered to the mother, bringing her gradually and fully into the fold.
Many businesses operate like this. You start when a customer comes to you needing something small,
something specific. You sell them that, but the relationship doesnt end there. You build the relationship,

and continue providing them with progressively more important services, until they become one of your
major accounts. While the Church isnt a business, here, the entrepreneurial discipline does have some
wisdom to impart. We should as a rule not turn away people who genuinely are seeking Christ, nor
frustrate their approach to the baptismal font or the altar with needless bureaucracy. I abhor the rigidity of
the Roman Catholic Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, as it forces all prospective converts to
Catholicism to attend a lengthy and formalized initiation program, including classes and special sessions.
It is one thing to require adults to spend time as catechumens before baptizing them, and in that time to
deny them communion, for their own safety, but it is another thing entirely to single them out and force
them through a process, that destroys the joy of Christian conversion.
In the case of this poor mother however, you have a woman whose heart was clearly in the right place.
The fact that she felt the need for her child to be Christened shows the work of the Holy Spirit within her.
She is clearly a marginal Christian, but a Christian nonetheless, and one whose faith could have been
gradually cultivated. Even had UMJeremy failed, it would have been worth the effort. Instead, however,
he chose to threaten the very safety of her mortal soul, by outright rejecting her. Her feelings may have
been hurt; we are lucky indeed she didnt simply say Screw it, Christianity is out of date, who needs
baptism, and thus her child would not have baptized, and she would have completed her journey into
apostasy.
I should like to close with a trio of Bible verses (quoted from three different Bible editions, as is my
custom; the Peshitto, the KJV, and the Douay Rheims), that illustrate how I feel Christ intended his Bride
to receive all those who approach:
But Jesus called them, and said to them: Suffer little children to come to me, and forbid them not; for of
those that are like them, of such is the kingdom of heaven.
And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened
unto you.
Again therefore, Jesus spoke to them, saying: I am the light of the world: he that followeth me, walketh
not in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

Pastoral Calling, and Communion with the Holy Spirit


In response to a post of UMJeremy on the subtle nature of the call to ordained ministry:
I would say the majority of clergy since the second century at least have been called in a subtle manner,
including the vast majority of church fathers. However, we should not discount the possibility that some
may be called in a more dramatic way than others. We should not discount as myth the story of Paul's
calling, nor of the tongues of fire at Pentecost; to do so is apostasy.
In addition, one should not discount the remarkable things that can occur through prayer. I am a fan of
The Sayings of the Desert Fathers, and also of Eastern Christianity in general, because there one sees
movements of God that are both subtle and profound; miracles on a smaller scale perhaps than the epic
events depicted in the Bible, but also more personal, stemming from the new relationship with God made
possible in this life through Christ. As Christians improve and move closer to God, there is less need for
dramatic displays of heavenly lightning, although such events cannot be said to have stopped completely;

rather, God is able to approach us in a gentle manner, as a friend. We should not discount the fact that as
Christians, we are uniquely privileged to, in this life, actually consume the very body and blood of our
savior, a miracle in itself, that offers communion with Christ's saving sacrifice and the eternal grace of
God.
One aspect of the Methodist church that I appreciate, that is most likely regarded as impious even in my
beloved Eastern churches, is that the laity, in the process of intinction, actually reach forth to touch the
body of Christ in the Eucharist. Unfortunately, our catechesis on this is somewhat lacking; while the real
presence doctrine of John Wesley appears to be essentially the same as that of the Eastern churches (an
acceptance of the Sacramental mystery, as opposed to the overly technical Roman doctrine of
transsubstantiation), influence from the less catholic and more heterodox quarters of Protestantism has
resulted in many Methodists who either deny the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, who view it as being
merely symbolic, or as merely spiritual. The fact that the Methodist liturgy (at least in its 1962 text; I am
entirely allergic to the newer revisions and do not maintain copies of them) equivocates on this by
offering two alternate formulae for the reception of Communion does not help. Methodists must
emphasize more in catechesis the divine grace that is received; the transformation that the epiclesis of
John Chrysostom so profoundly stresses. Methodist parishes should offer Holy Communion weekly, and
insist upon its importance as a means for the conferral of divine grace; Methodists should be acutely
aware of the rare privilege afforded to them in receiving Communion in this manner.
Although I do not claim to know what God has ordained for me in this life, I will say that my faith began
in the Methodist church at the age of five, on the first occasion I received Holy Communion. My
minister, in performing the greatest service possible to my soul, did in fact use the form of the liturgy that
stresses the real presence of Christ in the elements. Although as a young child, I was naturally credulous,
upon receipt of the intincted bread, the very body and blood of my savior, I felt a remarkable
transformation. On the first occasion, this manifested itself via sensory perception in the form of a
surrealistically good flavor; I had never tasted anything as delicious, and perhaps took the unusual step for
a Christian youth of deciding that the Eucharist was my favorite food. However, on each subsequent
occasion when I was privileged to receive the Eucharist, the sensation intensified, until around the age of
eight I felt a sort of electrical tingling; not unpleasant, but utterly beyond anything one might reasonably
expect to experience in childhood (in adulthood, one can obtain such a sensation through the use of
intoxicants, but here there was no exposure, especially in light of the fact that Methodists use the pure
unfermented juice of the grape). This has happened since, although occasionally on receipt of
communion, especially in a church I am not acquainted with, on the first pass there is some anxiety; in
our adult life we have to struggle against the corruption years of sin inflict on us, and resist worldly
feelings of fear and social anxiety that serve to separate us from our Lord.
I feel I am not alone in this experience of Holy communion; I perceive a similiar sensation as having
motivated Rachmaninoff's Communion Hymn from his musical setting of the Divine Liturgy of John
Chrysostom. I much admire the Oriental tradition of communing infants directly following baptism and
chrismation; Eastern Orthodox theologians refer to the ability of the Eucharist to nourish the soul of any
baptized Christian; in the case of infants and the mentally incapacitated, the Eucharist benefits their noetic
faculty, even if it does not register in a meaningful way from the perspective of the conscious mind. I do
consider the Eucharist experience to be a modern miracle; whereas in the Old Testament, God was

compelled to obtain obedience from man through the use of spectacular and terrifying displays of divine
force, and even in the modern era we cannot say that God will not use such means when neccessary
(consider the case of Paul), the normal experience of being called to any aspect of Christian life
frequently manifests itself in the form of the Eucharistic banquet; one might experience a remarkable
feeling of love and union with the divine.
That said, we should not make the mistake of the Pentecostals, and instruct our faithful to assume that
they will have such a transcendental experience. God will not put on a magic show for our benefit; the
Holy Spirit is our comforter, not our entertainer. It is of vital importance that the sacraments be
approached in extreme humility, with the faithful in a state where they will, as children, accept without
criticism any grace they may receive. Thus, the grace granted by the Holy Spirit frequently will manifest
itself in profoundly subtle ways; what Wesley described as a universal call to holiness can be heard in
prayer, or as the result of reflecting on the impact of God in our lives as in the case of UMJeremy, or in
countless other ways. However, even when the conferral of grace takes a form that is extremely subtle,
we must resist the temptation to say that it is mundane; rather, we must perceive it as the miraculous
intervention of the Holy Spirit.
Regarding Beth Moore:
There are a number of interesting points this discussion raises. The most pressing concern, where there
appears to be a lingering tension between the author of this blog and the commenters, surrounds a very
important question: does the Holy Spirit work through Christians who have doctrines that appear to be
heterodox or even heretical?
In response to that, I would say yes. In my opinion Martin Luther seriously erred in his anti-semitism,
and completely lost perspective in attempting to excise the Epistle of James from the New Testament, and
in declaring that we should "Sin boldly", in his efforts to counter the doctrine of works righteousness.
That said, I believe Martin Luther had a profound impact that was hugely beneficial both for Christians in
those countries that became Protestant, and in those that remained Roman Catholic. While the disruption
to the Catholic unity of the church was unfortunate (schisms are always dreadful), in response to this
incident vernacular-language bibles became widely available, and at the same time, the Roman church
was forced to begin the very slow, but very important, process of internal reform.
There are more ancient examples available than this. John Chrysostom, who I consider to be a saint, and
the greatest preacher who ever lived, did, in his sermons "Against the Jews", inadvertantly propagate antisemitic sentiment. Gregory of Nyassa, the younger brother of Basil the Great, espoused a belief in
universal reconciliation, of the same sort that contributed to the condemnation of Origen in later centuries,
and which has led to apostasy in the Unitarian Universalist community. However, the theological work of
Gregory of Nyassa has done immense good for the Church in the past sixteen centuries, and his revered as
a saint.
In light of this, we cannot say that Beth Moore does not do the work of the Holy Spirit. Those who have
benefited by her work can take comfort in the knowledge that the grace they received was through the
Holy Spirit acting through Beth Moore. No one is perfect, and many theologians have terrible faults, but
this does not preclude them from serving as instruments of God.

That said, it is entirely legitimate to criticize the theology of Beth Moore, which sadly, in the manner
which has become prevalent in the Baptist and Calvinist sphere in the United States in recent decades,
departs from Christian orthodoxy. Just as the mainline denominations have been corrupted by a wave of
liberal clergymen who allow contemporary sociopolitical trends to override nearly two millenia of
Christian dogma, these unfortunate Baptist and Calvinist theologians and clergy, in reacting against the
apostasy of their left-wing colleagues, have similarly abandoned much of the Catholic, Orthodox faith,
which historically has not been as abundant in their communities as one would prefer, but even the
catholicity that did exist is being eroded. Now, there is a path, albeit a difficult one, for ecumenical
reconciliation of Baptists and Calvinists to the rest of the Church; in the case of Calvinists, it begins with
Mercerburg theology, and in the case of the Baptists, the way forward is indicated through the pioneering
work of theologians such as Steven R. Harmon. However, just as the United Methodist church in North
America is risking apostasy through indulging rebellious theological voices, the Southern Baptists and the
PCA are risking apostasy through the influence of figures such as Beth Moore, Mark Dever of 9Marks,
and others.
Before continuing, I should remind readers of my initial point: just because I consider, in a rare moment
of complete agreement with the author of this blog, that the teachings of Beth Moore are somewhat
heterodox, I do not deny that the Holy Spirit works through her. I have no reason to doubt the saving
grace of our Lord is at work within her. That said, she makes a number of theological errors that are
sadly de rigeur within the Baptist community.
It may surprise many to note that the early Church derided a belief in a literal 1,000 year earthly Kingdom
ruled by Christ to be heresy; they referred to it as Chiliasm. It may also surprise Calvinists and some
Baptists to note that the early Church, without denying predestination outright, affirmed the need for a
voluntary response on the part of the believer to the grace conferred through the Holy Spirit (the Greek
fathers used the word 'synergy' to describe this). Finally, the tendency to read passages in isolation, as
the author of this blog points out, results in an inconsistent hermeneutic that is pastorally unwieldy.
Suggesting that God foreordains infants and the unborn to die in order to teach a lesson to their mothers is
almost as dreadful as Augustine's insistence on the eternal punishment of unbaptized newborns in Hell
(yet Augustine is revered as a Saint, for his work in refuting the Pelagian heresy, among other
accomplishments; yet more proof that the Holy Spirit can work through those who espouse flawed
doctrine).
To use an example not specific to Beth Moore of the problem of a literal interpretation of passages by
themselves, based solely on one's own life experience and mental faculties, and without regard to Church
tradition, consider John 6:51-59. This passage is an obvious Eucharistic reference; in the Eastern
Orthodox Study Bible, this passage is correlated directly with the Last Supper and other Eucharistic
references in scripture. Orthodox hermeneutics represent a consistent web tying together different
passages from scripture.
In contrast, the King James Study Bible, which is largely the product of the Calvinist and Baptist school
of theology from which Beth Moore originates (there was a token Methodist amongst its editors), the
Eucharistic significance of this passage is largely glossed over; it is not associated with the Last Supper or
the Sacrament of Holy Communion, rather, only a vague reference is made to the passage of John 6:53
referring to the Jews abhorrence of Cannibalism, and the promise of a new spiritual life from Christ.

Thus we see how reading passages in isolation can completely wash away the beauty and life-giving
mystery of the Christian faith. The fuel of the Atheistic fire is largely stemming from such unpleasant
hermeneutics becoming dominant in Protestantism. This is why it is of vital importance for Methodists
and other Protestants to affirm their Catholicity and Orthodoxy; while we are Protestant for objecting to
the heterodoxy and corruption of the Roman Church as it existed in the sixteenth century, we are still part
of the Bride of Christ, with a direct connection to the ancient faith and the Church Fathers. We must
look to the time before the Great Schism of 1054, and go back to the Nicene Fathers, in order to glean a
correct and consistent interpretation of the Bible.
Now, one last point should be made for the benefit of Baptist readers. The United Methodist Church has
departed from the Orthodox faith by ordaining female clergy in violation of specific injunctions in the
Pauline epistles; in this remarkable respect the Baptists are actually more Catholic and more Orthodox
than we are. Now a literal Baptist interpretation of the relevant passages would suggest that Beth Moore
had violated the instructions given by the Apostle Paul (this perhaps is why some of her work suggests an
anti-Pauline bias). However, in Orthodox, Catholic Christianity of the sort previously embraced in the
Methodist communion, that we must urgently return to, this would not be a correct interpretation. While
the early canons of the church anathematized lay theologians, these canons are no longer applied; the
normal interpretation of the Pauline injunction against female clergy is simply that because the Bishops
and Presbyters vicariously represent Christ in consecrating the life-giving sacrament of Holy
Communion, they must, like Christ, be male. The Eastern Orthodox in particular tend to view the
Eucharist as an icon of the Last Supper, offering a doorway to it, providing mystical access to the
sacrifice of Christ, and salvation in His divine Person.
The Baptists on the other hand would not be able to easily hear this interpretation. Baptist doctrine rejects
the Sacramental nature of Holy Communion, and denies that it is life-giving; even its designation as Holy
Communion (it is demoted to a mere Ordinance, "The Lord's Supper). The iconographic thinking of the
Eastern Orthodox regarding the Eucharist is commonly regarded as idolatry. Thus, according to a strictly
Baptist hermeneutic, logically speaking, Beth Moore should not be allowed to teach on any theological
matter. She should, in the manner of some extreme right-wing Baptist churches, not even be permitted to
sing, speak or pray aloud in the Church.
The fact that most Southern Baptists are able to relate positively to Beth Moore is therefore both an
indication of the remnant traces of the Catholic Christian faith within them, through the action of the Holy
Spirit, and is also a glaring rebuttal of Beth Moore's own literalism. The Baptist reading this should take
this message to heart, and pursue the teachings of the early Church Fathers on the interpretation of
Biblical passages; they should strive to regain those traditions lost within their community in reaction to
Roman excesses. The Methodist reading this should likewise take this to heart; we are blessed to inherit
a theological interpretation of the Bible that comes closer to the ancient faith than that of many other
Protestants, yet at the same time we are at risk of losing both our Orthodoxy and our Catholicity by
ignoring this correct hermeneutic wherever it is politically correct to do so.
In summary, I would say that the experience of Beth Moore should be to us a reminder that we must
approach the sacred mysteries in fear and reverence; we must pray with love and humility that through the
Holy Spirit, the orthodox Christian dogma will be made clear to us.

Orthodox Liturgical Innovation and Blasphemy

UM Jeremy made, in the course of his services, substantial and unauthorized changes to the liturgy of the
United Methodist Church. In other denominations, such as the Orthodox churches or the Roman
Catholic Church, such an act would have resulted in his deposition; in like manner, historically the
Methodist church, or especially the Church of England before it, would not have tolerated such liturgical
innovation. However, he made them, and I am obliged to comment on their significance:
The first change he made was to delete masculine language, in the interests of inclusiveness:
UM Hymnal: Holy Holy Holy Lord, God of Power and Might. Heaven and
Earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he
who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the Highest.
HX Liturgy: Holy Holy Holy One, God of Power and Might. Heaven and
Earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is the
One who comes in the name of our God. Hosanna in the highest.
On the basis of a misguided concern that blood imagery might disturb children, and a war-weary
congregation, he likewise modified the Anaphora to remove references to the Blood of Christ:
UM Words of Institution:
On the night in which he gave himself up for us, he took bread, gave
thanks to you, broke the bread, gave it to his disciples, and said:
Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you. Do this in
remembrance of me. When the supper was over, he took the cup, gave
thanks to you, gave it to his disciples, and said: Drink from this,
all of you; this is my blood of the new covenant, poured out for you
and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this, as often as you
drink it, in remembrance of me.
HX Liturgy: On the last night that Jesus had with his disciples, the
women and men who had been with him for so many days. He took bread,
gave thanks to God, and broke it. He passed it around saying take,
eat, for this is my body. Maybe by that he meant that his body may
be broken, and our bodies may be broken, but so long as there are
disciples and followers, the body is never truly broken.
When the supper was over, Jesus took the cup, raised it up and gave
thanks, and passed it around and said this is my blood. Maybe by
that he meant that he would not be with us in body much longer, but
whenever we love one another, forgive one another, do acts of mercy
with one anotherthen Jesus lifeblood flows through our veins and we
are truly incorporated into Jesus body. Jesus says every time you
do this, remember me.
UM Epiclesis:

Pour out
bread and
we may be
honor and

your Holy Spirit on us gathered here, and on these gifts of


wine. Make them be for us the body and blood of Christ, that
for the world the body of Christ, redeemed by his bloodAll
glory are yours, Eternal Father, now and forever. Amen.

HX Liturgy: Pour out your Holy Spirit on us gathered here, and on


these gifts of bread and fruit of the vine. Make them be for us the
bread of life, and the quenching cup of blessing poured out for one
and for many for the forgiveness of sins. May they nurture us, may
they sustain us, until we gather as broken people around the table
again. All honor and glory is yours, O God, now and forever. Amen.
UM Hymnal: The body of Christ, given for you and The blood of
Christ, given/shed for you.
HX Liturgy: the bread of life, given for you OR the body of
Christ, broken as our bodies are broken and the cup of Gods love
that we share OR the love of Christ, given for you
To this I reply:
It is not inherently objectionable to add to the liturgical tradition; Theodore of Mopsuestia was criticized a
bit unfairly by Leontius when the latter said not content with drafting a new creed, he sought to impose
upon the church a new Anaphora, for John Chrysostom had done the same thing and had not incurred
posthumous Imperial scorn. However, Mopsuestia, would have been sparred the condemnation he
received, a hundred or more years after his demise, at the second Council of Constantinople, had his
theology, like that of his friend John Chrysostom, been more genuinely orthodox. The intense respect he
once enjoyed, his friendship with the august Golden tongued patriarch of Constantinople, and his
standing in the Antiochene theological tradition were not enough to compensate for the role he apparently
played in the development of the Nestorian heresy.
In like manner, Rev. Jeremy Smith has erred, not through daring to revise the Methodist liturgy, but
through the fact that his revisions are, to be rather blunt, blasphemous. The least serious of them involves
redacting the language of blood, to avoid disturbing the children, and those shell shocked by years of
terrorism, war and acts of insane and depraved violence. However, Smith fails to realize that it is by the
very life giving blood of Christ that we are saved from that utter darkness. Christians, even young
children, must look in horror upon the bleeding, disfigured Christ on Good Friday, and must understand
that through his infinite and inexhaustible supply of precious and life giving blood, our redemption is
procured.
The importance of the Christology of Blood is an imperative even if you do not rely primarily on a Blood
Atonement model of soteriology. I myself view with some disdain the Vicarious Satisfaction theology of
Anselm of Canterbury, which is based on the idea that Gods wounded honor must be restored, and the
only way to do that is through the death of his only begotten son; even more dreadful is Calvins penal
substitution theology, which obliterates salvation through the person of Christ, and relies entirely on his
saving work; this was rather brilliantly corrected within the Calvinist tradition by Mercersburg theology,
which represents a real path for Calvinist churches to escape from the chains of heterodoxy.

However, if the Calvinists labor under the chains of heterodoxy, then the Methodist congregations upon
which Rev. Smith has inflicted this dreadful anaphora have veritably crushed under the anvil of
blasphemy, for removing Christs blood from the Eucharistic narrative does incredible violence to the
story of Christian redemption. Many children, especially those who have been poorly catechized, do have
reactions to their first communion that may seem inappropriate; I myself am very blessed, because from
the first time I can remember taking communion at the age of 5, I was swept away by a spiritual force,
that initially manifested itself in a surrealistically wonderful flavor, and later, on subsequent occasions,
through a profound sense of what Unitarian theologians of the early 19th century liked to refer to as
transportation.
I am for this manner a huge fan of the Eastern praxis of communing infants with small drops of wine or
grapcejuice, with a tiny particle of blood, from the day of their baptism. If the child grows up receiving
communion before they are even able to understand the meaning of the word blood, they will not be
troubled by the Eucharistic liturgy, nor shall their imaginations run amok with cannibalistic or vampirical
imagery; in a proper liturgy, that stresses the absolute divinity of the Eucharistic liturgy, and stresses in
absolute terms the solemnity of Holy Communion, they will understand it from the moment their
cognitive faculties grant them this ability, as an encounter with the living Son of God in Heaven, a
communion with Christ and his disciples; a literal and mystical presence at the Last Supper, when Christ
effected the sacrifice of his Divine person for our salvation, which is the central mystery of the Christian
faith.
The importance of the language of blood to the Eucharist is further underscored by the Divine Liturgy of
John Chrysostom. Chrysostom, as his Paschal Homily will reveal, is one of the most ardent champions of
the Christus Victor model of soteriology. In his Paschal homily he wrote Christ is risen, and the
demons are fallen! Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice! Christ is risen, and life reigns!

Yet this did not stop him from saying, in his Divine Liturgy Wash away, Lord, by Your holy Blood, the
sins of all those commemorated through the intercessions of the Theotokos and all Your saints. Yet he
also makes this critically important point in another prayer of the same liturgy: The Lamb of God is
broken and distributed; broken but not divided. He is forever eaten yet is never consumed, but He
sanctifies those who partake of Him. We must not forget that unlike humans, who have finite amounts of
flesh and blood, and are mortal, Christ, though complete in His humanity, through his divinity, offers us
an inexhaustible font of His precious and life giving body, and the blood of the New Testament, which we
partake of for the remission of our manifold sins. The Eucharist is not an act of theological cannibalism;
rather, it is tantamount to a mother taking her child to her breast; yet Christ feeds us not through milk, but
through his very flesh and blood, in the form of bread and wine, for He had to die for our sins, in order to
procure our Resurrection, in the flesh, and the Life of the World to Come.
Now, the far more serious dogmatic transgression occurs in the blotting out of Masculine language. Christ
WAS male, and, in a bold departure from Jewish tradition, which prefers not to relate to God using any
human language, in the manner also seen in Islam, taught us that we should dare to call upon our
Heavenly God as Father. The identification of God in the person of the male gender is not a slur against
His exquisitely beautiful and precious daughters, from Adams beautiful, tragically innocent and naive
companion Eve, who was led astray by the cruelty of Satan, through the great matriarchs of Judaism:

Sarah, Rebecca, Esther, Ruth, and the beautiful, mysterious and alluring Queen of Sheba, who according
to the wonderfully romantic Golden Legend, prophesied that the wood from a bridge she and King
Solomon crossed during her stay with him, would be made into the cross on which Christ would
ultimately suffer. Whether true or not, the mythology of the Golden Legend represents the romantic soul
of Latin Christianity, just as the Philokalia represents the exquisite severity of Byzantine ascetism.
The inescapable fact that God has identified Himself as male, and created Adam in his image, and then
the female gender as a variation on the type of the male gender, to facilitate His spectacular design of
sexual reproduction, through which the natural adaptation of His living creatures to their environment is
assured, and indescribable joy, pleasure and comfort is given to the members of both genders, who
together in their Matrimonial union form an icon of the ineffable and incomparable state of divine love
that is the Trinity, does not mean that women are deprecated or inferior. While I cannot dare to presume
to know the thoughts of our eternal and long-suffering Father, whose mere Essense lies entirely beyond
the limits of my own meager comprehension, one might wonder that perhaps in Gods eyes, women are
uniquely special, because they represent a variation from His type, whereas men, created more precisely
in His image, ironically represent him. Thus in women, an element of mystery and uncertainty is added to
Creation, that facilitates our movement towards our ultimate heavenly reunion with our Father, who in the
ultimate victory of love, will joyously receive his daughters and his sons with equal love and affection,
and indeed, gender will at that point cease to matter, for they shall be neither male nor female.
Consider the Virgin Mary, the Theotokos, literally, Birth giver of God, and not just of Christ, a
misconception common among Protestants that lies at the root of the Nestorian heresy, more honorable
than the seraphim, and more infinitely glorious beyond compare than the cherubim, as the Eastern
liturgies proudly assert. Consider also Mary of Bethany, Margaret, Mary Magdalene (who was probably
not . as St. Gregory the Dialogist proposed, the former prostitute who annointed Jesuss feet with her
tears, but rather, was a different person entirely, an upright and virtuous woman, Equal to the Apostles).
The holiness of these women, and of the thousands of female Christian martyrs that followed in their
footsteps, fully refutes the idea that God, because of His male gender, scorns upon women; if anything,
His masculine nature might cause him to regard women in a certain special light, that while not different
in the quantity of love heaped upon them, which like that given to men, is infinite and inexhaustible, may
differ in its quality. Metropolitan Kallistos Ware rightly said that to redefine God the Father as a Mother
Goddess, as Elaine Pagels and many feminist theologians seek to do, would be to leave Christianity
behind, and form in its place an entirely new and different religion. If the Trinity loses its Masculinity,
than the virgin birth loses its relevance, and Mary herself, who is surely the blessed Mother of the Church,
loses her theological meaning. From thence, the entire house of cards collapses, and we might just as well
discard the whole works, and join the existing Vietnamese Mother Goddess religion, much enjoyed by the
adventurous Anglican vicar Peter Owen Jones in his fantastic documentary series, Around The World In
80 Faiths.
In summary, Christ, the Son of God the Father, did save us, through the shedding of His precious and lifegiving Blood, propitiated through the Sacrifice of the Last Supper, and given to us freely in the Eucharist.
Let us praise God and glorify Him, and remember in our prayers this advent season our most pure and
ever-virgin Mary, who conquered inconceivable fear in agreeing to bear Jesus, and the vast chorus of
female saints from both the Old and the New Testament, also including St. Anna, St. Barbara, St. Susanna
the Virgin, St. Helena, St. Brigitta, St. Clare of Assisi, and all others from the vast cloud of Christian

witnesses of the female gender of our own time, whose femininity is made that much more special and
important by virtue of its differentiation from the masculine identity of God, a reflection of the grandeur
and incomprehensible beauty of His glorious creation.

On Vernacular Languages, and Roman Hegemony


Kirk Van Glider wrote:
One thing I've become concerned about is the captivity of Christian theology to the written word. The
idea of Christian theology being "captive" to something is not new. Whether it's evangelical thinking
about "captivity to popular culture" or the trend in political, practical, and post-colonial theology to
examine the moment of the "Constantinian captivity" of Christian theology, it seems that thinking about
how how Christian theology intersects with other narratives of meaning is always something rich to
consider Not only did the adoption of Christianity as the state religion of the Roman empire radically
change how Christian theology and the experience of the Church relates to power and governance, it
radically changed its relation to language as well While preachers preached to crowds who then went to
preach to others (Spoken word) and apostles wrote Gospels and Letters which were far more "read to
people" heart of the movement was in the experience of the forsaken, downtrodden, and everyday
people. These were largely illiterate people and not speakers of either Greek or Latin, the official business
and governmental languages of the dayWhat the adoption of Christianity by the highest human
governance it had contact with at that time (Rome) did to it was wed it more tightly to a fixed archival use
of language in written documents. While scribal traditions existed for a long time in the Judaic world that
Christianity arose from, there is a marked difference in my view as to how a multitude of approaches to
the authority of written texts operate in Jewish tradition (both then and now) and the singular power of the
Written Word came to operate in Christianity when it was wedded with Roman archival practices.
In somewhat oversimplified contrast, the Bible came to be inscribed in Latin as did the Church's liturgies.
This wedded Christian theology very tightly to the very highest traditions of a power that controlled
diverse populations by assimilation, intimidation, and often harshly inflexible application of military
rule as Latin became unknown throughout the land other than to only the most elite, liturgy became
"magic mystery words" without meaning and theological import to the everyday person. By the Middle
Ages, you had congregations largely ignoring the entire Latin Mass then falling silent and clambering
over one another to see the ritual only at the moment when the Bread and the Cup were raised. Yet any
suggestion that the liturgy be in the vernacular was soundly resisted not only by the magisterium but even
in the masses of the congregation as it "isn't Communion without the magic words."
To which I replied:
My main reply to this thread already addresses the primary concerns of Kevin Van Glider regarding the
language of blood in the Eucharist. However, I feel it is important to reinforce this argument, by
correcting several apparent historical misunderstandings that Ken VanGlider was laboring under, at least
four years ago when this thread was discussed. Understanding the history of the early Church is vital;
without it, many of the practices of the Orthodox faith as received by Methodism seem utterly
incomprehensible. Unfortuantely, in recent decades, poor catechesis and theological education have
caused many Methodists to suffer severe confusion, and even to fall under demonic influence as a result
of delusion, due to a lack of proper education in the origins of the Christian faith. One can be driven away

from Christianity and into outright apostasy over the horror that might result from not being able to
understand the theology of blood, and the Methodist church has in recent decades failed, in many tragic
cases, to teach this theology properly.
Firstly, to the bitter regret of many early Popes, Rome never unilaterally presided over the early church.
Historically, Rome had the primacy of honor among the three Petrine sees, the others, in order of dignity,
being Alexandria, the See of St. Mark, and Antioch, where Peter first served as Bishop. Because these
were the Petrine sees, and because Rome in particular was both the capital and where Peter and Paul were
martyred, along with St. Ignatius, the third Bishop of Antioch, at the very end of the Apostolic Age, and
the beginning of the Patristic age, in the second and third centuries, the other Churches looked up to these
three Petrine sees for guidance.
Each church in the early church resembled the Congregational polity; it was led by its own Bishop, who
conducted the service of Holy Communion. As the church expanded, satellite churches were formed, and
the rank of Priest (or Presbyter, from which the English Priest is etymologically derived, giving it a
somewhat different inplication than the Roman Pontifex or Sacerdos), which was initially synonymous
with Bishop, was separated, and applied to the Elders, who were given charge of the satellite churches in
what became known as dioceses, vicariously representing their Bishop in consecrating the Eucharist. The
regional Bishops in turn looked up to the Petrine bishops, but were not directly under their rule; the entire
system was founded upon mutual respect and love.
As time passed, the Bishops in the capital of each province received the dignity of Metropolitans, and the
local Bishops were obliged to follow their lead; this was largely in response to a series of schisms
resulting from heresy in the early church. The Bishops of the Petrine sees came to be known as Patriarchs;
the Roman and Alexandrian Patriarchs are now more commonly referred to as Popes. To give you an idea
of the diversity of Christian church polity, which has never once disappeared, there are at present three
Popes presiding over major congregations: the Roman Catholic Pope Francis, the Coptic Pope of
Alexandria and Patriarch of all Africa in the Holy See of St. Mark the Apostle, presently Tawadros II, and
the Greek Orthodox Pope and Patriarch of the Great City of Alexandria, Libya, the Pentapolis, Ethiopia
All Land of Egypt and All Africa, presently Theodore II.
After the Edict of Milan, the Emperor Constantine moved the Roman capital to the small Greek city of
Byzantion, enlarging it considerably and renaming it Constantinopolis (and thus accomplishing what
Nero apparently failed to do, in a sure demonstration of the power of faith in Christ). This city naturally
became an important see, eventually usurping Alexandria and becoming second in dignity. Constantine,
and his wife St. Helena, also resolved to restore Jerusalem, which the Romans had horribly damaged in
the second century; the Christian community had not had a bishop in Jerusalem since that time. WIth
Jerusalem rebuilt, and made a center of religious pilgrimage, it naturally became the fifth major
Patriarchal see of the Catholic church, creating what is referred to as the Pentarchy. Edessa, Nibilis and
Seleucia-Ctesiphon were also of great importance, especially to the Eastern Syriac Christians.
Now, in the Fifth century, a series of schisms tore this hierarchy apart, at least on the service. Within the
Greco-Roman Catholic Orthodox church that emerged after Chalcedon, only two Patriarchies remained of
any political importance, Constantinople and Rome, but these remained fiercely independent of each
other. Latin was never enforced as the official language of the entire church, rather, only of the Western
provinces under the ecclesiastical authority of the Pope of Rome. The Greek, and the emerging Slavic

dioceses under the authority of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople spoke Koine Greek and
Church Slavonic, respectively. Meanwhile, the Coptic Pope of Alexandria remained intact, and his
independence was greatly enhanced by the Islamic conquest of Egypt, which separated his see from
Imperial control, and marginalized the rival community of Melchites who remained in communion with
Constantinople. The Melchites of course spoke Greek, and the Copts, Coptic. The Coptic Patriarch also
supervised the Ethiopian church, which used the Geez language, the only written language of SubSaharan Africa; although the Ethiopian church had a great deal of autonomy, and developed its own
highly distinctive liturgical and theological tradition.
The Syriac Christians likewise remained largely independent of Roman and Constantinopolitan control;
the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, in full communion with the Coptic Pope, and the Catholicos of
Armenia, led his community in the use of a Syriac translation of the Divine Liturgy of St. James, which is
also one of the richest liturgical traditions of ancient Christianity; the Syriac church boasts more than
eighty different Anaphoras or Eucharistic prayers, of which around eighteen have been translated into
English, and in the United States, four are in common usage (the four which happen to have been
translated into both English and Arabic, which has become the vernacular language of many Copts). The
Melchite Patriarch of Antioch, who reported to Constantinople, initially used Syriac and Greek, but over
time, discontinued the liturgical use of Syriac, and the Divine Liturgy of St. James, adopting a strictly
Byzantine Rite liturgy after the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Empire in 1453; since that time, the
Antiochian Orthodox Church, and the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, have adapted to primarily
use Arabic in their liturgy. The Copts now use Arabic mainly, although still favor Coptic for liturgical
purposes. The Armenians never used Latin in their liturgy, but fiercely kept their ancient language, proud
of their status as the first country to adopt Christianity. The Assyrians, who lived primarily in the Persian
Empire and Central Asia following the Nestorian Schism at the Council of Ephesus, spoke the East Syriac
dialect of Aramaic. The Maronites, who later became part of the Roman Catholic Church, used West
Syriac; they believe themselves to be the descendants of the Phoenicians, although historical evidence
suggests that they are in fact a schismatic breakaway sect of the Syriac Orthodox Church.
Now, what this should tell us, is that the only thing that really changed during the Nestorian Schism, the
Chalcedonian Schism, the Maronite Schism, and the Great Schism of 1054, was communion. All of the
historic Patriarchs have retained until the present day their historic power; the only difference is they fell
out of communion with one another. Never did the Pope of Rome even come close to having a position of
supreme ecclesiastical authority over the entire church. The Great Schism resulted from the attempt of the
Pope to impose his will on the Ecumenical Patriarch, which failed, and led to the great divorce of Greek
and Roman Christianity. These schisms are now being healed; most of the aforementioned Patriarchs
have lifted their mutual anathemas of one another, and some have entered a state approaching that of
communion (the relationship between the Greek Orthodox and Coptic Orthodox Popes, and between the
Antiochian and Syriac Orthodox Patriarchs, for example).
Thus, the premise of Ken Van Glider that it was Roman authority, and enforced Latinization, simply does
not apply. While it is true that in the Roman Catholic church, the liturgy was no longer understood by a
large portion of the laity (although the intellectual class always knew Latin, and at least initially, the
Vulgar Latin dialects were close enough to Ecclesiastical Latin so that the congregants could make it
out), other Christian communities continued to use their vernacular languages. The Coptic Church,
which fell out of communion with Rome at Chalcedon due to the Christological feud between Popes

Dioscorus and Leo X, continued to speak Coptic, which was at the time the vernacular language of the
Egyptian people. The Syriac churches spoke their respective vernacular language; while most Syriac
Orthodox no longer use West Syriac as their primary conversational language, Assyrian remains the
vernacular language of most parishioners of the Chaldean Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of
the East. The Armenians spoke Armenians, and, for the express purpose of evangelizing the Slavs, the
Greek Orthodox missionaries developed Church Slavonic, a sort of pan-Slavic language, complete with
the Cyrillic alphabet, to ease the process of teaching the Christian faith to a diverse population of Slavic
communities from Bulgaria through Russia. Finally, the Romanian Orthodox Church, while always in
communion with Constantinople, had the peculiarity of existing in a land that spoke one of the four main
Vulgar Latin dialects, which ultimately became the Romanian language. Thus, here was a church where a
vernacular language, derived from Latin, was used liturgically, and understood by the people.
Even at the height of the Roman Churchs enforced use of liturgical Latin, I would estimate at least a third
of all Christians worldwide were members of churches that continued to celebrate the Eucharist in a
vernacular language, or at least, a liturgical language close enough to the vernacular so as to be
comprehensible.

The Blood of The New Testament


Kirk Van Glider continued:
My concern is that we're only "talking to ourselves and those inside the tradition" when we cling to
blood language. Originally, blood spoke of sacrificial love. Things such as dying on a battlefield for the
love of one's homeland or being fed to lions in the love for one's faithor as loving someone enough to
die for them.
Over time though, that meaning got adopted into Roman law where "someone must die for this
transgression" rather than "someone must be forgiven for this transgression." And that's where atonement
theology gets born and where it causes trouble. The notion that God demands that someone MUST DIE
for sin rather than MUST BE FORGIVEN for their sins seems antithetical to the core of Christ's message
to "turn the other cheek." The meaning of "blood" changed in language and our liturgy and theology
around it became distorted as a result.
Fast forward to a modern world and consider where language/culture uses the word "blood" and you'll
realize it's not about sacrifice at all anymore. It's about gang violence, military violence, AIDS, gory
movies, vampiric control of obsessive relationships (Twilight anyone?), etc Are there not ways to talk
about sacrificial love what I read to be the concept that the original blood language was trying to
convey that do not depend on a blood language that carries convoluted and contradictory meanings in
contemporary culture?
To which I reply:

Let us fix our eyes on the blood of Christ and understand how precious it is unto His Father,
because being shed for our salvation it won for the whole world the grace of repentance, wrote
St. Clement to the Corinthians.

The theology of blood is still as relevant in our world of increased violence, than it was during
the time of the Roman Empire, if not more so. The Roman Empire never had an exclusive
monopoly on the use of violence; untold hundreds of millions throughout the bloody history of
the human race before Christ sacrificed themselves on the field of battle. To worship their
Gods, including our God, they sacrificed animals, shedding the blood of cattle, and a multitude
of other creatures, in the honor of their deities; these sacrifices were intended to atone for the sin,
and cultivate the blessings of the deity.
Christ changed all this. Through his ministry, he made us realize that the sanguinary, violent
way in which we had been living was sinful and evil. He, through his very bloody sacrifice on
the cross, abolished all animal sacrifices in perpetuity, at least as far as Orthodox Christianity is
concerned. Some marginal groups on the fringes of Christianity still practice sacrificial rituals,
but these are universally condemned by the church hierarchy, and have been since the Apostles
came to understand the propitiary nature of Christ's crucifixion, who trampled down death by
death. For God to sacrifice himself, in perhaps the most gruesome way possible, perfects and
completes the blood sacrifices, instituted by Abel. The blood sacrifice of Abel, a flawed,
imperfect, yet endearing action, pleasing to God, was the prototype for Christ's own sacrifice,
which so infinitely surpasses the petty animal sacrifices previously offered for the purpose of
atonement, that it perpetuates the forgiveness of our sins, and represents the supreme victory of
love.
As we contemplate the blood of Christ, his wounds, so infinitely glory, let us again refer to the
Paschal Homily of St. John Chrysostom: "Let no one mourn their transgressions, for pardon has
dawned from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Saviour's death has set us free." It is the
shed blood of Christ, his death, that has truly defeated death; "Christ is risen, and not one dead
remains in a tomb!"
Let us consider Psalm 23: "Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over." Surely this is a Christological
prophecy: the table represents the Last Supper, that we mystically join in the Eucharist, before
which Christ was anointed by the sinner commonly (mis)identified with Mary Magdalene. The
enemies represent Judas, and perhaps all of humanity, to the extent that we sin against the love of
Christ, through murder, theft, idolatry, lasciviousness, gluttony and indeed through heresy. The
overflowing cup, is the cup of the New Testament, poured out for many, for the remission of
sins, that is to say, the blood of Christ. "He who seraphim fear to look at, you behold in bread
and wine on the altar!" exclaims the Metrical Homily of Jacob of Sarugh, which is sung in the
Syriac Orthodox Church while the faithful are communed.
Thus, while the shedding of human blood is an act of evil, and the shedding of animal blood as a
sacrifice, while noble and pleasing to God, was ultimately almost infinitely insufficient for our
redemption, the shedding of Christ's blood is the ultimate act of good. "Greater love hath no
man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." In throwing down His own life to

procure the glorious resurrection, not just of Himself, but of all humanity, Christ sanctified his
divine blood; one might argue that the blood and body of Christ, which we partake of in the
heavenly banquet of the Eucharist, represents the supreme encounter with the Divine possible in
this life. The Catholic faith understands the bread and wine consecrated on the Altar is the
holiest substance in the known universe, for it is the body and blood of Christ, offered by us and
for us, the supreme gift of God to recover his lost sheep and treat the painful wound of sin, the
sting of death.
"Thine own of thine own, we offer unto thee!" proclaims the Priest in the DIvine Liturgy of St.
John Chrysostom. Likewise, the prayers of the Tridentine mass refer to Christ willfully giving
himself up a ransom for many: "...as it pleased thee to accept the gifts of thy just servant Abel,
the sacrifice of our Patriarch Abraham, and what thy high priest Melchisedech offered unto thee
as a holy sacrifice, an immaculate victim." The blood shed by Christ not only sanctifies us and
justifies us, but it also consecrates the life of every human being freely given for the sake of
others.
How many heroes died in the twentieth century, in the World Wars, in Korea, in Viet Nam, and
myriad other conflicts? How many threw down their lives, for the sake of freedom, their
homeland, their faith, or their comrades? How many Christians, for that matter, willfully
endured brutal execution by the Roman Empire, and continue in this day to endure brutal
execution at the hands of Islamic extremists and Communist partisans?
Horatius, of whom Macaulay wrote "And how can man die better, Than facing fearful odds, For
the ashes of his fathers, And the temples of his gods," represents a prototype of the sacrifice of
Christ. The heroes who have perished in battle since then, to name a few recent examples,
Admiral Nelson, General Gordon of Khartoum, Admirals Scott and Callaghan of the Second
World War, Major Rudolf Anderson, perhaps the highest ranking casualty of the Cold War, and
countless others, represent an icon of Christ, to the extent that they surrender their own life for
the safety of others. To deprecate the theology of blood, for fear of offending the sensibilities
of a modern congregation shell-shocked by HIV, AIDS and terrorism, would dishonor these
heroes, and indeed the heroes of our own time (Todd Beamer, who famously said "Let's roll!"
before leading the passengers of Flight 91 in a desperate charge to take back control from the
terrorists, comes to mind; his action may have saved thousands of lives in Washington DC, had
flight 91 actually struck the vicinity of the Capitol). In giving up their lives, these heroes typify
the saving work of Christ, and participate in His Glory. Let us not trample on their graves by
discarding the theology of blood, for the sake of political correctness.
Equally representative of Christ are the martyrs of Christianity throughout the ages. Let us
remember St. Abanoub, a 12 year old boy, tortured for weeks by the Egyptians, before finally
being beheaded, who according to the Coptics regularly appears in spectral form in their
parishes; let us remember St. George, a dashing young tribune and the favorite of Diocletian,
who suddenly discovered Christ, and boldly defied his Emperor to proclaim his faith, and was

thus brutally killed; let us remember the myriad Christians who died in the arena. While the
heroes of war form in their sacrifice icons of Christ giving himself up for the salvation of many,
the Christian martyrs on the other hand form an icon of Christ's complete and passive
participation in his demise; of his willful surrender of life itself, that we might all be born again
with him, that we, like Barrabas, might dine with him in Paradise.
St. Ignatius, the third Bishop of Antioch, was condemned to a horrible death by the Romans
during the first wave of persecutions. As he travelled under Roman guard from Antioch to
Rome, he wrote epistles to the various churches located along the way, begging them not to
intervene. "The goals of the earth and the kingdoms of this world shall profit me nothing. It is
better for me to die for the sake of Jesus Christ than to reign over the ends of the earth. I seek
Him who died for us. I desire Him who rose. My birth-pains are upon me. Forgive me, brethren,
hinder me not from entering into life; desire not my death. Consign not to the world one who
yearns to be God's; nor tempt me with the things of this life. Suffer me to receive pure light.
When I come thither then shall I be a man indeed. Suffer me to be an imitator of the passion of
my God. If any man has Him dwelling in him, he will understand my desire and feel with me,
knowing what constrains me...."
Thus, we can see the ultimate truth of the Orthodox faith of the Apostles, as so brilliantly taught
by Father Steven Behr, of St. Vladimir's Seminary. Christ, as God, showed us in his death what
it means to be human. The blood of the God-man Christ is the blood of life, given to us freely in
the Eucharist in the form of wine. St. Ignatius did not truly believe himself to be alive, until he
had repeated the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. "Birth pangs are upon me ... hinder me not
from entering into life ... suffer me to receive pure life." Ignatius discovered that to become
fully human, he had to willfully follow in the footsteps of Christ, giving himself up to be
devoured be lions in the arena, as a final act of mercy, for just as Christ feeds us with his body
and blood, so to did Ignatius willingly feed his own body and blood for the sustenance of the
dumb beasts to which he was consigned. Christ, through His bloody death showed us what it
means to be human; in like manner, through His glorious resurrection, Christ proved to us that
He is God. Ignatius and the other martyrs attained their humanity by shedding their blood, in
imitation of Christ, and in so doing, proved to the ancient world, which was incomparably more
violent and bloodthirsty than any of us, even in our depraved modern era, that there was a better
way. Through their death, they direct us to the teachings of Christ, showing us that we must
love one another, and not delight in killing.
Christ became man, so that we might become like God, not in the sense of becoming members of
the Trinity, but in the sense of participating in his divine energies, namely love, iconically
representing Christ and partaking of His divine nature in the Eucharist; in so doing, we are
teaching the world how to be human. Until men cast off their vile passions and follow in the
footsteps of their lord, they are homo sapiens, but they are not truly Human until they represent
in thought and deed their savior Jesus Christ, the Word of God, in communion through the Holy
Spirit with the Father. Discard the theology of blood and this is lost.

Which takes us to my final point. "What is truth?" asked Pontius Pilate. This question I direct
with the most sincere gravity to any readers of this blog. Do you view the Gospel as some
mutable document, that mythologically represents the ideals of humanism, that can be modified
and reinterpreted in any number of divergent ways, to suit the perceived needs of contemporary
society? Do you even believe that truth exists? JB Lightfoot famously preached about Pontius
Pilate in St. Pauls: "Truth might do well enough for fools and enthusiasts, for simple men; but for
rulers, for diplomatists, for men of the world, it was the wildest of all wild dreams. Truth! What
was truth? He had lived too long in the world to trust any such hollow pretensions."
Through fervent prayer, Methodists can seek the Catholic faith; through repentance, and the
action of the Holy Spirit we can discover, as St. George did, our Savior Jesus Christ, and learn
from Him what it means to be human. Once we have truly encountered God, we will understand
with loving sympathy the dilemma posed by Pilate's question, for one cannot know what truth is,
without knowing what it means to be human; one might say, Cogito ergo sum, yet I would
counter that the real trick is being able to fully understand the definition of "I"; and with that, as
Christ said in his last dying breath, as he surrendered life itself, so that death might be trampled
down in victory, "It is finished."

Appendix I: Dialogue with David Mosher about Apostasy


I felt compelled to write to the conservative polemicist Dave Mosher about the importance of the Nicene
Creed in the dialectic struggle against apostasy:
I am troubled that you do not mention the Nicene Creed in your Doctrinal Statement. Since the fourth
century, this creed has facilitated discernment in the Christian church, against which we are promised that
The gates of Hell shall not prevail. It is this creed (particularly in its Constantinopolitan revision) which
forms an ecclesiological line in the sand between Arianism and orthodox Christianity, between heresy and
fidelity, and is generally and correctly accepted by the majority of Protestants.
This creed is not to be construed as Catholic, except in the context of the Holy Catholic Church, that is to
say, the entire body of right-believing Christians, which has been fragmented since at least the eleventh
century Great Schism, The Nicene Creed does however provide a universal point of agreement to which
the Protestants, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Assyrian, and Roman Catholic churches can agree,
similiar to the broad consensus that exists on the canon of the New Testament. As such, it can be truly and
legitimately classified as orthodox, following the definition that orthodoxy is that which has always been,
and is everywhere, believed by everyone. Acceptance of the Nicene Creed does not require that one
considers the Council of Nicea to be infallible (although many do, particularly in the Eastern churches, on
the basis of an apparent prophecy of it contained within the book of Genesis), merely that one agrees with
it on the basis of its universal acceptance. Nor does it require making a concession to ecumenism, for
surely, many ardent adherents of this creed, such as the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, and some of
the other fundamentalist Eastern Orthodox Christians, such as the monks of Espigmonou Monastery, are
not enthusiastic about the ecumenical movement, to say the least.

Thus, it seems to me that on this key point, if you do accept the Nicene Creed as being correct, even if
you do not attribute to it infallibility or divine inspiration (which many do, but surely such a peripheral
dogma should not be grounds for division), you should acknowledge and affirm that fact in your creed, to
avoid implicating yourself not only as a possible heretic, but also by extension as a hypocrite, for suerly
he who attacks others on the basis of heresy yet rejects the Nicene Creed is a hypocrite, and anathema to
Christianity. If, on the other hand, you should dare to oppose the Nicene Creed, not only would you be
marked by hypocrisy, but also by profound foolishness, for who are you to question the Church Fathers,
Luther, Wesley, and the general consensus of Christianity, including Protestant Christianity?
I am also concerned about your insistence upon Believers baptism. Only Baptists and a few other
relatively recent Protestant denominations insist upon this; this doctrine was universally rejected by the
united Church before its fragmentation beginning in the fourth century with the council of Ephesus, and
continuing at Chalcedon and at the Great Schism of 1054; likewise the dogma of believers baptism is
rejected by the majority of Protestant denominations, including Methodism, Lutheranism and the
Reformed churches. I do not object to people expressing a theological preference for believers baptism,
even though at the very least on the basis of ecclesiological consensus it would appear to be a heretical
doctrine; I do object to any sense that infant baptism is in some way invalid being trumpted as doctrinal
truth on a blog that claims its function is the denouncement of heresy. For surely, one who delegitimizes
the general consensus of the entire Church on a doctrine such as the sacrament of Baptism is not in a
place to polemicize against heresy, especially in the context of Christianity as a whole. At best, if you
must adhere to this doctrine, and also to the related concept of Baptism and Holy Communion as being
ordinances, rather than sacraments, due to the lack of ecclesiological consensus on these practices, you
must proclaim yourself to be an expressly Baptist apologist, as opposed to claiming to be a polemicist
against heresy in the Christian church in general, which is a position you cannot legitimately claim on the
grounds of the complete lack of ecclesiological consensus in your Doctrinal Statement.
That said, I do agree with some of the specific polemics you have written against specific heretical
schismatics who are causing discord, doctrinal erosion and other evil in the Church. However, I would
propose you would be in a better position to advance these polemics if you yourself clearly identified
yourself as being in agreement with the Nicene creed, and at the same time, regarding infant baptism,
even if you have a personal preference against this practice, you at least cannot de-legitimize without delegitimizing your polemics, in so far as that even though they do attack true heresies, you are not
attacking them from the position of orthodox Christianity, as defined by ecclesiological consensus, but are
rather setting yourself against the universal Church, and thus your polemics have the same gravitas that
they would have if they were authored by Gnostics, Arians or Jehovahs Witnesses; in other words, they
are no more authoritative than that which they condemn on the basis of its lack of authority. I pray that
you correct this, that you might be able to polemicize against contemporary heresies from a position of
greater authority.
To which Dave replied:
Wow, lots of good comments, Paul some things I never thought of. I am not very familiar with the
various creeds. Ill check out the Nicene Creed and others, and try to pinpoint the creed that most closely
fits my beliefs. Most of my beliefs are Wesleyan Holiness, so I would agree the most with whatever creed
the Wesleyan Holiness people hold to.

I dont totally fit into one Christian doctrinal stance. I like many doctrines of the Wesleyan Holiness
movement, but also some doctrines of the Calvinists, some doctrines of the Independent Fundamentalist
Baptists, etc. On my blogs About page, Ill try to explain my doctrinal views in greater detail.
As far as baptism, I would have to say I stand for believers baptism. I would not make it a requirement,
though, for born again Christians. I come from a background which frowned on baptism of any kind
because baptism had become such a ritual (in the Catholic Church for example). I view baptism as a
witness to the world that a person has accepted Christ as his Saviour an outward sign of an inward
change. Hope that makes sense.
God bless you Dave
To which I replied
Dave, I just wanted to say how delighted I am to see your reply. I myself am a believer in Wesleyan
Holiness; although from the context of a baptized United Methodist who has largely been alienated from
the UMC by the very apostasy that you oppose. In the figure of Wesley I see a man who represents a
bridge linking Pietist and Evangelical Protestantism with the Catholic faith of the Church of England, and
with the sacramental theology of Eastern christianity; holiness, as proposed by Wesley, directly parallels
the Eastern Orthodox doctrine of theosis, and Wesley himself is believed to have been secretly ordained a
bishop by the Eastern Orthodox bishop Erasmus of Arcadia, in 1763 (when asked about this a decade
later, Wesley refused to confirm or deny it; had he confirmed it he would have exposed himself to
execution).
Regarding your view on baptism, I am prepared to accept that; my concern would primarily be if you
were to deny the validity of infant baptism, or claim that for a Christian to accept it (which was the
historic doctrine of the church) would be in any way apostasy. I would say that on the contrary, believers
baptism is not inadmissible, provided that the extreme view of, for example, the Landmark Baptists, that
any other form is a dire heresy preventing salvation, is avoided. It should be stressed that John Wesley,
for his part, espoused the traditional Anglican view on Baptism (that is to say, infant baptism) and the
sacraments in general, holding Holy Communion as a sacrament and affirming the real presence.
However, like in the case of baptism, I would say that maintaining a memorialist interpretation is not
inadmissable, provided you do not scorn those who believe that the body and blood of Christ are actually
present, either via the mystery or real presence doctrines of Eastern Christianity and Methodism, or the
consubstantiation doctrine of Lutheranism, or for that matter, the Roman Catholic doctrine of
transubstantiation. The important thing about this point, and indeed that of baptism, is that it works in this
direction as far as establishing a position of orthodoxy, because those who do maintain the sacramental
approach to these ordinances can in general say that they are efficacious ex opere operato, without regard
to the conviction in the sacrament by either the presbyter or the communicant.
Regarding the creeds, I would urge you to study the Nicene Creed with greatest scrutiny. Within
Protestant and Western Christianity, the Apostles Creed and Athanasian Creeds are also widely used,
however, Eastern churches do not in any way dispute these; rather, they are merely not used liturgically.
The Apostles Creed is derived from the baptismal liturgy of the church, and represents a subset of the
dogma espoused by the Niceno-Constantinoplean creed of 381; however, it is somewhat weaker than the

latter, in that it lacks the emphasis on triadism of the latter. Thus, one could be an Arian or a Oneness
Pentecostal, or a Socianian, and adhere to the Apostles Creed, whereas the Nicene Creed unambiguously
prohibits such. That said, the Apostles Creed is beautiful, and more compact than the Nicene Creed, and
forms the core of the traditional Western Rite baptism liturgy.

The Athanasian creed, on the other hand, contains almost exactly what the Nicene creed has, albeit
written in a style rather more verbose and monotonous. Athanasius for his part was involved in both
creeds; he rallied support in favor of the orthodox position at Nicea in 325; subsequently, when some
moderate Arians exploited loopholes in the original Nicene Creed, he composed the creed bearing his
name to address this problem. Though he died about 8 years before the First Council of Constantinople,
his creed advised the theology of it; the revised Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed of 381 could be viewed
as the Nicene Creed ammended to contain the same Triadism that is espoused in the Athanasian Creed,
thus defining the consubstantiality of the Trinity as the essential dogmatic truth of the universal Church.
All three creeds, the Apostolic, Athanasian and Nicene, were in use in the Anglican Church during John
Wesleys day, and were accepted by Wesley.
It is my view that in general, for the purpose of refuting apostasy, it is important that we not adopt
distinctions that alienate any of the conservative denominations that remain solid in the faith. Thus, in my
opinion, if one converts from a Southern Baptist church to a Presbyterian Church in America
congregation, or from the latter to Eastern Orthodoxy, or to a high church Anglican parish, none of these
inter-denominational movements are in and of themselves apostasy. What is apostasy is the trend of
liberal churches to discard Christianity; the United Church of Christ, the Episcopal Church, USA, the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Presbyterian Church, USA, and other liberal mainline
denominations around the world are simply discarding the historic faith, and embracing Gnosticism,
Marcionism, and other historical heresies, or in some case, becoming a form of organized atheism. The
Unitarians for example, who by my definition would always have been heretics, by virtue of denying the
divinity of Christ, at least historically venerated Christ and affirmed the truth of the Bible; they now do
neither, but instead, serve as a gathering place for people of diverse, syncretic religious views which
could only be described as Post Christian.
There are many heretical pastors in the hierarchy of those denominations which have not entirely
succumbed to apostasy, yet are under great pressure to do so; I would cite the United Methodist Church
and the Church of England as two examples. I have been debating with a United Methodist pastor who
has a despicable blog entitled Hacking Christianity, which, as the name might suggest, consists
primarily of himself advocating acts of theological violence against the scriptures and church tradition.
One remarkable aspect of his blog is that almost nowhere, do either he or his commentators refer to
Scripture.
At any rate, God bless you too, and feel free to e-mail me if you have any questions about the creeds. I
believe were at a point here where we can reach a workable theological consensus, and if were able to
do that, I would be delighted to consider you an ally in the struggle to preserve the priceless Christian
faith we have been entrusted with. The other main concern of mine is helping the beleaguered Christians
in the middle east; to this end Ive become heavily involved with a local Syriac Orthodox and a local
Coptic parish, and I must say, I very much love those people; their piety is inspiring to say the least.

To which Dave replied:


Paul, thanks for the detailed comments. There are a number of points I hope to respond to, on which I
would beg to differ. That being said, I agree 100% with this comment of yours near the end:
What is apostasy is the trend of liberal churches to discard Christianity; the United Church of Christ, the
Episcopal Church, USA, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Presbyterian Church, USA,
and other liberal mainline denominations around the world are simply discarding the historic faith, and
embracing Gnosticism, Marcionism, and other historical heresies, or in some case, becoming a form of
organized atheism. The Unitarians for example, who by my definition would always have been heretics,
by virtue of denying the divinity of Christ, at least historically venerated Christ and affirmed the truth of
the Bible; they now do neither, but instead, serve as a gathering place for people of diverse, syncretic
religious views which could only be described as Post Christian.
Well thats it for now gotta run. God bless you Dave
I later wrote to Dave:
I hope all is well with you. Things have been going well for me since we last spoke. I would be very
interested to know if youve had a chance to study the historic creeds, and what specific objections you
might have to their doctrine.
Ive been reading your blog, and a few observations came to mind.

In one article, you dismiss Augustine, yet a few paragraphs later condemn Pelagianism. Now, Augustine
was not alone in refuting Pelagianism, but one should remember that he was the primary polemic
opponent of Pelagius (who he referred to as Brito); he is a major saint in Western Christianity and was an
inspirational figure to John Wesley among others. In the East he is a minor figure; the east prefers the
concept of original sin advocated by St. John Cassian, which denies imputed or hereditary guilt, but
instead regards the sin of Adam as creating a degenerate condition in the universe, which causes us
invariably to sin, but which does not require unpleasant doctrines, such as Augustines rather odious view
that infants who die before being baptized are damned. This is not Pelagianism; it does explicitly affirm
original sin, it merely denies that we are automatically sinful from birth by virtue of hereditary guilt; it
also obviates the need for Roman Catholic doctrines such as the Immaculate Conception of Mary.
Now, a more interesting point comes to mind. You are rightly concerned about apostasy; about how this
apostasy may lead to a one world religion led by the Antichrist. However, we should remember that this
apostasy is nothing new, nor is the presence of the Antichrist; 1 John 4:3 warns us that the Antichrist has
already arrived in the world. The Antichrist is undeniably Satan, or a manifestation thereof, although it is
a legitimate matter of theological debate as to in who, and to what extent, the Antichrist has thus far
manifested himself; one might say that the Biblical warnings about the number of the beast, contained in
Revelations, might be directed against Nero, or perhaps both Nero and some unspecified future tyrant
before Christs second coming. It is dangerous however, in my opinion, to speculate too much about the
exact details of Christs return; the premillenial view was denounced by the early Church as the heresy of
chilliasm, and people like Hal Lindsay or Chuck Smith who warn of an imminent apocalypse are

themselves acting in ignorance of Christs warning that No man shall know the day or the hour. Christ
might come tomorrow, or perhaps the human race will endure for over a hundred trillion years, past the
very end of the Stelliferous era, as long as this universe, the divine creation of God, remains habitable;
Christ might also arrive somewhere in between, or perhaps, at an infinite point in the future.
It seems to me that Christs assurance that very shortly I will be with you is a promise of our
communion with him after death, as opposed to a specific chronological statement regarding the time of
his return, and many remarks of his of an apocalyptic nature appear to refer to the Roman destruction of
the Temple. However, they might well also refer to a similar event in the future; I feel its important
however that we not allow ourselves to be distracted from our own sins and the need to repent thereof,
and our prayer to Christ, through excessive speculation about the future. This does not preclude the
recreational enjoyment of films such as the fun, if rather silly, Omega Code, which featured an awesome
performance by Michael York as a rather Tony Blair like anti-Christ. I saw a snippet of some other film
about the Christian end times featuring a British actor portraying an evil anti-Christ, who ordered a pack
of dogs to devour some Christian before embarking in a helicopter. It was fun stuff. Yet let us not confuse
devotional fiction, such as that, or Ben Hur for that matter, with the actual message of the Gospel.
Now, Id like to touch on one other point regarding apostasy. The apostasy you describe, I believe due to
the influence of the Antichrist, who the Beloved Disciple does warn us is in the world right now, and has
been since the First Century, has occurred repeatedly. I would like to cite three examples of religions
which I believe represent forms of Christian apostasy.
The Yazidis are a kurdish people, who are endogamous, and who worship the Peacock Angel, Taus
Melek. Their religion is clearly of Gnostic origins, but with a syncretic influence from Zoroastrianism and
Sufi islam. The Peacock Angel clearly at one time was Christ; through the influence of the Gnostic
heresy, the figure of Christ was corrupted in the mind of these believers, and reduced to a figure that
closely resembles the Islamic conception of the devil, Shaitan, or Iblis. Taus Melek, in a Gnostic manner,
was created as the reflection of God, who, like the Valentinian originator-deity Bythus, is remote and
rather impassable. God then created six other archangels, and placed Taus Melek at the head of them.
This story precisely parallels the Islamic story of Shaitan, or Iblis.
Now, here, the two faiths diverge. In Islam, God then created man, and ordered Shaitan or Iblis to bow
before him; Shaitan refused, and was cast into Hell as punishment, where he remains as the adversary and
tempter of mankind. In Yazidism, God intended this test of Taus Melek as a moral challenge; Taus Melek
refused, and thus made the correct choice that God intended, and in so doing, extinguished the fires of
Hell. This is a clear Christological parallel, yet it also betrays a Luciferian influence; the fact that Christ
and Lucifer have been apparently conjoined in the figure of the Peacock Angel is a disturbing example of
the destructive power of the Gnostic heresy.
Mandaism is another Gnostic religion; here the figure of Christ as the savior, delivering us from the evil
material world into spiritual bliss, is replaced by John the Baptist. Mandaeans consider themselves to be
the true followers of John the Baptist; its possible this may be at least in part correct, as the Gospel
suggests that not all of John the Baptists disciples chose to follow Christ (although Andrew and Simon
Peter certainly did). The other disciples may well have persisted as a small sect, which later may have
syncretically adopted a Gnostic faith; however, I think its rather more likely that under the strain of the
Gnostic heresy, a Christian Gnostic sect degenerated to a point where they rejected Christ in favor of His

forerunner. Mandaeans historically considered Christ a false prophet, and regard the Holy Spirit as evil.
They baptize themselves weekly to wash away the stains of sin, believing water to be spiritually
purifying.
Both Mandaeans and Yazidis are somewhat friendly to Christians; this may be because Christians do not
mistreat them the way Muslims do, or it may also suggest their Christian heritage. Yazidis sheltered
Armenians during the genocide of 1915; Mandaeans have in recent decades sought to develop an
ecumenical relationship with Christianity through a strange exegesis of their own scriptures, written in the
Mandaic dialect of Syriac. Their scripture describes Christ as a False messiah, but the word used for
False also means Book, so in a baffling hermeneutic, for the sake of friendship, the Mandaeans are
now saying that they really believe Christ to be a Book messiah, although I cannot presume to know
what that obscure and bizarre designation actually means. However, I will say that, in contrast to the
Yazidis, who are known to practice honor killings, and who I would not want to be around after dark, to
put it mildly, the Mandaeans are an extremely gentle and peaceful people.
The Peacock Angel has Luciferian overtones, even from within Christianity; while not as obviously
diabolical as it would appear to a Muslim, you nonetheless can see in the Peacock Angel how the Gnostic
heresy infinitely disfigured Christ by combining His identity with attributes of Satan. The Yazidis are
exceedingly xenophobic; they believe, in a manner resembling the Gnostic creation myth of the world
being the aborted offspring of Sophia, that they alone are descended from the asexually-reproduced son of
Adam, who mated with a Houri, whereas the Jews and the rest of mankind are descended from the
sexually reproduced offspring of Adam and Eve. In contrast, the Mandaeans are an Abrahamic faith
which does not hold any doctrines as bizarre or offensive. However, one can clearly see how in
Mandaism, under the corrupting influence of the Gnostic delusion, Christ was deprecated in favor of John
the Baptist, who by his own words, was not worthy to untie the sandals of our Savior.
Another historic example of apostasy can be found in the devil-worshipping cult of El Tio in Bolivia.
Miners in the silver mines, who are, above ground, practitioners of Roman Catholicism, believe that the
dominion of God does not extend below the surface of the earth. The silver mines in Potosi are either the
dominion of the devil himself, or his brother, or a related devil-like diety, depending on which miner you
ask; this character is referred to as El Tio, literally, the Uncle. The miners believe that El Tio must be
appeased in order for them to find rich deposits of silver; failure to please El Tio will result in disaster,
such as cave-ins. The miners make sacrifices to statues of El Tio located throughout the mines, placating
him with gifts of cigars, coca leaves and alcoholic libations. It is viewed as especially dangerous to enter a
part of the mine where an El Tio statue exists, that has not recently been ministered to. These statues
depict a horned devil, with a huge erect penis, and distinctly Spanish ethnic features, a reference to the
cruel Imperial overseers of the mine during its sixteenth century heydey, when it was the primary source
of wealth for the Spanish Empire at the height of its power. The most unpleasant aspect of El Tio
worshippers is that, once a year, they sacrifice innocent llamas to these diabolical cult statues, in an act
that ought to be repulsive to any Christian.
Yet the Roman church here fails, as it so often does, to stamp out indigenous beliefs that are patently
offensive or utterly incompatible with the Orthodox Christian faith. Although the miners who seek to
placate him are of Inca ethnicity, the diabolical attributes of El Tio are clearly of European origin, and his
very name is the Spanish for The Uncle. Thus, one can see here how even within a church that

promotes doctrines that are, with some prominent exceptions, compatible with the Apostolic faith of the
Nicene fathers, poor catechesis leads to the delusion the Russians refer to as Prelest, resulting here in
the monstrosity of Incas who are Christians above ground, and devil worshippers below ground. This
staggering incongruiity is rationalized by the general aversion of the miners to practicing forms of
devotion to El Tio above ground; in like manner, It is believed that any miner who dares to sell his soul to
El Tio, in a bid to gain access to greater riches in the mines, will die within a months time, owing to the
vindictive and evil nature of this figure.

it is an absolute taboo to mention Jesus, the names of the saints, or the Virgin Mary below ground, as
doing so it is feared will lead to a deadly disaster, such as a mineshaft collapse. This taboo, in the
intensity of its observance, resembles the extreme aversion British actors in the West End have to
mentioning the name Macbeth, or quoting from what is euphemistically referred to as The Scottish
play. Theater workers, no matter how high their rank, who violate this taboo, except during an actual
performance of Macbeth (itself regarded as unlucky) must leave the theater and perform a purification
ritual before re-entering; this was hillariously satirized in an episode of the Rowan Atkinson comedy
Blackadder the Third.
Thus we can see how apostasy is not new; it has occurred since the very inception of the church. The
Antichrist might well have acted through the person of Simon Magus, then Nero, then Titus, then
Marcion, then Valentinus, then the cruel Emperors such as Diocletian, then in the person of Arians.
Surely the hand of the antichrist was at work when the Mongolian despot Tamerlane killed 95% of the
members of the Church of the East, including all of their parishioners in China, Tibet and Central Asia. In
the same manner, one can see the work of the Antichrist in the mass murder of Armenian, Assyrian and
West Syriac Christians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire in 1915.

I feel that for this reason it is extremely important that, with a contrite heart, we earnestly seek the faith of
the Apostles and their successors in the early Church, who literally wrote the book on how to fight Satan,
and the demonic corruption of our faith, that leads horribly degenerate post-Christian religions such as
Mandaism, Yazidism, El Tio worship, and in more recent times, the Unitarian Universalist community.

To which Dave Mosher replied:


Many great points, Paul. Much to study and respond to.
Regarding your comment: In one article, you dismiss Augustine, yet a few paragraphs later condemn
Pelagianism.
Im wondering which article this was. With so many blogs written, its getting hard for me to keep track
of them all! Im thinking the article youre referring to was one of my reposts of someone elses article. Is
this it?: https://davemosher.wordpress.com/2012/04/11/repost-john-henderson-a-response-to-i-am-aconcerned-nazarene-article-in-holiness-today/

Well thats it for now. God bless you Dave


To which I replied:
Hey David,
Its actually the one entitled A repost with comments: Dr. Norman Geislers critique of Emergent
theology
It may have been Norman Geisler rather than yourself, the post decried Augustine as a Catholic Mystic.
Regardless of who said it, the problem with saying that about any of the fourth century Church Fathers is
that the Roman Catholic church did not exist as a stand-alone entity, isolated from the rest of
Christendom, until 1054, so if Augustine is a Catholic mystic, then so are Basil the Great, John
Chrysostom, Gregory of Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyassa, Athanasius, Ambrose of Milan, Jerome, Ephraim
the Syrian, and a huge swathe of other Patristic authorities. Now I myself disagree with a lot of what
Augustine had to say, but I would say that he was neither terribly mystical (certainly nowhere near as
much of a mystic, as say, Gregory of Nazianzus or Ephraim the Syrian), nor can he easily be discounted
without throwing out the rest of the crucially important fourth century Fathers.
If you throw them out, the question then becomes, where do you stop? Irenaeus? Tertullian (who actually
did succumb to heresy in the form of Montanism)? Justin Martyr? Polycarp? Ignatius of Antioch?
Eventually the entire cloud of witnesses surrounding the early church gets whittled back, until you
yourself wind up in apostasy along with the so-called Jesusists who discount everything in the Bible
except the red letter verses attributed to Christ in the Gospels.
That said, I do view Augustine as being overrated amongst the fourth century fathers, primarily because I
see him being overly motivated by his own guilt at the excesses of his early life as a follower of the
heretical Manichaen Gnostic sect, which was the main rival to Christianity in the Roman Empire in the
fourth century (by which time Paganism was essentially dying out, in spite of efforts of Julian the
Apostate to revive it). Nonetheless, Augustine was the main opponent of Pelagius; Augustine refuted the
false doctrines of Pelagius, although with Pelagius thus refuted, I personally prefer the interpretation
made availalible from Augustines contemporary John Cassian, which is basically original sin, but
without imputed hereditary guilt. Cassians conception of original sin is that Adams action caused a sort
of degenerate condition across creation, in which our sinning is inevitable, but it does not require us to
write infants off as sinners, and thus say that unbaptized infants are damned, which is what Augustine
said. The Augustinian guilt-driven theology I see as the accidental cause of much of what one might term
the Bondage and discipline theology of the Roman Catholic Church (i.e. the use of cilices).
To which David Mosher replied:
Thanks again for all the great comments, Paul.
I do have a question about this comment of yours:
Regardless of who said it [decrying Augustine as a Catholic Mystic], the problem with saying that
about any of the fourth century Church Fathers is that the Roman Catholic church did not exist as a standalone entity, isolated from the rest of Christendom, until 1054

You then mentioned a number of early Church fathers, and asked a good question which if any do we
throw out for being heretical? Im no expert on church history far from it. I am unfamiliar with most of
the names you mentioned. But it seems to me there had to be heretical early Church fathers, in spite of
what date the Roman Catholic church officially became established. (I found this listing of early Church
fathers Ill work on learning more about them: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_Fathers).
Consider the following heretical teachings and practices, found here:
http://www.cai.org/bible-studies/romes-heretical-inventions If all of these heretical teachings and
practices came into being between 300 A.D. and 1054 A.D., then I would think there were early Church
fathers in the fourth century (the 300s) that we must view as heretical.
300 A.D. Prayers for the dead.*
300 A.D. Making the sign of the Cross.
320 A.D. Wax candles.*
375 A.D. Veneration of angels and dead saints, and the use of images.
394 A.D. The mass, as a daily celebration.
431 A.D. Beginning of the exaltation of Mary; the term Mother of God first applied to Mary by the
Council of Ephesus.
500 A.D. Priests differentiated from the common man by dress (clothing).
526 A.D. Extreme Unction.
593 A.D. The doctrine of purgatory established by Gregory I.
600 A.D. Latin language, used in prayer and worship, imposed by Gregory I.
600 A.D. Prayers directed to Mary, dead saints and angels.*
607 A.D. Title of pope, or universal bishop, given to Boniface III by Emperor Phocas.
709 A.D. Kissing the popes foot, began with Constantine.
750 A.D. Temporal power of the popes conferred by Pepin, king of the Franks.
786 A.D. Authorised worship of the cross, images and relics.
850 A.D. Holy water, mixed with a pinch of salt and blessed by a priest.
890 A.D. Worship of Saint Joseph.
927 A.D. College of the Cardinals established.
965 A.D. Baptism of Bells, instituted by Pope John XIII.

995 A.D. Canonization of dead saints, by Pope John XV.


998 A.D. Fasting on Fridays and during Lent.
Also, Im wondering about this statement of yours:
Eventually the entire cloud of witnesses surrounding the early church gets whittled back, until you
yourself wind up in apostasy along with the so-called Jesusists who discount everything in the Bible
except the red letter verses attributed to Christ in the Gospels.
Dont you think this is a bit of an over-reaction? Certainly we have a right, as discerning Christians, to
point out legitimate heretical Church Fathers in the fourth century, if they did exist. Again, see especially
the heresies between 300 A.D. and 394 A.D. in the timetable above. My question should probably be, did
any early Church fathers assist in coming up with these heresies? Perhaps an equally valid question would
be, did any early Church fathers OPPOSE the formation of these heresies?
As far as Jesusists, personally I havent met any Christians who throw out all of the Bible and follow
only the words Jesus spoke. Hmmm, I just learned something new here there are indeed professing
Christians who view the Bible this way: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesuism
Anyway, thanks for the great discussion. Feel free to give any feedback Ill try to respond nicely God
bless you Dave
To which I replied:
Well what Id like to first mention is that the majority of the items on your list were instituted after the
Fourth Century, and it is my opinion a huge decline did occur in the Fifth Century around the time of the
Nestorian Schism. The Church of the East, which was separated from the rest of the church at Ephesus, is
still extant, whereas the Arians who were condemned at Nicaea disappeared in a few hundred years;
likewise, the anti-Chalcedonian Miaphysite party condemned at Chalcedon is alive and well, consisting of
ten million Copts, several million Ethiopians and Armenians, and a hundred thousand Syriacs, plus a few
million Christians in India. So clearly, God did not lift his grace from these communities; they cannot be
said to be in a state of apostasy like that of the Gnostics, the Ebionites, or the Arians, who have either
disappeared outright or completely rejected Christianity (in the case of the two surviving Gnostic sects).
So clearly, I would say due to the political intervention of the Byzantine empire, and a poisonous power
struggle between the Patriarch of Constantinople and the Pope of Rome that ultimately led to the Great
Schism of 1054, a change for the worse did happen in the early Fifth century.
Now, lets go over each of the items on your list, because its my view that many of these cannot be
considered as heretical even from an extreme Protestant position:
Prayers for the dead, and making the sign of the cross, probably predate 300 AD by a substantial degree.
The sign of the cross was originally of purely Christological reference, and remained so in Russia until
the forcible reforms of Patriarch Nikhon; it probably originated as a means for early Christians to identify
themselves, initially as a secret sign similiar to the Icthys, and later, as a means of showing their Christian
identity in defiance of the Roman empire, perhaps as they were about to be crucified. In like manner,
prayers for the dead doubtless originated with the persecutions; it would be appalling to suggest that the

early Church would not be justified in praying for the safety of those who they had just witnessed being
decapitated for proclaiming the Gospel of Christ (including many child martyrs, such as Abanoub).
Now, I do not agree at all with those who classify candles as heretical; the vast majority of Protestant
churches use these. The earliest Christians, meeting in houses before dawn and after dark, doubtless used
candles as illumination, also likely in many cases when the Eucharist was celebrated in the Roman
cemetaries and catacombs, where Christian martyrs such as Peter were buried. After the edict of Milan,
pagan temples were rebuilt as churches, and these structures, being large enough to benefit from some
artificial illumination even during the day, would naturally be illuminated by candles. What is more, the
use of candles, torches or the burning of incense is common across nearly all human religions to
symbolize the ascent of prayers to Heaven; incense was burned in Jewish second temple worship, from
which Christianity derived its early liturgy (basically, the early liturgy of the Christian church was a
Jewish synagogue service, with the Haftarah reading eventually replaced by a Pauline epistle, the Torah
reading, by the Gospel, and the service of holy communion replacing the animal sacrifices of the temples;
this is why communion in the older liturgies is described in sacrificial language).
The use of icons likewise also predates the fourth century church; a widespread icon of a human figure
looking up to the heavens in prayer was found throughout the Roman cemetaries; the earliest icon
according to legend is the Mandylion, an image of Christ that miraculously appeared on a document sent
to King Agbar of Edessa; this legend is at least as old as the third century, probably the second, and it
might even be true. At any rate, when we look at the huge destruction of cultural heritage that has
occurred whenever the heresy of iconoclasm has reared its ugly head, in the eigth century and again in
England following the Reformation, it is hard not to agree with the Seventh Ecumenical Councils
condemnation of it, which also explicitly forbids the actual worship of images. Even the Jews, who are
more sensitive about iconography than their Christian counterparts, venerate their Torah scrolls, and this
veneration is the same as that afforded to icons in the Eastern churches. In most of the western churches,
the majority of images take the form of stained glass windows, and I seldom see anyone prostrating
themselves before them; they are more of a decorative function. The Seventh Ecumenical council pointed
out that Gods incarnation as Christ was itself of a representative aspect; the Jews condemn a belief in this
as idolatry; on that basis, by extension, we can say that having visual icons is acceptable, provided the
second commandment is not violated and the images are not themselves made the object of worship
(which has occasionally happened to the embarrassment of the Church, for example, Our Lady of
Fatima).
Now, the designation of Mary as theotokos, literally, Birth giver to God, was in response to the
Nestorian heresy, which was in fact a heresy in the form condemned at Ephesus. Nestorius insisted that
Christ consisted of two persons, one human and one divine, in hypostatic union; that only the human
person was born of Mary and died on the cross, and that Mary should therefore be referred to a
christotokos, Birth giver to Christ. This was dangerously close to the more severe heresy of
Adoptionism, and was rightfully condemned. Since Christ is God Incarnate, we can say that Mary did in
fact give birth to God; we do not say however that Mary in any sense originated God, and the translation
Mother of God is inaccurate (and its a huge failure of the Roman Catholic Church that this dangerously
misleading translation of theotokos is tolerated). If we say, on the other hand, that Mary was not birth
giver to God, we either have to resort to Nestorianism, or or deny the divinity of Christ.

Now, regarding clerical vestments, these cannot be said to be heretical in any sense; on the contrary, they
represented the humility of the clergy. During the iconoclastic period in Byzantium, these vestments were
discarded, and instead the priests and bishops dressed themselves in a flamboyant and ridiculous manner
reminiscent of the way modern day preachers in some of the more unpleasant charismatic and Baptist
sects dress. On the other hand, the clerical vestments imply humiliation, and separation from the secular
world; each aspect of the vestments has a specific theological meaning. Beyond that, it is probable that
vestments were in use at least as early as the fourth century, albeit not canonically mandated. Even in
churches that do not use vestments, there is typically a visual distinction between clergy and church
employees and the laity, which manifests itself, for example, in the distinctive attire of ushers, nametags,
and so on. Surely, if its a heresy to visually differentiate the clergy from the laity in any way, then these
also fall afoul of it,
In like manner, the liturgical use of the Latin language began as early as the end of the second century,
under Pope Victor I. Prior to that, Koine Greek was the primary liturgical language of the Church, aside
from the use of Aramaic by isolated pockets of Judeo-Christians such as the Nazarenes and Ebionites.
Latin and Syriac began to be used around the same time; Pope Cyril of Alexandria translated the Divine
Liturgy of St. Mark into Coptic, and thus began the Coptic liturgical tradition. The beginning of the use of
Latin was thus the start of a process whereby the Christian liturgical langauge ceased being an intellectual
language known to the few (Koine Greek, the language in which most of the Gospels were undoubtably
written, with the possible exception of a lost early form of Matthew), instead to be said in the vernacular.
Unfortunately the Roman church later reversed this by insisting on Latin. This was not a problem in the
day of Gregory I, when Vulgar Latin remained a lingua Franca, but after the Great Schism, this became a
major impediment to the transmission of Christian doctrine to a population increasingly unable to
understand any form of Latin.
Fasting on Fridays and Great Lent also certainly predates 998. The Jews fasted on Tuesdays and
Thursdays. The early Church, seeking to differentiate itself from Judaic praxis, moved the fasting days to
Wednesdays and Fridays, in commemoration of the betrayal and crucifixion of Christ respectively. In like
manner, the main feast day was set, very early on, to Sunday, as can be found by a reading of the
Apostolic Constitutions of Hippolytus. This was in memory of the resurrection of Christ. The Jewish
Sabbath was probably deprecated around the turn of the second century, around the time the Jews
expelled Christians from the synagogues and the early Church likewise anathematized those Jews who
rejected Christ. The great fast of Lent also significantly predates the tenth century; it was mentioned at the
Council of Nicaea, and the fact that all of the surviving branches of the apostolic Church (the Romans, the
Eastern Orthodox, the Oriental Orthodox, and the Assyrians) observe it, confirms its ancient status, for
the Assyrian Church of the East and the Oriental Orthodox tend to lack those innovations that occurred
after Ephesus and Chalcedon respectively.
Finally, both the Roman and Alexandrian patriarchs were historically referred to as Pope. After the
Chalcedonian schism, the present condition of two rival Popes presiding over the see of Mark the
Evangelist existed, one Greek and the other Coptic, although fortunately, in our present day, they are
allies rather than enemies (the Ottoman Khedive who ruled Egypt vetoed a merger between the Greek
Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria and the Coptic Orthodox Church in the early 19th century).

I will not respond to the other purported histories you list, either because they are sufficiently
controversial in Protestantism so that one might well legitimately regard them as heretical without finding
oneself contravening the Ecumenical councils, or else I myself regard them, if not heresies, at least as
mistakes. For example, the College of Cardinals, which was created to usurp the legitimate power of the
Holy Synod of the Roman Church and consolidate all ecclesiastical control in the Papacy, in violation of
the traditions of the ancient Church. The Roman Catholic church can be measured in its heresy effectively
by how much it differs from its condition in the Fourth Century, when it existed in a state of ecumenical
harmony with the other four ancient Patriarchates (in order of seniority, Alexandria, Antioch,
Constantinople and Jerusalem).
Now, do we have a right to arbitrarily write off fourth century fathers as heretics without engaging in
apostasy? I would have to say that while, from the standpoint of religious freedom, which I respect, we do
have that right, but not if we want to make the claim to be fighting apostasy. If we want to legitimately
oppose apostasy, we are at a minimum bound to regard the Council of Nicaea, and the Council of
Constantinople of 381, as being imperative to the formation of the Christian religion after the end of
persecution under Constantine I; we are obliged to regard as heretics those who they anathematized (such
as Arius, Marcion, Valentinus, Pelagius and indeed even poor Nestorius), and at the same time, to not
regard as heretics those who were instrumental in refuting said heresies (such as Augustine); however, it
is legitimate to express reservations about some aspects of their theology. Thus, while I cannot say
Augustine was a heretic, for he fought heresy, I can object to those parts of his teaching which never
became the canonical doctrine of the church, for example, the idea of the damnation of unbaptized
infants, or the idea that sexual pleasure within marriage is sinful.
I certainly cant write Augustine off as a Catholic mystic, however, because the Roman Catholic church
did not exist then, rather, the Catholic Church of the fourth century comprised all Christians who had
not acceded to the false dogma of the heresiarchs. In the fourth century, if you werent Catholic, then you
were Arian or Novatian, or a Donatist, or a Manichee (as was Augustine in his youth, before his baptism
by Ambrose of Milan). Furthermore, most Protestant churches and the Eastern churches affirm their
Catholicity, Catholic meaning Universal. As Ive said before, Augustine was also one of the less
mystical theologians of his time; I would cite the hymns and metrical homilies of Ephraim the Syrian as
the highlight of mystical Christianity in the fourth century.
In a nutshell, there are some questions which are legitimately disputed between the majority of
Protestants, and the Orthodox and Catholics, but a lot of the supposed heresies enumerated there arent
considered heretical by all but the most extreme restorationist groups, which themselves frequently fall
into a classically defined heresy in the contrast. If you object to stained glass windows and an altar with
candles and a gilt cross, that probably makes you an iconoclast. If you object to Marys status as having
given birth to God incarnate in the person of Christ, then youre a Nestorian, and so on.
At any rate, God bless you, and I hope this clarifies my position.
To which Dave Mosher replied:
Thanks again for your feedback, Paul. I appreciate your detailed discussion of church history, as well as
the explanation of your positions. And yes, as you alluded to in your last sentence, your comments do
indeed clarify your position.

There are some points that I still feel uncomfortable with. But until I learn more about the early Church
fathers and various Roman Catholic practices, Ill try not to show my ignorance by criticizing things I
know little about
I am finding websites that vary widely in their views of the early Church fathers, as well as various
Roman Catholic practices. Some websites say they are biblically sound. Other websites tear them to
shreds, condemning them as heretical. Im finding it difficult to put all the pieces together. (Usually in
situations like this, I try to find and read primary historical documents, rather than reading the
interpretations of various historians.)
Im just wondering, are you a professor somewhere? (If you are, you dont need to mention where
unless you want to.) Im very impressed with your knowledge of church history and theology. Im
learning a lot from you! BTW, I did a bit of Googling and did find comments by you at several blogs
good job! I think you would be a good blogger you certainly love to write, and Im guessing you could
generate some good discussions.
Im also curious what denomination most closely represents your theological positions (if you wish to
share this info, that is). My intent is not to criticize, but to better understand where youre coming from
theologically.
Well thats it for now. God bless you Dave
To which I replied:
Hey Dave, Im not a professor; Im a network engineer, but I am a theology student; Im working on a
program in Eastern Christianity and also towards obtaining Lay Servant status in the United Methodist
Church, and also a Diaconate in the Syriac Orthodox Church (Ive become involved with the Syriacs as
part of an effort to help them due to the extreme persecution theyre experiencing right now in Syriac; I
would say theres a 33% that they will be basically wiped off the map due to the current war in Syria). My
goal is to eventually go to seminary and become a pastor in a few years time. Both my parents are
professors however (my father of political philosophy, my mother of music composition and theory). Im
just an IT geek who is also a liturgy geek and a Christianity geek.
Now, I think its very important to consider a few things regarding the early Church Fathers. First of all,
the writings we have of theirs are very well historically attested. Its best to not just accept what other
people will tell you about them, but rather, to read them yourself. Some of it can be brutal and exhausting,
other parts of it (The Sayings of the Desert Fathers), pure bliss. I myself am not uncomfortable with a
mystical dimension to Christianity, because I do agree with Gregory of Nazianzus that the actual essense
of God is beyond our comprehension, and can only be reasoned with using apophatic terminology; all we
know about God comes from the Bible, and I see nothing wrong with praying fervently and with great
humility, in an effort to think about God and his gracious love for us.
What I do personally object to in the Roman Catholic church is the fact that they go beyond mysticism,
and with their doctrine of scholasticism, attempt to define the ineffable mysteries of God, reducing Holy
Communion, for example, to a form of magic ritual. Scholasticism is so overbearing a theology that it
makes itself an easy target for assault by atheists; it leaves no room for one to reason about the Gospel on
ones own, guided by the Holy Spirit. At the same time, other Roman Catholics engage in mystical

practices that are completely unfounded in scripture, for example, the devotion to the sacred heart of
Jesus, which was initially (and correctly) opposed by the Pope as being Nestorian, although his successor,
a Jesuit, reversed his ruling, and even worse, the devotion to the sacred heart of Mary. I feel like many
Roman Catholics defy the instructions of the Second Council of Nicaea, and actually do worship images
and the Virgin Mary, as opposed to merely venerating them. The Roman Catholic church has also often
ignored other canons of the Ecumenical councils; a canon of the same council prohibits double
monasteries, yet the Popes domestic staff consists of German nuns. This to me seems to invite
temptation, and is a far cry from the early church, where one monk would be assigned to personally
testify to the chastity and celibacy of each Bishop.

In my mind, the First and Second ecumenical councils are absolutely essential to the dogmatic definition
of the Christian faith. They determined how we would calculate Easter, what books would comprise the
New Testament; they ratified the doctrine of the Trinity, including the consubstantiality and coeternity of
Christ and the Father; that there was not a time when Christ was not, in refutation of the Arians. The
Third Ecumenical Council is also important, because the idea that Nestorius expressed, that Christ was
two persons, in hypostatic union, is a really bizarre Christology, although I feel like Nestoriuss error
was one made out of clumsiness, and blind adherence to some of the conventions of the Antiochene
school of theology, and was also in response to a legitimate concern over an outbreak of Mariolatry that
had occurred in Constantinople. In his efforts to shift the focus from Mary to Christ, which were
commendable, Nestorius through the baby out with the bathwater, quite literally, by denying that her baby
was, before its actual birth, fully Divine, which is something I dont think we can say at all in light of the
doctrines of the Gospel of John. The schism did have a positive outcome however; it caused the Persians
to admit the Nestorian Christians into their territory, in order to spite the Byzantine Emperor, who was
their enemy, however, in the process, the Assyrian Church of the East evangelized a huge swathe of Asia,
and had parishes as far afield as China and Tibet, which lasted until the fourteenth century, when the cruel
Mongolian despot Tamerlane killed most of them.
In like manner, the Council of Chalcedon caused an unfortunate schism, which is only now being healed,
but it did say one very important thing: Christ is perfectly human and perfectly divine, and His humanity
and divnity exist without confusion (as Eutyches would suggest) or division (as Nestorius suggested).
This was actually also the doctrine of the Copts and Syriacs; they simply refused to assent to the language
of Chalcedon, which described this separation of the humanity and divnity using the formula of two
natures, which to them, was effectively Nestorian. The two parties have now largely resolved their
differences, albeit not without many years of frankly ridiculous warring between the two factions, which
can be found, for example, in this tragicomic quote from the old Byzantine liturgical manual for Lent:
During this week the accursed Armenians fast from eggs and cheese, but we, to refute their damnable
heresy, do eat both eggs and cheese for the entire week.
It is for that reason, therefore, that I do not object to every item you enumerated as a heresy, even though I
dont agree that all of them are heretical, simply because I feel its important to be prepared to tolerate
some degree of divergence. The Second century church tolerated a reasonable range of diverse
theological opinions, and found room for four Gospels, each of which contains a somewhat different
narrative of Christs mission; compare this to the heretic Marcion, who tolerated no theological dissent

within his schismatic church (which did not survive the third century), neither did he allow any books to
be read, other than a version of Luke and a set of Pauline Epistles that he edited to support his theology
(including, some allege, a forged Epistle to the Laodiceans).

Appendix II: The Doctrines of the Apostolic Faith


Catholic Christianity
It is now generally understood that Catholicism does not equate to Roman Catholicism; most
Christians espouse a belief in the Catholic Church in the form of the Nicene and Apostolic
creeds, and many outside of the Roman communion actively seek to defend their churchs claim
to Catholicity; this is especially true of the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox, the Assyrian Catholic
Church of the East, and the Anglican Communion, but also true of a large swathe of
Protestantism. Catholic, translated literally, means universal; St. Vincent of Lerins defined
Catholicism as quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus (that which has been believed
everywhere, always and by all. That is truly and properly 'Catholic,)
A belief in the universality of the church does not mandate adherence to the doctrine of an
invisible church uniting all believers. This ecclesiology, proper among some Protestants for the
ease it brings to the ecumenical process, is rejected by Orthodox, Roman Catholics, as well as
other Protestants. Ignatius IV of Antioch proposed that if such a model were true, it would
imply the gates of Hell had prevailed against Christs church; the preferred opinion of the
Orthodox on this ecclesiology is that whereas we can say with certainty where the church is, we
cannot say with any certainty where it is not. Ecumenical rapprochement, such as that effected
between the Eastern Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius IV of Antioch, and his Syriac Orthodox
counterpart Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I Iwas, happens when we search for the Church in the
twilight prevailing outside our own confessional tradition.
Catholicity, or universality, for those who hold it in regard, has a vital implication: the urgent
need for Christianity. To confess Catholicism is to abhor the schisms that have resulted in
different Christian communities falling out of communion with one another; it is to disgust the
deaths that have occurred due to such disputes as being the ultimate betrayal of the Christian
faith. Schism, when it occurs, is a sin against Catholicism; avoiding schism wherever possible is
the overriding concern of Catholic Christianity.
Christian Orthodoxy
Orthodoxy literally translates as right believing or right glorifying. The majority of
Christians believe in the importance of correct doctrine, to varying extents; some Pietists,
alienated by doctrinal disputes between early Protestant communities, downplayed the
importance of doctrine, whereas other Protestant groups, such as some Presbyterians and
Baptists, consider correct doctrine paramount to salvation. Within Eastern Orthodoxy, doctrine
is important, but within the context of the entire living tradition of the church.

The most important doctrines are dogmas, essential tenets of the faith that distinguish between
Orthodoxy and heresy. The universally accepted standards of dogmatic truth are the Nicene
Creed, the theological definitions of the first two Ecumenical Councils, and the traditions of the
Church through the Fourth Century, including, most importantly, the Holy Scriptures
themselves. It is also Catholic to agree with the Orthodoxy of the essential theological doctrine
espoused by the remaining five ecumenical councils; the modern day Assyrian church has
achieved ecumenical reconciliation by agreeing with the Third Ecumenical Council that
Nestorianism, as defined by the council, is a heresy, while at the same time demonstrating that
this doctrine, as understood at Ephesus, was not the historic doctrine of the Assyrian Church
itself. In like manner, the Oriental Orthodox have recovered an ecclesial fellowship with the
Eastern Orthodox, healing a 1,600 year dispute, by working with Eastern Orthodox theologians
such as the Metropolitan Kallistos Ware of Diokleia to understand the Miaphysite Christology
espoused by the Orientals as fully compatible with that of Chalcedon, albeit expressed in
different terminology.
The Fifth Ecumenical Council, the Second Council of Constantinople, while far from relevant, is
still somewhat less important, primarily restating the doctrines of the first four, while also
representing a failed attempt to reconcile the Oriental Orthodox with Constantinople by
posthumously anathematizing Theodore of Mopuestia, who it is believed largely originated the
erroneous and unfortunate Christology so infamously imposed by Nestorius in the events leading
to his excommunication. Of greater importance is the Sixth Ecumenical Council, which rejects
the idea that Christ had only one will, a divine will, to which His flesh was subordinated. The
technical finding of the council, that being Christ also has a human will corresponding to His
humanity, should not be interpreted as implying our Lord was in any way schizophrenic, or that
He who taught us A house divided against itself cannot stand is somehow against himself
divided. Rather, this should be interpreted as a rejection of Apollinarianism, or Eutychianism;
the idea that Christ lacked in any way the fullness of humanity that we experience (which is as
incompatible with Orthodox Christianity as the Unitarian and Arian doctrines that diminish the
divinity of God).
As expressed by theologians such as John Behr, the most pressing truth of Orthodoxy, and that
which conversely has proven the hardest to accept, is the idea that God, through his death and
resurrection, taught us what it means to be human. Most heresies can be understood as a
rejection of this concept: Gnosticism and Docetism deny that Christ was human in any way,
Apollinarianism and Eutychianism trivialize his humanity, Arianism, without denying the
divinity of Christ, denies his Godhood, and Unitarianism discards Christs humanity altogether.
The popular conception of the Historical Jesus, that denies Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ,
but instead reduces him to the role of a first century apocalyptic preacher with an important
social message, is the antithesis of Orthodoxy. Ironically, it is also the antithesis of Gnosticism,
yet the Historical Jesus movement routinely refers to psuedepigraphical second and third century
Gnostic texts such as the Gospel of Judas. The Episcopal Church, USA, which at one time

considered itself Orthodoxy and actively pursued the restoration of full communion with the
Eastern Orthodox, has almost entirely drifted away from Orthodoxy, largely the result of its
hierarchy embracing contemporary theology far removed from traditional Christian dogma.
The Eastern Orthodox, among others, go beyond a merely creedal or textual definition of
Orthodoxy, and instead extend the concept to the life of the church. This approach is not
unreasonable, yet it does pose a challenge for the process of ecumenical reconciliation. This
challenge is not altogether insurmountable; the most viable approach appears to be one of
reconciling individual beliefs and practices within two separate churches, and identifying how
they refer to a common theological truth. In this manner, we not only make progress towards the
eventual repair of the schisms that divide Christianity, but also towards a deeper understanding
of our own confessional traditions. When one understands Christian Orthodoxy in light of
Christian Catholicity, one can in fact verify the Orthodoxy of all Christian dogma, and vice
versa; you cannot be Orthodox without being Catholic, nor can you be Catholic without being
Orthodox. It seems inevitable that this process will eventually lead to a large portion of the
worlds Christians being in a state similar to that enjoyed by many Protestants today, with full
communion being exchanged, the sacraments of individual churches acknowledged in their
validity by others, and a unified front against the evil that faces the church.
However, this ecumenism is neither possible nor desirable if Orthodoxy is in any way mitigated
or compromised as a result of the process. The majority of the Anglican Communion has,
through the ordination of women, and the tolerance of homosexuality, against millennia of
Church tradition and scriptural evidence, placed itself in a position where reconciliation of any
sort with Orthodox and Roman Catholics is impossible, even as these same Anglican churches
have entered into communion with other liberal Protestant groups. At the same time, many
conservative Anglicans, who consider themselves Catholic and who urgently seek Orthodox,
have either left the church, or broken away from the Anglican communion on the parish or
diocesan level, some entering into communion with Rome and others remaining independent.
We cannot reasonably condemn this as schism on their part; one could correctly claim they have
maintained the Orthodox doctrine while the rest of their community chose to desert it.
However, the net result of this unfortunate process has been a hindrance of ecumenical progress,
and a reduction of Catholicity in the worldwide church (since a small denomination of
conservative Anglicans is undeniably less universal than a large denomination, yet at the same
time, the liberal Anglican churches cannot be considered universal, by virtue of their substantial
rejection of the dogmatic truths held dear by other Christians).
This unfortunate state of affairs within Anglicanism was largely the result of the Broad church
tendency within the Communion, derived from the Latitudinarianism of the 18th century church,
which enjoyed a near-monopoly on religious service in a country split on a purely confessional
level between Catholics, evangelical Protestants, fundamentalist Protestants, and those moved by
the Enlightenment and other cultural factors towards other belief systems altogether
(Unitarianism, for example). The theology of compromise is fundamentally incompatible with

Christianity, which assumes, in contrast to classical Paganism and many Eastern religions,
dogmatic truth that is essential to salvation.
Churches which relentlessly pursue the middle ground will eventually drift away from the faith
altogether; this process can be observed to a remarkable degree in the Unitarian Universalist
church. The Unitarians began as a nominally Christian denomination affirming a monotheistic
God (in a Deistic sense, at least), and the importance of Christ as a moral teacher, while denying
the doctrine of the Trinity. The Universalists began in much the same way, stressing for their
part a message of universal salvation, in which dogma became substantially less important. In
less than three centuries, these movements degenerated to a point where the Unitarian
Universalist church does not affirm any dogmatic truths per se, but rather exists as an umbrella
for a wide variety of spiritual pursuits, counting in its membership many Atheists, neo-Pagans
and other practitioners of alternative religions, in addition to a dwindling number of extremely
liberal Christians.
This demonstrates to a compelling degree the need for Orthodoxy. Dogmatic stability is
essential; allowing the received Church Tradition to be degraded through faulty or misleading
Scriptural exegesis, or rejecting the authority of Holy Scripture altogether, leads a church down
the long, torturous road to apostasy. However, Orthodoxy does not equate to Orthopraxy. The
liturgy of the Eastern Orthodox Church, while universally similar, varies greatly in aesthetic
details such as the hymns, and the specifics of individual services, between ethnic congregations.
The Oriental Orthodox communion is even more diverse, representing four radically different
liturgical traditions (Coptic, Syriac, Armenian and Ethiopian). Even within the Syriac Orthodox
Church, there exist three rather different traditions of liturgical music between the Iraqi,
Malankara and Syriac parishes. The Roman Catholic Church, even in the Latin Rite, historically
had several different liturgical traditions in different regions of Western Europe, and between
different Religious Orders. Orthodox Christianity, by virtue of its Catholicity, is not only
capable of surviving the process of adaptation to the particular traditions and unique artistic gifts
of individual ethnic groups, but it is in fact strengthened by it.
Holy Communion and Sacramental Theology
The Eucharist is the heart of Catholic, Orthodox Christianity. The taking of Holy Communion,
in which it is believed that the body and blood of Christ is truly present in the bread and wine
respectively, is the essential act of imparting grace. A sacrifice both for us and by us (in the
Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, the celebrant in the consecration prayer chants Thine
own of thine own, we offer unto thee), the Eucharist eternally connects us both to the person of
Christ and what in the Reformed tradition is referred to as His saving work on the Cross.
Reformed Christianity errs to the extent that it de-emphasizes the real presence of Christ in the
Eucharist, or reduces it to a mere symbol; John Calvin himself did not espouse this doctrine.

An essential tenet of the Catholic faith is a belief that Christ is in fact present, and that we do
literally eat his flesh and drink his blood, not as an act of cannibalism, nor even as a carnivorous
act in the manner of our consumption of meat, but rather, in the opposite sense; as God, the flesh
and blood of Christ is infinite and freely offered, providing us divine grace for the remission of
our sins, and admission to life everlasting. Communion brings us into direct contact with the
very substance of the divine.
A consensus does not exist on how this presence is manifested. The Roman Catholic Church
relies on a somewhat elaborate doctrine of transubstantiation, yet in some cases this has led to a
view of Holy Communion that de-emphasizes the immediate benefit of taking it, and which is
held by other Christians to be both excessively technical and also in many respects, rather
superstitious. Martin Luther espoused the doctrine of consubstantiation, stating that the body
and blood exist in and under the forms of bread and wine. Other Protestants affirm a variety of
doctrines known as real presence, ranging from the belief that Christ is only spiritually present
in the Eucharist (which does seem to bear unpleasant associations with Gnosticism), to the belief,
shared with Eastern Orthodoxy, that the presence of Christ in the elements is in fact a mystery,
beyond human comprehension. Our minds cannot fathom that which we receive, yet our soul
benefits from it nonetheless. The Eastern church communes infants from the time of their first
baptism, on the grounds that an understanding of the meaning of the sacrament is not essential;
many Protestants commune very young children, but are apparently unaware that the Eucharist
can be safely administered to Infants; this practice might well change as a result of Ecumenical
contact. The Roman church seems to be in the minority in deferring first communion until later
childhood.
We should not forget as per Christs own words that the Communion is a memorial. The Koine
Greek word translated in the Gospels as memorial, amamnensis, can be interpreted as Put
yourself in this moment. The Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholics interpret that the
Eucharist allows us to commune in a very real sense with the Disciples at the Last Supper, with
all other Christians throughout the ages of ages, and with the infinitely splendid divine liturgy
celebrated by angels and resurrected humans with God himself in Heaven. Thus, communion is
understood as a literal sense; this is not a meal, but rather a means of access to the divine.
Thus, the minority of Christians who reject the sacramental nature of the Eucharist and celebrate
it as a mere memorial, or as an ordinance performed per Christs instructions, without perceiving
the broader heavenly implications of the act, in all of its transcendental immanence, depart from
the Catholic faith, and tragically deprive themselves of a great blessing, a heavenly peace that
defines the lives of Orthodox Christians.
In the Sacramental Theology of the Catholic faith, the church is understood foremost as a
Eucharistic community, existing to provide the cure of souls. Salvation is not an event, but a
process, beginning with baptism, which in the Eastern churches involves exorcism of demons.
In this act, we are cleansed of the corrupting nature of original sin; while not freed from its

effects, such as death and the depraved inclination to sin, we are given a means of effective
resistance; we receive the Grace of the Holy Spirit and are given the means to respond.
Chrismation, or Confirmation, is performed on the infant immediately after baptism in the
Eastern Church through the anointing of the head with a special oil known as Holy Chrism. The
Roman church does not anoint in this manner, but rather confirms adolescents as part of the
process of catechetical instruction. The praxis of most Protestant churches is similar.
Confession precedes Holy Communion. Protestant churches mostly reject individual
confession in favor of general confession. The Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholics practice
individual confession, albeit in different formats, and with different procedures. The Anglicans
traditionally offered both, regarding individual confession to a priest, the Anglican approach was
All may, some should, none must. This approach seems a not unreasonable attitude to take in
light of the need for ecumenical rapprochement, on the grounds of economia and in an
environment where incredibly sophisticated government surveillance may make the confession
of individual sins, even in the privacy of a confessional booth, a dangerous proposition,
especially for anyone in power, or in a minority group perceived as a threat by the ruling elite.
Rather, it seems that an approach somewhere in between individual confession to a priest, and
the very broad general confession of the majority of Protestant churches, will be needed, an
approach in which the priest iterates through the categories of sins that parishioners may have
experienced, and prescribes reconciliation.
The sacrament of Extreme Unction, the Anointing of the Sick, is given only to those actually in
danger of death in the Latin Rite, but in the Eastern church, is offered periodically to the entire
congregation, at a minimum, in the Holy Wednesday vespers service. The denial of the
sacramental nature of the ordination of clergy is a particularly tragic error made by most
Protestants, for it is here that, it is believed, the apostolic succession is transmitted. Bishops are
consecrated by three other bishops wherever possible, so as to preserve to a maximal extent the
Apostolic lineage; the pedigree of individual bishops thus is not a straight line, but rather a
network; requiring three bishops also provides a safeguard against the ordination of persons
unsuitable for the extremely delicate Episcopal ministry.
The primary role of the Bishop is to administer the sacraments in his diocese. The priests
administer communion on behalf of the bishop, as his representatives, with the assistance of the
deacons and those in minor orders; only the Bishop can perform ordinations to the ranks of the
diaconate, priesthood, and, in tandem with at least two other bishops, the episcopate. The
original role of deacons was to take the Eucharist to the infirm and bedridden, and act as
functionaries serving at the behest of the Bishop; the glorious protomartyr St. Stephen was one of
the first seven deacons to be ordained by the Apostles. The role of the deaconess, the highest
ordination available to women, was originally to assist in the baptism of other women, by
descending into the water with them; the physical touch required for this process was considered
inappropriate for male clergy.

Women cannot serve as priests or as Bishops, because the Bishop in each diocese acts as the
representative of Christ in administering the sacraments in the name of the Lord; the priest in
each individual parish serves in the same capacity. In a sense, the clergy are icons of Christ,
who was male, thus, by extension, the clergy must be male.
Women are called in a different capacity, to serve as icons of the Virgin Mary both in celibacy
and in marriage, and in the latter, also as part of an icon representing the relationship between the
Church and Christ, for the Church is the bride of Christ. In the same manner that the Church
subjects herself to Christ, wives should subject themselves to their husbands; in the same manner
that Christ sacrificed himself for the sake of the Church, husbands should do the same for the
sake of their wives. Because Marriage is an icon of the relationship between Christ and his
Church, with an inherent analogy of gender, and because marriage, in this iconic relationship,
produces offspring, just as Christ and his Church produce saints, marriage cannot be between
persons of the same gender, nor can adultery or other infringements upon the sacrament of
marriage be tolerated by the church. Fornication is to be avoided, but where it happens in a state
of love that leads to marriage, the sin of it is rectified by the Lord and turned into a means of
grace. Likewise, divorce is to be avoided, yet the Eastern church and Protestants allow for the
divorced to remarry, on the grounds that some marriages are tragically destroyed through the
failings of one or both spouses, and a second marriage can be used by the Lord to affect saving
grace in a manner similar to that of fornication, by itself a vile sin, when repented and healed
through the sacrament of marriage.
Just as, through the exercise of altruistic love and the action of the Holy Spirit, the Church serves
to repair a fallen world, marriage serves fallen men and women. Those not called to marriage
however need not despair; through the ascetic life, one can gain a family and participate through
life of prayer continual altruistic love of God and all of his Creation; the monastery is also an
icon of the relationship between Christ and his Church. In turn, this relationship represents an
icon of the Holy Trinity, where one God in three Persons exists in a state of eternal and perfect
love; the omnipotent and omnibenevolent Trinity represents in many respects the model of the
rest of Creation. Creation itself is properly understood as a continual voluntary act of Gods
love.
The sacraments are not magic; they do not work in the manner of sorcery, through the specific
recitation of incantations of a sorcerer, and the specific objects present. That is to say, they are
not theurgy, operations of a supernatural nature that work in a human-directed manner
demonstrating a causal nature. Christianity considers such occult practices to be of a demonic
nature, invariably leading the practitioner to destruction. Rather, Christian sacraments are
liturgy, forms of worship directed towards a loving God, in obedience of his commandments;
divine grace stems from the Sacraments through the action of the Holy Spirit.
It is said that clergy do not perform the sacraments on their own, rather, they merely lend their
hands and voice to the Lord. The sacraments, while not being in any sense magical, are said to

work ex opera operato, that is to say, a priest, even in a state of sin, can celebrate them in a valid
manner, conferring grace upon the congregants. Congregants, for their part, can receive the
sacraments even in a state of impaired understanding and benefit from them. The Eucharistic
feast, however, it is generally considered, should only be approached with a clean conscience;
the sacrament of Confession exists to prepare the laity for the encounter with the divine offered
in the Eucharistic feast.

Appendix III: The Creeds


The Nicene Creed
According to the traditions of the Coptic Church, this creed, promoted by the First Council of
Nicaea, was authored by St. Athanasius, the champion of Orthodoxy, who defended the Orthodox
faith against Arianism Contra Mundum, in an era in which the Empire officially favored the
Arian sect, until the reign of Julian the Apostate. Following a brief persecution of all Christians,
an Orthodox Emperor took the throne, and the tyranny of the Arian party ended. Athanasius in
the interim wrote the creed that bears his name, and the theology of that creed was brilliantly
combined with the original Nicene creed at the First Council of Constantinople in 381. To
indicate those portions of the Creed interpolated at Constantinople, I have enclosed them in
brackets. Only the Nicene-Constantinoplean Creed of 381 is used in the liturgy of the Eastern
churches.
We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of [heaven and earth, and of] all things
visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the [ only-begotten ] Son of God, [ begotten of the Father before
all worlds ], Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance
with the Father;
By whom all things were made;
Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate [by the Holy
Ghost of the Virgin Mary], and was made man;
He suffered, and the third day he rose again, ascended into heaven; H
He [was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and] suffered, [and was buried,] and the third day
he rose again[, according to the Scriptures,] and ascended into heaven, [and sitteth on the right
hand of the Father;]
From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
From thence he shall come [again, with glory,] to judge the quick and the dead; [whose kingdom
shall have no end.]

And in the Holy Ghost [, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father, who with
the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spake by the prophets.*
In one holy catholic and apostolic Church; we acknowledge one baptism for the remission of
sins; we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.]
* The Roman church modified the creed to state that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father
and the Son, leading to the Filioque Controversy, which contributed in part to the Great Schism
of 1054.
The Athanasian Creed
This rather more verbose creed was certainly written by Athanasius; it is exhaustive and
comprehensive. It is not commonly used in liturgy, although due to its thorough treatment, it
was for a time preferred in the Church of England.
Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith. Which
faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled; without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.
And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither
confounding the Persons; nor dividing the Essence. For there is one Person of the Father; another
of the Son; and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the
Holy Ghost, is all one; the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is; such is the
Son; and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father uncreated; the Son uncreated; and the Holy Ghost
uncreated. The Father unlimited; the Son unlimited; and the Holy Ghost unlimited. The Father
eternal; the Son eternal; and the Holy Ghost eternal. And yet they are not three eternals; but one
eternal. As also there are not three uncreated; nor three infinites, but one uncreated; and one
infinite. So likewise the Father is Almighty; the Son Almighty; and the Holy Ghost Almighty.
And yet they are not three Almighties; but one Almighty. So the Father is God; the Son is God;
and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods; but one God. So likewise the Father
is Lord; the Son Lord; and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords; but one Lord. For like
as we are compelled by the Christian verity; to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God
and Lord; So are we forbidden by the catholic religion; to say, There are three Gods, or three
Lords. The Father is made of none; neither created, nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone;
not made, nor created; but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son; neither
made, nor created, nor begotten; but proceeding. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one
Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is before,
or after another; none is greater, or less than another. But the whole three Persons are coeternal,
and coequal. So that in all things, as aforesaid; the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity, is to
be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved, let him thus think of the Trinity.
Furthermore it is necessary to everlasting salvation; that he also believe faithfully the Incarnation
of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the right Faith is, that we believe and confess; that our Lord Jesus
Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man; God, of the Essence of the Father; begotten before the

worlds; and Man, of the Essence of his Mother, born in the world. Perfect God; and perfect Man,
of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting. Equal to the Father, as touching his Godhead;
and inferior to the Father as touching his Manhood. Who although he is God and Man; yet he is
not two, but one Christ. One; not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh; but by assumption of
the Manhood by God. One altogether; not by confusion of Essence; but by unity of Person. For
as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man; so God and Man is one Christ; Who suffered for our
salvation; descended into hell; rose again the third day from the dead. He ascended into heaven,
he sitteth on the right hand of the God the Father Almighty, from whence he will come to judge
the quick and the dead. At whose coming all men will rise again with their bodies; And shall
give account for their own works. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting;
and they that have done evil, into everlasting fire. This is the catholic faith; which except a man
believe truly and firmly, he cannot be saved.
The Apostles Creed
This is the newest creed, which first appears in its present form in the eighth century Patristic
texts, but is composed of theological comments considerably older, including the ancient Roman
baptismal liturgy. Aside from being the second most popular creed in the Western Church, and
the most common in Protestant liturgical traditions, it is also noteworthy for being included by
John Wesley in his original Sunday Service liturgy for the Methodist Episcopal Church in North
America. The Eastern churches do not disagree with the theology of this creed, although they
have never used it, nor any variant thereof (such as the baptismal liturgy on which it is based) in
their services. The version included is the precise version from the original Methodist liturgy;
more recent rescensions tend to omit the phrase descended into hell.
I Believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth; And in Jesus Christ his only
Son our Lord: Who was conceived By the Holy Ghost; Born of the Virgin Mary; Suffered under
Pontius Pilate; Was crucified, dead, and buried. He descended into hell: The third day he arose
again from the dead: He ascended into Heaven, And sitteth on the right hand of God, the Father
Almighty. From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost: The Holy Catholic Church: The Communion of Saints; The
Forgiveness of Sins; The Resurrection of the Body, And the Life everlasting. Amen.

Appendix IV: A Glossary of Heresy


Orthodoxy can be understood both cataphatically, through the positive dogmatic statements of
the creeds, and apophatically, through comparison with those heresies that have been determined
to be unorthodox. We can see clearly the Light of the Catholic Faith, by comparing it to the
Darkness of Heresy. Thus I offer this glossary of select classical and modern heresies, which is
by no means complete, nor a thorough treatment, but which I hope the reader will find a useful
reference.

Be warned, however, that we should remember, in our study of heresy, we must obey the
instruction of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Judge not, lest ye not be judged. We must
not actively search for heretical thoughts in the minds of our fellow Christians, for to do so is a
profoundly hateful act, incompatible with the Divine Love that is at the heart of our religion.
Rather, studying these heresies helps us to understand what our faith is. If, however, one of
your brothers or sisters espouses a view that you recognize as one of these heresies, do warn
them of the danger of that view; if you are not yourself a pastor or bishop, urge them to discuss it
with a responsible pastor or bishop of the Orthodox tradition. You should strongly avoid
referring to laity, especially your friends, as heretics, for doing so may well cause them to cease
to be your friends. The very strong word heretic should rightly be reserved for those who have
teaching authority in the church, who fail to transmit the apostolic faith, but instead promote
theological ideas that are known to be heretical or blasphemous. A heresiarch is one in a
position of high Ecclesial authority, who, like Valentinus or Marcion, is both the architect and
the leader of a heretical sect or movement, intentionally distorting the Apostolic faith.
As Methodists, we should avoid as much as possible identifying individual heretics within our
denomination, but rather, denote those heresies which are rampant in the denomination as a
whole, and advocate against them through polemics and dialectic theology, following in the
footsteps of Ss Irenaeus of Lyons, Athanasius of Alexandria, and Augustine of Hippo. We
should also not focus on contemporary divisions among Protestant theologians as the basis for
this, by, for example, railing against Calvinism, but rather, seek to identify which of the classical
heresies have presently infected Methodism, and then seek to refute those heresies specifically,
as we work to guide the Church in the recovery of the Apostolic faith.
Adoptionism This heresy states that Jesus Christ was born an ordinary man, but was adopted as

the Son of God on the occasion of his Baptism. It was condemned by the second century
church, but occasionally resurfaces in some denominations on the fringe of Christianity.
Nestorianism was condemned in part for appearing to be uncomfortably close to this dreaded
heresy.
The great heresy of the Fourth Century, which enjoyed the favor of the Imperial
court after the baptism of Constantine I by an Arian bishop, and his subsequent death. Arianism
posits that Christ is neither coeternal nor consubstantial with God the Father, but was rather the
first creation of God, and as the Son of God, is ontologically distinct; the Trinitarian doctrine is
rejected. During the ascendance of the Arian heresy, the Orthodox faith was severely
persecuted; Ambrose of Milan was compelled to barricade himself, along with hundreds of his
more loyal congregants, inside his cathedral, for several weeks, to resist being ejected from his
see by the Arian party. Athanasius of Alexandria fought Against the world to refute this
heresy, being repeatedly exiled as far afield as Germany.
Arianism

Chiefly opposed by St. John Chrysostom, this Christological heresy denies


that the incarnation of Jesus Christ possesses a rational human mind. It is related to
Eutychianism and Monophysitism.
Apollinarianism

Bogomilism

Possibly the last remaining Gnostic sect.

A sect, similar to Priscillianism, operating in Spain around the same time as


Bogomilism, possibly Gnostic.
Catharism

The Ebionites were a Jewish Christian sect that conceived of Christ, the Son of
God, as a Rabbi, but not as God incarnate. They had their own gospel, rejecting the four
canonical Gospels of the Orthodox church.
Ebionitism

Condemned at the Council of Chalcedon, this heresy states that Christs


humanity is utterly absorbed by his divinity, as the ocean consumes a drop of vinegar. Compare
the Chalcedonian doctrine that Christ has separate divine and human natures, existing without
mingling or confusion. See Monophysitism.
Eutychianism

The idea that Christ did not actually suffer on the Cross, or in more extreme
forms, the idea that Christs presence in this world was only an illusion. Closely related to
Gnosticism. The Docetist Gospel par excellence is the fragmentary Gospel of Peter, which
depicts the Passion of Christ with vivid, life-like detail, in places exceeding that of the canonical
Gospel but in a strongly Docetist way, implying a lack of suffering on his part.
Docetism

The Donatists were a schismatic North African sect that, like the Novatians,
refused to reconcile those returning Christians who had renounced their faith under threat of
persecution. As Donatism occurred to a large extent in the See of Augustine of Hippo, he was its
chief opponent. The Donatists went beyond the Novatian position, however, in stating that
sacraments performed by an unworthy priest are invalid; this view was also upheld by early
Protestants, and Waldensians. Donatism is thus heretical for two reasons: firstly, because in
refusing to reconcile repentant Christians who, like St. Peter, denied Christ under pressure, they
reject the Gospel message of forgiveness, and secondly, in suggesting that the validity of the
sacraments depends on the morality of the celebrant, they place an undue burden on the laity, for
surely no layman can look into the soul of a Pastor or Bishop to determine whether or not he is
truly worthy to officiate. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.
Donatism

The heresy of heresies; a different religion from Christianity altogether, that is


believed to predate it by as much as a century, originating in Hellenic philosophy. Two
surviving Gnostic sects exist, one of which, the Yazidi, worships the Peacock Angel, who
resembles a combination of Christ and Lucifer, and the other of which, the Mandaens, worship
John the Baptist. Other Gnostic sects substituted Cain, Seth or other figures for Christ. The
central Gnostic doctrine is that the material world is evil, and trapped within us is a spiritual
being, that needs to escape the oppression of matter, and be released into the pure spirit world
Gnosticism

that lies above. Most Gnostic sects are dualist, pitting an original, impassable Monad, who
created the Pleroma, against an incompetent or malevolent creator deity, usually associated with
the Jewish God, referred to as the demiurge. Christ, or his substitutes, are not the Son of the
Jewish God, but the Son of the Monad, and Christs mission is to liberate those who have within
them a spark of the divine from the material world, allowing them to ascend to perfection in the
spiritual realm of the Pleroma. Gnosticism classically denies the humanity of Christ, or his
death and resurrection, for a pure spiritual being such as their Christ could neither live as we live,
but merely be an ethereal presence (see Docetism), and could surely not die. A treasury of
Gnostic bibles was found buried at Nag Hammadi in the 1940s. The chief polemic opponent of
Gnosticism was St. Irenaeus. See Manicheaism, Bogomilism, Catharism, and Valentinism.
A heresy that has destroyed much of the cultural heritage of the church, when it
reared its head, with the support of the Byzantine emperors, in the years prior to the Second
Council of Nicaea, which refuted it, and again in England during the Reformation. Iconoclasm
poses that any images of the divine violate the Second Commandment, Thou shalt make no
graven image; this includes stained glass windows, icons, and religious statuary, which cannot
be tolerated even if they are not worshipped as such. The Second Council of Nicaea realized
that Christs incarnation was of an iconographic character, and launched the field of
iconographic theology, which conceives of our life as a representation of the Divine. From that
basis, the religious use of images is permitted, provided they are merely solemnly venerated or
aesthetically appreciated, and not worshipped as lesser gods in their own right, which would
violate the Second Commandment prohibition on idolatry. Many Eastern Orthodox icons have
been known to work miracles, or to emanate a strange myrrh with healing properties. It is of
vital importance, however, that Christians, in affording icons and religious art all due veneration,
do not succumb to the temptation to worship it, for that is clearly forbidden. The tension
required to venerate icons properly, using them as a doorway into the world of the divine, can be
a profound source of mystical enlightenment in the Christian faith, and is only recently being
discovered by Protestant Christians.
Iconoclasm

A variant of Gnosticism; Mani was a third century Persian painter, who, under
the delusion of demonic influences, believed himself to be Christ; he travelled across India and
Central Asia preaching; he was rejected by the community of St. Thomas Christians in India.
Mani then travelled into Persia, where Church tradition holds that he was flayed on the orders of
the Zoroastrian King Bahram I, after failing to perform a miracle on the Kings command.
Nonetheless, Manichaeism became the main rival to Christianity in the Roman Empire of the
Fourth Century; St. Augustine of Hippo was in his youth a Manichee. The much persecuted sect
found refuge in China and Tibet; a Chinese Buddhist temple was recently discovered to be a
Manichean temple in disguise. Cyril of Jerusalem attributed the authorship of the Gnostic
Gospel of Thomas, in all probability the same book recently uncovered at Nag Hammadi, to one
of his disciples.
Manicheaism

Marcion was a Greek merchant, who in encountering Christianity, was unable to


accept the Orthodox reconciliation of the loving Christ with the wrathful God of the Old
Testament. Thus, he posited that the God of the Jews and the God of Christ were separate, the
former a cruel, evil, tyrant, and the latter, a loving creator deity. In this respect, Marcionism
closely resembles Marcionism. To serve the needs of the schismatic church he founded, he
edited a version of the Gospel of Luke, removing all references to the Old Testament, and also a
selection of carefully edited Pauline epistles; all other epistles and Gospels were banned. This
actually represented the first New Testament canon, because until that time, the Apostolic
Church had not experienced the threat posed by Marcionism, and had not felt the need to specify
which books were and were not acceptable, which by itself profoundly demonstrates the loving
and trusting nature of the early Fathers; before Marcion, they could not conceive that someone
would attempt to distort the Gospel in this manner. Marcionism does reek of anti-Semitism, but
it is difficult to say to what extent Jewish Christians participated in the movement.
Marcionism

This second century heretical movement opposed the development of


Trinitarian doctrine, preferring instead to emphasize the unity of God. This was accomplished
through the heretical doctrines of Adoptionism and Sabellianism.
Monarchianism

Condemned at Chalcedon, this heresy states that Christ has one nature, a
composite human and divine nature. The Oriental Orthodox churches were separated from the
rest of Christendom in the aftermath of Chalcedon, because they, led by the Pope of Alexandria,
Dioscorus, objected to Pope Leo of Romes Christological Tome, which posited that Christ has
two natures, one human and one divine. This, to the Oriental Orthodox (which includes the
Armenian, Syriac, Coptic and Ethiopian Orthodox, and since the 18th century, a substantial
proportion of the St. Thomas Christians in Kerala, India), was tantamount to Nestorianism.
They were then accused of the Monophysite heresy, but it seems the majority of serious Oriental
Orthodox scholars rejected this heresy, and it is presently officially condemned by all Oriental
Orthodox churches. The actual Oriental Orthodox Christology is Miaphysitism, as opposed to
Chalcedonian dualism, and differs from the Tome of Leo only in terminology; whereas Leo says
that Christ has two natures, one human, and one divine, united without mingling or confusion,
Miaphysitism says that Christ has one nature, fully human, fully divine, retaining the unique
characteristics of both, and without mingling or confusion. The Miaphysite Christology has
never been condemned as heresy, and has not posed a hindrance to the glorious ecumenical
reconciliation that has recently occurred between the Oriental Orthodox and their Eastern
Orthodox and Roman Catholic brethren. See also Apollinarianism, and Eutychianism.
Monophysitism

This heresy, condemned at the Third Council of Constantinople,


represented a failed initiative on the part of Pope Honorius to reconcile the Oriental Orthodox
with the rest of the Catholic Church. Honorius proposed that Christ had two natures, but just
one will, a divine will. This was anathema to the Chalcedonian party, as it appeared to be a
concession to Eutychianism. The Third Council of Chalcedon declared that Christ has two
wills, one human and one divine; a Miaphysite might either agree, or else say Christ has one
Monothelitism

will, both perfectly human and divine. It should be noted that dogmatic definition of the Third
Council of Chalcedon should not be interpreted as implying Christ was in any way
schizophrenic, as some modern readers might mistakenly infer.
This cult revolved around a woman who claimed to be the Paraclete, an
incarnation of the Holy Spirit, and engaged in the Greco-Roman tradition of ecstatic prophesy
while in a trance. Tertullian, in his old age, fell into the trap of this heresy, in one of the great
tragedies of the Patristic age.
Montanism

Theodore of Mopsuestia was a major theological force in the Fourth


Century, and a friend of St. John Chrysostom, both being active participants of the Antiochene
School of Theology. Mopsuestia was a generous and charitable man, and while it was widely
believed at the Council of Ephesus that he had developed the Christological heresy that was
espoused by Nestorius, the Council did not dare condemn him, due to his popularity among
Eastern Christians. Later, after his memory had faded from view, Theodore of Mopsuestia was
condemned at the Second Council of Constantinople, in an ultimately failed attempt to reconcile
the Oriental Orthodox with the rest of the Catholic Church. Mopsuestianism is somewhat rarely
used as a heretical designation, but where it is used, it typically refers to an extreme form of
Nestorianism. Theodore of Mopsuestia is also alleged to have originated the Pelagian heresy,
but he may only have been advocating what became the theology of St. John Cassian.
Mopsuestianism

Nestorianism The great Christological controversies of the Fifth Century began when

Nestorius, formerly the Patriarch of Antioch, on assuming the Ecumenical Patriarchate of


Constantinople, sought to react to an excess of Marian devotion that he felt detracted from the
worship of Christ. In so doing, he advocated what many say was the traditional Antiochene
Christological formula: that Jesus Christ existed in two persons, one human and one divine, in
hypostatic union, and that Mary was the mother of His human person, and thus Christotokos, but
not Theotokos. This would not have caused much of a stir in Antioch, but aroused an uproar in
Constantinople, and in particular, the fury of Cyril, the Pope of Alexandria; to them, this
Christology was uncomfortably close to the heresy of Adoptionism. At the Council of Ephesus,
summoned to resolve the matter, Nestorius was ultimately deposed, but a procedural irregularity
infuriated certain Eastern bishops, leading to a lasting schism, with what is now the Assyrian
Church of the East becoming established in the Persian Empire as a result. This shows how the
Holy Spirit can work even through heretics such as Nestorius, Luther, and Calvin, for this
marked the reintroduction of Christianity to Persia and Eastern Mesopotamia after a long
absence, resulting from the disastrous defeat of Emperor Julian the Apostate some seventy years
earlier. The Church of the East eventually spread all the way to Tibet, before the cruel
Mongolian despot Tamerlane killed most of its parishioners; all that was left was that portion in
what is now modern-day Iraq and Iran. The Church of the East, on the enthronement of
Catholicos Mar Dinkha IV, renounced those aspects of Nestorianism specifically condemned as
heresy at Ephesus. See also Mopsuestianism.

Pelagianism Pelagius was a British monk, who migrated to Southern Italy. He taught that

humans were capable of living a life free of sin, and were obliged to do so in order to secure their
salvation. St. Augustine of Hippo was his fiercest opponent, and eventually succeeded in
refuting this heresy. The Augustinian doctrine of original sin, favored in the West, states that
we are all tainted at birth by imputed guilt inherited from Adams initial transgression, whereas
the doctrine of St. John Cassian, favored in the East, denies imputed guilt, but rather says that
due to the degenerate condition of the world caused by original sin, we cannot help but sin. In
either case, we are dependent on the intervention of the Holy Spirit, to allow us to receive the
salvation through Jesus Christ. Both the Augustianian and the Cassianian doctrine can be
considered Orthodox; as there is not a Catholic (that is to say, universal) consensus as to which
one is ultimately correct.
Pneumatomacchi, literally, Fighters of the Spirit, denied the
divinity of the Holy Spirit, or its status as a distinct member of the Holy Trinity. Whereas
Montanists were deluded into believing a particular woman was the Holy Spirit incarnate, the
Pneumatomacchi simply denied the Holy Spirit was a person. In a sense, their view aligns with
the current Judaic interpretation of references to the Spirit of God in the Old Testament, as being
The Breath of God, or the mind of God. This is a particularly frightening heresy, in light of
Christs warning that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit would not be forgiven. We must pray
for the repentance and reconciliation of any Christians who fall into this pernicious and deadly
error.
Pneumatomacchianism

Priscillian was a Spanish Bishop who promoted a heresy somewhat similar


to Gnosticism, or the later Catharist heresy. Tragically, Priscillian was the first person to be
executed by the Byzantine Empire, under the reign of Theodosius, for the crime of heresy, after
Christianity had become the official Imperial religion. His execution was widely opposed by
leading hierarchs of the day, including most notably St. Ambrose of Milan. Thus, while we
cannot endorse his teachings, we can lament his death, as foreshadowing centuries of brutal
intolerance, particularly in the Western Church, and ultimately, the dreadful Spanish Inquisition.
Priscillianism

To reject the divinity of Jesus, and maintain that he was purely human,
born naturally of human parents, is the heresy of Psilanthropism, which implies a denial of the
virgin birth, and instead makes either St. Joseph, or in the case of some anti-Christian Jewish
polemics, a Roman legionnaire named Pantera, the biological father. Ebionitism and
Socinianism are classically Psilanthropist, Adoptionism inclines towards Psilanthropism;
Arianism and Nestorianism are not, for they affirm the divinity of Christ. Psilanthropism is
predominant in the Unitarian Universalist community.
Psilanthropism

Sabellianism Also known as modalism, or Patripassianism, Sabellianism posists that each of

the three Persons of the Trinity are in fact merely Modes of one single deity, who exists in one
person. This heresy in recent years has been taken up by the Jesus Name Pentecostals. This

is a particularly easy confusion for a believer to fall into, if one is not properly educated on the
doctrine of the Trinity.
Socinianism One of the more recent heresies, Socianism resembles Ebionitism and Arianism,

in that it posits that Jesus Christ was a great teacher, and the Son of God, or a Son of God,
but not God incarnate. This emerged in Poland, and later became the prevailing theology of the
Unitarian Christians in Britain and the United States, before their eventual apostasy. The
Transylvanian Unitarian Church continues to preach his doctrines, albeit with increasing
acceptance of the anomial anti-dogmatism of the modern day Unitarian Universalist community,
with which they maintain a fellowship.
Not a classical Christian heresy, but rather a recent threat, due to increased
contact with Eastern religions. The Eastern faiths, such as Buddhism, Shinto, Confuscianism,
Taoism, and Hinduism, are typically blended to varying extents, especially in China and Japan.
This has emerged as a heresy because of the fact that many Japanese enjoy a Christian style
wedding, for aesthetic reasons, while remaining committed to their traditional faiths for other
celebrations. In like manner, some liberal Christians and post Christians, such as the Unitarian
Universalists, seem eager to blend or reconcile Christianity with other faiths. However, unlike
the Eastern religions, the Catholic faith is fundamentally incompatible with such syncretic
amalgamation; for to intermix its dogmatic foundations with those of other religions is identified
in its own religious transmission as apostasy.
Syncretism

This heresy represents the theological delusion that each person of the Trinity is
in fact a separate God, with an independent existence; the Trinity is thus transformed into a
Pantheon. Christianity in general is occasionally accused of this heresy by the leaders of other
monotheistic religions. Interestingly, some Turkish Alevi Muslims also believe in a Trinity,
while retaining Monotheism; their Trinity consists of Allah, Muhammad and Ali.
Tritheism

One of the most interesting and complex varieties of Gnosticism, Valentinism


was fiercely opposed by both Irenaeus and Tertullian, and indeed, more than any other Gnostic
sect, posed a genuine threat to the continued existence of the Catholic Church. Valentinianism
featured a complex cosmology, consisting of a succession of intermediate deities in the Pleroma
between Bythus, the impassable original creator deity, and Sophia, whose error led to the rise of
the Demiurge and the corrupt material existence we inhabit. In Valentinism, Christ was sent to
liberate us from this evil, allowing us to ascend to the Pleroma. Valentinianism was known for
being elitist, and it is alleged that Valentinus instructed his disciples to deny their faith if their
lives were threatened by Roman authorities, in marked contrast to the eagerness of Orthodox
Christians to receive the crown of martyrdom. A hilarious satire of the Valentinian cosmology
is one of the highlights of Against Heresies, the magnum opus of St. Irenaeus of Lyons.
Valentinism

Appendix V: A Prayer For The Methodist Church

O Lord, our heavenly Father, grant us the grace of Thy Holy Spirit, that we may
behold the truth of Thy Faith, given to us through Thine Apostles.
Thou hast kept the Gates of Hell from Prevailing against the Church Thy Bride;
keep us therefore, in fear, reverence and humility, servants of the truth of Thy
Orthodox faith, as thou hast kept St. Ignatius of Lyons, St. Athanasius of
Alexandria, and St. Augustine of Hippo. Let their work be a beacon to us, O
Lord; grant that with love, we may correct those errors whispered into the ear of
Thy people by our adversary.
Keep us, O Lord, from that presumption which is the snare of the devil; let us so
presume upon Thine infinite mercy and loving kindness, as to forget Thy divine
and perfect justice; the wrath with which thou hast punished Sodom and
Gommorah, humiliated the proud, and tread Hell underfoot.
Lead us not into schism, but guide us that we may preserve the unity of Thy faith,
as Thou hast guided St. Clement . Concerning faith and repentance and genuine
love and temperance and sobriety and patience we have handled every argument,
that we might satisfy Thee, Our Almighty God, in truth and righteousness.
Illuminate us as Thou has illuminated St. Francis of Assisi, O Lord; Where there is
error, let us see truth; Where there is doubt, strengthen us in faith; Where there is
darkness, let there be light.
As Thy servant John Wesley hast taught us, let us vouchsafe to give ourselves over
unto Thee, O Lord. Put us to what thou wilt; for we freely and heartily yield all
things to thy pleasure and disposal; let us be employeed for Thee or laid aside for
Thee, but grant us, O Heavenly Father, not to let our communion perish from this
Earth; bless and preserve this Methodist Communion, and let it grow in its
Catholicity, and recover all doctrines of Thy faith that it hast lost to error and
delusion, that the memory of John Wesley and all Methodist Bishops, Pastors,
Deacons, and Laymen, be not despoilt; and that the church of our fathers be
protected from heresy, and reunited with all members of Thy Holy Catholic and
Apostolic Church, which is the Bride of Christ.
Let us not fall into the trappings of pride, and be destroyed as were Nadab and
Abihu, for daring to approach Thy presence in conceit, but instead grant us with
the grace of thy Holy Spirit , that we may always incline to Thy will, and walk in
Thy Commandments: through Jesus Christ our Lord, who descended into Hades

and took Hades captive, to whom is due all worship, glory and honor, power and
greatness and eternal dominion, forever and ever. Amen.