Sermons from orthodox #Anglicans

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Online Sermons and Podcasts from ANiC Churches

Prayer

A. W. Pink, “…what is now being taught on the subject of prayer, and the deplorable thing is that scarcely a voice is lifted in protest. To say that “human destinies may be changed and moulded by the will of man” is rank infidelity—that is the only proper term for it. Should any one challenge this classification, we would ask them whether they can find an infidel anywhere who would dissent from such a statement, and we are confident that such an one could not be found. To say that “God has ordained that human destinies may be changed and moulded by the will of man”, is absolutely untrue. “Human destiny” is settled not by “the will of man,” but by the will of God. That which determines human destiny is whether or not a man has been born again, for it is written, “Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God”. And as to whose will, whether God’s or man’s, is responsible for the new birth is settled, unequivocally, by John 1:13—”Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but OF GOD”. To say that “human destiny” may be changed by the will of man, is to make the creature’s will supreme, and that is, virtually, to dethrone God. But what saith the Scriptures? Let the Book answer: “The Lord killeth, and maketh alive: He bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up. The Lord maketh poor, and maketh rich: He bringeth low, and lifteth up. He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory” (1 Sam. 2:6-8). Link

John Gill provides a proper theological background to prayer, “…it should be said that God’s will is immutable, and cannot be altered by our crying. When the mind of God is not toward a people to do them good, it cannot be turned to them by the most fervent and importunate prayers of those who have the greatest interest in Him—”Then said the Lord unto me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before Me, yet My mind could not be toward this people: cast them out of My sight, and let them go forth” (Jer. 15:1). The prayers of Moses to enter the promised land is a parallel case.

Our views respecting prayer need to be revised and brought into harmony with the teaching of Scripture on the subject. The prevailing idea seems to be, that I come to God and ask Him for something that I want, and that I expect Him to give me that which I have asked. But this is a most dishonoring and degrading conception. The popular belief reduces God to a servant, our servant: doing our bidding, performing our pleasure, granting our desires. No; prayer is a coming to God, telling Him my need, committing my way unto the Lord, and leaving Him to deal with it as seemeth Him best. This makes my will subject to His, instead of, as in the former case, seeking to bring His will into subjection to mine. No prayer is pleasing to God unless the spirit actuating it is, “not my will, but thine be done”.

“When God bestows blessings on a praying people, it is not for the sake of their prayers, as if He was inclined and turned by them; but it is for His own sake, and of His own sovereign will and pleasure. Should it be said, to what purpose then is prayer? it is answered, This is the way and means God has appointed, for the communication of the blessing of His goodness to His people. For though He has purposed, provided, and promised them, yet He will be sought unto, to give them, and it is a duty and privilege to ask. When they are blessed with a spirit of prayer, it forebodes well, and looks as if God intended to bestow the good things asked, which should be asked always with submission to the will of God, saying, Not my will but Thine be done

Four Marks

Archbishop Foley Beach:foleybeach

I will call these the “Four Marks of Continuing a Spirit-filled Movement” or rather “Four Marks of Modern Anglicanism”

You see, we could go on playing Church and being religious and make no impact spiritually in our world. Yes, we could be married to our forms and traditions and remain a holy huddle in the midst of an ever-increasing secular society. This, however, would quench the Holy Spirit.

We are not and cannot be the Church as we have known it in the past. We must be a living Body engaged with the people around us. We must be the Temple of the Holy Spirit exhibiting the fruit and gifts of the Spirit in all we do. We must honor Jesus in all we do and all we say. We must have a culture that frees the Holy Spirit to do His Work in us and through us.

The First Mark of Modern Anglicanism is that we must be a Repenting Church.

After all, this is the message we have received in the Gospel. Remember the message of John the Baptist: Repent

Mt.3:2 – Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Remember the message of Jesus: Repent

Mt.4:17 – From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Remember the message of the Apostle Peter – at the end of his Pentecost sermon and the people were asking, “what must we do?”

Acts 2:38 – Repent and be baptized everyone of you in the Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is for you and your children…

Remember the words of Apostle Paul when he was addressing the people of Athens in

Acts 17:22 – The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands people everywhere to repent.

He went on to write to the Romans…

Romans 2:4 – Do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

We are called to be a repenting Church. That is, we must be a repenting people of God; a group of repenting followers of Jesus. When God shows us our sin, we must turn from it and return to the Lord.

Isn’t this what repent means? Literally, it means to change your mind.

St. John of Dasmacus: Repentance is returning from the unnatural to the natural state, from the devil to God, through discipline and effort.

I know…here in the south, people will say that is how you become a believer – and it is – we repent of our sins and follow Jesus.

Because of God’s love for us, Because of Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins. Because of his resurrection and the promise of eternal life, we change our minds (repent) about living for me, myself and I, and begin to live for Jesus. And this does lead to salvation.

But this repentance doesn’t stop when one is born again or comes into a relationship with God through Jesus;

It’s a day by day, moment by moment reality.

When a person comes to faith in Jesus, God does a wonderful and amazing thing – he places within the person the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit begins to teach you, guide you, reveal to you the ways of God, change your thinking, and he also begins to reveal to you your sin.

As God the Holy Spirit reveals to you your sin – usually through His Word, you then have a choice — continue in the sin, or change your mind (repent) and begin to believe the behavior or attitude is a sin – and turn from it! This is repentance. He is constantly showing me my sin –and unless I repent, I quench the Holy Spirit in my life and in my ministry. 1 Thess.5:19.

As God shows us our sin, we must turn from it and return to the Lord, or we quench the Holy Spirit’s power in our lives.

St. Paul of the Cross: Should we fall into a sin, let us humble ourselves sorrowfully in his presence, and then, with an act of unbounded confidence, let us throw ourselves into the ocean of his goodness, where every failing will be cancelled and anxiety turned into love.

We are called to be a repenting Church. I call on our bishops to repent. I call on our priests to repent. I call on our deacons to repent. I call on our vestry members to repent. I call on our musicians to repent. I call on all the laity to repent.

God loves you. God cares for you. It truly is his kindness which leads us to repentance. It’s for our good. It’s so he can shower us with His grace. This is part of what we confess as Anglicans.

Isn’t this what we pray each week when we pray the General Confession? If you pray the Daily Office, you pray it twice a day every day…

“We are truly sorry, and we humbly repent” or some version of this – depending on the liturgy.

As we confess our sins, we tell God that we are sorry, and that we humbly repent. Yet, do we? The question each of us must ask ourselves: “Is there something in my life which the Lord has shown me of which I must repent?”

As a Province and as believers, unless we repent of our sins, we quench the Holy Spirit in our amidst. If we are going to be the Church, the people of God, the Lord wants us to be, we must be a repenting Church.

The Second Mark of Modern Anglicanism is that we must be is a Reconciling Church.

When I speak of reconciliation, I am not talking about being reconciled with the world, or with sin, or with sinful behavior or giving up one’s principles or compromising Biblical Truth in order to be reconciled. However, the Scriptures do tell us that we are all ministers of reconciliation and that we are to be reconciled with each other.

This reconciliation is based on the cross of Jesus, on the Truth in the Scriptures, and on the Tradition handed down to us by the Church Fathers. To be reconciled means there was once a problem.

The Australia Anglican scholar, Leon Morris: “Reconciliation properly applies not to good relations in general but to the doing away of an enmity, the bridging over of a quarrel. It implies that the parties being reconciled were formerly hostile to one another.”

This was true with us, and The Lord. This is also true with too many of God’s people with each other. For real reconciliation to take place, you must remove the enmity – the source of the quarrel. We may apologize for our actions. We may pay back money we owe. We may return something which we borrowed.

We may make restitution for the damage we have done. In every situation there must be a dealing with the root cause of the enmity. In other words, there is no true reconciliation without repentance.

Gnosticism’s Influence on Early Church Monasticism and Asecticism

Gnosticism_s Influence on Early Church Monasticism and Asecticism

Reblog from Orthodox Christian Theology written by Craig Truglia in October 2016:

Several crucial doctrines separate Roman Catholicism/Eastern Orthodoxy/Etcetera from Reformed Christianity. Among these are the beliefs in baptismal regeneration, propitiatory penances, and the idea that sexual gratification (even in marriage) exists only for the purpose of procreation.

What if I told you that not only are all of these ideas not explicitly Biblical, but that they actually have origins in Eastern mystery religions and Greek philosophy? This would mean that the adherence to these ideas in Christianity are the result of a historical transformation over time where Gnostic influences permeated the Church.

This is a thesis I am not entirely convinced of, but let me make the case for the sake of motivating you to conduct further research.

Scriptural Teaching on Asceticism. Certainly self-denial is a Christian virtue. The Scripture admonishes a believer that if he wants to be Christ’s disciple, “let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matt 16:24). This self-denial is meant to be radical and lead to actions consistent with the willful emptying of oneself for the sake of others: “The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none” (Luke 3:11) and “We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another” (1 John 3:16). Marriage is even knocked down a peg, because even though it is “good” it is not as good as celibacy, because “the unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; but the married man is anxious about the affairs of the world, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided” (1 Cor 7:32-34).

Certainly, Christians are taught that for the sake of others and devotion to God, forgoing  life’s pleasures is a positive good. However, the Scripture also warns of those who teach “doctrines of demons.” “They forbid marriage and demand abstinence from foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth” (1 Tim 4:3). A long treatment is given in Col 2:20-23:

If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations, “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch”? All these regulations refer to things that perish with use; they are simply human commands and teachings. These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-imposed piety, humility, and severe treatment of the body, but they are of no value in checking self-indulgence.

In the preceding passages, Paul is not writing against a strictly Jewish heresy, as there is nothing distinctly Jewish about severely treating the body or not marrying. Rather, Paul is speaking of an ascetic strain in Greek thought which taught that the way to knowing God is through emptying oneself of all distractions and punishing oneself for all of his sins.  Even mentioning such concepts causes people to immediately think of Christian monasticism.

The Example of Monks. Monks are known for their asceticism. Further, no one seriously entertains the notion that monks were originally part of Christianity. No second century Christian writer makes mention of them.

Traditionally, the first known Christian hermit was Paul of Thebes. He lived some time in the fourth century. While there is no reason to doubt that other men like him lived some time before, historically we would have no reason to believe that the monastic movement would predate him by several centuries.

Some may point to the fact that Paul was celibate, the Essene movement within Judaism, or the Nazirite vow as antecedents to monasticism. The problem would be that none of these may be properly understood as monastic. Paul was simply a celibate missionary, the Essenes married, and Nazirites had only temporary vows.

Yet, according to a scholar nearly 100 years ago, Joseph Ward Swain in his book The Hellenic Origins of Christian Asceticism, monks that look similar to early Christian monastics did indeed exist. These ascetics belonged in “eastern” (usually Middle Eastern) “mystery cults” such as the Manichees, Mithraists, Galli, and Isis cultists.

Of the Cybile cultists called Galli, Swain writes:

The Galli resembled a mendicant and begging order. By this mode of life, they won the admiration of multitudes. “Their ardent faith, their ascetic life, their austere disciplines were an effective and contagious discipline. Many a troubled soul was borne towards these interpreters of a divine word, who appeared superior to other men because they were no longer men, who heard confessions and directed consciences, forgave sins, and gave consolations and sublime hopes.” Others did not attain the lofty place held by these Galli, but led an ascetic life nevertheless. Some who had merely undergone a simple initiation organized themselves into communities called the “Religious of the Great Mother,” and led a life of greater strictness than that of other people, supported wandering Galli, let their hair grow long, wore special costumes ; but they were not pagan monks in the full sense of the term, for they did not cut themselves off from the world altogether they married and became fathers of families (p. 74).

Of the Mithraists:

“They [Mithraists] praised abstinence from certain foods and absolute continence.” The cult had a clergy upon whom ascetic rules were imposed. Tertullian says that the supreme pontiff might marry only once, and that, like the Christians, the worshippers of this god had their “virgins” and “continents.” “The existence of this sort of Mithraic monasticism is the more remarkable,” says Cumont, ” because this value attached to celibacy is contrary to the spirit of Zoroastrianism” (p. 78).

Of the Isis cultists:

Weingarten seriously attempted to explain the whole rise of Christian monasticism from them [the Isis cult], alleging that Pachomius, the legislator of Christian monasticism, had been such a recluse in his youth; this is obviously too simple a theory, and is not held by any serious scholars today, but the very posing of the question directed considerable attention to these men, and their ascetic character has been made very evident (p. 79).

Weingarten’s speculation  concerning Pachomius (one of the earliest Christian monks), is essentially unfounded, but the overall point is clear: These cultists followed monastic practices before the existence of Christian monasticism. Further, Christian monasticism did not  develop  in a cultural and intellectual vacuum.

The Gnostics were the intellectual go-between for eastern mystery religions and orthodox Christianity. While their cosmology and odd doctrines would appear to the modern eye to be so foreign from Christianity that one could not possible have anything to do with the other, contemporaries like Irenaeus did not take this view. To the ancient, Hellenized mind, the Gnostic view made some sort of sense and so to those hearing the message of Christ, the Gnostic spin on it had an appeal. So, while we may rightly expect that eastern, pagan monastic orders would have very little to do with Christian monasticism, Gnostic monasticism would have been visibly Christian, even if it were heretically so.

Concerning the Manichees (a Gnostic sect) a more recent source writes:

[T]he Manicheans…prove again that in decades prior to Pachomius’s emergence upon the scene a wide variety  of sometimes eccentric and sometimes ascetic experiments in religious life were underway (Philip Rousseau, Pachomius: The Making of a Community in Fourth-century Egypt, p. 31).

Scholars may not say that the preponderance of Manichee and Isis-cultist monks in Egypt directly led to Christian monasticism, but certainly they predated it and affected the mindsets of everyone, including Christians, that lived during the time. In the words of Swain:

[I]n the second and third centuries, the land [of Egypt] was filled with anchorites and wandering ascetics, who not only made it a point to abstain from flesh, wine and sexual intercourse, but who also inflicted upon themselves all sorts of severe mortifications. Egypt became preeminently the land of extravagant ascetics, so that the eccentric Christians had but little to add to what these Egyptians had already done (p. 79).

The Issue of Remarriages and Sexual Satisfaction. The debate over remarriage may be foreign to the modern mind. After all, the Scripture is so clear that not only is remarriage permissible, it is commanded: “I would have younger widows marry, bear children, and manage their households, so as to give the adversary no occasion to revile us” (1 Tim 5:14). Yet, great thinkers like Tertullian (probably) and Saint Hippolytus (temporarily) left the Church because it was permitting remarriage.

Why? It appears that very early on the Church started taking the view that sex, in of itself, is not good apart from procreation. For example, the second century Apologist Athenagoras writes in his Plea for Christians:

[W]e despise the things of this life, even to the pleasures of the soul, each of us reckoning her his wife whom he has married according to the laws laid down by us, and that only for the purpose of having children…Nay, you would find many among us, both men and women, growing old unmarried, in hope of living in closer communion with God. But if the remaining in virginity and in the state of an eunuch brings nearer to God, while the indulgence of carnal thought and desire leads away from Him, in those cases in which we shun the thoughts, much more do we reject thedeeds.  For we bestow our attention, not on the study of words, but on the exhibition and teaching of actions,— that a person should either remain as he was born, or be content with one marriage; for a second marriage is only a specious adultery (Chap 33).

Now, there s a lot here which might make one think, “Did Athenagoras read his Bible?” The Bible commends the enjoyable qualities of wine and sex (Prov 5:18-19). In commending man to marriage (1 Cor 7), Paul’s reasoning is that it satisfies lust. Nowhere did he write that the purpose of marriage was strictly for procreation and surely Paul was not admonishing man to take part in a lesser evil (the satisfaction of sexual desire) when he called the institution of marriage “good.”

Athenagoras was an Athenian philosopher who converted to Christianity, and he apparently imported the Hellenisitic (often pagan and Gnostic) idea that remarriage and sexual enjoyment is sinful into his own theology. The Eastern mystery religions taught that celibacy “prevented the introduction of deadly elements into the system” and that “chastity…preserved men from pollution and debility, became means of getting rid of the domination of evil powers and of regaining heavenly favor” (p. 72). Cynics, Pythagoreans, and Gnostic Platonists also taught the virtues of celibacy and avoiding marriages/remarriages. Gnostics Basilides, Marcion, and Valentinus all taught that celibacy was especially virtuous. For example:

For Basilides, marriage was at best a concession to men, and he strongly advised abstention from it (p. 81).

He [Marcion] condemned the flesh and forbade marriage. If married, his disciples had to renounce all sexual relations… Marcion even made continence a condition of baptism. “Marcion does not baptise flesh unless it is virgin or widow or celibate, or unless it has bought baptism by a divorce” (p. 82).

In short, the historical teachings that contraception is sinful sprouts from the Gnostic and Hellenistic asceticism, which had an aversion against the sexual act itself as it was thought to make someone impure and incapable of contemplating higher philosophical truths. To pretend that Athenagoras’ belief that sex is only for procreation stems from the example of Onan ignores the obvious truth that he viewed both sexual satisfaction and remarriage as bad and that he expected his pagan audience, in his Appeal, to approve wholeheartedly of this reasoning. Why? Because such negative views of the sex drive permeated the pagan Mediterranean world and would have been immediately identified as virtuous.

Penance. Repentance is in the Bible, but works of penance whose role is to restore salvation is not. Yet, works of penance are mentioned in some of the earliest writings of the Church Fathers, including On Penance by Tertullian and the Epistle of Barnabas. “Barnabas” wrote:

Thou shalt remember the day of judgment night and day, and thou shalt seek out day by day the persons of the saints, either laboring by word and going to exhort them and meditating how thou mayest save souls by thy word, or thou shalt work with thy hands for a ransom for thy sins (19:10).

Tertullian wrote:

Thus he who, through repentance for sins, had begun to make satisfaction to the Lord…It is intolerable, forsooth, to modesty to make satisfaction to the offended Lord! To be restored to its forfeited salvation (On Repentance, Chap 5, 10)!

Both “Barnabas” and Tertullian appear to be saying that salvation can be lost and that through works of penance, salvation is restored. Whether or not this is something they earnestly and literally taught, or they felt that repentance merely satisfied God in a general sense, I won’t debate here. Let’s simply concede they were speaking of works of penance as the Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox would understand them.

The idea that works of penance restore one to God is not necessarily anti-Christian. Surely, visible acts of penance are seen throughout the Old Testament. However,  this changes in the new covenant when the crucifixion of Christ  atoned for all the sins of His Church that have ever existed and ever will:

When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us (Col 2:13-14).

Any additional works, whose purpose would be to satisfy God and effect the forgiveness of sins, in light of this are superfluous. This is not my opinion, this is literally Paul’s point in Colossians 2. After stating the preceding tenet of doctrine he makes an application:

Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day…If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch” (Col 2:16, 20-21; read 16-23 for entire context)!

As we can see, because Christ has effected a total forgiveness of sins, therefore the Christian is not obligated to observe Jewish and Gnostic rituals whose purpose is to satisfy God and effect the forgiveness of sins. So, being that Paul spoke againstpenances effecting satisfactions for sin, where did the idea come from? According to Swain, eastern mystery religions:

Macerations, laborious pilgrimages, public confessions, sometimes flagellations and mutilations, in fact, all forms of penance and mortifications uplifted the fallen man and brought him nearer the gods (p. 71-72).

To Hellenized thinkers Tertullian, “Barnabas,” and the future purveyors of the preceding rite, penance made sense. As said before, their thought did not develop in a vacuum. In light of this, it appears they were importing pagan thought and misappropriating Old Testament texts.  This may have led to an anti-new covenant view of penance being practiced in the Church even very early on.

Baptismal Regeneration. There is no evidence that any of the church fathers before Cyprian explicitly believed in the doctrine,  as they usually conflated baptism with faith or repentance as the operative saving act. For example, Tertullian wrote:

We are not washed in order that we may cease sinning, but because we have ceased, since in heart we have been bathed already (On Repentance, Chapter 6).

Yet, not long afterwards, church fathers were arguing that baptism really effected a one-time get-out-of-hell free card that could even save those who did not have faith or repentance, such as infants. Where did this idea come from?

It is entirely possible that the idea arose from overly literal interpretations of verses such as Acts 2:38 and John 3:5. Further, references to the “laver of regeneration” from Justin Martyr, Theophilus of Antioch, and Irenaeus when read apart from context (they are clearly speaking of repenetance) would make it appear that these men believed that water literally effected the regenerating. So, to arrive at the doctrine of baptismal regeneration would not be unexpected given what the Scriptures and traditions say.

However, just as we said before, early Christian doctrine did not evolve in an intellectual vacuum. Swayne identifies that eastern mystery religions taught that baptisms and annointings effected an one-time-only complete remission of sins:

Two new things in particular were brought by the Oriental priests : mysterious methods of purification, by which they claimed to wash away the impurities of the soul, and the assurance that a blessed immortality would be the reward of piety…They had a series of ablutions and lustrations supposed to restore original innocence to the mystic. He had to wash himself in the sacred water according to certain prescribed forms (p. 70).

This did not belong to the eastern rites alone. Gnosticism, which essentially acted as the gateway between eastern mystery religions, Greek philosophy, and Christianity, also adopted the practice. Irenaeus condemns a Gnostic baptism by sprinkling rite in Against Heresies 1.21.5:

Others still there are who continue to redeem persons even up to the moment of death, by placing on their heads oil and water, or the pre-mentioned ointment with water, using at the same time the above-named invocations, that thepersons referred to may become incapable of being seized or seen by the principalities and powers, and that their inner man may ascend on high in an invisible manner, as if their body were left among created things in this world, while their soul is sent forward to the Demiurge.

Conclusion. The argument has been made that the preponderance of ascetic practices, found in pagan thought before the existence of Christianity suggests that Hellenistic intellectual norms permeated the Church at a very early date. This had a marked effect on the development of monasticism and peculiar, extra-biblical doctrines ranging from the admonishment to have sex only for procreation to propitiatory penances.

Now, it is possible to overstate this argument as there were specific Christian doctrines that early Church Fathers themselves recognized were found in Mithraism and the like. Justin Martyr wrote:

[W]hen those who record the mysteries of Mithras say that he was begotten of a rock, and call the place where those who believe in him are initiated a cave, do I not perceive here that the utterance of Daniel, that a stone without hands was cut out of a great mountain, has been imitated by them, and that they have attempted likewise to imitate the whole of Isaiah’s words (Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 70)?

In chapter 66 of his First Apology, Justin likewise accuses the Mithraists of copying the eucharist. In the First Apology he blames “wicked devils”  for deceiving man into imitating the sacrament. We may easily infer that the Mithraists copied Christianity, and certainly, we have evidence of eastern mystery religions in later centuries mimicing Christian symbolism and the like. Certainly, this is what Gnosticism did.

However, it appears impossible to ignore that we certainly have evidence of pre-Christian practices that, though not Biblical like the Eucharist, did find their way into Christian practice and belief. There are two possible reasons why:

  1. Christianity simply has some practices and beliefs identical to that of pagan belief systems, and we can chalk that up to a broken clock being right twice a day.
  2. Early Christians were effected by the intellectual ideas of their time, and they interpreted God’s revelation in light of this intellectual climate.

While the former is possible, the latter appears much more likely. Why? For one, as we see in Athenagoras Appeal, some of these beliefs are actually against the Scripture and the Church universally has rejected  some of them (such as no re-marriage). So, we have bona fide examples of Hellenistic cultural import into the early Church. It would seem like special pleading to say that the other examples of doctrines listed here would not be similar, Hellenistic imports.

Secondly, Christians always have and always will be affected by the society in which they live. For example, we have churches that elect their pastors and makes decisions based upon popular vote. Clearly, democratic ideals have found their way into ecclesiastical practice. Woman’s liberation and hairstyles have virtually eliminated women’s headcoverings from the Western Church, even though there is no justifiable textual or traditional basis to do so. The same intellectual tradition has also helped destroy complementarianism. I have been to both Catholic and Protestant churches and have watched them try to explain away the fact that the Scripture calls wives to submit to their husbands. (To be fair, more ancient churches went beyond what the Scripture taught and were overtly misogynistic.)  In many churches, fornication is turned a blind eye to (look how Catholics and Protestants alike spoke so highly of men like Karl Barth.)

Saint Augustine warned:

[S]ins, however great and detestable they may be, are looked upon as trivial, or as not sins at all, when men get accustomed to them; and so far does this go, that such sins are not only not concealed, but are boasted of, and published far and wide (Chapter 80, Handbook on Faith, Hope, and Love).

Social norms have a very strong effect on the Church. Did social expectations about virtue lead to the importing of pagan and Gnostic forms of asceticism? Most likely, yes. It would have been natural for God-fearing Christians to seek excellence in virtue. It is just that their sense of virtue was colored by the intellectual climate of their time, and with some Scriptural justification, pagan and agnostic beliefs found their way into Christian practice.

Short Prayers

Wiki:Jacob-Böhme

Jakob Böhme (/ˈbməˈb-/;[2] 1575 – 17 November 1624) was a German Christian mystic and theologian. He was considered an original thinker by many of his contemporaries[3] within the Lutheran tradition, and his first book, commonly known as Aurora, caused a great scandal. In contemporary English, his name may be spelled Jacob Boehme; in seventeenth-century England it was also spelled Behmen, approximating the contemporary English pronunciation of the German Böhme.

Re-blog:

A Short Form of Prayer Before the Eyes of God

O great, unsearchable, holy God, Lord of all being, who in Christ Jesus, out of pure love for us, revealed your holy being in our humanity, I, a poor, unworthy, sinful man, come before your revealed face, in the humanity of Jesus Christ, even though I am unworthy to raise my eyes to You, and I implore You, and confess to You that I have been faithless and disloyal to Your great love and grace that You have given us.  I have forsaken the covenant that You, out of pure grace, made with me in baptism, in which You took me as a child and heir of eternal life.  I have led my desire into the vanity of this world, and defiled my soul thereby, and made it completely bestial and earthly, so that, because of the mire of the sin, my soul does not know itself, and sees itself wholly as a strange child before Your sight, unworthy to desire Your grace.  I lie as deep as my soul’s lips in the mire of sin and in the vanity of my corrupted flesh, and have only a small spark of breath in me that seeks Your grace.  In vanity I have thus become dead to myself so that, in this vanity, I dare not raise my eyes to You.

O God in Christ Jesus, who for the sake of poor sinners became man so that You could help them, to You I cry; I still have a spark of refuge for You in my soul.  I have not regarded Your purchased inheritance that through Your bitter death You purchased for us, and I have shared the inheritance of vanity in Your Father’s wrath, in the curse of the Earth, and am trapped by sin and half dead to Your kingdom.  I lie in weakness before your power, and angry death waits for me.  The devil has poisoned me so that I do not recognize my Savior.  I have become a wild shoot in Your tree and have devoured my inheritance from You with with the devil’s pits.  What shall I say before You, I who am not worthy of Your grace?  I lie in the sleep of death that has trapped me, and I am bound fast with three strong chains.  O help me, You Breaker of death.  I can and am able to do nothing.  I have become dead to myself and have no power before you, and dare not lift my eyes to you because of my great shame.  I am a defiled swineherd and have spent my inheritance with the false adulterous whore of vanity, wasting it in the lusts of the flesh.  In my own lust I have sought myself and not You.  Now I have become a fool in myself and am naked and bare; my shame stands before my eyes; I cannot hide it.  Your judgment waits for me.  What am I to say to You, You who are the judge of the world?  I have nothing more that I can bring to You.  Here I stand before You naked and bare, and fall down before Your face, and complain to You of my misery, and cry for Your great mercy.  Although I am not worthy, take me into Your death and let me die Your death in my death.  Strike down my assumed “I” and destroy by Your death my “I,” so that I no longer live, since in myself I only sin.  Kill the evil beast full of false cunning and self-desire, and redeem the poor soul from its heavy bondage.

O merciful God, it is because of Your love and patience that I am not already lying in hell.  I give myself up with my whole will, thought, and mind to Your grace, and ask for Your mercy.  By Your death I call out of the small spark of my life surrounded by death and hell, which open their jaws to me, and seek to swallow me up in death.  You have promised You will not put out the glimmering wick.  I have no other road by which to come to You than by Your suffering and death, because You have made our death life by means of Your humanity and have broken the chains of death.  Therefore I sink my soul’s desire into Your death, into the broken gates of Your death.

O great Fountain of the love of God, let me die to my vanity and sin in the death of my Redeemer Jesus Christ.

O Breath of the great love of God, revive my weak breath in me so that it may begin to hunger and thirst after You.  O Jesus, sweet power, in Your fountains of grace give my soul to drink the sweet water of eternal life so that it may wake from death and thirst after You.  O how it has become completely exhausted in Your power.  O merciful God, convert me; I cannot.  O Conqueror of death, help me to strive since the enemy holds me with his three chains and will not let my soul’s desire come before You.  Come, and take my soul’s desire into You.  Be my pull to the Father, and redeem me from the devil’s bonds.  Do not look upon my deformity, that I stand naked before You, and have lost my cloak.  Clothe my breath that lives in me and desires Your grace and let me once again see Your salvation.

O deepest Love of all, take my soul’s desire into You, and, by Your death, lead it into You out of death’s bonds through Your death into Your resurrection.  Revive me in Your power so that my desire and will begin to grow anew.  O Conqueror of death and God’s wrath, conquer my “I” in me.  Break its will, and crush my soul so that it is in fear before You, continually falling on the ground before You, and make it ashamed of its own will before Your judgment so that it may become an instrument obedient to You.  Bend it in death’s bonds; remove its power so that it wills nothing without You.

O God, Holy Spirit, my Savior in Christ, teach me what I ought to do so that I might turn to You.  Redirect my will in me to You.  Draw me, in Christ, to the Father, and help me so that from now on I might leave sin and vanity and nevermore enter into them.  Awake true sorrow for past sins in me.  Keep me in Your bonds, and do not let me loose from deaths.  Enlighten my spirit so that I may see the divine way, and continually walk in it.  Take me from myself and give me completely to Yourself alone.  Do not let me begin, will, think, nor do anything without You.  O how long, Lord, will I not be worthy of what I desire of You?  Let my soul’s desire dwell merely in the doorways of Your outer room.  Make it a servant to Your servants.  Preserve it from the horrible pit in which there is no solace or refreshment.

O God in Christ Jesus, I am blind to myself.  I do not know myself because of vanity.  In my blindness You are hidden from me, You who are yet close by me.  Yet Your anger that my own desire has ignited has made me dark.  Take the breath of my soul’s desire to Yourself.  Test it, Lord, and shatter it, so that my soul may reach Your beam of sweet grace.

I lie before You as a dead man whose life, like a small spark, hovers at his lips.  Ignite it, Lord.  Direct my soul’s breath to You.  Lord, I wait on Your promise, for You have said, As I truly live, I have no desire in the death of the sinner, but that he turn and live, (Ezekiel 33:11).  I sink myself into the death of my Savior Jesus Christ, and wait on You, Your word is truth and life.

Amen.

CALVIN ON POSTURE IN WORSHIP

Source: The Calvinist International

SITTING ON THE PROMISES? Portrait of John Calvin

Two of the more common gestural accompaniments of prayer and worship in Scripture are kneeling and the lifting of one’s hands.

In several places in the Institutes and his commentaries, John Calvin reflects on the usefulness of such practices for Christian prayer and sketches an outline of what it is that God intends them to do; or, rather, what God intends to do by them (and the notion of instrumentality will emerge as clearly having been of great significance for Calvin).

We tend, I think, in the Reformed world particularly, to assume that posture has very little to do with prayer, for a variety of reasons (e.g., an allergy to certain traditions with which we’d rather not be associated; an intellectualizing and cerebral impulse in worship that has as a frequent corollary, though not as a necessary consequence, a perhaps too easy alliance with forms that fall within our collective comfort zones; 1etc.). Others perhaps move in the opposition direction, believing that certain actions must be done at certain times, and that a failure to perform these actions makes prayer less, well, prayerful.

For Calvin, both positions are errors because both misjudge the nature of externals and their relation to the worship of the heart–the former too easily dispensing with them and therefore too quickly leaving them to one side, the latter giving them more weight than is due to them. Worship of God without the heart is useless; but, at the same time, what we do with our bodies is closely bound up with what we do with our hearts, and not in a symbolic way merely. The posture of the body ought to be emblematic of the posture of the heart, yes. But, ideally, the posture of the body serves to form the posture of the heart as well: posture, that is, has what we might call, in syntactical terms, both an indicative and a hortatory function. Kneeling is not just a sign of submission; kneeling aids in producing submission.

To approach more closely to what should be involved in thinking about this issue, let us look at some excerpts from Calvin, beginning with the Institutes. (END QUOTE)

For the rest of the article please visit The Calvinist International

Yours in the Lord,

jm