Monday, May 15, 2017

The Holy Spirit And The Institutional Church

"Pentecost" by Hyatt Moore

The following (greatly reformatted by me, and with some minor edits) was written by a former Eastern Orthodox (convert) Christian.

It appears that the charismata (the grace gifts of the Holy Spirit) had already begun to wane in the second century. Edwin Hatch wrote that the philosophers replaced the prophets as the leading spokesmen for Christianity. Clearly the role of the Holy Spirit changed within a couple of generations of the Church. St. John Chrysostom actually laments this fact as a great loss to the Church in his commentary on 1 Corinthians 14:
"Seest thou by how many reasons he leads him to silence and soothes him, in the act of giving way to the other? By one thing and that the chief, that he was not shut up by such a proceeding; 'for ye all can prophesy,' saith he, 'one by one.' By a second, that this seems good to the Spirit Himself; 'for the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.' Besides these, that this is according to the mind of God; 'for God,' saith he, 'is not a God of confusion, but of peace:' and by a fourth, that in every part of the world this custom prevails, and no strange thing is enjoined upon them. For thus, saith he, 'I teach in all the Churches of the saints.' What now can be more awful than these things? For in truth the Church was a heaven then, the Spirit governing all things, and moving each one of the rulers and making him inspired. But now we retain only the symbols of those gifts. For now also we speak two or three, and in turn, and when one is silent, another begins. But these are only signs and memorials of those things. Wherefore when we begin to speak, the people respond, 'with thy Spirit,' indicating that of old they thus used to speak, not of their own wisdom, but moved by the Spirit. But not so now: (I speak of mine own case so far.) But the present Church is like a woman who hath fallen from her former prosperous days, and in many respects retains the symbols only of that ancient prosperity; displaying indeed the repositories and caskets of her golden ornaments, but bereft of her wealth: such an one doth the present Church resemble." - Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series 1, Volume 12, Saint Chrysostom: Homilies on the Epistles of Paul to the Corinthians, Homily XXXVI. 1 Cor. xiv. 20
In its obsession with apostolic succession, the Catholic Church (as it was called before the split between the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church) lost the apostolic power and spirit. The episcopate had already asserted its right as the final ecclesial authority, and they did not welcome prophets into the services. This quite contrary to the New Testament and The Didache. The Catholic Church had become so institutionalized that it confused institutional authority with ecclesial authority. While there have always been bishops and priests who walked in these graces, there were many who, while void of the Spirit, obtained their positions by political intrigue. Charismatic authority was still recognized, but it was generally relegated to the monastic community, reserved for only the more advanced elders.

Those who wrote about the Holy Spirit, such as Ambrose and Basil, spoke of Him in detached terms based on a study of Scriptures, indicating that they were not familiar with the active living presence of the third Person of the Trinity in their lives. The role of the Holy Spirit was redefined as liturgical, Eucharistic, and rationalistic, as though the living God were to comply with the rubrics of the Sacraments. He could no longer be trusted to show up and inspire the people in unregulated spontaneity or impromptu movings. He could no longer be trusted to speak, lead, guide, reveal, and heal. Only the most advanced could expect to see the uncreated light and experience the deifying work of the Spirit. Consequently, the monastic understanding of the Holy Spirit was limited to an ascetical approach which, in turn, became the prevailing opinion of the Orthodox Church.

Vladimir Lossky and Georges Florovsky both provide some rather good arguments that Orthodox theology was not the Hellenization of Christianity, but the Christianization of Hellenism. However, the transition from a Church full of the Spirit in Acts toward the more Hellenized model would indicate otherwise. The Orthodox Church won't admit such a thing since it claims to have guarded the sacred deposit without corruption, maintaining the fullness of what the Apostolic Church had in the New Testament period.

Philosophy began to be the dominant method of theologizing very early. Long before the West introduced Scholastic Theology, the East had succumbed to the temptation to make Christianity a cerebral activity. At least as early as Justin Martyr and Clement, Christianity became a philosophy. An academic aristocracy replaced charismatic authority, which often manifested among the most uneducated and barbaric people. Yet the Apostle Paul warned that philosophy cannot know God (1 Corinthians 1:18-20). Paul said that he deliberately chose not to rely on sophia when preaching so that the "demonstration of the Spirit" and the "power of God" could be present (1 Corinthians 2:4-5). This is precisely why one does not see the power of God or demonstrations of the Spirit with most of the Church Fathers. It is also why the Holy Spirit does not manifest with most contemporary priests, bishops, and Protestant preachers. Volumes of treatises were written, but "The kingdom of God does not consist in words, but in power" (1 Corinthians 4:20). Because of the general Greek belief that the image of God in man is his rational faculty, God was approached as a rational Being. However, the things of the Holy Spirit cannot be received by "the natural man ... because they are foolishness to him" (1 Corinthians 2:14).

All of the debates about homoousios and hypostasis may have clarified the Trinity and the two natures of Christ, but they resulted in further intellectualizing Christianity. This all goes contrary to the warning of Paul, who wrote, "Solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers" (2 Timothy 2:14). While the Orthodox Church sees the many schisms as necessary heresies in order to define and defend the truth, the reality is that Christianity began to split and divide over these wranglings about words.

The early preachers, unlike the Church Fathers, did not rely on the schools of Greek rhetoric and the rules which governed homilies. Preaching was not a cognitive function. Rather, they relied upon the person and power of the Holy Spirit (1 Peter 1:12). When they preached, people did not just hear about God; they actually heard from God (1 Thessalonians 1:5; 2:13).

The Body of Christ needs all the ministries mentioned in Ephesians 4:11 (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers). This is a problem for the institutional hierarchy because they have no control over whom God chooses. These charisms are given by the sovereign choice of God, not the Church. Those who walk in these graces have authority in the body of Christ, which is proven by the Spirit and power.

Montanism was an attempt to return to a living relationship with the Holy Spirit. The documentation on the Montanists is very limited. It is unfortunate that, with the exception of Tertullian, we do not have any documents authored by the Montanists which show us what they taught or prophesied. However, it found success because the laity still operated in the charismata. There was a remnant of believers who still trusted the Holy Spirit. It was really little different than the prophets of the Old Testament who were in constant conflict with formalized Judaism, or the Lord and His apostles in their conflicts with the Jews of the Second Temple Period.

Montanism revealed the tension between political authority and spiritual authority. But it was flawed and it ultimately failed. The death nail in the coffin came when Constantine outlawed private meetings in houses. Spiritual songs and hymns were also outlawed in an attempt to stamp out some of the heresies. In other words, it was against the law for a group of people to meet with the Holy Spirit. But in their effort to control the heretics they quenched the Spirit.

As an exercise, go through the book of Acts and mark every reference to the Holy Spirit to understand how He operated and how the early Church related to Him. Follow this up by doing the same thing in the Epistles. After doing so, ask yourself these questions: Why did the Church discontinue this relationship with the Holy Spirit? Why do we not see the Holy Spirit manifesting in this manner? Can we experience the Holy Spirit in this way and, if so, what do we need to do to invite the Holy Spirit to be manifest as Lord in our lives?

Even if one is baptized, chrismated, and partakes of the Eucharist regularly, one still needs to personally invite the Holy Spirit to fill, baptize, speak, guide, teach, and manifest Himself. One needs to cry out that the Holy Spirit would reveal Jesus and the Father to his heart. If a person has not experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit as believers did in the book of Acts, it is very difficult to understand many things the New Testament says about Him.

One can accumulate a pedantic understanding of all the Church Fathers and still not have a single revelation of the truth, because such revelation comes from the Spirit. The theology of the Fathers has great appeal to those who are intellectually inclined. This is especially true for those with a background in philosophy. However, the Father in heaven chose to conceal things from the wise and reveal them to babes. Therefore Paul wrote, "Let him who is wise become a fool that he may be truly wise" (1 Corinthians 3:18).

In the end we are utterly dependent upon the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Some Questions

Some questions for Christians and the church about homosexuality and same-sex acts:

Non-Coital Sex
If one permits couples in heterosexual marriages to engage in sexual activity that does not each and every time include or conclude with coitus, does that not weaken the argument against sexual activity by couples in same-sex marriages? When coitus is not involved, why can't a male do sexually to or with his male partner what a female can do sexually to or with her male partner, or why can't a female do sexually to or with her female partner what a male can do sexually to or with his female partner?

For those who would argue that homosexual sex is wrong because it cannot be procreative, is non-procreative sex between married heterosexual couples okay? Many heterosexual couples engage in sexual activity with no intention of procreation (or no ability to procreate in cases of infertility), or with no unprotected coitus (thus preventing even the possibility of procreation, assuming no unintended semen entry). Are heterosexual couples permitted to do this? When homosexual couples engage in non-procreative sexual activity, they do it for the very same reasons that heterosexual couples do. Homosexual persons have the very same feelings of arousal and sexual desire and urging toward persons of the same sex that heterosexual persons have toward members of the opposite sex, and studies and personal stories seem overwhelmingly to show that trying to reprogram or redirect homosexual persons' arousals and urgings to respond to opposite-sex persons is rarely if ever successful. So if the reason for "male and female" - i.e., procreation - is not a required factor for all permissible heterosexual sexual activity, why can't homosexual couples do what heterosexual couples may do? If the intent or possibility of procreation is not the determining factor or sine qua non for permissible sexual activities between heterosexuals, then why may homosexual couples not engage in sexual activities?

For those who view same-sex attraction as at best a disability or a perversion/distortion of proper sexuality, or as a less-than-ideal situation: We permit and even encourage heterosexual couples to find accommodations for sexual or physical impairments so that they can engage in sexual activity for the non-procreative benefits of love, fulfillment, closeness, bonding, pleasure (including selflessly pleasing the other), etc., that such activities achieve. If same-sex attraction is indeed a lack of, or impairment or damage to, the "normal" ability to react and act sexually toward a person of the opposite sex, why should we not have the same compassion and attitude toward persons with same-sex attraction, especially since the "accommodation" in such cases is so easy - i.e., simply let them sexually relate to a person of the same sex?

Why "Homosexuals/Homosexuality"?
I think one limits one's ability to fully think about these issues if one automatically or primarily refers to or views persons with same-sex attraction as "homosexuals" or as having a "homosexual 'lifestyle'." Why do we use this terminology to categorize and (often) stereotype such persons? Do we primarily refer to ourselves or each other by our eating preferences (omnivores, vegetarians, vegans)? Or by the means by which we get to work or school (motorists, bicyclists, public transportation riders)? Or by our residences (homeowners, home buyers, renters)? Or by our entertainment preferences (movies, theater, opera, sports, TV)? Etc. All of these are valid ways of classifying people depending on the purpose of the classification. As one author pointed out, we could just as validly group together men and women who are sexually attracted to men as being "androphiles" or "androsexuals," and men and women who are sexually attracted to women as being "gynecophiles" or "gynecosexuals." I don’t primarily or even significantly view or regard myself as being a "heterosexual," and I certainly wouldn't say that I live or have a "heterosexual 'lifestyle'," as my "lifestyle" encompasses and can be defined or characterized by a lot of things, not simply or mainly by my opposite-sex attraction or sexual activity.

Christians First
It seems to me that Christians have or should have more in common with each other than with non-Christians. I.e., Christians, regardless of their sexual attraction, should first understand themselves to be brothers and sisters of/with each other and not reflexively align/ally heterosexual Christians (including themselves) more with heterosexual non-Christians than with homosexual Christians, nor align/ally homosexual Christians (including themselves) more with homosexual non-Christians than with heterosexual Christians. Maybe a first step in Christians and the church being better about these things is to stop defining members of the body of Christ as being "homosexuals" or "heterosexuals."

Monday, May 06, 2013

The Amazing Romans 16

Papyrus 46 - Romans 16:4-13
I bet people most people skim right through (or right over) Romans 16, thinking it's just a list of names.


Look at the list:

"I commend to you Phoebe" - a woman - probably the person Paul trusted to carry his letter to Rome - "a deacon(ess)" [diakonos*, a common gender noun used for both men and women, and hence could refer to an office she held, and not just a statement that she was a "servant"] - "she has been a prostatis to many and to myself, too" - i.e., a benefactor, perhaps a wealthy or powerful citizen who introduced Paul to the persons in her city, or even protected Paul and supplied his needs, etc.

"Greet Prisca and Aquila" - note that Prisca's (Priscilla's), a woman's name, comes first (as it does in most of the other New Testament mentions of this couple) - and she is a "fellow-worker" too, one who risked her own neck for Paul's life. And ... she has a church in her house.

"Greet Mary" - another woman.

"Greet Andronicus and Junia" - a woman - one who is "well known to the apostles" or "outstanding among the apostles" - i.e., possibly a woman apostle. John Chrysostum and the Early Church Fathers took the Greek to mean that she was an apostle.

Dan Wallace reports that a massive computer search of Greek literature shows that the construction of the phrase overwhelmingly favors the translation "well known to the apostles." See Innovations in the Text and Translation of the NET Bible, New Testament - II.B.2. Also see Junia Among the Apostles: The Double Identification Problem in Romans 16:7 and Was Junia Really an Apostle? A Re-examination of Rom 16.7.

A discussion (June 3, 2002ff.) on B-Greek cites Eldon Jay Epp, "Text-Critical, Exegetical, and Socio-cultural Factors affecting the Junia/Junias Variation in Romans 16,7," pp. 227-291 in New Testament Textual Criticism and Exegesis: Festschrift J. Delobel, Edited by A. Denaux, BETL 161, Leuven: Leuven University Press/Peeters, 2002, in opposition to Wallace's conclusions, however. (I can't find this discussion in the B-Greek archives now.) And Suzanne McCarthy has a seven-part rebuttal to the Wallace-Burer position: McCarthy vs Wallace (and Grudem)

Whether or not an apostle, the name is "Junia," i.e., a woman, and not a shortened version of the male "Junianus" - an apparent fiction invented by those who found the idea of a woman apostle hard to accept. "Junias" (the Greek form - accusative case) was considered to be a woman at least until the 13th century, as Douglas Moo writes in his acclaimed commentary on Romans. (Epp - see above - apparently argues for the name being masculine.)

"Greet Tryphaena and Tryphosa" - also women.

"Persis" is a woman, as the description of her as "the beloved" is in the feminine gender.

"Greet Rufus the chosen one in the Lord and his mother - and mine also." Now, if this is the same Rufus who was the son of Simon the Cyrene, who carried Jesus's cross, since Cyrene is in Africa, Simon and hence Rufus were likely Black - and Paul is claiming Rufus' mother as being like his own mother. So now we have another praiseworthy woman, and an African one at that.

"Greet Julia" - another woman ... "and Nerea's sister" (a woman).

Not to mention that, as Moo points out, Paul identifies three, and possibly five separate house churches (vv. 5,14,15; cf. also vv. 10,11).

(I originally wrote and/or last edited this June 23, 2002 when I used to have a Web page, though I have updated/added the links.)

διάκονος, ου, ὁ, ἡ (s. διακονέω, διακονία; Trag., Hdt. et al.;ins, pap, LXX; TestSol 6:10 L, for δράκοντας; TestJud 14:2; Philo,Joseph., Just., Tat., Iren., Hippol.) gener. one who is busy with someth. in a manner that is of assistance to someone
 one who serves as an intermediary in a transaction, agent, intermediary, courier (cp. Jos.Ant. 1, 298 of Rachel who brought Jacob to Laban; s. also Ant. 7, 201224 al.Jos.Ant. 8, 354 Elisha isἨλίου καὶ μαθητὴς καὶ δ.; Epigonos is δ. καὶ μαθητής of Noetus inHippol., Ref. 9, 7, 1). Of a deity’s intermediaries: gener. θεοῦ δ. (Epict. 3, 24, 65 Diogenes as τοῦ Διὸς διάκονοςAchilles Tat. 3, 18, 5 δ. θεῶνcp. PhiloDe Jos. 241Jos.Bell. 3, 3542 Cor 6:41 Th 3:2 (cp. 1 Cor 3:5) s. below; Tit 1:9b v.l.Hs 9, 15, 4δ. Χριστοῦ 2 Cor 11:23Col 1:71 Ti 4:6 (cp. Tat. 13, 3 δ. τοῦ πεπονθότος θεοῦ); of officials understood collectively as a political system agentἡ ἐξουσία the (governmental) authorities as θεοῦ δRo 13:4, here understood as a fem. noun (Heraclit. Sto. 28 p. 43, 15; of abstractionsEpict. 2, 23, 8; 3, 7, 28). W. specific ref. to an aspect of the divine message: of apostles and other prominent Christians charged with its transmission (δ. τῆς διδασκαλίας Orig., C. Cels. 1, 62, 30) Col 1:23;Eph 3:7δ. καινῆς διαθήκης 2 Cor 3:6δ. δικαιοσύνης (opp. δ. τοῦ σατανᾶ2 Cor 11:15. δ. τοῦ θεοῦ ἐν τ. εὐαγγελίῳ God’s agent in the interest of the gospel 1 Th 3:2 v.l. (for συνεργός); cp. δ. χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ (if Timothy provides proper instruction he will be considered an admirable transmitter of the gospel tradition) 1 Ti 4:6;δ. ἐν κυρίῳ Eph 6:21Col 1:25 indirectly as δ. ἐκκλησίας; of Christ as God’s agent δ. περιτομῆς for the circumcision=for descendants of Abraham, Ro 15:8. Cp. Phoebe Ro 16:1 and subscr. v.l.; of Tychicus as faithful courier Col 4:7 (Pla., Rep. 370e ‘intermediary, courier’; of Hermes, s. G Elderkin, Two Curse Inscriptions: Hesperia 6, ’37. 389, table 3, ln. 8; Jos.Ant. 7, 201224 al.).
 one who gets someth. done, at the behest of a superior,assistant to someone (the context determines whether the term, with or without the article ὁ, οἱ is used inclusively of women or exclusively) Mt 20:2623:11Mk 10:43; of all 9:35Pol 5:2. Of table attendants (X., Mem. 1, 5, 2; Polyb. 31, 4, 5; Lucian, Merc. Cond. 26; Athen. 7, 291a; 10, 420e; Jos.Ant. 6, 52J 2:5, 9. Of a king’s retinue Mt 22:13.—Of Jesus’ adherents gener.: those in the service of Jesus J 12:26. Satirically, ἁμαρτίας δagent for sin Gal 2:17 (cp. the genitival constructions in 1 above; cp. Tat. 19, 2 of divination as instrument or medium for immoderate cravingsπλεονεξιῶν  δ.). One who serves as assistant in a cultic context (Hdt. 4, 71, 4 ‘aide, retainer’; Pausanias 9, 82, 2 ‘attendants’) attendant, assistant, aide (the Eng. derivatives ‘deacon’ and ‘deaconess’ are technical terms, whose mng. varies in ecclesiastical history and are therefore inadequate for rendering NT usage of δ.) as one identified for special ministerial service in a Christian community (s. Just., A I, 65, 5; 67, 5; Iren. 1, 13, 5 [Harv. I 121, 6]; Hippol., Ref. 9, 12, 22) esp. of males (the δ. as holder of a religious office outside Christianity: IMagnMai 109 [c. 100 b.c.]; IG IV, 474, 12; 824, 6; IX, 486, 18; CIG II, 1800, 1; 3037, 4; II addenda 1793b, 18 p. 982;Thieme 17f; MAI 27, 1902, p. 333f no. 8, 22) Phil 1:1 (EBest, Bishops and Deacons, TU 102, ’68, 371–76); 1 Ti 3:8, 124:6Tit 1:9a v.l.Phlm subscr. v.l.; 1 Cl 42:4f (Is 60:17); Hv 3, 5, 1Hs 9, 26, 2IEph 2:1IMg 2; 6:1; 13:1; ITr 2:33:17:2IPhldins; 4; 7:1; 10:1f; 11:1; ISm 8:110:112:2IPol 6:1Pol 5:3D 15:1.—Harnack, D. Lehre d. Zwölf Apostel: TU II 1; 2, 1884, 140ff, Entstehung u. Entwicklung d. Kirchenverfassung 1910, 40ff; FHort, The Christian Ecclesia 1898, 202–8; Ltzm.ZWT 55, 1913, 106–13=Kleine Schriften I, ’58, 148–53; HLauerer, D. ‘Diakonie’ im NTNKZ 42, ’31, 315–26; WBrandt, Dienst u. Duienen im NT ’31 (diss. Münster: Diakonie u. das NT, 1923); RAC III, 888–99; JCollins, Diakonia ’90 (p. 254: ‘Care, concern, and love—those elements of meaning introduced into the interpretation of this word and its cognates by Wilhelm Brandt—are just not part of their field of meaning’.) Furtherlit. s.v. ἐπίσκοπος and πρεσβύτερος.—Since the responsibilities of Phoebe as διάκονος Ro 16:1 and subscr. v.l. seem to go beyond those of cultic attendants, male or female (for females in cultic settings: ministra, s. Pliny, Ep. 10, 96, 8; cp. CIG II 3037 διάκονος Τύχηἡ δ. Marcus Diaconus, Vi. Porphyr. p. 81, 6; MAI [s. above] 14, 1889, p. 210; Pel.-Leg. 11, 18; many documentary reff. in New Docs 4, 239f), the reff. in Ro are better classified 1, above (but s. DArchea, Bible Translator 39, ’88, 401–9). For the idea of woman’s service cp. Hv 2, 4, 3; hence Hs 9, 26, 2 may include women. Furtherlit. s.v. χήρα b.—Thieme 17f. B. 1334. DELGM-MTWSv. (BDAG)