ummm...for what it is worth, one of the wives of Ghengis Khan was a Nestorian Christian....what if it was her son that became the next Emperor of China. That would mean the when mongels invaded Russia they would have been meeting another Christian nation, and the history of world might well have been very different. At that time the Russians were facing Germanic armies of Teutonic Knights form the West and a Mongel invastion from the east at the same time. They could only fight decisively on one front. They picked fighting the Catholic Germans because they would deeply mess with their faith if they conquered. The Mongels however would just rob and oppress them but leave their faith alone. The tide against the Germans was turned under the leadership of St. Alexander Nevsky...but that victory left the back door open for the Mongels. If the Mongels were Christian their Nestorian faith would have been closer in a number of ways to the Orthodox faith of the Russians than that of western Catholics...of course they still regarded Nestorianism every bit as heretical as the Roman filioque...but the mindset of a Nestorian Mongol nation may not have been so meddlesome as Rome was wont to be at that time.
Yeah, I remember reading about this stuff while researching for my World History Class.
Man, it's been a while since we've touched on this, folks.
Just thought of something while rereading our vague speculatings: Tzeng He's treasure fleet (not sure if I got the name right...). Tzeng He was this Chinese admiral who explored the seas on the Western edge of the Pacific. His ships were huge, dwarfing the Santa Maria (Columbus's ship). He could have gone across the Pacific, but the beuracracy (sp?) thought it was worthless.
What if he/his higher ups were motivated by the missionary spirit and sent him across the sea? How would that have effected the socio-political layout of the Americas.
This topic is incredibly open-ended, which is why I once refered to it as Pandora's Box...
Had the Chinese established trading colonies on the western seaboard of North America...I sort of doubt full scale colonization, but I could see citie states like Shanghai, Hong Kong or Macacu growing up.
I used to wonder what would have happened if some Greek or Russian Orthodox monasitic/missionaries had made landfall among the Inca...who a generation prior to the Spanish had begun to believe along monotheistic lines...at least among their upper class.
Speaking of Christianity going east...I just found these three poems by one the emperors of China who apparently was at heart if not formally a Christian...several of his children however were baptized:
THE TREASURE OF LIFE The treasure of heaven is comprised of Sun, Moon and Stars; The treasure of earth consists of crops, gold and silver. The treasure of a kingdom is to have righteous officials; The treasure of a family is to have descendents with piety. Yet, Gold, silver and jade are not as precious as one's life. Hundred years of age is nothing compared to eternity. Coming and going in life is like a dream. The best food and clothing don't mean a thing. It's no exception for someone born in a royal family. The most important thing in the world is life. Something that white jade, gold and silver can't buy. Even plain porridge can be satisfying; No cloth is fit to wear for a thousand years. The heaven's gate was closed due to the first man's sin; The path to salvation is through the Son only. I would like to accept God, the Son and the Holy Spirit; And receive from thee my free gift of eternity. By the hand of KANGXI of Qing Dynasty
THE POEM OF THE CROSS When the work was accomplished, blood formed a creek Grace from the west was thousand feet deep. He who lowered himself for us stepped on the midnight trip. Before the rooster crowed twice, betrayed thrice was He. Five hundred slashes torn every inch of his skin. Two thieves at six feet high hanged besides him. The sadness was greater than anything seen by anyone. This poem is for You, the Holy one.
THE POEM ON TRUTH Everything as seen by the eye is His creation. He who has no beginning and no end, is three persons in one. The heaven's gate was closed to the first man's sin and reopens through the Son. Rid of all false religions, we should become real disciples admired by everyone
Last Edit: Dec 23, 2008 12:03:08 GMT -5 by seraphim
Post by newburydave on Jan 2, 2009 16:33:03 GMT -5
I really think that China would have become the epicenter of the Christian Church if the main thrust of Christianity had gone east. The Middle Kingdom dominated the whole of the "east" on and off for Millenea.
According to my reading of history the Chinese were the dominant culture and military power in that area. But their dominance waxed and waned as their dynastic cycle rose and fell. The Kuhmer kingdom and the other powers in that area only happened because China was at a dynastic low point during that time. Rather like the rise of Israel and Judah during the low times of the Tigres Euphrates and Nile valley empires.
I believe that the Chinese of one of the early dynasties did establish trading colonies on the western coast of the America's. According to Chinese history Japan was established by a colonial group from one of the Chinese Imperial courts. So China is the natural dominant power on the Pacific rim. Up until the "discovery" of China by the Portuguese 1/3 of the population of China was Christian, the other 2/3's who were Islamic and Confucian allied together and wiped them out lest they ally with the Portuguese and seize the dynastic throne.
Prior to the rise of the Islamic empires (Tammerlane I believe) there was a large Christian presence in India. Christianity so deeply penetrated Vedic Indian culture that modern Buddhism was forced to adopt fundamentally Christian themes at it's core about individual salvation to survive. Very few practicioners of the original Buddhism of Gautama still exist.
Afganistan was a Christian nation populated by converted Jewish children of the Babylonian diaspora. That tribe in the South, that are leaders of the Taliban today, claims descent from one of the sons of King David. Ancient Christian Afganistan was the world's largest center of Christian Missionary activity until it was conquored by the Muslim hordes.
When the mongol hordes conquered the middle east the Mongol empire almost became a Christian Empire. Tamerlane's three sons got into a dynastic fight. One of them was a Christian, one had become Islamic and the other didn't count for some reason. The Islamist won the struggle. If the Christian one had won the contest. . .
So yeah, this has great potential as an alternative history project. I don't even think we have to shut the West out from Christianity or Rome for that matter. The East was so much more sophisticated than the West that if they had really gotten it together under the liberating influences of the Gospel they would have easily become the dominant powers in the world. The subtle and careful Eastern ArchBishops and Prelates would have cleaned the clocks of the western bumpkins in a fair contest.
And the Persian-Chinese dominated cultures didn't have the Anti-Technology bias that retarded the classical Western Greco-Roman world. So. . . How about the great awakening spawning modern technology during the 1000's along the Indo-Chinese Axis beteen Persia and Bejing.
I can see Modern (Chinese) technology moving west to sweep up Europe etc and probably Chinese Space flight by the 1700 & 1800's.
I think we should start with a few (less than 8) key events that would turn the historic time line from our current one into an Eastern Centric church world.
Fallen man being what he is there would be Imperial churches arise in the centers of power in the east to challenge the Roman Church in the West. These would be staffed by carnal political "churchmen" as vicious as any we've seen int the halls of the western churches.
The controversies could go far beyond the Roman Pope battling it out with the Eastern Patriarch for supremacy. How about the Metropolitan Prelate of the Chinese church headquartered in the Forbidden city in Bejing next to the Emperor. Instead of Roman Classical Scholasticism we would have Chinese Confucian thought and Zen pulled into the mix with the Gospel.
Something like that is happening in the Chinese TSPM church today to produce a Chinese brand of Christianity to rival the Anglo-American brand that has been dominant for the last few centuries.
Remember the idea of catholicism is the original and still current teaching of the Bible.
Catholic is Latin for Universal so we are all members of the Catholic church if we are in Christ. The conflict arises when the catholic church in a certain cultural milleau tries to assert it's own Christian cultural norms are a "Sanctified Part" of the Gospel message and as such superior to the cultural norms of other parts of the catholic church.
I think there is a lot of grist here to be ground into bread if we can establish a common alternative "Eastern Church Dominant" universe to play in.
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Something to consider: Those willing to change advance in technology and other innovations (government, economic, social, religious, etc.) more quickly than those dedicated to maintaining the status quo, or some vision of a Utopian or otherwise superior past. I don't know, but this might be part of the reason that the Eastern Orthodox church did become less of a missionary force outside the areas already reached by the early church. They were less willing to change with the times, the culture, or whatever, than was the Western Church. Maybe.
Some struggle through the desert because He said . . .[br][br]". . .If you would be my disciples, you must take up your cross daily and follow me"
Eastern Orthodox church did become less of a missionary force outside the areas already reached by the early church.
I'm not sure which histories you are reading. Wherever and whenever Orthodox Christians have been free they have done considerable missionary work.
If Orthodoxy were largly confined to the margins of the Eastern Roman Empire then who was it that managed the conversions of the Rus or the Georgians? Where did Orthodox Poles and Finns come from? The Russians after consolodating their own extensive lands (Russia, Ukraine, Belorussia, etc. are not tiny) lands spent another 200 under foreign domination. Once free the Orthodox Church went all over Siberia, another huge land with pit stops in Northern China and later Japan. They crossed the Bering Sea in the mid 1700s and headed down the western seaboard of North America evanglizing Native Americans until they bumped into the Spanish racing north up California to intercept them. That doesn't sound like just sitting around to me. St. Innocent of Alaska had more miles by dogsled and kayak taking the Gospel to folks in Siberia and Alaska than John Wesley did by horseback.
So why didn't Eastern Orthodoxy prevail? Why didn't the places they evangelized become more technologically, governmentally, sociologically or economically advanced? Why was North Western Europe the first to begin talking about and implementing democracy and other enlightenment ideas? Why did the movement now advancing more than other Christian movements or groups in East Asia, South America and Africa begin in LA? Why is the U.S. the wealthiest nation on Earth (note: not because it's a Christian nation. It began as a deist nation, had a few revivals but as a whole, moved more and more toward agnosticism, optimistic humanism, and a general relativism & pluralism)?
I certainly could be wrong about the willingness to change being the key to advancement, but if the Eastern Orthodox church took over in all these regions you mention, and if the governments, societies, and economies in those regions are advancing less than those in regions occupied by the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches, what's the correlation or the cause? And what is currently happening in the Eastern Orthodox church in terms of revival and/or missionary work? Is it being effective? Why or why not?
I've already determined that I agree with the Eastern Orthodox church in most of its theology (just not its worship style). But unless it's far stronger and more effective in its missionary and evangelistic efforts in the modern day than I've heard that it is, something must be wrong. I'll say the same of any Christian group or movement that isn't gaining significant ground in its evangelistic and missionary efforts, be it Roman Catholic, protestant, or other. If we've got the power of God at work in and through us, we're listening to God, and doing what He tells us, we will be effective. If we're not being effective, we need to find out what's wrong and make a change.
Some struggle through the desert because He said . . .[br][br]". . .If you would be my disciples, you must take up your cross daily and follow me"
Well...it is said if the going is easy maybe you're headed downhill. Orthodoxy has rarely had a moments peace since the beginning...like Scripture says, to follow Christ is to incur the enmity of the world. There has rarely been a time in history where the Orthodox were not somewhere being persecuted and/or oppressed. From pagan emperors and kings to heretic factions, to islamist invaders to crusaders, to mongols and tartars to communists...a 2000 year trail of suffering and blood almost without intermission.
What the Orthodox wonder is if Western Christianity in its myriad forms so great, why is so much of it dying...abandoning any semblance of historical Christianity. Why is the rest of it so intent on chasing winds recognized and condemned universally as heretical centuries ago. It seems modern western Christianity has become a patchwork of neo-arianism, sabelianism, messilianism, montanism, chillism, helvidianism, and a dozen more. What sort of progress is that? How is that something to be celebrated rather than mourned? So the east looks at the west and sees shiny new technology, bulging bank accounts, a christian bumper sticker for every taste in "theology", but what we don't see in much evidence is blood or saints. Go to the east though in traditionally Orthodox lands and just about every ditch and grove has a testimony of martyrs and confessors. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church, and you may well expect to see a great harvest yet to come. To the credit of much of western Christianity especially in Britian and North America it has been very generous for Christs sake with its wealth and skills and that too I believe will not be forgotten.
Orthodox however do ask why the enemy fights tooth and nail against Orthodoxy, never giving any quarter or respite, but western expressions he seems to hard bothers at all...once their kite is set, there's little for him to worry about than the occasional scandal.
As for prevailing...I guess that depends a little on what you qualify as prevailing. The Orthodox Church converted several great nations and formed of of the worlds great persistent cultures...one of the big three. As for its lag in economics, government and technology there are some pretty big assumptions in your assertions about the value of such things.
Until overrun by Islam, the Eastern Roman Empire was about as advanced as it got on the earth back then. The only serious competition was from China. Byzantium was also very wealthy and its people on the whole literate at a time when western civilization was clinging to existance by its fingernails only finally to be saved by the efforts and preaching of Irish monastics (whose faith was very eastern in orientation and practice...much more attuned to Egyptian and Palestinian mindset and forms than Western continental).
As for government the "Symphonia" of St. Justinian is to this day a superb model for government, one of if not the best that yet exists...at least in theory (people do though tend to underperform their ideals). Modern democracy however, can hardly be looked upon as an unmitigated good or an improvement over godly autocracy. Back when Czar Nicholas I freed the serfs, one old serf was asked by one of the merchant class about how he felt about all the new freedoms and rights he enjoyed. The serf did not share the merchant's enthusiasm. He said, "Now men may live as they please and that is not good for men's souls." The material affluence and personal freedoms protected and extended by democracy while not evil in themselves play to man's baser appetites and have tended to excess, the indulgence of every appetitte as a right, the muddling of cultural and societal identity and responsibilities in the face of hyper individuality, the trivializing and privatizing of man's spiritual being/needs. So I do not concede that either material wealth or democracy can be necessarily construed as progress in any unambiguous positive sense. There are good things about them, but taken as a whole they are deeply deadening, even destructive to man's spirit.
Where Orthodoxy has progressed is spiritually...if progress is the right word. And this is the progress that matters in the long term. Progress is a bit of a utopian conceit...the Kingdom ushered in by man's great self-improvment project. Orthodoxy does not value progress...if indeed it is progress and not regress, diversion, or disipation, so much as it values changelessness. The Faith was once and for all delivered to the saints. The fullness was preached by the Apostles and received by the Church. There is nothing to progress to except at our personal levels of participation in and attainment of those things already given to us as we grow into them (a kid may get big trust fund at 5 but chances are he doesn't get free access until he is at least 18 to 21). So it is with the Faith. For those who are called and willing the Orthodox church offers full access to that legacy and a regimine of spirital life that if lived honestly will lead step by step to spiritual maturity without fail. But that path, as well trodden and proven as it is holds little to interest most western Christians beyound a little exotic spiritual tourism. It is a call to become prayer head to sole...or soul as it were, to become all fire.
Prayer for the Orthodox ascetics is understood and pursued with the same depth and intensity as quantum physics is in the west, and I mean this quite literally not as a metaphor. It is for all intents and purposes a holy science. For example, on Mt. Athos for the past several centuries there are 7 monks so pure in their life and prayer the only clothing they have is their beards and God's hand. You can stand right next to one and never see him unless he has a reason to reveal himself to you. When it is time for one to die, he will appear to the next one who is to take his place and inform him of that blessing. Their prayers uphold and protect the Holy Mountain, and maybe the whole world. In the time of St. Barsanuphius of Gaza he said there were three then whose prayers upheld the world, and he named two of them....he was himself the third but he would not say so. The path to theosis (divinization: the Orthodox core salvic paradigm) is minutely documented, live out and transmitted by Orthodoxy's holy ascetics.
Western Christianity has little that even gets near the foothills of what they have and still accomplish to this day...and those that do...that have come close do so by design or accidental emulation of the path of Orthodox accesis, and in this instance I'm thinking of the example set by those like Rees Howells, Hudson Taylor, Praying Hyde, Sudhu Sundar Singh, Jeane Guyon, and Jesse Penn-Lewis) Progress down the path of sorrows, fasting, afflicition, mourning, poverty, obedience, and hiddenness is very different than progress down the road of material acquisition, individuality, and surfeiting.
As for what is happening in Orthodoxy today...today Orthodoxy is working very hard to reevangelize those generations stolen by communism. Holy elders in Romania are flocked to by young people there like rock stars are here. There monasteries that were emptied and/or destroyed have been rebuilt and filled anew. The churches that were razed or put to shameful used have been raised up again and cleaned. Churches once empty are now crowded...and the pastoral burden is growing so fast and is so great bishops and priests can hardly keep up (they also have to fend off the encroachments of western sheep stealers). There is a definite revival in the liturgical arts of music and iconography. In the west Orthodoxy has been growing at a steady clip for the past 30 years. For example in late 1970 there were only about 14 Orthodox parishes in the Southern jurisdiction of the Orthodox Church in America, now there are about 70 and several new missions underway. Many whole congregations have converted, one new age cult (Holy Order of Mans) converted, and two whole denominations (one in the US and Canada and one in Africa). True we don't have the numbers others do....but then it is not easy to become Orthodox...there's no just walking the aisle. For example most people have to wait six months to a year from the time they are sure they want to convert. I waited for three years.
Frankly Orthodoxy is not interested in catering to those who are just looking for the next esoteric experience, hobby shoppers as it were. Indeed it is said it's hard to even be sure of an Orthodox convert's conversion for the first ten years.
As for effective...again that depends on your goals. If your goal is to make money and you make money then you are effective at making money. While we certainly have no aversion to using money, Orthodoxy does not measure success in terms of money or any other earthly thing...not even in the number of souls who come in, as precious as those are. Pursuing unceasing prayer and the acquisition of the Holy Spirit, becoming more and more like Christ, those are things Orthodoxy is very effective at so far as those who engage the faith will follow it. Sadly too many are content not to challenge and deepen their faith, but glory to God, more and more are not so content...which is why the monasteries are filling up with new monastics and with pilgrims.
As a final note, I mentioned the blood of martyrs as the seed of the Church, and if you will pardon a brief detour into prophecy...if I understand the old monastic prophecies aright you may well live to see the following things: the collapse of Christianity in Europe, a massive war with Islam that will make temporary inroads into Europe before it is crush by a good king who will arise from the last of the Bourbons. it was once prophesied his name will be Phillip...which interestingly enough is the name of the son of King Juan Carlos of Spain, the last of the Bourbons. BTW Juan Carlos wife Sophia was raised Greek Orthodox (as was Prince Phillip the Royal Consort..his mother also became a nun). Rome will be destroyed, probably nuked and catholocism will collapse. There will be a huge upswelling of the faith in Russia which will spread back into and revangelize Europe and a new Orthodox patriarch of the west will be enthroned. I think Hudson Taylor also foresaw something like this but his fellows always thought it would be an evangelical revival. There will aslo be a new good Czar....which some think may be the same as the good king in the west. His reign will usher in a short golden age for Russia. At some point there will be a war between Russia and China in which China will take most of Siberia. Japan will end up governing Kamchatka. However this act will seed Orthodox much more deeply in Chinese society and I believe three or four great preachers will arise and rekindle the faith of a great many in China, Russia, Europe , and the Middle East. Somewhere in the mid to late 2030s (roughly 2037/38) the power of islam will be decisively broken...but it will cost Russia a great deal...they will lose roughly one in six of their military. Also Turkey will see a lot of violence and Constantinople will be restored to the Orthodox and the last liturgy at Hagia Sophia will be finished (when the Turks overran it the first time they interrupted a liturgy in progress. The priests looked for an escape with the consecrated gifts and suddenly a door open in the wall behind the altar where there was no door. They and the altar servers went in. The door will not open again until the temple is cleansed and restored for worship. ) A third of the Turks will be baptized, a third destroyed, and third driven back to the lands of their ancestral origin [Turky will invade Greece, Russia will invade Turkey, Western powers will oppose Russia...final death toll many many millions). Then the antichrist will come, and Czar will be overthrown again, and this time the persecutions will make that of the communists pale by comparison for their ferocity....but we know how this story will ultimately end. My timeline is muddy since I am drawing from many sources across several hundred years but those are the key events to come...some of them known from at least the time of St. Constantine (like the rise and fall of islam). (And why do I have any confidence in such prophecies by a bunch of old monks...because everything else they said would happen prior to this so far has happened just as they said...for example all that befell Russia under the communists was known and prophesied by holy monastics starting at least 120 years before, if not sooner, with two of the more notables among those prophets being St. Avel the Holy Fool and St. Seraphim of Sarov)
Just by way of example, here is a snippet from a Serbian of the 1850s, known as Holy Dimitri:
The whole world will be plagued by a strange disease and nobody will be able to find a cure; everybody will say I know, I know, because I am learned and smart, but nobody will know anything. People will think and think, but they will not be able to find the right cure, which will be with God’s help, all around them and in themselves.
Man will travel to other worlds to find lifeless deserts there, and still, God forgive him, he will think that he knows better than God himself. There, except of the eternal peace of God, he will see nothing, but he will sense with his heart and soul all of God’s beauty and power. People will drive in rigs upon the moon and stars. They will look for life, but life similar to ours they will not find. It will be there, but they will not be able to understand it and see that it is life.
One who goes there, God forgive him, not believing in God as it is proper for an honourable and decent person, when he comes back he will say: “Oh, you people, who mention God’s name with doubt, go there where I was, then you will see what is God’s mind and power.”
The more people will know, the less they will love and care for each other. Hatred will be so great between them that they will care more for their different gadgets than for their relatives. Man will trust his gadget more than his first neighbor…
Last Edit: Jan 9, 2009 11:55:33 GMT -5 by seraphim
My apologies if that came off either too defensive or triumphalistic.
But be that as it may in the prophecies there are ideas I think suitable to inspire some interesting stories.
With regard to the piece from Holy Dimitri's comments on the effect of space travel: If that were extrapolated I believe one could suppose a situation in a time when space travel is more expansive that governments might be concerned about a high percentage of space travelers becoming deeply religious. What if most space travel was restricted, even though technologically and economically feasible just to preclude undo incidence conversion. This might be a real big issue with the Chinese space agency.
Then again the shoe might be on the other foot...you could have a story about the resources of the Church being discreetly (or not) poured into the development of civilian space flight and habitats just because the effect of long term exposure to space tends to have profound positive spiritual consequences...churches filling up, lots of missionary and social aide volunteers etc.
One could envision stories about in solar system life that is completely outside the box of what we understand as life. Michael Criton explored some similar territory with the Andromeda Strain which was about trying to contain the effects of a space borne contagion, a kind of crystalline virus/bacterium, something not conventionally alive...but one which reproduced, mutated as a way of "life", and had a variety of lethal and benign phases...mostly lethal. What other forms of "life" are conceivable outside the bounds of our experience and expectation that would be plainly visible (or just out of sight) to the "trained" eye in the dust bowls of Mars or the acid baths of Venus...or even the vacuum wasteland of the moon?
What kind of Da Vinci codish story might one get by spinning out the cryptic numeric prophecy inscribed on the tomb of St. Constantine...the one that foretold the year of the fall of Constantinople and foretells the year of the fall of the sons of Hagar?
The return of the Czar has already proven fodder (a bit mangled) for one modern thriller "The Romanov Prophecy" by Steve Berry.
For what it is worth the deepest level of my extreme far future milieu in which I have set a number of my stories...or story ideas, presupposes a joint Anglo-Russian space venture on Mars during the reign of the good Czar, the mission having at its head a regent prince (or princess) of Czar and his/her royal spouse from the royal house of Windsor...a great grandchild of her majesty Queen Elizabeth. All of which is an excuse to maintain a legitimate royal line in power when Mars and Earth loose contact amid wars and rumors of wars and possible (nod to Jeff) solar activity...which gives me year 0 from which to calculate when the rest of what happens happens 75,000 or so years in the future.
I also have a Edgar Rice Buroughs flavored retro/steampunk piece with a key premise that supposes Russia sold Alaska to the US as a way to fund their new Martian colonies...how they get there is another key part of the story. I was writing it for the Would That It Were Ezine before it folded.
Last Edit: Jan 9, 2009 16:47:26 GMT -5 by seraphim
fascinating reading, and I commend Eastern Orthodox monastics, priests, and organizations for their pursuit of God, His Kingdom and righteousness, and for being yielded to the guidance of the Holy Spirit toward evangelism in the areas under their influence today. Unless you know something that I do not, however, about the developments over the last 10-20 years in the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements and others within Evangelicalism, I can't understand how or why you're so hard on them.
The reason I saw in your writing was that objects roll more quickly downhill, implying that the enemy does not resist Evangelical churches; that he does not see them as a threat. I'd have to ask, however, that anyone who really cares what various churches are doing right and wrong take another look at today's Pentecostal and Charismatic movements, and see if they don't hold all the same priorities, values, dedication, zeal, spiritual attunement or any other attraction that the Eastern Orthodox church holds. I maintain that the primary difference is one of style, which is of paramount importance to Eastern Orthodox, but is irrelevant to most Christians who are really attuned to the Holy Spirit (how many sermons have I heard decrying the "worship style wars," and asserting that worship is worship and worship in Spirit and in Truth is good for people and pleasing to God?)
I recognize that the western church in general had the faults you described, systemically even. That's why the various revival movements have arisen. At some point the fundamentalists arose, reacting to the slide of the church toward the sinful ways of the culture that surrounded it. They took things too far in terms of manufacturing rules about holiness (men and women couldn't sit together in church, in some cases. No movies. no swimming together, elbows couldn't touch when courting couples held hands, etc.) So the Evangelicals arose, wanting to be true to the Bible, unlike the liberal Christians and deists and such, but wanting to avoid the legalism, judgmentalism, etc. of the fundamentalists.
Yes, in time even the evangelicals fell toward the attractions of the culture, which is why the holiness movement and the Welsh revival resurged in the late 1800s and gave rise to the Pentecostal movement in the early 1900s. These were people who, like the Eastern Orthodox, saw and followed the need to abandon the pursuits of society and devote themselves wholy to prayer, holiness, humility, and service, and evangelism. They longed, furthermore, to see God move in power in and through his modern church as he had in the early church, and just as Jesus promised, God granted their petition. They weren't successful in their evangelistic and missionary endeavors because the enemy left them alone. Indeed, he did not, and many pentecostal missionaries were martyred, and many who remained in the Western world were disgraced and austricised, determined to be insane because of their mysticism and dedication to the pursuit of God and of Holiness etc.
But the Pentecostals slid as well, getting stuck in a rut, focusing more on their pentecostalism than on the Holy Spirit that would have empowered it. They forgot about prayer, holiness, humility and service, and a movement became more and more like a monument, trying to rest on its laurels and what God had done through them in the early 1900s instead of doing what He was telling them to do now. They became legalistic, in many cases, just as the fundamentalists before them. The youth of the 60s and 70s, regardless of their faith or lack thereof, wouldn't have any of it and they left to explore other faiths.
As Seraphim pointed out, many of them turned to the historical authenticity of Eastern Orthodoxy or Celtic Orthodoxy. Others turned to eastern mysticism in one adulterated form or another, which is where you get all the "budhists" in hollywood and such. Those youth who rejected Pentecostalism and the main line protestant denominations but chose to remain protestant, led by the Holy Spirit, began the Charismatic movement. That was an awesome time with awesome people running whole heartedly after an awesome God. Their faith was genuine, their expressions authentic and true to what God had placed in their hearts, and their ministry was culturally relevant and thus effective and powerful. The charismatic movement, at its beginning, was a good thing, a God thing, and an appropriate response to what the Pentecostal movement had become. The Charismatic movement in the early 70s was what the Pentecostal movement should have been, and would have been, had it stuck with its founding ideals.
Alas, even the Charismatics got carried away on their experiences of the Holy Spirit, even they falling back on their laurels as time progressed into the 80s and 90s. They grew out of their "hippy" or "revival" stage, got material wealth (probably blessed by God) and became full of themselves. They had so much fun "dancing in fields of grace" that they forgot "that old rugged cross," or the "Holy Holy Holy" God who had sacrificed His Son there for their atonement and restoration to relationship with Him. I could go on, but Seraphim did a fine job of describing what happened to the Charismatic movement and to evangelicalism in general during this period.
But I challenge anyone to look at the best of the Pentecostals and Charismatics today and honestly conclude that they've abandoned the faith. Look at the pastor of the largest Pentecostal church in the world, in South Korea, who requires every member of his staff to pray for at least 4 hours a day, and prays for 6 hours a day or more himself. Look at the missionary in Central America who lambasts American believers for their lack of prayer, holiness and faith, and who's ministry raises an average of 3 people from the dead each month. Look at the new head of the Assemblies of God, who recorded an address to the church, prior to the elections, calling the church to pray for their new president regardless of who it would be and whether or not they agreed with him. Look at Jeremy Camp, a rock artist who has basically devoted his career to publishing songs of worship that he has written by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, many of them focusing on his reconciliation with God after his wife died of cancer. Look at the African Independent churches, the Brazilian Revival (or was it Argentinian?) the explosive growth of the Charismatic churches in Eastern Europe, or the ministry of Reinhard Bonkhe in Africa. That man, as do several other ministers out of Africa, leads meetings of millions every year, and hundreds of thousands are brought into the Kingdom of God and discipled. In-spite of this, they are some of the most humble and yet most powerful ministers you'll ever find. Bonkhe produced a video in which he sat with families and couples and taught them basic truths about the power of prayer and of faith. Then go and look at the smaller ministries here in the states, like that of La Marr Boscheman or Daryl Evans, lead worshipers who began in the early 70s-80s, and cast demons out of people by the power of the Holy Spirit flowing through them, like it's nothing. Look at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, where people seek God in Spirit led worship and prayer around the clock, and accurately prophesy current and near future events and the will and word of God for specific times, places and situations. Look at the local pastors around the nation and the world who slave away in churches of less than 500 members, year after year, pursuing the call of God on their lives when, as one song puts it, "The well is dry." The pastors who drive the broken down cars, clean the church themselves, preach, pray, counsel, do the administration, lead the worship and any of a number of other ministries until they fall, like Elijah under the tree, and cry out to God for relief if only so they can come back more effectively for His glory.
Look at these people, churches, and movements, and then tell people, in all honesty, that you believe the Western church has fallen and/or is lost. That God is not at work in the modern Pentecostal and Charismatic movements. That God would not have people join these congregations or movements, and that he favors some other branch of the Church to the exclusion of all other branches. If someone takes an honest look today and rejects these congregations and movements, I can't hold it against them. Maybe God's leading them elsewhere, or maybe they're not a good fit there. I see no problem at all with diversity in ministry and worship styles, such that the old man who can't stand the noise can seek God in a church that plays 16th century hymns, while the teenager who would be bored to death there can seek God in a church that plays modern rock, and both of them can hold to the exact same theology, doctrine, and practice otherwise.
Like I said, I agree, theologically, with the Eastern Orthodox church, and Seraphim has shown effectively that they are doing well, following the leading of the Holy Spirit, and are a good church for people to join if that is where God leads them. I have no problem with anything I've learned about the Eastern Orthodox church with the exception of two things: First, its unwillingness to adapt to modern conditions in which it ministers, and to the moving of the Holy Spirit for specific times and places, which, of course, it sees as its greatest strength. Seraphim has even made convincing arguments to me for the belief that the unchangeableness of the Eastern Orthodox church is a good thing. I just don't buy it.
Second, the Eastern Orthodox conviction of its superiority on the basis of its unwillingness to change can be disturbing, especially when they preach this to people who will either believe in a God who provides for their changing needs, including their need for enjoyment of His presence as experienced during the playing of worship music, or will not believe in God at all. The Eastern Orthodox are probably right in most of what they preach, but if people reject Christianity because they can't deal with the traditions of the church, then the church has stepped over dollars in its search for dimes. That upsets me. Let people join Eastern Orthodoxy, but don't let Eastern Orthodoxy insist that people join them or miss God. I would say the same of any branch of the faith.
By all means, if someone is seeking the place that God would have them go, looks honestly at the modern Pentecostal and Charismatic movements and compares them to other branches of the faith and believes God is leading them to Eastern Orthodoxy, they should attempt to join. For whatever it's worth they would have my blessing and perhaps encouragement to do so. All of these modern movements of congregations, denominations and individuals from one large group such as the main line denominations or traditional evangelicalism to another such as those described by myself and Seraphim are in response to the leading of the Holy Spirit. In each of these branches the Holy Spirit leads us to a life of faith, holiness, intimacy with Him, service, humility, etc. Members of all of these groups will find what God is leading them to. Eventually we'll all have to rejoin as the one unified bride without spot or wrinkle, so let us not be too quick to condemn those believers and churches that are different from us in their non-essential practices and doctrines
BTW, I do not want to imply that Seraphim has condemned myself or anyone else. But I have felt condemnation in the past from Eastern Orthodox and other groups to which tradition is more important than personal experience. I did see the need to defend the movement of which I am a part. I hope that, by doing so, neutral but interested readers can compare what Seraphim says to what I say, look for more information on both sides, and arrive at more informed and balanced conclusions than they might otherwise.
Some struggle through the desert because He said . . .[br][br]". . .If you would be my disciples, you must take up your cross daily and follow me"
Well, this thread is not about the truth claims of Evangelicalism or Orthodoxy but about the speculation concerning what turns might history have made if the Orient had been more responsive to the Gospel at a significantly earlier date in history, roughly in parallel with its spread within the Roman Empire and all points west.
My concern was that if you are going to have a fictionalized expansion of the Eastern Church you must know how she sees herself and her perspective upon theology and upon history to date. It many respects it is not like the West...not at all. So the Christianity that would spread into Persia and China and India was not and is not anything familiar to Evangelicals or Evangelicalism. It soteriology is vastly different, what it accepts as genuine spiritual experience and a proper path of spiritual development is likewise very different. It's worldview is different. And historically it's politics can be...well...Byzantine.
My objections raised with respect to Mongoose's opinion about the success of Orthodoxy at core was to point out the problem in the assumption that how east and west measure success is not at all the same. In some respects what is looked upon as success by one is view as just the opposite by the other.
On a personal more personal note, I was 21 years a Charismatic, from its Jesus People days to the dawn of the Toronto "blessing". Back when I thought the nascent Charismatic movement was part of the restoration of all things lost to the Church when I first bumped into Orthodoxy I found a few aspects of its thought and theology very interesting but its understanding of itself to be ignorant, arrogant...and fossilized. I thought its critiques of the charismatic movement completely without understanding of what God is doing today. Two decades latter because of what I had seen and what I had learned, those critiques did not sound far off base after all. Indeed to my surprise I found out some time later that one of the seminal forces and great preachers from the Pentecostal spectrum of the Welsh Revivial, Jesse-Penn Lewis (War on the Saints) identified a number of things from her time (early 1900s) that today are commonly celebrated in Charismatic circles that she considered delusional, even though the seemed/felt spiritual and right to those involved in them. Her cautions I found resonated strongly with the writings of St. Ignatius Brianchaninov who wrote the Arena as a guide for novice monks to help them distinguish genuine spiritual experience from that which was deceptive. For simplicities sake let me just say that I do not regard most of the things I once valued as a Charismatic in the same light anymore.
One interesting aspect of my interactions with Orthodoxy was that its unflinching opinion about who and what Orthodoxy was, and its exclusivity on that point which in my youth had so infuriated me at its sheer hubris, in middle age led me to examine it more closely because I wanted to find out just why they thought this way...I wanted to get inside their head to try and see the world and Chrisitan history and theological development as they did. To my surprise the deeper I go the more convinced I became that the were right...and that put me in a very peculiar place...for if they were right in their theology and perspective then even though I was a believer I was a heretic...a believer up till then in a number of erroneous things concerning Christ and His Church. And as such, despite my belief in Him I stood outside the formal if not the actual bounds of His Church, though not I hoped outside the penumbra of His mercy. It was a very curious feeling. So I made the choice then that seemed the only reasonable one I could take in light of recent "events". Almost 14 years from that point I'm more convinced than I was then. But I do not regret having been a Charismatic, had I not been I would not have been looking for what I ultimately found in Orthodoxy. Namely, as a Charismatic I believed the early Church had gone off the rails, had been lost in some sense and needed to be "reformed" and "restored". What I discovered was that the the NT Church had not gone anywhere, nor was it wanting for any of its former grace and glory. All was intact, if at times in the hands of all too earthen vessels. What had been lost was western expressions of the faith, first in the aftermath of the great schism and latter in the Reformation and what came out of it. The West had pulled away from the East and its experience changed and diminished until there arose those who knew there must be more...had to be and set out by their best lights to find it. Hence the many movements and revivals within portions of the Protestant world. There was a hunger of soul not being satisfied. And so it continues.
One final point to address though is the question of experience vs Tradition. This is a false opposition. The Paradosis by its very nature is experience...that which is handed down as St. Paul commanded. However, it is not individual experience, but the collective experience of the Church, the life of the Holy Spirit moving in her and governing her. It is against that standard we judge our individual experiences so that we do not get led astray by pleasant spiritual delusions that appeal to our spiritual pride. So it is not a question of personal experience vs Tradition, but a question of individuality vs the Communion....the conciliarity, the common experience and life of Christ of the whole Body across time. And by this I do not mean any sort of magisterium or magisterial opinion....that is a Latin concept foreign to the Orthodox understanding of the Church. Let us just say in the words of the Preacher, "there is nothing new under the sun" and Orthodoxy has been around long enough to bear witness to that reality.
Last Edit: Jan 10, 2009 14:05:57 GMT -5 by seraphim
Good points, Seraphim, especially as it regards the differences in world view between Eastern and Western thought/theology. I'll leave that at that.
I do want to clarify, however, the meaning of experience vs. tradition in the sense in which I'm using it. We all believe to some extent, I suspect, that the Bible is true, and that we are to read and study it in order to determine what God says to us. If I understand right the Eastern Orthodox does not hold the Bible as the only authority in matters of faith and practice, as do evangelical churches. Rather they hold the Church as the highest authority. Again, I'm not going there now. Suffice it to say that even the Eastern Orthodox would hold the Bible as AN authority in matters of faith and practice.
But we can see by the number of factions of Christianity that are out there that it is impossible to simply read and study the Bible, take it either literally or at face value, and assume we understand what God is saying. Rather, we are forced to interpret what we read in terms of . . . What? How DO we interpret the Bible? And this is a question that everyone who makes a conscious and thoughtful effort to do so has to answer for themselves and those under their influence.
Various churches do various things in interpretation of the Scriptures, and of truth in general. The United Methodist church took a look at these various models, and chose to use more of a balance in its own interpretations. Experience is one of those ways of interpreting Scripture and reality, or as Seraphim would put it, individual experience. The Charismatic church was very big on interpreting Scripture and reality in terms of the personal experiences of its members. They had been "slain in the Spirit," and concluded, based on that experience, that when people like the apostle John met Jesus in his revelation, the same thing happened to him as had happened to them. The praying in groans too deep for words, as inspired by the Holy Spirit, would be the speaking in tongues that they had experienced when they were "baptized in the Holy Spirit" in the same sense that most if not all of the new converts in Acts were.
Individual experience is a good way to screen stimuli and to come to understand the practical and applied meaning of what we read, but as some of us have learned, the heart is deceitful above all things. If we experience something, and it feels good, and we can find Scriptures to back it up, we are wont to go astray in some heresy or other. Thus, some churches, trying to avoid this and being influenced by the worship of logic and empiricism in the world around them assumed that, to find the truth of Scripture, they had to make logical sense of what they read. The true explanation or interpretation would be the logical one. That's where you get all these explanations of how Judas could, logically, have died by hanging and had his guts spill out on the ground, in the field he had bought, and in a field he simply came upon. Or how there were 2 of every kind of animal on the arch, and there were two of only some kinds of animals on the arch. or how God created plants first, and then people, even though he created people first, and then planted the garden of Eden for them. Everything in the Bible had to make logical sense to be the true interpretation. More conservative churches and individuals tend to lean in this direction. Or maybe the distinction is by generation, with the builders generation (parents of the baby boomers) being oriented more toward the use of logic in interpretation of reality and Scripture.
And then, of course, you have the more traditional churches, who interpret reality and Scripture primarily in light of their traditions or what the church says. The church, the communal experience, as Seraphim puts it, became the primary arbiter of truth. The obvious example of this to those of us in the Evangelical Church is the Roman Catholic church. People weren't supposed to rely on their personal logic or individual experience to interpret Scripture and reality, they were supposed to take it from the Vatican and accept the Vatican's interpretation as truth, whether or not it made logical sense, or agreed with their individual experience.
The United Methodist church realized that churches and people use these three methods in their interpretations of reality and scripture, and determined to make their decisions based on a balance of the three. So when we look at a Scripture or something we observe/perceive in the world we ask, "What's the logical explanation? What do we know from our own experiences? What has the church said, historically?" and whatever answer fits best with all three criteria is judged to be most likely to be closest to the truth.
If I understand right, the Eastern Orthodox church puts far more value on church tradition, or what Seraphim calls "communal experience" than it does on the other two methods. Conservative Baptist churches, for instance, would make more use of logic, and Charismatic churches make more use of personal or individual experience in determining what is true. None of these criteria are wrong, and I do not believe any of these churches are heretical. I, however, choose to go with a more United Methodist style balance of the three, even as I minister in the most Charismatic of the Pentecostal churches I could find in town.
Some struggle through the desert because He said . . .[br][br]". . .If you would be my disciples, you must take up your cross daily and follow me"
If I understand right, the Eastern Orthodox church puts far more value on church tradition, or what Seraphim calls "communal experience" than it does on the other two methods.
A note of explanation/enlargement: This is one of those questions where the rift in Eastern and Western theological catagories become apparant.
For the Orthodox the only guide to the life of the Church is the Tradition, the Paradosis, that which is handed down. The Paradosis is not set in contrast with or as a counterpoint to the Scriptures because Scripture is part of the Paradosis, the writen part of its Apostolic legacy. However its natural setting and place of experiece is within the Church. The unwritten Tradition gives substance and illumination to the Scripture and the Scripture informs and provides foundation for the unwritten. There are several sources of authority within the Tradition which taken together give expression to the Tradition. These are Scripture (all off it not just the books accepted by Protestants), Divine Litury together with her sacramental life, Conciliar Canons, Concensus of the Fathers, and the liturgical arts (Hymns, Icons, Architecture). All these empody and express the Life and governace of the Holy Spirit in the Church across time. This is because we understand the Church to be not just a human organization or institution but a divine communion, the very Body of Church who is her Head, an organism enviviated and joined together by the Spirit of God in Christ. As such as St. Paul says, the Church is the bulwark and foundation of all truth. Hence its life in the Spirit is authoritative. We understand the Church to be a participation in the communion of the Holy Trinity. This is to say we regard the communion between the Persons of the Holy Trinity to be the ontological foundation of all existance, and through Christ the Church and her members are made to be participants in that mode of communion as existance known by the Holy Trinity (in which we participate not by nature but by grace). In short the first Church is the life known with and in each other by the Persons of the Holy Trinity. The Church is the Church preciesely because its members are initiated into and participate in this life as exetended into creation by grace. This is what makes heresy or apostasy such a terrible and sad thing becase they are not just having another opinion about this thing or that thing, but both are a real loss of participation in that grace that makes the Church to be as the Church, as the Body of Christ.
[ Redaction ] This post was originally a bit longer but on reflection, the additional material was not necessary to the question at hand so I have edited the post to delete the matter. [end redaction]
In short it might be said we believe in the authority of the Church as the Church. When the Church speaks to a matter it is always with the Holy Spirit. They speak in unision. Their voice is one. "The Spirit and the Bride, say come" We believe that and all that it implies.
And to relate things back to the tread topic, such a traditional mindset would mesh very well with tradition oriented mindset of many asian nations. I think imperial China even had a office of Ceremonies, Rites and Customs...or some similar name...so they could make sure all proper protocols both heavenly and earthly were properly enacted in their due seasons.
Last Edit: Jan 12, 2009 15:57:16 GMT -5 by seraphim
More intriguing to me, rather than what if Christianity had more success going east, is what if the early missions to the America's had stuck...but sort of gotten lost from the memory of most of the Old World, like the Mar Thoma church in India.
Say St. Brendan and his crew had been able to establish a viable self perpetuating Christian community (the idea of Old Irish surviving as a liturgical language and perhaps serving among the Christianized N.A. peoples as a "lingua franca"/scholarly tongue makes for interesting speculation as well) in North America, converting some, maybe most of the various nations on the contient? ...A world where wandering Algonquin monks begin to live and teach among their Muscohegan or Souxian neighbors?
What might have gone differently if Cortez and crew had stumbled into a Tenocticlan filled with indigenous cathedrals and feather bedecked bishops instead of what they historically found. What if Greeks or Russians had made first contact with the Inca or its antecedant culture so that when Pizarro arrives he faces an indigenous Christian Empire ready, willing and able to take up the mantle of the "4th Rome"?
Last Edit: Jan 14, 2009 13:47:29 GMT -5 by seraphim