Monday, March 15, 2010

The Manhattan Deception: A Call to the Orthodox Christian Conscience

“A secularized Church is completely unable and weak to transform the world. And secularized Christians have failed at all levels.” - Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos

Ok some ranting…not really an article so to speak but some thoughts thrown together.

I must state beforehand I am not a theologian or a scholastic. I am a simple priest and write this of my own volition. This is just a post in response to some of the nonsense I personally have to listen to in my ministry and what we are exposed to by all the hoopla surrounding “The Manhattan Declaration”, all the talk of the “social gospel” due to Glen Beck’s recent rants and many other reasons.

Also what goes on in other faiths is their business and we should pray for them in love and peace. Judgment is left to God and we cannot judge another’s heart. However we can condemn the heresy, falsehood and deception and expose it for what it is especially if it is deceiving our own people.

We, for the most part, have all at this point probably at least heard about the document entitled the “Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience”. This document has been signed by numerous religious leaders in response to a real perceived need to the issues of the sanctity of life, marriage, religious freedom and states to” act in defense of these truths”. It also must be stated that those participants who have signed it often have done so on their own personal will and not as official church representation from each of their respective ecclesiastical communities.

I am not going to tout accusations of apostasy of certain individuals, attack various people’s consciences or degrade anyone’s free will. Let’s face it, this document does appeal to those who claim to be Christians in one form or another and to those who are tired, and rightfully so, of the moral degradation we see in all aspects of life in this country and the entire world. I agree with the premise of the document and support those key issues which it addresses.

With that being said I personally cannot entertain the possibility of signing or formally supporting the Manhattan Declaration. I feel this is yet another ecumenical landmine set up to deceive, to minimize the real gospel and distort Christ. Although I agree with the principles of the declaration, but the way it is offered is not necessarily transparent. Also I am not stating that the formulation was done with such intent or the authors are conspirators of some sort. I am not making such accusations. However, to deem all varying sects and branches as part of the same faith is misleading and unfortunately the false theology which permeates the West. As if differing branches can be considered the “global church”.

I feel that the declaration is a subtle attack on the apostolic church, as if it can be divided, preach diametrically opposed theologies, contradictions, and embrace schism, heresy, and ambiguities all in the name of “the gospel” and yet come together as one for a statement. Instead of one Lord, one faith, one baptism the underlining theme here is many Lords, many differing faiths and many baptisms(in some cases not required). It is deceptive, a coercion, a blatant distortion, and a play on emotion all in the name of Christian truth.

While the document insinuates that all signers are Christian, labeling all denominations in conjunction with the declaration as “Christian” whether apostate or not is a misnomer. Although there may be many mansions, heresy and truth cannot dwell together. We, as Orthodox Christians, cannot exchange of the gospel of Christ for some western notion of the social gospel. If all these groups who signed the declaration are truly Christian then how can they stand together as one if they are a house divided? There are momentous obstacles towards any real union as each group certainly preaches a different Christ.

Many would argue that this is not a “faith document” so coming together in regards to morality is quite different. However, Chuck Colson, one of the three authors of the Manhattan Declaration, said that the Manhattan Declaration is "a form of catechism for the foundational truths of the faith." (From “Just the Beginning” by Chuck Colson, a commentary from his blog on the topic of the Manhattan Declaration,

For more just listen to this 2 minute talk by Chuck Colson.

I am not trying to be a conspiracy theorist or over emphasize picayune points but the above statement by one of the declarations authors shows how far apart we are. The Orthodox Church has always declared to have the fullness of the faith. Why should we subscribe to some “foundational truth” being laid out by someone who has no tie to the historical Church?

As an Orthodox Christian I do not want to sign or embrace something based on good will, morals or emotion on such important topics. The gospel I subscribe to is the one offered by Christ, maintained by his apostles and which remains visibly and mystically present in His abiding presence within His mystical body the Church. Outside this the fullness and undistorted gospel cannot exist. Many have glimpses and seek but must unite the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.

The declaration states that Christianity has been “seeking justice in our societies, resisting tyranny, and reaching out with compassion to the poor, oppressed and suffering.” What baptism unto remission of sin? Repentance? Spiritual transformation? The Social Gospel is not the Gospel of Christ. It reminds me of the nonsense in Latin America known as “liberation theology”. Liberation theology or liberation from unjust political regimes, economic injustices, and social conditions in life are certainly areas of which the Christian should be concerned. But this is yet another gospel and not the gospel of salvation. Although as the gospels describe the needs of humans are to be addessed, when these needs are expolited or the message of salvation is placed on the backburner then the whole notion of the gosepl falls apart. When the the gospel falls into politics instead of Truth in Christ it is a sham.

What about the Church? It is through her that salvation enters the world. She is the Divine-human salvific institution that is the mystical body of Christ. To think that Truth can take an effective stand blatant heresy is the product of so-called worldy “theologians”, a misnomer as a theologian is one who truly prays, not one who merely rationalizes who God is or theorizes what His will is. Such “theological” conclusions are utterly bankrupt, pretentious and the work of a darkened mind and complete spiritual deception.

When one actively studies the words of the Holy fathers of the church, the ecumenical councils, the testimony of early Christian mysticism the wisdom they receive runs contrary to the assumptions, dogmatic and doctrinal errors of modern sects who have splintered from the Orthodox Church. When one reads the lives of the saints, the testimony of the fathers of the church, the ecumenical church councils, the scriptures and the apostolic witness I would argue they will cease to be Roman Catholic. When one objectively looks at church history, the actual scriptures(not watered down, doctored or incomplete manuscripts) and what the early church believed they will cease to be Protestant. Truth cannot be trampled on. In history fewer may accept it than other times, many may be deceived but it is always there as the gates of Hades cannot triumph over it.

Today, however, we have many “churches” claiming to be the one, true Church. Only the Holy Orthodox Church can legitimately claim this title. Some possess “mechanical” apostolic succession, but succession in this form, removed from adhering to the true faith is deficient and viewed as null and void, being outside the boundaries of the Holy Orthodox Church. The Church has always existed and is traceable by the apostolic succession of a valid bishop who teaches apostolic truth. This is essential for the spiritual and historic continuity of the true apostolic church. Paul urges us in Holy Writ: "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 2. 5). The Church is not just a human organization of brick and mortar and the material world, but the holy and blessed mystical Body and cosmic reality of Christ Jesus, the Logos.

As Orthodox Christians is not the Manhattan Declaration another entrapment blurring the lines between the Church and heresy? This is nothing new to Orthodox Christians. The so-called “lifting of anathemas” in 1965 by the Patriarch Athengoras of sorrowful memory even though the chasm of differences have grown consistently since the Great Schism. More recent events and various “statements” such as Balamand, Canberra, the agreement in New York, and the Toronto statement are all a threat to Orthodoxy.

Although a tome can be written on the subject I think the modern heresy of our times is ecumenism. I am not referring to proper dialogue which is good, but bad ecumenism where Truth is reduced to be almost meaninglessness for the sake of superficial outward unity and so-called peace. It is in this false ecumenical spirit that all previous hereises are accepted. Since anything goes so to speak one can have superficial unity externally with Arianists, those who deny the Eucharist, Gnostic tendencies and every other heresy made manifest in history under the guise of love, acceptance and a fraternal embrace. It is through this that I truly feel that our desire for love, unity and brotherhood are exploited, making us like Judas and creating a "Christ" we want and not the One who has been revealed in the flesh.

I think the pronouncement of the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, 1983, signed by all the Bishops, to be permanently added at the end of the Anathemas listed in the "Rite of Orthodoxy," celebrated on the First Sunday of the Great Fast, the Sunday of Orthodoxy sums it up best:

"To those who attack the Church of Christ by teaching that Christ's Church is divided into so-called "branches" which differ in doctrine and way of life, or that the Church does not exist visibly, but will be formed in the future when all "branches" or sects or denominations, and even religions will be united into one body; and who do not distinguish the Priesthood and Mysteries of the Church from those of the heretics, but say that the baptism and Eucharist of heretics is effectual for salvation; therefore, to those who knowingly have communion with these aforementioned heretics or who advocate, disseminate, or defend their heresy of ecumenism under the pretext of brotherly love or the supposed unification of separated Christians, Anathema!"

But we as Orthodox are not be lunatic fanatics and must realize what heresy implies; a willful denial of Truth after one has been exposed to it.

Metropolitan Philaret, former First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, expressed the same views. He wrote: “It is self-evident... that sincere Christians who are Roman Catholics, or Lutherans, or members of other non-Orthodox confessions, cannot be termed renegades or heretics — that is, those who knowingly pervert the truth.... They have been born and raised and are living according to the creed which they have inherited, just as do the majority of you who are Orthodox; in their lives there has not been a moment of personal and conscious renunciation of Orthodoxy. The Lord, “Who will have all men to be saved” (1 Tim. 2:4) and “Who enlightens every man born into the world” (Jn 1:9), undoubtedly is leading them also towards salvation in His own way.” [From the pamphlet “Will the Heterodox Be Saved?” (Leaflet #213 published by the St. John of Kronstadt Press)].

Metropolitan Philaret has a Christian sober view of not being overly judgmental. We do not know the state of anyone’s particular soul especially due to personal, historical and other personal circumstances. Also being in the Orthodox Church is not a guarantee of salvation lest we fall into a mentality like the “once and for all salvation” in some Protestant circles or the heretical belief of the simple “born again” philosophy where once salvation is obtained it cannot be lost.

Ecumenism is a deceitful, syncretistic movement seeking false intercommunion between all Christian denominations and eventually all religions. Despite doctrinal differences, heretical innovations and scandal, ecumenism tries to unite Truth with falsehoods. It exploits man’s need for acceptance and worldly peace and recognition under the pretenses of "love" and "peace," to slowly and ambiguously nullify the teachings of Christ into a one world religion created by the minds of men.

Archbishop Averky stated “We are living in a strange time, when all the true and healthy Christian concepts are being replaced by false and deceitful concepts, discovered often with an evil intention with the undoubted intention, naturally, of drawing people away from the right path of a truly Christian life. In all of this there can be discerned some kind of rationally acting black hand which is working to bind people as tightly as possible to this temporary, earthly life by forcing them to forget the future life, the eternal life assuredly awaiting us all.” We need to realize that deception is real and can happen to the Church thus tearing many innocent souls from her bosom.

Saint John of Kronstadt stated, “A Christian must always be kind, gracious and wise in order to conquer evil by good.” We must start with ourselves. We cannot always change the world. We are not of the world and it hates us. However in this world we can do much if it is done in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. Yes it is true a house divided cannot stand, but the church of Christ is not divided. Those who are in opposition to her are outside of her. All things can be accomplished in Christ, especially when His true salvific gospel is preached.

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