Tag Archives: The Church

The Fringes and the Church

Introduction

There are isolated individuals on the fringes of Church life. These marginal figures are either on the left side – the illusory optimists, the absurdly unrealistic, the deluded and exalted, who believe in Origen’s heretical salvation for all, for everything is wonderful and Christ is All-Merciful only – or on the right side – the merciless pessimists, the depressed despairers, the doom-laden and gloom-mongering, who seem to believe in the Apocalypse more than in the Second Coming of Christ, as salvation according to them is virtually impossible, for Christ is a strict and ruthless Judge only.

The Left

On the left side we find three interlinked groups:

1. The Careerists and Corrupt (in the Russian Church these are usually called Sergianists)

These dangerous people are obsessed with money, luxury, papal-like power (that makes them pro-Catholic), prestige and their own personal appearance. In the Russian Church, they can be recognized because they often have a cult of the late Patriarch Sergius. Their scandals involve money and/or sex (usually not the heterosexual sort, though the defrocked Metr Filaret of Kiev is an exception to this). Thus, simony and/or perversion are their chief domains.

2. The Modernists and Ecumenists (in the Russian Church these are usually called Renovationists)

These are obsessed with being as Western, and therefore as Russophobic, as possible. They hate Tsar Nicholas II and also Vladimir Putin and admire the EU and the US. Westernization used to mean protestantizing themselves, but now it means adopting politically correct secularism, including LGBT, an aping of the West, which is the result of their primitive, Third World inferiority complex, which in turn is the result of their lack of the independent Orthodox Faith.

3. The Intellectuals

With an over-developed intellect, but undeveloped faith, these are often so cynical that they run the risk of losing their already weak faith altogether. They may also suffer from sexual obsessions, as several of them are homosexuals. Some are involved with gossip and scandal-mongering on blogs and fora, which further develops their cynical attitudes and weakens their faith. They stain their own souls and the souls of others through their spiritual impurity.

The Right

On the right side we also find three interlinked groups:

1. The Pharisees

These include loveless monastics, or rather pseudo-monastics, whose religion is not Love, but that of the typicon, canons and ceaseless and needless rules that make the Faith into a mere religion. They call themselves traditionalists, but in fact they do not follow the Tradition because the Tradition is the continual inspiration of the Holy Spirit all down the centuries. These suffer from the temptations of sectarianism and judgementalism. This is pride.

2. The Nationalists

These follow an ideology which reduces the Faith to mere provincial folklore, with no international relevance. In Russia such nationalists can even defend Stalin. They are marked by profound theological and historical ignorance and narrow-minded bigotry, which means that they revert to a Protestant-like fundamentalism and literalism in their views. They have no real interest in Church culture or Church services and are very insecure and anti-intellectual.

3. The Pietists

These are sentimentalists, disincarnate and impractical dreamers, philosophers but also often strict moralizers. They like to group around gurus, mistakenly calling them ‘spiritual fathers’, ‘startsy’ and even ‘saints’, aping them like clones and condemning all others outside their cult. Like the Pharisees, their temptation is sectarian. Their spiritual disease is ‘prelest’, that is, spiritual delusion, which is merely vulgar pride in an elegant, philosophers’  envelope.

Conclusion

These six fringe groups, careerists, modernists, intellectuals, and their parallels, pharisees, nationalists and pietists, are those who make of Faith and the Church of God a mere religion, a mere manmade institution, a cult. They confuse the means and externals, services, canons, rituals, church buildings, knowledge, with the ends and internals, which is salvation, meaning the salvation of the human soul from evil, from all that is not Love. Such groups have always existed, under different names and under different guises, they are all part of fallen human nature.

The balance between all these fringes is among the masses, in the mainstream of the Church, which by definition is not to be found on the fringes and margins, but in the Church. This balance is to be found in traditional monasteries and good parishes, founded on loving and solid families. Good and true, loyal and faithful to Christ through the Tradition, those in the mainstream include bishops and monastics, pastors and people. All for them is built on love. For if a patriarch lacks love for his bishops, the bishops will lack love for their priests and the priests will lack love for the people.

 

A Parable: The Greatest River in the World

There is a great river, by far the greatest river in the world. It flows from a single Source, high, high in the snow-capped mountains, in the clouds near to heaven. No-one has ever seen this Source, but some brave souls have approached it and they all say that the water that flows from it in such incredible abundance is crystal clear, like a mirror. It is utterly pure, has a transfiguring power and a taste which they can only describe as ‘Divine’.

As this great stream descends from the mountains, it becomes ever broader, as it has many tributaries, great and small. Descending to the plain and the forests, there are many other tributaries, a few quite large, but many very small. Indeed, water seeps into the great river from all along the banks, on the left and the right. Some of this water brings mud into the river with it. Indeed, it is important not to go into the shallow water along the edges and fringes of the river, for there is much mud there. Much better is it to venture further out, into the mainstream, where the water is deep and pure and there is no sign of mud at all.

As the river is so powerful, sometimes it bursts its banks and overflows. Once it has gone down and returned to its bed, it leaves pools of water by the banks. Some of the water in these pools seeps back into the river and so into the mainstream, but some of it remains in the pools. Here it stagnates and smells, attracting mosquitoes, and eventually it becomes mud before it altogether dries up.

As for the greatest river in the world, a huge and unimaginably deep and broad stream of pure water, it ever powers on and on, majestically and irresistibly, towards its destiny, the Great Ocean, the Ocean that is called the Ocean of the Love of God. And the name of the river? It is called Holiness.

The Answer is Staring You in the Face

The Christian world outside the Orthodox Church appears to be in turmoil. Two billion people seem to be ever more leaderless in a world that is storm-struck. The overwhelming mood of the moment is that of drift and the drift is towards rapid and total secularisation.

Protestantism seems to be in dissolution, literally dissolving into secularism, as it does not have the spiritual force to resist the secular world. This is because Protestantism gave birth to secularism and so has always carried within itself the seeds of its own destruction. As an anti-sacral reaction to Catholicism, its very anti-sacral nature inevitably gave birth to secularity – the opposite of sacrality. Its half-way house is no house at all when the storm strikes.

Roman Catholicism has been shaken to its foundations by scandals, both financial and moral. It is difficult to know how many of the accusations are true, but if only some are true, the situation is grave. At a time when the world needs strong leadership, the Roman Catholic leadership has been compromised by its own misdeeds. No-one will believe those who do not practise what they preach. The tendency therefore is to reject everything out of hand.

Only your racial and cultural prejudices prevent you from seeing it. We have spent nigh on forty years trying to break those down, to make you see outside yourself. The answer is not in some fake version of Orthodoxy, Eastern-rite Anglicanism; the answer is in the real thing.