"Over against all that reason suggests or would measure and fathom, yes, all that our senses feel and perceive, we must learn to cling to the Word and simply judge according to it."


- Martin Luther




Luther's Rose


I wish most importantly to state a case for Christ and His Cross for the unbeliever, but I also wish to make the case for both the unbeliever and the "blessedly inconsistent" towards the true apostolic and catholic teachings of the blessed and orthodox Lutheran Church.



SOLI DEO GLORIA



If you read an article and wish to comment, then please do.


Do not worry about the date it was written.

I promise that I or the articles author will answer.


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(This story was originally found in the "Toledo Blade" publication:)

Meet Rev. (or I guess now Father) Daniel Hackney.

Photo

He is not what would be considered a "high-rank" Lutheran converting over to the Eastern Orthodox tradition so to speak, however, his case does give us an object lesson into how the deep-roots of heterodoxy in ones past can easily influence one to stray from true apostolic Christianity, such as the kind found in orthodox Lutheranism. (I will abstain from any distinctive critique at the moment in saying that he was apart of the LC-MS, which could possibly mean he never valued orthodox Lutheranism, but that for now is neither here nor there, because of my personal ignorance to aspects of his life and the inconsequential nature of such a thing to the ultimate moral of the story.)

In his early life he was raised as an "ecumenical mutt", a term he affectionately applies to himself, and his life was not unlike many "boomers" his age. Here's a brief biography provided by David Yonke, religion editor of the Toledo Blade:

"...his parents were Baptists who attended church with his older siblings but had lapsed after he was born."

'"The first time I stepped foot in a church was a Lutheran church when I was 10 years old for a wedding," he said."


"As a teenager, he started a chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at his public high school, then became involved in the Jesus movement, a counterculture revival that started in the 1960s and lasted into the 1980s."


"He enrolled at Southeastern College in Lakeland, Fla., which is run by the Pentecostal Assembly of God denomination, and majored in biblical studies with a minor in Greek and Hebrew."


"Father Daniel graduated from Concordia Lutheran Seminary in St. Louis in 1998 and served as a Lutheran pastor for 10 years at parishes in Mississippi, Florida, and Missouri."


"As a Lutheran pastor, he organized numerous mission trips, organized youth activities, and led a capital program to build a $1.5 million parish hall in Palm Bay, Fla."


His affectionate self-description as "ecumenical-mutt" is pretty accurate given his personal history, but, for now pay close attention to the Pentecostalism of his background and just keep that fresh in you minds as I shall return to it later.

It is also evident that he was ambitious in "deeds-oriented" evangelicalism, yet, unfortunately, the article does not touch on anything regarding the evolution of his stance on theology, in that, at a certain point in his life, one of couple of things may or may not have occurred in his Christian walk so as to perhaps drastically change his views, theologically speaking of course.

Here is what I'm driving at, first, it's hard to know if he ever left behind any of his affiliations with Pentecostalism, and the Jesus Movement oriented Christianity of his youth, I mean, did he choose Lutheranism because he saw it as being more conservative, grounded, what have you, than the "hocus-pocus" nature of Pentecostalism; or, was he one of those who believes it's possible to strain out and keep the good "stuff" from the kettle-top of such heterodox organizations while being able to dispense the rest easily down the drain? Alas, we shall never know! However, depending on what path, if either he took, there are two profound conclusions of dire warning to all Lutherans who are not careful when playing "footsie" with other denominations.

The first warning is to beware of sources from church bodies other than your own! Not that this is any guarantee against heterodoxy, for liberalism is rife EVERYWHERE, however, you have, in my opinion, a better chance at staying true to your own confession by viewing everything outside your tradition with a jaundiced eye no matter what time in your life you read it, or have read it. Yet, that is not to say that everything within Lutheranism is beyond reproach, or everything without to be leavened with error. At this point though, it must be said that the best attitude is always that of the Bereans, to test everything in light of the scriptures.

In Rev. Hackney's case, he was turned on to Orthodox Christianity when:

"...he was in high school and read a book by Bishop Kallistos Ware titled The Orthodox Church."

In his opinion this really, "whet [his] appetite..."

And, we all know the rest of the story regarding his "spiritual" upbringing and life history. Yet, if we were to map out the devil's strategy in the life of a believer we would be astounded by the fact that he doesn't always build roadblocks in the path of a Christian, but that sometimes he builds bridges.

The bridge can serve as the second warning to be gained by Father Hackney's story, which is really the same as the first; beware of sources outside of orthodox Lutheranism!!!

You see, early in his life he was turned onto the Orthodox Church, and he then seemingly went in a different direction by embracing Pentecostalism and the Jesus Movement tripe of his youth. All the while he was interested in church history and was a student of it in one form or another. Then, in the middle of it all he embraced Lutheranism; so much so that he became a Lutheran minister in the LC-MS for ten years. Only to embrace the Orthodox Church after his lapse from the LC-MS. Little is said about his thoughts on Missouri, and it's shame that the interviewer didn't ask, yet what we have is what we have.

However, the real kicker is that beside the formalities, theologically speaking, there really is very little difference between the "juvenile" Pentecostalism of his youth and the "mature" Orthodoxy of his current years, for one of the main tenants of both Church bodies theologically speaking is that revelation and authority are capable of being given outside of scripture.

Now, granted, the way that each of these faiths present this facet of their theology is different; with the Orthodox it's about tradition and the consensus of the Father's (ie. Church Fathers), and how that tradition and consensus jives with Scripture. Where it does not jive, it is open to interpretation as long as it doesn't coherently contradict any other theological or traditional dogma as agreed upon by the Fathers. This ultimately means that Scripture is not solely the rule and norm of all things Christian, and the only Scripture that is authoritative is that which is in agreement with the Fathers and prior Church traditions.

It is different, yet similar to Pentecostalism in this sense; Pentecostalism believes that there is human authority outside of scripture like the Orthodox Church, but that this human authority can only be trusted if they are the Lord's "anointed". This "anointing" is proven by signs and wonders like healing the sick, speaking in tongues, prophesying, et. al., and the "anointed ones" are capable of prophesying things as direct revelation from God outside of His Word. This revelation is expected to be, and accepted as authoritative for their parishioners.

Also, with the Orthodox, both the relationship with Christ and the Holy Spirit are essentially two different things, and not necessarily one dependent upon the other in the order of triune procession. According to the Orthodox, they both proceed from the Father, but it is not the Son proceeding from the Father, and the Spirit proceeding from the Son, thus they are subsequently related, yet mutually independent entities only related by the Father. So, if one were to take this to it logical consequence, one would be forced to admit that the Trinity, at least by human understanding, is related, is even of one essence, but is not in any way unified. This disagreement between the Western and Eastern Church is one that goes all the way back to the 879-880 Council of Constantinople where the filioque controversy was anathematized by the Eastern Orthodox Church.

While the Orthodox view of the Trinity is definitely not in line with Scripture, they at least still affirm a Trinity, where Pentecostals affirm what only could be called a "modalistically-uncertain" concept of our Triune God. Now, depending upon the "type" of Pentecostal, for it's hardly a unified Church body, I have heard everything affirmed about the Trinity from, Jesus was just a really good "Dude" adopted by the Father because of his goodness, too, there was God the Father at first, and then He came as the Son on Earth, and now He is the Holy Spirit. There are iterations upon iterations regarding everything in between those two spectrum's, but hopefully you get the point, which is, as regarding the Trinity, they are obviously way out there in left field far from any sound Scriptural teaching.

Most of the problem, as usual, has to do with human reason's need to understand something that's basically beyond all comprehension. How can God be three in one and one in three; how could Christ be God, while praying to God the Father, etc.? It doesn't make sense, that is at least according to human reason. But does not the Orthodox as well suffer from this worship of reason, for when we seek to put man as the authority over God and His Word, all sorts of errors are bound to spring up like Lillie's in April. Human reason always demands supremacy, even, unfortunately, over the Lord our God.


While, admittedly, these two Churches are different, there are similarities between them, and one can see that it wouldn't be too hard for a deceiver like Satan to bridge the errors of both, that is if one still harbored a soft spot in their heart for the heterodoxy of their youth.

Now, that is not to say that this is what happened to Rev. (or now Father) Hackney. I don't know the man personally, and I wouldn't want somebody speculating about me when they had no idea who I was, or what the circumstances of my life were personally. Yet, his story I believe is an excellent springboard for discussion on this strange phenomena of people with a liberal past all-of-a-sudden embracing Eastern Orthodoxy, or Roman Catholicism based on superficial reasons, such as:


"...[he] felt drawn by the history and continuity of Orthodox Christianity."

(this one is hard to understand, the age of the Church lends to its authenticity? If so, how?) or that,

"Most people come into contact with God through the worship services. Most people don't read their Bibles, really,...And so [he] wanted to be a part of something whose worship transcends categories such as traditional and contemporary, something that remains the same so that [he] can have the assurance that [his] children and their children will be praying the same prayers, singing the same hymns, and worshiping in the same way."

(excluding his statements about reading Bibles and transcendance, could the rest not be achieved in confessional Lutheranism?) or that,

"...there was a desire for something else..."

(I suspect another desire for something else will perhaps arise in time, but then again who knows?) or that,

"[He] found in the Orthodox Church a richness in their daily prayer lives,...They had a structure. They had offices of prayer that are easy to follow. And by daily commemorating the saints that have gone before us, [he is] now connected with them in a way that has found its fullness in the Orthodox Church."

(once again, excluding the statement regarding commemoration of the saints and his connection to them through the Church, couldn't he have had just as rich a daily prayer life with the offices of prayer found in pastoral service books, or hymnals, etc.?)

However, if there is one ray of sunshine in regards to Father Hackney it is this:

"I'm committed to religious pluralism, and by that I mean everyone has a right to worship as they deem necessary according to their conscience," Father Daniel said. "This does not mean that we have to accept what everyone believes, we have the right to disagree." [emphasis mine]

I do not share his same enthusiasm about religious pluralism, however I do agree that we don't have to accept what everyone believes, and in that spirit I do not accept what Father Hackney believes. Perhaps one day he and others like him will see, and I pray it happens sooner rather than later, that what he and others like him are looking for, this style over substance, this personal fulfillment over the resignation of our will unto God's, this restless heart that we feel must be tamed by what pleases us, will one day find rest in the comfort given us by the pure doctrine of the Lutheran Church, something he already had in his hands and unfortunately let slip away.
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20 comments:

I am Father Daniel Hackney. Drew I would like to commend you for your zeal for the faith in relativistic times such as these. I discern that you are a man of conviction, thus I will invest this time in reply to your posting. However if you or anyone would like to talk further, you may contact me at dch1993@live.com. However, I prefer to speak on the phone, since e-mail is such a limited way to communicate (devoid of sound, intonation and the like).

First of all, you are now hearing from Father Daniel Hackney himself. In your posting you were reacting to an article about Father Daniel, but for anyone who has been interviewed by a newspaper you know that what ends up in print does not always accurately quote or capture the essence of the interview (mine was about thirty minutes long). This is analogous to trying to react to or understand Jesus by reacting to an article written by the Jesus Seminar about Jesus. And yes I know that I am no Jesus.

Some germane examples of what I am talking from this article are that my family "lapsed" from attending church before I was born (not after). Thus I was not raised in any particular liturgical or non-liturgical atmosphere. Accordingly, I did not begin to attend church until I was seventeen years old. Yes, it was a “Jesus movement” church, but it was a stable one as far as they were at that time: No hyper-spirituality or over the top manifestations or the like.

Next, it is true that after high school, I entered a college affiliated with the Assemblies of God, but during my first year there I started worshipping at an Episcopal church, and became a conservative Anglo-Catholic shortly thereafter. Some four years later I became Lutheran. Thus out of the twenty-eight years that I have been attending church, twenty-three of them have been spent worshipping in a “western-rite” liturgical service. Its hymns, prayers and scripture readings have shaped most of my Christian experience. I am thankful for that.

I could go on about inaccuracies in the article that you referenced; nevertheless, I believe the reporter did the best he could. But I can assure you that much of my time was spent in the conversation talking doctrine and praxis. Anyone who knows me (and many good Lutheran pastors do) knows that I care foremost about “taking heed to my doctrine, for in so doing I will save both myself and my hearers”.

In my ten years of pastoral ministry, I shunned away from writing articles for publication. I instead applied myself toward being a responsible “steward of the mysteries of God”. The only reason why I am writing this is out of a soteriological concern for those who may dismiss Orthodoxy due to the article that I was asked to interview for. I will attempt to keep this brief, but would welcome meeting with anyone either personally or by phone to discuss these things further.

Why did I become Orthodox after serving ten years as a pastor in the LCMS? Instead of trying to write a complete account (if such a thing is even possible), I will simply give a couple of important starting points for discussion. I hope that when I am done, it will at least begin to demonstrate that I have thought and have prayed about this as the thinking, rational-spiritual human being that I am. God created man in His own image and likeness. He has elevated all of us far above all other creatures on this earth. Thus we are all unrepeatable persons who are unique and valuable in the eyes of God. When we differ from one another (especially when it comes to the Kingdom of God) we should be careful to answer one another based upon the issues at hand.

So for instance, I am aware having been Lutheran for years (most of my adult life) that there are honest differences in this tradition over such things as church government (Walther vs. Loehe) or the Ever-Virginity of Mary. The important thing is that when speaking with someone of a different point of view, that we do not resort to such things as claiming that just because they have come to a different conclusion, that they have been “bitten by a bug”. This metaphor either reveals a lack of serious consideration of theology (in this instance) on the part of the one being demeaned, or it reveals such a vacuum on the part of the one resorting to such an accusation. Let the reader decide for himself which is the case. Either Father Daniel has been bitten by a bug, and is incapable of rational and coherent argument (whether you agree with it or not), or possibly the one resorting to such a level of discussion needs to repent and at least admit that “we know in part and we prophecy in part, but when that which is perfect (that being neither Rev. McCain, nor me) comes, then we will know, just as we are fully known”. As we enter this Holy season of Lent, let us all ask for forgiveness from one another. And may we turn our hearts toward Him who “being in the very form of God, considered equality with God something not to be grasped, but humbled himself, taking on the form of a servant”. He emptied Himself for us; we have all been made rich in grace, life and light.

Why Eastern Orthodoxy? First of all, because she is the only Church that has kept the Initiation rites of Baptism, Chrismation (which is nothing less than the “anointing” or “chrisma” mentioned by the Apostle John in his first epistle) and Communion intact in their proper place and time. And how did I come to that realization? Not by reading “Orthodox materials” (although they certainly are beneficial)! Rather, a couple of years ago I actually followed a debate on several Lutheran Blogs concerning communion for all who have received Christ in baptism, including little children. One pastor recommended reading a book by J.D.C. Fisher entitled Baptism in the Medieval West. This work (by a Roman Catholic Scholar) details how the undivided church of the east and west gave communion to all the faithful- even infants. I read this book, and what was important is that it copiously quotes the Church Fathers in each century of the first Millennium of Christianity. The evidence is overwhelming in my opinion. But of course I would challenge anyone who truly desires truth not to avoid reading the church fathers, but rather to buy this book off of amazon.com, and check the author’s references to infant communion (such as Cyprian around 250 AD speaking of an infant still suckling as taking communion).

After studying this issue for years (as all pastors should) I came to realize that due to factors such as the Western bishops not entrusting the presbyters with the chrism (thus delaying communion for many children) and the attendant Barbarian invasions; the West began to see one’s worthiness to partake of Christ in the Eucharist as dependent on the person’s being of an “age of reason” [i.e. Aquinas, the Reformers]. Along with this departure of viewing Christ revealed in the Bread and Wine as a gift given by grace to all the faithful, faulty exegesis developed to support this hitherto unknown practice of withholding Christ from some of those “who have been united with Him in His death and Resurrection”. One key example of this is the applying little children as a referent in the Pauline letter to the Corinthians regarding “discerning the body of Christ”. The reasoning was that in order to partake of Christ in communion one must be able to possess a developed intellect in order to share in this grace/gift. But all earlier commentaries (and the text itself) demonstrates that the referent here are those who “eating and drinking damnation to themselves” by overindulging in food and drink at the Eucharistic feast. Can you picture a one year old “eating or drinking damnation to himself”? I can picture this no more than the argument that by the child partaking of Christ in baptism before acquiring some supposed “age of reason” he may come into great harm by not “making the decision for himself”.

Connected with this issue is the matter of our requesting the prayers of departed Saints/Martyrs. For years I did not accept, let alone practice this. For I did not see any evidence of it in the earliest Fathers such as Ignatius, Irenaeus, or even Cyprian; However, one day I met a man who had studied at the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome. I asked him whether there was any evidence for this practice in the early church. He said that it was written all over the walls of the catacombs, and that he had seen it with his own eyes! At the time that he saw all of this he was Roman Catholic, not Orthodox. This was unsettling for me, since I have never been one to run away from opinions and evidence that challenges my own imperfect knowledge of God and His Kingdom. Truth stands by itself; it does not need a hedge built around it, or rather around Him who is Truth.

Later it dawned on me that whenever something of an heterodox innovation was introduced into the church of the first few centuries, this church “founded upon the apostles and prophets with Christ as the cornerstone” reacted with righteous fervor against any and all intrusions. Gnosticism, Montanism, Catharism and Arianism all were addressed by name and in detail. Thus if requesting prayers of departed saints/martyrs had been an innovation, the church of Ignatius of Antioch, or Irenaeus of Lyons, or Clement of Alexandria, or Cyprian of Carthage and especially the Nicene Fathers and their immediate sons and daughters would have reacted overwhelmingly against such a supposed paradigm shift from praying only to God to also requesting prayer of someone who was with God. But such is not the case! We even have a prayer that is fairly well attested to being addressed to the Theotokos from Alexandria, Egypt around 250 AD. This prayer (called in Latin the sub tuum praesidium) is still prayed in an Orthodox prayer office.

Thus it is unreasonable and impossible (in my opinion) that such disparate Christian communities as existed in Egypt, Gaul, Syria, Spain, Rome and Greece would have all been “bitten by such a large infectious bug” without trying to fight against this with all of their might. Would it have been possible for all of Christendom in the fourth century and afterwards to completely buy into “false praxis” like this? Impossible! There would have been some remnant communities of those who baptize but do not commune infants and small children, some leftover evidence of those who did not want their children chrismated/confirmed until they had reached an age of reason; indeed I contend that if these assumptions are true there would be extant today some obscure village somewhere that stayed faithful in not allowing their baptized infants/little children to partake of Christ in the Eucharist. But no such people have been or are attested to in real (not philosophical) history. Either such communities slowly devolved over a millennium with respect to communion (Roman Catholic), or arose at the time of the Reformation (forbidding invocation of Saints while retaining the Roman Catholic devolution with respect to the initiation rites of the church) in an attempt to get back to what they thought (with scarcely the resources we have today such as the discovery of the authenticity of the epistles of Ignatius of Antioch in the last century or so) was the teachings of the “ancient church”.

As a Lutheran pastor when teaching adult instruction, after laying a scriptural foundation for the practice of Infant Baptism; I would reference an obscure religious group in modern day Iraq called the Mandaeans who are partly the descendants of those who had been baptized by John the Baptist, but who had not received the baptism of Christ. I would say that if a tiny group like that has still survived, “where is the continuous community who has survived not baptizing babies?” As I mentioned above certainly with a huge movement like Christianity spread over so much land mass from Roman occupied Britain all the way east to Persia, most assuredly there would be pockets of such people in existence, or at least well attested to”. From there as I became convinced from actual, real Christian texts written by Hippolytus, Cyprian, Augustine and the like [Western Fathers] that the undivided church of the first thousand years had both initiated people into the faith as the Orthodox do today, and that that same church requested the help, salvation and prayers of departed Saints/Martyrs- I came to apply the above rule to searching for such a community as well.

“Where is the continuous community that forbids Christ from entering the mouths of little ones”? It is nowhere. “Where is the church that has always shunned from asking intercession of Saints”? I am not talking about some isolated reference in some patristic text, but I am asking, “Where are these people”? They have not, and do not exist. So you mean to tell me that all of Christendom was deceived on such major points as these during and immediately after the persecutions of the third and early fourth century- and that without a public record of such a fight? Impossible!

In conclusion, be assured that I did not come up with this spiritual reflection out of “Eastern Orthodox books or prayer resources”. Instead, I believe that the Holy Spirit guided me as He promises to guide all believers. He is the authority in the Church. One does not enter into the Church by “our own reason or strength”. We are initiated into the church by Baptism, Chrismation and Communion. Only when these three rites are “administered rightly” do we get a proper view of salvation as a gift given by grace in the sacraments of the church. If we displace any of these from one another (of course excepting an emergency), we tear apart their unity. Indeed we tear apart the body of Christ. But the Spirit who proceeds from the Father alone calls us into a relationship with the only Begotten Son and Word of God, whose desire is that we “be one, as He and the Father are one”. This unity can only happen by a work of the Spirit who has established a continuous catholic community with Bishops, Presbyters and Deacons (c.f. Ignatius of Antioch and Clement of Rome) serving the laity. The memory of this community is preserved and cherished in its scriptures, icons, music and architecture. It is connected as one “communion of saints”; time and space do not limit its essence as una sancta. It is a suffering church, but it is purified by such trials- not obliterated.

In the fiery furnace the three young men were not diminished; in the same way the womb of Mary contained the one who is an unquenchable fire. She became more spacious than the heavens! Who are we to question God’s ability to enable requests of prayers from believers to Saints to reach their destination? Could not God by a divine energy enable such requests to reach their destination? To absolutely rule this out is to fall into the error of Zwingli, whose God “was only as big as his own mind”. Just because in our finite minds such requests for intercession may seem as ridiculous as the “body of Christ stretched all over the universe”; God is able to manifest His Body wherever and in whatever manner He wishes. God is not bound by our rational thought, our self-limiting laws; or by our unbelief. Instead He is merciful to us all, enabling us to share as “partakers in His Divine Nature”.

Finally, regarding Orthodox references to the “Holy Theotokos saving us”. These have to be some of the most difficult exclamations for those outside the Orthodox Church to understand. I definitely did not apprehend such songs and prayers before I had entered the church. Now that I have spent some time on the inside, I will do my best to give my experience with such prayers and hymns.

The short answer that you will sometimes be told is that the Ever Virgin saves us by giving birth to Christ. This is true as far as it goes. But admittedly not only does the Orthodox Church sing and pray to the Theotokos asking for salvation, help, protection and the like; but also to the Saints and Martyrs whom she commemorates does she beseech such aide. How is this to be understood?

II Corinthians 1:9-11 reads, “Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us; you also helping together in prayer for us, that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the gift granted to us through many”. This passage illustrates the Orthodox understanding of salvation. It is initiated at Baptism, Chrismation and the Eucharist unto a new life of good works. Clearly Orthodox understands that only Christ died, was buried and rose again for our salvation. But having been made one with Christ, we now are saved together in the Church, the Body of Christ. We are aided by one another’s prayers. We are shielded by one another’s faith. We are protected and kept until the last day by the intercessions of the all, especially by the Ever-virgin Mary. This is just simply a praxis of believing in the efficacy of prayer, “for the effectual and fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much”. All in the context of a life lived in the sacraments and liturgy of the Church.

Thank you for reading this response. Maranatha to all who await His appearing again in glory.

March 4, 2009 at 2:54 AM  

Thank you for clarifying your position. This is certainly good for all debate.

I have not truly digested everything in your response, as I of course should, due to my God given duties, so I ask for your patience in my response, because I really do want to give it the attention it so richly deserves.

However, I thank you once again for your response, and I will answer just as soon as I get the opportunity to do so.

Thank you, and God bless,
Drew

March 4, 2009 at 8:25 AM  

Drew,

Thanks for the quick response. If you want to talk further please email me with your phone number. I will be glad to talk to you.

Father Daniel

March 4, 2009 at 8:44 AM  

Father Daniel,

As Drew expressed, that is a lot to digest, and I am not sure I am following everything above, but I thought I'd pass on some cursory thoughts. Like yourself, I am somewhat of a spiritual "mutt", although I look at it like a salmon swimming upstream from the salty waters of the world, to the brackish waters of the Reformed, to the clear pure pools of the orthodox (that is, orthodox Lutheranism for me).

I am not very familiar with the Eastern Orthodox, but I have read many of the Church Fathers and have read over 70 volumes of Luther. I have come to agree with Luther's maxim, "where the Church Fathers agree with Scripture, we agree with the Church Fathers; where they do not, we part ways, etc." I know that we should rightly hold them in high regard, but we still must follow the Word of God alone.

I commend your seemingly honest pursuit of truth even if it means some isolation and criticism from those who don't agree with your conclusions. Where would I be if I had not taken the same course? And for the most part I can follow your reasoning in what you have said. I think the thing that throws me the most is that I do not find the same emphases in the Word of God as these things that you have come to affirm. Even though arguments may be drawn from a particular verse or two, I do not see the exalted view of the Virgin Mary in the Scriptures, nor the emphasis on Chrismation or the prayers to the saints, etc. This is not to necessarily say that these things are wrong (if rightly understood), but the emphasis on them in the Eastern Orthodox circles seems out of proportion to me. I also suspect that there can become such a focus on religious externals that the saving Gospel itself can be obscured. It is this central focus on the Gospel that endears me to Luther and the orthodox Lutheran faith.

Just some thoughts,

Stuart

March 4, 2009 at 1:05 PM  

Father Daniel,

Did you ever read Martin Chemnitz' "Examination of the Council of Trent"? That book dealt with a lot of these issues. I'd be interested in what you thought of those arguments. Another book that was helpful to me was Luther's "On the Councils and the Church", 1539, Vol. 41:3-178. You probably have looked at these, but I'd be interested in what it was about them that you did not agree with.

Thanks again,

Stuart

March 4, 2009 at 3:34 PM  

Stuart,

Thank you for your comments. You spoke much more eloquently regarding the situation of many Americans who have journeyed in their Christian faith. Some, like me, were raised in no liturgical environment at all. I have at times envied those who have been formed and who remain in the same tradition. At the same time I also have seen that it can be crippling for others who go against their conscience for familial or financial reasons.

As I react to your thoughts, Stuart, remember that I am not an exhaustive spokesmen for the Orthodox church. There are many fine Bishops in our country who would do a much better job at setting forth the faith than I.

Regaring Chrismation, I John 2:20-29 refers to this the second of the tripartite initiation rites of the undivided church(the other two being baptism and communion). If you read this in Greek the "Chrisma" leaps out at you. Reading it in English does not communicate it well, for "annointing" is too broad a word in this context. Reference St. Augustines commentary on this passage.

Also helpful would be to purchase Hyppolytus' "Apostolic Tradition" (or look it up on the web). This work written in the early to mid 200's is instructive regarding the liturgical practises of at least one group at the church of Rome during this period. Amazingly you as a Lutheran will recognise the early Roman creed as being similar to your Apostle's creed. But this work also demonstrates the manner in which the Church initiated all into the faith- by baptism, chrismation and communion.

The above are by no means an exhaustive list of readings on Chrismation. The key thing to remember is that Luther and the reformers were not blessed with the same Patristic data that we have at our fingertips on the web, and in our libraries. Luther did not even have access to the the writings of Ignatius of Antioch (who wrote in the early second century only a decade or so after the Apostle John penned his works), for good manuscripts were not found until the last couple of centuries.

Thus he equated Chrismation with the "blessing of bells", and was not convinced that this was an apostolic practise. He was operating off of the light available to him. In our modern communication age, we are held to a different standard. "Unto whom much is given, much is required".

Regarding the Blessed Virgin Mary, I would recommend "Mary and the Fathers of the Church" by Gambero and Buffer. These Roman Catholic Scholars have collected the salient points of all of the major early Fathers of the Church into one volume.

Of particular importance is an early work entitled the Gospel of the Nativity of Mary (later it would be dubbed the Proto-Evangelium of James). This work, written around 150 AD chronicles Mary's early history. It provides information on her parents, Joachim and Anna, and her being a consecrated Virgin. The amazing thing once again is that the Church did not make a serious attempt to refute this document as heresy (as she did so many other documents). Instead its account was embraced, cherished and to this day provides the names of the "ancestors of God, Joachim and Anna" who are commemorated at the end of each service. Jesus had grandparents!

Also, textually you will possibly see how that Mary was and still is a consecrated Virgin. In Luke at the annunciation we see Gabriel announcing to her,"that she has found favor with God, and will (future tense) give birth to a son... and God will give him the throne of his father David". No if one where engaged to a man named Joseph, and was visited by an Angel proclaiming that one would give birth, what would the clear NATURAL assumption be? That after the wedding one would beget Joseph's son! Notice that Gabriel had not yet revealed to her how and when she would become with child- only that it would be in the future. Why the aversion to bearing a child? Why the perplexed emotion saying, "I do not know a man", which can also mean, "I do not (continuously) engage in relations with a man". The only way this makes sense is that the aforementioned is right- Mary is a consecrated Virgin and Joseph is an older, godly man who agreed to legally wed Mary in order to protect her intact.

Thus Jesus' brothers and sisters are from Joseph's prior marriage, and it is not until much later with St. Jerome hundreds of year later that the latter posits that these brothers are "cousins" due to Jerome's inablity to believe that Joseph had been married prior. Such is the danger of history revisionism.

That is all for now.

Fr.Daniel Hackney

"Hail Mary full of Grace the Lord is with you, Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb" exclaimed Elizabeth. Later the one who bore God in the flesh sang herself that "all generations will called me blessed". The orthodox church has not stopped blessing Mary for her being for us fallen humans "a new Eve" in her faithful obedience to God. Thus what the west calls the "magnificat" is sung at every Matins service.

March 4, 2009 at 3:55 PM  

Father Daniel,

Thank you for your response. In all honesty, I am not very clear on this issue of Chrismation. I have re-read the passage in 1 John 2 (also knowing it in the Greek), and I have trouble seeing the unction as an initiatory rite - on the level with baptism and communion. I also looked it up in Augustine, Vol 7, pp. 475-481 and I don't see that he regards it as an initiatory rite. In fact, he regarded the unction as the Holy Ghost within us who teaches us the meaning of Holy Writ (which is what I thought to begin with). Perhaps I am not looking at the writing you had in mind, in which case I would appreciate further direction.

As for your thoughts on Mary, I do follow what you are saying, although I am not sure that the only solution to the passage is that Mary was a "consecrated virgin" being married to an older man. It could be, but also might not be. The main point is that Mary is blessed of all generations as the mother of our Lord. I recognize that the Orthodox bless her every Sunday, but do not all Christians likewise bless her, praise her, and hold her in high regard due to the honorable service that she gave to the Lord? To bless her as a blessed saint is good and proper, but to exalt her high above all other saints would be wrong in my judgment, as she too was a sinful human being for whom Christ died.

Again, these are just my immediate thoughts. I do want to check out Hyppolytus as you suggest, and I do think that is an intersting point of Luther being true to the light he had. The only thing I might add is that he may also have had some resources that we don't have and that have since been lost. He also knew Latin as a fairly native language and this would have given him some great advantages over us.

Thanks again,

Stuart

March 4, 2009 at 4:52 PM  

Stuart, Drew:

Go over to Weedon's blog and check out his commending the Canon of Saint Andrew of Crete. This Canon is prayed this week in all churches that use the Eastern Rite: namely Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic. It is true that his commendation is of a refrain that says, "Have mercy on me O God, have mercy on me". But hear an example of what is laced throuout the rest of this Canon: (From Canticle Nine for Thursday of this week) "Holy Mother Mary, pray to God for us. The Mother of Light that never sets illumined thee and freed thee from the darkness of passions. O Mary, who hast received the grace of the Spirit, give light to those who praise thee with faith. Holy Mother Mary, pray to God for us". In numerous other places throughout the week prayers such as these are offered up. In addition the canon repeats more than once this week, "Holy Father Andrew, pray for us".

Father Daniel

March 4, 2009 at 10:17 PM  

Father Daniel,

That thought about David's Psalm 51 being after absolution is a very beautiful and helpful thought. I too have often battled with my conscience over past sins even after absolution and I am comforted to know that David did the same. Not that it is right to do so, but it is a fact of our weak and fallen nature, and this too God has accounted for.

On the other hand, I'm not big on that prayer to Mary. Did not Jesus say that His God is our God and His Father is our Father? Why then should we pray to Him through another as if that has any more efficacy? I don't get it. And to request light from Mary and extol faith in her is tantamount to idolatry in my book. Maybe I just don't understand, but for me faith must have God's Word, and I do not see any Word that directs me to Mary as a fount of light and grace.

Hope you're not offended, but I'd rather be honest with you than waste your time with a bunch of guile.

Stuart

March 5, 2009 at 11:49 AM  

Stuart,

Very good reflection. My further thoughts on this are that the Eternal Word was made Incarnate in the womb of Mary; it is in this manner that she is a fount of light and life. For the Dayspring from on high received his human nature from her. Thus all generations (of Christians)bless her. Just as the shadow of the apostle worked healing in the Book of Acts; we are under the protection of her prayer and love. In both instances the source of this care is God the Father, whom you aptly named as our Father, through His Only-Begotten Son by means of the Spirit who proceeds from the Father, and who calls us by the Gospel in the Sacraments of Baptism, Chrismation and Communion.

Regarding prayer, you are correct that their is no need to "pray through anyone to get to Christ". The hallmark, constant prayer of devout believers in Orthodoxy is what is called the "Jesus prayer", "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner".

Nevertheless, God bids us to pray for one another, our government, our pastors, and even our enemies. Why? Again, because "the effectual and fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much". God is moved by our prayers (witness for example the intercessions of men such as Abraham and Moses in the OT, and Paul for the Jewish people in the NT), thus our requesting intercession of another (whether in the church militant or the church triumphant) does not abrogate our faith in God. Instead it affirms that "no man liveth unto himself". Thus we are part of the body of Christ; the communion of saints. No room for a merely "personal relationship with Jesus Christ".

Father Daniel

March 5, 2009 at 5:59 PM  

Father Daniel,

Those are some excellent thoughts, which I will ponder more and get back to you. I appreciate your manner and am very interested in this discussion. As children and dinner are pressing me at the moment, I will have to get back to you later.

Thanks again,

Stuart

March 5, 2009 at 8:54 PM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

March 6, 2009 at 10:24 AM  

Father Daniel:

I have just been looking at a book entitled, "Popular Symbolics: The Doctrines of the Churches of Christendom and of Other Religious Bodies Examined in the Light of Scripture", by Th. Engleder, W. Arndt, Th. Graebner, and F.E. Mayer. The book was published by Concordia in 1934. In it they give a full-blown objective review of the errors of the Eastern Orhtodox Church, showing its departure from Scripture in many important places.

Among the more prominent errors are: 1) The source and standard of doctrine being BOTH the Word of God and "ecclesiastical tradition". 2) The absolute distinction between mortal and venial sins as is held by Rome. 3) The Semi-Pelagian teaching of election, that God has given preparatory grace to all to enable them to freely accept the grace given them. 4) The common practice of a superstitious veneration of icons and other sacred objects, not far removed from fetishism. 5) A synergistic view of justification in that man is justified only by faith that is active in good works. Man is also able to do good works BEFORE his conversion. 6) Apostolic succession and the infallibility of the Church. 7) The Nine Commandments of the Church, regarded as of the same obligation as God's own commandments. 8) The absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. 9) The Eucharist is BOTH a sacrament and a sacrifice. Transubstantiation is taught, that the bread is CHANGED INTO the Body of Christ, etc. 10) Intercession for the departed, with the oportunity for purification in Hades.

Father Daniel, without meaning to attack you, but in Christian love I ask, how can you possibly go with such teachngs? Is it not true that the Holy Ghost leads us into "all truth"? Am I missing something, or have you made a very bad move? For your sake (and also for my own) I would hope that you would give me a fair answer to this. We're both in this life together. Let us be a help to one another.

Yours in Christ,

Stuart

March 6, 2009 at 12:29 PM  

Pr. Stuart,

Was that a used book, or a reprint? Sounds interesting.

Drew

March 6, 2009 at 1:26 PM  

Stuart,

I will respond to a couple of the points, but I must say that it would probably be best for you to dialogue with some Orthodox priests in your area since I am constrained by time and ability.

In brief, the best way to understand Orthodoxy and/or Lutheranism is to attend one (or better yet more than one) of their churches. Trying to understand Orthodoxy from books by non-Orthdox about this tradition is as challenging as trying to understand Lutheranism the same way.

On the latter point, I have experienced many misconceptions on the part of Orthodox about Lutherans due to their lack of experience with real live Lutherans and their Liturgical traditions. This is to be expected. In the same way Lutheran Dogmaticians, pastors and just common folks cannot be expected to absorb Orthodoxy out of books. In other words, I say that in order to understand any tradition well(not just Orthodoxy) one must have lived in it.

Regarding the Eucharist, the Liturgy of Chysostom has the Presbyter pray: O Lord God Almighty, who alone art holy, who dost accept a sacrifice of praise from those who call upon thee with their own heart: Receive also the prayer of us sinnes, and lead us to thy holy altar, and enable us to offer unto thee gifts and spiritual sacrifices for our sins and for hte ignorance of the people...
Later the Presbyter prays: Again we offer unto thee this rational and bloodless worship and beseech thee to send down thy Holy Spirit upon us and upon these gifts spread forth".

Now might you find in some Orthodox texts written throughout its two thousand year history a commendary word regarding transubstantion (and properly understood as a change from mere bread to becoming a mysterious partiking in body and blood of Christ), but such is the case in Lutheranism as well with the vast amount of books put out by Augsburg, Northwestern and Concordia press.

Regarding preparatory grace, this is probably best seen in the context of adult catechumens. Before they are baptised, what are they, condemned to hell? Or are they in the process of being saved by "hearing the Word". Thus their reception of anything from God is a gift, by grace. They respond in faith. For "without faith it is impossbile to please God".

With respect to the veneration of Icons, I believe that the true "fetish" of our age is endless gazing at television and other screens, and most of it not edifying. Would that God's people emerse themselves in the communion of Saints via their pictures, stories and the like. But the icon is not the saint; it is a "image" of the one who is in heaven.

Regarding faith and good works, "good works are necessary" to demonstrate ones faith. Jesus said, "by their fruit you shall know them". The orthodox do not pit the one against the other (c.f. Ephesians 2:8-10). Truth faith exhibits real works in our very real, non-philosopical world. The parable of the sheep and goats 9that was just read in our Sunday lectionary) demonstrates this. Thus in Lutheran terms we Orthodox are not anti-nomians.

Regarding baptism being absolutely necessary for salvation, that is false. For example some early martyrs were Catechumens who were "baptized in their own blood". In other words what more poignant way to die with Christ and to be raised with him than martrydom?

As for the Church being infallible and properly suceded in its Bishops, She is indeed "the pillar and ground of Truth", rooted in the Incarnation (c.f. I Timothy 3:15-16). But that is not to say that her Bishops and other Teachers have not erred. Scripture itself demonstrates that Paul and Peter had an issue of Circumcision. Instead we root truth in Him who is Truth- the Incarnate Lord Jesus.

With respect to Scripture and the PARADOSIS, I would ask you to go to my post on Drew's March 6th article regarding this issue. Scripture is "tranditioned" or "handed down to us" along with such things as "the sign of the cross" and the practise of triple-immersion (alhough the Orthodox are not legalistic regarding the latter when dealing with converts- grace abounds).

As for intercesions for the departed, this is indeed part of the PARADOSIS (if you have not read the aforementioned post please do so now). This practise is attested to in Maccabees, and Orthodox read the Deuterocanonical books in their worship services. These books are known as the "worthy to the be read" books, meaning that they are worthy to be read in the liturgical services (in contrast to modern day Protestantism that lost this meaning as it came later to mean "worthy to be read in private", or in all honesty the end result is that they are hardly read at all).

For an interesting history on Scripture and the Lutheran Tradtion go to the blog Cyberbrethren's post on November 22nd, 2006. Also on Weedon's blog about two years ago (sorry do not have time to look it up) was another posting about how that in one of the Marian Feasts the CPH German Bible (published during the period of Walther)gave a reading from the Deuterocanonical books to be read in the church on that Feast. When the LCMS switched over to english, this "Traditioning" of the Deuterocanonical books vanished.

Thus we as we are instructed to in Macabees, and has been "handed down to us" from the ancient church (also c.f. the Book of Common Prayer's Articles of Religion- they kept this practise at least in print in trying to recapture their laudable attempt to capture the "ancient church"); we do intercede for the departed.

From the Antiochian Service book: "O God of spirits and of all flesh, who has trampled down Death, and given life to thy world: Do thou, the same Lord give rest to the soul of thy depart servant, in a place of brightness, a place of verdure, a place of repose, whence all sickness, sorrow, and sighing have fled away. Pardon every sin which he hath committed, whether in word or deed or thought; for Though art good, and lovest mankind: for there is no man who liveth and sinneth not, and Thou only are without sin, and Thy righteousness is to all eternity; and thy law is truth".

Thus we do not see in such passages of Scripture that say, "It is appointed unto man once to die, and after that the Judgement" as prohibiting prayer for others. Instead passages such as this and the Creed itself emphasizes that Christ "is coming back to judge the living and the dead". Until he does, we pray much in the same way as the west does that "light perpetual would shine upon them". And since we are interceding for someone who is now outside of time and space, we simply rest our loved one's into the hands of God's mercy, and do not construct a Purgatory as has been done by others. For God gives rest to his Beloved.

Finally, I am not aware of nine commandmants of the Orthodox Church. In my prayer book there are listed "Nine ways of participating in another's sin". These are: By counsel, command, consent, provocation, praise or flattery, concealment, partaking, silence, defense of the sin committed. If this is what the authors were speaking about, these may be part of the PARADOSIS. But I am not aware of their being juxtapostioned to the Commandmants. But they sound like good spiritual advice that I do not think any Christian would reject.

Peace in Christ,

Father Daniel

March 6, 2009 at 5:38 PM  

Father Daniel:

I want you to know that I really appreciate the thoroughness of your response. Your effort not only shows honesty and integrity, but also Christian patience and love. I have grown very fond of you in this exchange, and have a very high regard for you as a person. I know it is not easy to stand sometimes alone with what you have come to affirm, and to graciously respond to those who might criticize you with a wrong misunderstanding spirit. So for me, the issue is not you, but it is an honest objective evaluation of these very new thoughts to me in light of the Word of God.

First, I agree with you that it is hard to make firm judgments about things solely from the writers who are in the opposition. Like people who are not well intended toward you, they often put the worst construction on things and can easily create an exaggerated picture in the negative sense. However, there are some objective facts that these particular writers bring to light that still would greatly concern me about the Orthodox Church. You have explained them well, and perhaps other Orthodox Church leaders could even explain them better, but some of these I do not currently see a way around.

Your explanation of the Eucharist is correct, although at this point I am assuming that the Orthodox Church would agree with you. If by sacrifice they mean the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, there is no problem with that. If they do not truly hold to the doctrine of transubstantiation but rather have spoken carelessly at times in their writings about this, that also is not a problem. I, too, have heard Lutherans do the same.

The preparatory grace explanation I would disagree with. An adult catechumen who has come to believe the Gospel and is not yet baptized is a Christian already (by virtue of faith in the the Gospel), and is not in a position of preparatory grace as the Orthodox Church seems to be saying. Their preparatory grace is said to be to all men and seems to be an accomodation to the Semi-Pelagian view of free will.

The icon issue I have a natural aversion to, but I can see how that might be explained in a way that would do no harm. My biggest concern with it is that it opens the doors for many abuses and offenses which to me seem unnecessary and should be avoided.

As for the priority of Scripture, I have briefly re-looked at your posting but did not seem to find the point. For me this is a non-negotiable. Scripture alone must be the foundation of our faith. All things, including Church tradition, councils, etc. must be judged in light of it. Nothing can stand on an equal par with it's authority. I did notice that your reasoning in your original post was that it is inconceivable that the early church in diverse locations could all depart from the Apostolic faith so quickly. I persnally don't think that is inconceivable. Look how quickly the Lutherans departed from Luther after his death in 1546. If not for a few, the whole truth could have been lost within about 10 years.

I also think that basing doctrine and faith on the Book of Maccabees is a mistake. I have read all of the Apocraphal books (including both the Maccabees), and it is clear to me that they are not at all on a par with Scripture. There is good reason why they have been rejected from the Canon of Scripture even though they have some useful purposes and examples for Christian piety. The idea of prayers for the dead completely flies in the face of the Great Commission and the necessity to evangelize. It also works against our faith in that "Today is the day if you hear His voice, etc."

Again, these are just my honest thoughts. For myself, I have journeyed a long way to come to know Lutheranism as the orthodox faith. I have carefully examined it with tooth and comb and have come to affirm it as representing the Word of God in all of its truth and purity. However, I also know that there are things I don't know. My purpose is "to prove all things, and to hold fast to that which is good" (1 Thess. 5:21).

Grace be unto you,

Stuart

March 7, 2009 at 9:49 AM  

Stuart,

Thank you for your kind words. Since this is a Lutheran blog, I will let you and Drew have the last word(s) [just in case Drew has a response as well]. As the Orthodox Patriarch said to the Tubingen theologians in the correspondence of the 1580's, "let us from here on write for friendship's sake".

May God's grace be with you has well,

Fr Daniel Hackney

March 7, 2009 at 10:15 AM  

Drew and Stuart,

I guess it is only fitting that I would end with an error! Such things keep us humble.


May God's grace be with you AS well,

Fr Daniel Hackney

March 7, 2009 at 10:18 AM  

I equally appreciated this dialog for the same reasons I appreciated the later dialog between Fr. Daniel and Mr. Lomax. Such respect on both sides and a true desire to learn and share.

God bless the two of you,

Joshua G.

August 21, 2009 at 3:52 PM  

Thank you for your kind words Joshua. To many times these exchanges can go from good, to bad, to downright ugly.

My philosophy, as it seems it is with Fr. Hackney as well, is that two adults who are fairly comfortable with what they believe should be able to have a calm and civil dialogue with each other.

God Bless,
Drew

August 21, 2009 at 8:21 PM