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Heresy Repented

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  • German Ciuba
    Perhaps one should never reply too quickly to e-mail messages. I am usually very slow to write, if I do so at all. Because of past experience with such
    Message 1 of 12 , Jan 26, 2004
      Perhaps one should never reply too quickly to e-mail messages. I am
      usually very slow to write, if I do so at all. Because of past
      experience with such things, the other day I responded quite quickly to
      V. Kozyreff's false assertion about the Old Testament published on this
      List. I once had a parishioner who published a virulently anti-Semitic
      magazine and who espoused what I have called neo-Marcionism.
      Notwithstanding his public heresy, he continued to regard himself as a
      devout member of the Russian Church Abroad and even received Communion
      at one of our respected monasteries. So, after the manner of men, I was
      interpreting what I read here in the light of my own experience,
      mentally comparing M. Kozyreff to an unpleasant person whom I once knew.
      Because of some down-time in my internet service, my message was not
      sent immediately after I wrote it. In the time that intervened between
      the writing and the sending of the message, V. Kozyreff posted a further
      message, recanting his heresy. I later read this message. I was
      pleasantly surprised, since heresy is often a sin that leads to
      obstinacy and hence lack of repentance. I am glad that M. Kozyreff
      wishes to continue in Orthodoxy.
      It is quite understandable that one would have questions about the
      Old Testament or any other matter of faith. It would seem proper first
      to study the subject, in particular to see what authoritative
      commentators, such as the Holy Fathers, have said about problematic
      passages in Scripture. That could be the work of many years, leaving
      little time for fruitless jurisdictional wrangling. I , for one, have
      volumes of scriptural commentary on my bookshelves, patiently waiting to
      be read.
      To begin with, we are taught that there are different meanings in
      Scripture - not only the historical, but the typological, the moral, the
      allegorical. But to elaborate on that requires a treatise on Scripture,
      not an e-mail message.
      When I think of the Old Testament, I see it, as well as being a
      complete preparation for the coming of Christ, as an amazing record of
      God's immeasurable condescension (/sniskhozhdenie) /toward the fallen
      and sinful human race. That the Infinite, Eternal, Almighty God would
      deign to accept such sacrifices as goats and rams; that He would be
      concerned about all the aspects of His chosen people's life, even the
      cut of their hair - is this not a testament of His boundless paternal
      love for mankind? It is as if a parent is asked by a child, "What can I
      get you for Christmas?" The parent tells the child, "You can buy me a
      little something , or you can do such-and-such ..." It is not because
      the parent has any need of a little something from his child; he could
      easily it buy the item himself. Rather, the desire of the child to
      please the parent, his willingness to obey the parent's wishes, is
      itself pleasing to the parent, and the parent shows great delight when
      the child offers his gift or his obedience. This condescension of the
      Almighty is carried further in His Incarnation. That He deigned to be
      born of a line of men that included sinful ancestors, as recorded in His
      genealogy - what deeply-moving solidarity with us! And then the
      Law-giver submitted to His own Law and accepted circumcision, shedding
      the first drops of the Blood Which He would later pour out wholly for
      the remission of our sins, enduring pain in that member whereby man so
      often sins against Him. All this moves me to tears! And perhaps that is
      also part of the reason why I reacted angrily to the suggestion that the
      Old Testament should be rejected. To be deprived of such testimony of
      the infinite loving-kindness of my God would be unbearable!
      Such things as the killing of the Gentile inhabitants of the
      Promised Land are to be seen, not as some part of a political programme,
      but, first, as providential acts of the God Who has absolute dominion
      over life and death, and, second, as a testimony of how reprehensible
      idolatry is to the one true God. He would not have His chosen, His
      bride, defiled with the filth of idols, and so caused the idolaters
      themsleves to be wiped out. Later Israelite history shows what happened
      when God's people mingled with idolaters - they fell away from God,
      worshipped the idols and were eventually deprived of the Promised Land.
      When a Russian Orthodox Christian encounters such phrases as Ps.89:1
      (Bog sta v sonme bogov ...), if he is disurbed by perplexity or doubt,
      he turns first to Orthodox commentaries to see how our fathers
      understood such passages. I have on my shelf two books entitled/
      Tolkovaya Psaltir' / (Commentary on the Psalms), one by Euthymius
      Zigabenus, the other by Archbishop Iriney of Pskov, both reprinted in
      recent years. One finds, among other things, that the word "gods" was
      somtimes used to apply to judges and those in seats of authority. There
      is no need to accept as true all the assertions of modern "higher
      criticism." On the other hand, if one wishes to entertain the
      supposition that the Lord (following tradition, we never attempt to
      pronounce or vocalise the Sacred Tetragrammaton, which the translators
      of the Septuagint rendered as "the Lord") was at one time regarded only
      as Israel's God, one among many; that is, if one adheres to the idea
      that henotheism preceded monotheism in the Bible, it could be seen as
      one more way in which God revealed Himself gradually to the darkened
      minds of men, culminating in the later dazzlingly-bright revelation of
      Himself as the Holy Trinity.
      Would that we were all more immersed in the study of God and less
      given to polemics and jurisdictional arguments!
      May we continue learning till the end of our life!
      Hieromonk German Ciuba

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