Turning a Deaf Ear


Serbian Patriarchate Excommunicates Bp. Artemije; Bp. Artemije Responds

H/T: NFTU (here)

May 29, 2015  (Source: http://www.spc.rs)

[warning: google translate below]

The Holy Assembly of Bishops adopted the following decision:

Since Marko Radosavljevic, former monk and former Bishop Artemije of Raska and Prizren, a deaf ear to all the efforts of the Serbian Orthodox Church to return to the road split in the union with the Mother Church, that, pursuant to Article 69, item 29) of the Constitution of the Serbian Orthodox Church, and in accordance with the provisions of Article 15 of the Church of guilt, and it Negoslav Nikolic, former hieromonk Nicholas, Artemije “rukopoloženog” for pseudo-horepiskopa invented Old Ras and Loznica eparchy permanently excluded from Community Church, with the hope and prayer that the Lord grant them repentance as the only the way of salvation and the return of the church of God, which always receives with joy every penitent.

Continue here

But you are men!


H/T: MYSTAGOGY (read in full here)

Taken from Emperor Constantine’s last speech on the eve of the Fall of Constantinople, Monday May 28, 1453. Read speech in full at link above.

“….Animals may run away from animals. But you are men, men of stout heart, and you will hold at bay these dumb brutes, thrusting your spears and swords into them, so that they will know that they are fighting not against their own kind but against the masters of animals….”

The World is Flat


How the Myth of the Flat-Earth Dogma Started the Religion-Science War

Matt J. Rossano
September 16, 2010
H/T: Huffington Post (here)

Starting a war on false pretenses is nothing new. But when a few nineteenth-century academicians declared a science-vs.-religion war, they did us all a disservice.

John W. Draper (1811-1882) was born in England into a devout Methodist family. In 1832, he emigrated to the U.S., studied medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and later became professor of chemistry and biology at New York University and head of the medical school. Along the way he rejected his family’s religion and acquired an intense antipathy for Catholicism. Two factors were pivotal in shaping his attitude: the debates over Darwinian evolution erupting shortly after the publication of On the Origin of Species in 1859, and the reactionary attitude of Pope Pius IX toward liberal progressivism encapsulated in his Syllabus of Errors published in 1864.

In 1874, Draper published The History of Conflict Between Religion and Science, in which he argued that current (nineteenth-century) events were reflective of the totality of Christian history. Christianity was currently opposing progress because it has always been an impediment to science, reason, and progress. An especially egregious example of this was the Church’s insistence on a flat earth, a laughable dogma that stubbornly persisted until Columbus demolished it, bravely prevailing despite the ignorant protests of the Spanish cardinals.

Draper, with a little help from Washington Irving, thus popularized the “flat earth” myth, the idea that prior to Columbus there was a widespread, religiously-inspired belief that the earth was flat. Contemporary historians have squashed this myth, with Jeffrey Russell’s book Inventing the Flat Earth probably being the most detailed account of how and why it arose. Historian of science David Lindberg summarizes the medieval understanding of the earth and cosmos in his book The Beginnings of Western Science: “At the center of everything is the sphere of the earth. Every Medieval scholar of the period agreed on its sphericity, and ancient estimates of its circumference (about 252,000 stades) were widely known and accepted” (p. 253).

The rather mundane fact is that most educated Christian writers accepted Greco-Roman teachings about the earth and cosmos and quickly moved on to more urgent matters of sin and salvation. No Christian authority of any consequence ever taught that the earth was flat.

So from where did Draper get the idea of a medieval Christian belief in a flat earth? He read William Whewell’s book History of Inductive Sciences, published about three decades earlier. Whewell, a Cambridge Vice-Chancellor and Anglican priest, made intellectual stars out of two minor Christian authors, Lactantius and Cosmas Indicopleustes. Lactantius was a fourth-century pagan convert to Christianity who took particular delight in arguing against pretty much everything any pagan philosopher ever said, including that the earth was round. Christians wanted converts, but even they couldn’t stomach Lactantius, whose works were posthumously condemned.

Cosmas Indicopleustes was an even more peculiar specimen. A sixth-century merchant-sailor who later adopted monasticism, Cosmas boasted a hopelessly literal mind. To him, the projected rectilinear-shaped maps of Strabo and Eratosthenes meant that the earth was physically flat. Furthermore, they confirmed a literal interpretation of Biblical descriptions such as the “four corners of the earth” (which most everyone else took allegorically). Unlike Lactantius, Cosmas’ ideas were too silly to condemn. He was just ignored. But Whewell dug him up along with Lactantius, and Draper ran with the corpses. Thus did a long-forgotten heretic and an oddball nobody become the standard-bearers for medieval Christian geography.

Draper was followed in 1896 by Cornell University president Andrew Dickson White, who published the two-volume set History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom. A better historian than Draper, White realized that the case for the medieval flat earth was pitifully thin. His tactic was to stealthily misrepresent a few church fathers as flat-earthers (Basil, Chrysostom) and to argue that the non-flat-earthers were a few brave soles swimming against a colossal tide. Exactly how folks such as Origen, Ambrose, Augustine, Clement, and Aquinas could be swimming against a tide of their own creation was never explained. But no matter. Facts only confuse a good story. The narrative was bold, simple, and eagerly embraced by the nineteenth-century intelligentsia, who asserted that today, as always, religion subverts knowledge and progress. It was a classic fight of good vs. evil, progress vs. regress, ignorance vs. enlightenment — just what the papers needed to sell copy.

There never was a flat earth dogma. When Columbus faced off with the Spanish cardinals, the issue was the size of the earth, not its shape. And the Cardinals were right: the earth was a heck of a lot bigger than Columbus believed. His mission was ill-conceived, and it failed. But it failed gloriously. Columbus went to his grave erroneously thinking he had bumped into some far corner of Asia.

Whewell, Draper, and White all made laudable contributions to science and society, but their involvement in the flat-earth error is a regrettable blot. They fabricated a false history highlighted by a non-existent dogma and used them to brand religion as unceasingly reactionary, dim-witted, and anti-science. In reality, science and religion have had a complex history, one defying simple labels. The same reactionary Pope of the Syllabus of Errors also established the Pontifical Academy of the New Lincei (later the Pontifical Academy of Sciences) dedicated to the promotion of science. Furthermore, clergy have often been important contributors to scientific progress: Mendel in genetics and Lemaître in big-bang cosmology. But there are infamous nadirs as well: the muzzling of Teilhard de Chardin and the Galileo affair. Claiming that science and religion have known only unrelenting warfare betrays one’s ignorance of history and possibly one’s social/political agenda.

The lesson in all of this is that both science and religion are human endeavors, and human nature imposes itself upon them. Whewell, Draper, and White let human nature intrude on good scholarship. Sadly, dividing up into opposing factions is deeply engrained in our primate heritage. Even more than friends, we humans need enemies. They define us, give us purpose; often, without them we are lost. Searching for points of agreement and constructing common ground are not sexy; they don’t stir the senses or make the blood boil. It’s so much more fun to wave a sword around and cry out, “Get the bad guys!” Usually it is too late when we realize that we are the bad guys.

Within both science and religion, however, there lies inspiration to resist destructive tribalism. At its best, religion teaches us to be humble, to be instruments of divine peace, to seek to understand rather than to be understood. Likewise, at its best, science teaches us to falsify our most cherished and comforting ideas, seek to prove them wrong. Science and religion are not enemies of one another. Small minds and dim imaginations are enemies of them both.

Taking the Lord’s Name in Vain


Taking the Lord’s Name in Vain – What Does it Really Mean?

C. Michael Patton (here)

The answer to this question might seem self-evident, especially to those of us who grew up in a western Judeo-Christian society.

Exodus 20:7, Deuteronomy 5:11 – You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

Please be warned, I’m going to use a phrase that is offensive to many.

For most, the ultimate violation of the third commandment is to say “God damn it.” You can use just about every other word or phrase, no matter how bad, but when your vulgarity includes the utilization of this phrase, many believe you’ve crossed the line. You might even be charged with blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

In fact, more people would confidently answer this question than could list the Ten Commandments, name the gospels, or explain the difference between the New and Old Testaments.

At Odds with the Third Commandment (As Some Define It)

I’m going to take a stand that’s at odds with the most popular understanding of the third commandment. That’s why I used the word “really” in the title of this article. With all the talk about cursing pastors, the evolution of swearing in the blogosphere, and the general confusion around this issue (even in Christian circles), I thought I’d take a stab at explaining what it really means to take the Lord’s name in vain.

If I’m right about the third-commandment, we have a serious issue of folk theology that’s damaging the character of God by misrepresenting what Christian speech is.

The question that must drive the understanding of any biblical passage is:

What did the author intend for his audience to understand by his writing?

The third commandment was given to a specific people, at a specific time, in a specific place, with a specific purpose. We’ll never know what it means today if we don’t first know what it originally meant.

What About the F-Bomb, S-Word, etc?

The third commandment has nothing to do with what we commonly call cursing. Use of the F-word, S-word, etc. is a separate issue. The Bible certainly has a lot to say about speech:

Proverbs 10:32 – The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable, but the mouth of the wicked, what is perverse.

Colossians 3:8 – But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.

Ephesians 4:29 – Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

The third commandment is specifically addressing the use of God’s name. It isn’t meant to address the use of words, phrases, and even gestures that may be socially uncouth or vulgar.

When Calling on God to Damn Someone Is Biblical

We have this wrong. In fact, from a purely objective standpoint, I don’t believe that this phrase causes God to even bat an eye. Why would calling on God to damn something be so bad? What does the verb “damn” mean? The American Heritage Dictionary defines the verb “to damn” as “the act of pronouncing an adverse judgement upon.”

To call upon God to damn something is neither sinful nor unbiblical. In fact, you can find people throughout Scripture, especially in the Psalms, who call upon God to bring judgment on their enemies. In other words, they are asking for God to damn those whom they feel are ripe for His judgment. In this sense, saying “God damn _____” is as biblical as saying “God bless _____.”

Some say the reason this is a violation of the third commandment is because people are using God’s name in a “vain”, “worthless”, or “empty” way. In this case, to say, “God damn it!” in our colloquial tongue is not the same as seriously calling upon God to damn something or someone. For those making this claim, if you say it seriously, fine. If however, you say it casually, you’ve used His name in an empty way and broken the third commandment.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating that we should take the Lord’s name in vain, but that our understanding of what this commandment means is mistaken. There are three major critiques I’d offer to our common understanding:

1) “God” is Not the Name of God

“God” is a term used to refer to deities in general. A generic classification can’t be considered a formal name. It would be like you saying that my name is “person”. God gives His name to Moses in the book of Exodus. His name is Yahweh. Would you have the same offense if someone were to stub their toe and say “Yahweh damn it!” I doubt it.

When Christians use words like “God” or “Lord” we’re typically referring to the God of the Bible, Yahweh. And after all, if you’re not calling on the God of the Bible to damn something, whom are you calling on? Therefore, although the word God isn’t a formal name, because we use it as such, saying G-D may test the limits of what many consider taking God’s name in vain.

2) Selective Outrage at the Use of “God”

If the principle in question is that we’re not to use God’s name unless we really mean it, then we’re pretty inconsistent in our outrage. Why don’t people get offended when others say “God bless you?” Do you think that every time someone says this that they really mean it? Do you think that in their mind they are talking to God, beseeching Him on your behalf?

Just about every email I get ends with the phrase, “God bless.”

Just about every email I get ends with the phrase, “God bless.” I seriously doubt that that person actually said a prayer for me before he or she hit send. If this is the case, why is saying, “God bless you” not just as much a violation of the third commandment as saying “God damn you?”

Is it more biblical to ask for God’s kindness or judgment? I don’t think almost anyone who is honest with themselves can say they’re consistent in this regard. Saying “God damn it” and not meaning it should be just as bad as saying “God bless you” and not meaning it.

It true that both uses of “God” could be wrong, or both could be right. But, without modifying our principle (i.e. not using God’s name unless we really mean it) we can’t differentiate between the two.

3) What Does “In Vain” Mean?

I’ve saved this point for last because it’s the most important. In fact, if I’m right, the first two points don’t really make a difference. The question is this:

What does it mean to use God’s name in an empty or vain way?

What does the third commandment really mean? It’s hard to tell from a simple word study on the Hebrew term שָׁוְא (vain). Also, our understanding of a “name” and what it signifies is much different than what it meant in the context in which this commandment was given. First, we must try to understand what it meant when it was written. Second, we can then work out how that applies to us.

It does us no good to anachronistically impose our understanding upon an ancient text. This is eisegesis (reading into the text what we presuppose), not exegesis (letting the text speak on its own terms).

How the Canaanite Nations Invoked Their Deities

Briefly, this is what I believe your studies will show. The nations to which the Israelites were going (in Canaan) had many gods. They were highly superstitious. Their prophets used the name of their god in pronouncements all the time. The usage could be in a curse, hex, or even a blessing. They used the name of their god to give their statements, whatever they may be, authority.

To pronounce something in the name of a god meant that people would listen and fear. They may have said, “In the name of Baal, there will be no rain for 40 days.” Or “In the name of Marduk, I say that you will win this battle.” This gave the prophet much power and authority.

But, as we know, there is no Baal or Marduk. Those gods couldn’t have made such pronouncements. Thus the words of the prophet had no authority and didn’t need to be praised or feared.

Israel’s God Instructed the Proper Use of His Name

God was commanding the Israelites not to do the same thing. God instructed them not to use His name like the nations around them used the names of their gods. He did not want them to use His name falsely to invoke authority. This can be seen even today as the name Jesus means very little because of its constant misuse.

In essence, God didn’t want the Israelites to say that He’d said something that He, in fact, had not. This makes sense. God has a reputation to protect. He doesn’t want anyone saying, “Thus saith the Lord”, if the Lord has not spoken.

We’ve all experienced this. We’ve had someone say we said something we didn’t. This can be very damaging to our character and destructive to our reputation. Why? Because it makes us out to be something we’re not. How much more important is it for God to protect His character?

Application of the Third Commandment Today

What does this mean for us? Well, for starters we understand that the third commandment is focused on something more foundational than simply saying “God damn it!”

While some people may never think of using that phrase, people all over the Christian religious landscape are breaking the third commandment every day, damaging the Lord’s reputation:

  • “Thus saith the Lord…”
  • “God told me to tell you…”
  • “I have a word from the Lord…”
  • “God says that if you send in this much money, you will be blessed.”

I could go on and on, but you get the point.

If all one needed to do to keep the third commandment was to avoid saying certain socially unacceptable words or phrases, it would be the easiest of the Ten Commandments to keep!

Using the name of the Lord in vain is a serious matter. It damages His reputation and character through false and unsure claims. Before you say “God said…” make sure He really said it.

If you are unsure, make your statement reflect your uncertainty. Saying “I think God is telling you to…” rather than “God is telling you to…” may not be as authoritative, but it will keep God’s reputation safe and keep you from breaking the third commandment.

If I were Satan, I couldn’t think of a better way to trivialize such an important commandment.

As an aside, I think that this misunderstanding of the third commandment is both sad and tragic. If I were Satan, I couldn’t think of a better way to trivialize such an important commandment than to fool people into thinking it’s focus is on the phrase, “God damn it.”

A Final Caution

Does this mean that I believe that we can now say this phrase and not worry about it? No. Using this phrase in a colloquial way is offensive in many (if not most) contexts. It all comes back to being intentional with everything we say. While it is not a violation of the third commandment necessarily, it is offensive speech that must be used with wisdom and discretion.

Objections and Q&A

Shouldn’t Christians Avoid Every Form (Appearance) of Evil?

Because, in our culture, saying certain words is considered offensive, crude, or crass, Christians should avoid using them so as in order not to violate 1 Thessalonians 5:22. Dan Wallace’s article Avoid Every Appearance of Evil, addresses this very topic.

But What If Cursing Violates My Conscience or Someone Else’s?

No one should violate their conscience. Who would deny that we must do what we think is right? While it’s true that we could follow our conscience and be wrong, we can never violate our conscience and be right. Going against what we think is right (even if we’re wrong) is always wrong. We would be a law unto ourselves maybe even antinomian (against the moral law).

That being said, we should beware of professional weaker brethren who use their scruples to dominate others.

So I Should Start Swearing, Right?

No. Not if you mean “swear” in the sense of cursing left and right. Don’t imagine this article is a license to use vulgarities in the name of Christian liberty. The gospel frees us from the bondage to sin so we can live righteous lives not so we can be rude.

You’re Just Looking for Loopholes!

It’s true that scriptures have been used to excuse the pet sins of many people.

Wonderful things in the Bible I see. Most of them put there by you and by me.

However, the conclusions we come to must rest upon textual exegesis. If the Bible calls something sinful, let God be true and every man a liar. But if it doesn’t, we dare not heap upon others a yoke of bondage.

…Pray For Students

National Day of Prayer celebrated at Cathedral

Tennessee Law Calls On Residents To Pray For Students


A new Tennessee law signed by Gov. Bill Haslam encourages people to pray on Aug. 1 and 2 for the successful start of the new school year.

Local sponsors of the bill worked with First Priority Blue Ridge of Johnson City, a Christian organization. Executive Director Haley Wherry says that the law is a “call to action” rather than a rule, WCYB reports.

“Tennesseans are encouraged to pray for protection, guidance and peace, and for opportunities and blessings on the students of Tennessee,” the bill states. The bill passed almost unanimously. The bill passed the Tennessee State Senate 33-0, and the Tennessee House 95-2. Both “no” votes came from Democrats from Memphis.

Republican Sen. Rusty Crowe of Tennessee, a sponsor of the bill, stated in a release from the Senate Republican Caucus, “Many students face extreme challenges in school today both academically and due to peer pressure or low self-esteem.”

He added, “This legislation sets a weekend which will serve as a reminder that we need to pray for our students and also give thanks for them and the school personnel who will guide them over the academic year.”

Some see the bill as a way to promote religion at a state level, though Wherry claims it was crafted to be inclusive of all religions. Currently, lawmakers are discussing whether to recognize the Bible as Tennessee’s official state book, Johnson City Press reports.

Sam Grover, an attorney with the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) issued a statement on the bill, saying, “FFRF imagines educators would prefer that Tennessee legislators spend their time addressing real issues within the state rather than pandering to religious constituents.”

Grover believes the bill “falls short of taking any real step toward education reform.”

He also argued that state-endorsed prayer violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

“If Tennessee legislators want to honor educators, then the best thing for them to do is get off their knees and get back to work,” Grover said.

Johnson City Press noted a double-blind study on 799 coronary patients to determine the effectiveness of intercessory prayer found that prayer affected no positive change on cardiovascular disease progression after hospital discharge. These results are consistent with other studies on intercessory prayer.

Republican Rep. John Holsclaw of Tennessee disagrees, saying “Prayer makes a difference.” He says he hopes people and churches will “focus on praying for these students as they start the 2015-2016 school year.”

Sources: WCYB, Johnson City Press