Τρίτη, 20 Σεπτεμβρίου 2016

12 Years a Slave, the scene of whipping


About: 
12 Years a Slave (film)



Please, see also:

 
 
African-Americans (tag)
 
Ancient Christian faith (Orthodox Church) in Africa
Eight principal areas of convergence between African spirituality and Ancient Christianity
Orthodox Mission in Tropical Africa (& the Decolonization of Africa)
African Initiated Churches in Search of Orthodoxy...

Kanisa la Orthodox nchini Kenya: Liturujia takatifu, watoto na zaburi - Orthodox Church in Kenya: the holy liturgy, children and psalms



Kujiweka kwa Zawadi Mtakatifu Wakati wa Liturujia Mungu katika St Barnabas Orthodox yatima na shule. Liturujia ya Mungu rasmi na Fr Methodios JM Kariuki. kwa habari zaidi kuhusu ziara hii Mission; www.orthodoxmissionkenya.org
 
Consecration of the Holy Gifts During divine Liturgy at St Barnabas Orthodox Orphanage and school. The divine Liturgy officiated by Fr Methodios JM Kariuki. for more information about this Mission visit; www.orthodoxmissionkenya.org



Παρασκευή, 16 Σεπτεμβρίου 2016

Salvation and atonement (& The significance of the “Antilytron”)


 
Photo from here (Kenya)

Khanya (Khanya e isoe ho Molimo holimo - Orthodox Christians in South Africa)

In the previous post I questioned the belief of some theologians that “theology of religion” was all about whether one could find salvation in other religions. The question assumes that “other” religions have a similar notion of salvation to Christianity, and that “salvation” is what they are all about. I pointed out that the concept of “salvation” is not central to all religions, and that even Christians can’t agree about what “salvation” is.
In at least some parts of the Christian blogosphere there has been considerable discussion about the “penal substitution” theory of the atonement (“penal” was the “p” word that I couldn’t remember in my previous post). As an Orthodox Christian I have found the discussion somewhat unreal, as Orthodoxy has never had the juridical understanding of the atonement developed by Anselm of Canterbury, nor the penal substitution refinement of it, developed by Calvin. As Stamoolis (1986:9) puts it, following L.A. Zander, “The East was not influenced by Anselm: its soteriology is different from that of the West”. As I wrote in my doctoral thesis on Orthodox mission methods:
The schism of 1054 took place in the lifetime of Anselm of Canterbury, and he wrote his Cur Deus homo? a few years later. While the schism of 1054 appears to have been mainly about the Western addition of the filioque clause to the Symbol of Faith, and its attempt to impose that on the East (Runciman 1988:90-91), the heritage of Anselm is at least as significant in accounting for the differences in the style and method of mission following the eleventh century. Yet even this goes back a long way. At the root of the different understanding of soteriology is a different understanding of sin, and especially a different understanding of “original” sin. Again, as Stamoolis (1986:9) puts it, following L.A. Zander, “The East was not influenced by Augustine; its anthropology is different from that of the West”.
And, because I’m lazy and don’t like typing lots of stuff, much of what follows is also taken from my thesis, though I haven’t bothered to indicate all the quotes.
A favourite verse of evangelical Protestants in evangelising is Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God”. For the evangelical Protestants, the emphasis is on the “all”. They tend to use the verse in support of the contention that there are no exceptions to the universality of sin; all men are sinners, therefore all men need to repent. For Orthodox Christians, however, the emphasis is on the glory of God. The verse is almost tautologous, because to “sin” means to fall short, to miss the mark. In the Protestant use, the verse is ripped out of its context, and interpreted in individualistic terms. Evangelical Protestants interpret “all” to mean “every single individual”, though from the context it is clear that St Paul was comparing and contrasting Jews and Greeks — those who had the benefit of the Mosaic law and those who did not. For Orthodox Christians, this verse means primarily that we have all missed the mark, and the aim, the target that we have missed is the glory of God. And the very word “Orthodox” itself implies the remedy — instead of the curved path of the arrow veering from the target, or falling short of it, Orthodoxy is the straight (orthos) path to glory (doxa).

Icon from here
Man is created in the image and likeness of God, and the Greek fathers distinguished between these. The image of God in man is that of a unique person, free autonomous and creative — and this is a characteristic that we as human beings still possess. The image of God in man was not destroyed in the Fall. The likeness of God has, however, been distorted or lost through sin — kindness, gentleness, generosity, patience, joy, peace, love (Oleksa 1993:355). This likeness of God was not a static condition in Adam and Eve — it was something they were to grow into. What sin has done is to reorient us in harmful and self-destructive directions. Sin has distorted, but not destroyed, the image of God in man. And because of the effects of sin, we cannot reach the likeness of God by our own efforts. God has revealed himself to us as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three persons, yet undivided. No individual can be “like God”, because God is a communion of persons, and Orthodox teaching therefore asserts that salvation is personal but not individual. And this understanding is also, to some extent, found among the Western fathers too, who speak of us dwelling in the land of unlikeness. Salvation is the restoration of the likeness of God in man, becoming, by grace, by God’s energy and power, like God. This process is called theosis or divinisation in Orthodox theology, and it is one that catechumens are invited to begin at baptism (Oleksa 1993:356).

In Western theology, especially since Anselm, the juridical understanding of the atonement had been based on the idea of sin and evil as being primarily something that God punishes us for (Rodger 1989:28). In the Orthodox view, however, sin and evil are primarily something that God rescues us from. Salvation begins with being released “from the bondage of the enemy”. Salvation is in the first place a liberation from bondage (Hayes 1993:168).
“Original sin”, in the Orthodox view, is therefore not a kind of genetic inheritance, something carried with us, that we are born with, inherited from our ancestors, as Western theology tends to assert (Cross & Livingstone 1983:1010). It is better to picture original sin as something external, something environmental, not something that we are born with, but rather that we are born into (Cronk 1982:45; Hopko 1983:30; Davies 1971:205-205). We are born into a world that has been stolen from God, and has become a prison. We are born into a world that lies in the power of the evil one. We are citizens of the kingdom of Satan by birth. We are among the goods that the strong man holds in his palace. We are born literally possessed by the strong man (Lk 11:21). In the exorcisms preceding baptism the devil is dispossessed of his ill-gotten gains.

One manifestation of this difference in understanding of “original sin” between the East and the West can be seen in the Roman Catholic doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. According to this teaching, God miraculously intervened to remove the stain (macula) of original sin from Mary at the moment of her conception. Orthodox theologians have generally rejected this teaching — not because they believe that Mary was conceived sinfully, but because they do not believe in the maculate conception of the rest of us (Ouspensky 1987:338; Hopko 1984:42). For Orthodox Christians, original sin is not so much a “stain on the soul”, as a condition of the world into which we are conceived and born. We are not conceived maculate, but we become maculate by our collaboration with the evil around us (Hopko 1983:30; 1984:43).

SALVATION

If sin is falling short of the glory of God, salvation is being redirected or reoriented towards the target, the glory of God, or the likeness of God. As Oleksa (1993:356) notes, catechumens are invited to begin this process at baptism. Before being baptised, the catechumen stands at the entrance to the church, facing east, bareheaded and unshod, and the priest breathes three times in his or her face, and makes the sign of the cross on the catechumen’s forehead and breast, and then prays that the catechumen’s delusions will be removed, that they will be filled with faith, hope and love, and will come to know the Holy Trinity, that they will walk in God’s commandments and be pleasing to him, that their name will be written in the book of life and that they will be joined to the flock of God’s inheritance, that God’s name will be glorified in them and that they will rejoice in the works of their hands and their generation so that they may praise, worship and glorify God all the days of their lives (Hapgood 1975:271). This is a prayer for restoration and reorientation, for salvation and wholeness. But it is immediately followed by four prayers of exorcism.
In the exorcisms the present condition of the catechumen is sharply contrasted with the future condition envisaged in the prayer described above. Before God can receive the catechumen into his heavenly kingdom, he or she must be delivered “from the bondage of the enemy” (Hapgood 1975:273). “Conversion” therefore, is not merely a mental activity, an exchange of one set of ideas for another, an acceptance of a new worldview or a new ideology. Conversion is “fleeing from ‘this world’ which has been stolen from God by the enemy and has become a prison” (Schmemann 1974:20). The whole world lies in the power of the Evil One (I John 5:19).

 
Mass Baptism in Rwanda (from here)

Salvation as liberation
 

The English words “redemption” or “liberation” can be used to translate the Greek apolutrosis, which means a loosing, unbinding or setting free. Apolutrosis could refer to the setting free of a slave or prisoner. In the Orthodox understanding, there are two aspects of this liberation or freedom: the “freedom from” and the “freedom to”. We are freed from bondage to sin, evil, the devil and death. We are freed to become what God intended us to be — free creatures created in his image and likeness. These freedoms are inseparable. “Liberation from demonic power is the beginning of man’s restoration. Its fulfilment, however, is the heavenly kingdom into which man was received in Christ, so that ascension to heaven, communion with God and ‘deification’ have truly become man’s unique destiny and vocation” (Schmemann 1974:26). Because we are in bondage to the devil, evil and death, we cannot attain the life of God. But by his Death and Resurrection Christ has bound the strong man, set us free from sin and death, and opened the way to the heavenly kingdom. As St John of Damascus put it in his joyful Paschal hymn, sung by Orthodox Christians at the Paschal Vigil:
This is the day of Resurrection. Let us be illumined, O people. Pascha, the Pascha of the Lord. For from death to life and from earth to heaven has Christ our God led us, as we sing the song of victory (The Paschal service 1990:30).
By his Ascension and the Descent of the Holy Spirit Christ has raised our human nature to the heavenly places, and sent the indwelling power of God himself to enable us to be “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pe 1:4). We enter the heavenly kingdom by baptism.
In the first exorcism the priest says
The Lord layeth thee under ban, O Devil: He who came into the world and made his abode among men, that he might overthrow thy tyranny and deliver men; who also upon the tree didst triumph over the adverse powers, when the sun was darkened and the earth did quake… who also by death annihilated Death, and overthrew him who exercised the dominion of Death, that is thee, the Devil (Hapgood 1975:272).
In the exorcisms preceding baptism we are first prised free from the power of the Evil One, and then, facing the west, the direction of darkness, renounce his kingdom. This turning to the West and renunciation of the Satan is thus “an act of freedom, the first free act of the man liberated from enslavement to Satan” (Schmemann 1974:27). We then turn (convert) to the East, and accept Christ as King and God (Hapgood 1975:274). This is very similar in form to a secular naturalisation ceremony in which one applies for citizenship of another country. One first renounces one’s old citizenship, and then accepts the citizenship of the new country. So we renounce our former citizenship in the Kingdom of Satan, and accept new citizenship in the Kingdom of God. In the world there is a difference between citizenship by naturalisation and citizenship by birth. In baptism, however, we are born again by water and Spirit (John 3:5; Titus 3:5). We are not second-class citizens of the heavenly kingdom. “What you have come to is Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem where the millions of angels have gathered for the festival, with the whole Church in which everyone is a ‘first-born son’ and a citizen of heaven” (Heb 12:22-23).
The declaration of allegiance is completed by the recitation of the Symbol of Faith, and the catechumens then bow down before the Holy Trinity.
The point here is that the candidate for baptism is not free to voluntarily renounce Satan until he or she has been prised from Satan’s clutches by the exorcism. Liberation precedes renunciation and the declaration of allegiance. The people of Israel could only enter into the covenant with God at Sinai after they had been rescued from the clutches of Pharaoh at the Red Sea (Hayes 1992a:55).
Then follows the blessing of the water for baptism. Schmemann (1974:39) notes that water has a triple symbolism. Firstly, it is the symbol of life. Water is an essential element of life in the world, and so it has cosmic significance. Secondly, it is a symbol of destruction and death; it is the dark habitation of demonic powers. Thirdly, it is a symbol of purification, cleansing and renewal. And so the water is both exorcised and blessed. In the fallen world, matter is never neutral; if it is not used as a means of communion with God, it becomes the bearer and locus of the demonic (Schmemann 1974:48). In the preface to the blessing of the water, the priest says “Thou didst hallow the streams of Jordan, sending down upon them from heaven thy Holy Spirit, and didst crush the heads of the dragons who lurked there” (Hapgood 1975:278). This is typical of the multi-level scriptural references in Orthodox liturgy. It is a reference in the first place to the Theophany, the feast of the baptism of Christ, when the Holy Spirit descended (Lk 4:22). But the Theophany is seen as a fulfilment of the Exodus, announced in Isaiah 52:9-11:
Awake, awake! Clothe yourself in strength,
Arm of Yahweh.
Awake as in the past,
in times of generations long ago.
Did you not split Rahab in two,
and pierce the Dragon through?
Did you not dry up the sea,
the waters of the great Abyss,
to make the seabed a road
for the redeemed to cross?
Those whom Yahweh has ransomed return,
they come to Zion shouting for joy,
everlasting joy in their faces;
joy and gladness go with them,
sorrow and lament are ended.
Christians “experience matter as essentially good, yet on the other hand as the very vehicle of man’s enslavement to death and sin, as the means by which Satan has stolen the world from God. Only in Christ and by His power can matter be liberated and become again the symbol of God’s glory and presence, the sacrament of His action and communion with man” (Schmemann 1974:49).
There is thus a link between our baptism and Christ’s baptism in the Jordan. But there is also a significant difference. Our baptism is for the remission of sins (Ac 2:38), but Christ had no sins to be remitted. He went into the waters of the Jordan, at the lowest place on the surface of the earth, not to have his sins washed away, but to crush the heads of the dragons that lurked there, and to reclaim the world, and water in particular, for God. In a sense, he allowed himself to be fully immersed in the evil of this world, and threw down the gauntlet in a challenge to the powers of evil. His baptism was followed immediately by his temptation, in which Satan met him and responded to the challenge.

Orthodox Christians in Malawi (from here)


SALVATION AND EVANGELISM IN EAST AND WEST

I have noted that the difference between the Western and Orthodox understandings of sin was that Western theology tends to see sin primarily as something that God punishes us for, and that Orthodox theology tends to see sin primarily as something God rescues us from. I also noted that Protestant theology has tended to divide salvation into two dimensions or processes: justification and sanctification, while in Orthodoxy the dimensions were liberation and deification. Where Orthodox and Protestants have discussed these matters, much of the discussion has tended to revolve around the contrast between justification and deification in salvation. This has led to much misunderstanding on both sides. In part it is a result of the difference in the style of doing theology.
Western scholars who have been influenced by the Enlightenment tend to misrepresent Orthodox theology at this point. Bosch (1991:394), for example, quotes such scholars as saying that the Orthodox understanding of salvation was a “pedagogical progression”. Aulén (1970:13), however, points out that “the interpretation of the Christology of the period as ‘a work of the Hellenistic spirit’, intellectualistic and metaphysical in character, and of its doctrine of salvation as ‘naturalistic’, rests rather on the presuppositions of nineteenth-century theology than on an objective and unprejudiced analysis of the actual work of the Fathers.”
The Western misunderstanding of Orthodox theology is even clearer in Bevans and Schroeder (2004), two Roman Catholic missiologists. They analyse mission history in relation to six theological “constants”: Christology, ecclesiology, eschatology, salvation, anthropology and culture. They interpret these in terms of three theological models, which they call A, B and C, and there is a key figure who characterises each type. For Type A the key figure is Tertullian of Carthage; for Type B it is Origen of Alexandria, and for Type C it is Irenaeus of Lyons. The understanding of salvation in Type A is satisfaction, in Type B an exemplar model, and in Type C it is liberation (Bevan & Schroeder 2004:36f).
If one examines the six constants in terms of each model, it is clear that their Type C is closest to Orthodoxy. Type C’s Christiology, ecclesiology, eschatology, view of salvation, anthropology and view of culture are all Orthodox. This is not surprising, since Irenaeus is a saint of the Orthodox Church, and is regarded as one of the fathers of the Church, while Tertullian and Origen are not. What is surprising, however, is that Bevans and Schroeder, when looking at the constants in six different historical contexts, consistently assign Orthodox mission theology to Type B in all six.
For Protestants the emphasis is on the Word. Theologians have written about deification because it was the subject of argument and debate. But liberation (or redemption) was not debated or argued: for Orthodox Christians it was simply assumed. It is found primarily in the liturgy and ikonography of the church rather than explicitly stated in works of dogmatic theology (Hayes 1992a:56). Protestant theologians who read books about Orthodox theology without participating in Orthodox worship can therefore easily miss the point entirely. The experiential and enacted theology of Orthodoxy does not seem to them like theology at all, because it is not “systematic”. Again, to quote Stamoolis, “The East was not influenced by Aquinas, its methodology is different from that of the West.”
Schmemann (1974:21), writing about the exorcisms preceding baptism, notes this:
It is not our purpose to outline, even superficially, the Orthodox teaching concerning the Devil. In fact the Church has never formulated it systematically, in the form of a clear and concise “doctrine.” What is of paramount importance, however, is that the Church has always had the experience of the demonic, has always, in plain words, known the devil. If this direct knowledge has not resulted in a neat and orderly doctrine, it is because of the difficulty, if not impossibility, rationally to define the irrational. And the demonic and, more generally, evil are precisely the reality of the irrational.
Like Schmemann, I do not intend to systematically formulate the Orthodox teaching concerning the devil. But if liberation from the power of the devil is an essential part of the Orthodox understanding of salvation, then it is also an essential part of the Orthodox understanding of mission and evangelism, and will, or ought to, influence Orthodox mission methods. I believe that it also illustrates some of the differences that can be discerned between Orthodox and Western mission methods.
Bosch (1991:411ff) lists eighteen different understandings or definitions of evangelism that have been common in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Most of the debates, however, have been about evangelism as an activity. Evangelism is the proclamation of the evangelion, the good news, the gospel. But there has been very little discussion about what actually constitutes this evangelion. What is the content of the proclamation? What is the news, and why is it good? (Hayes 1992a:50).
For those who believe in the penal substitution of the atonement, the “good news” is that God isn’t going to thump you for your sins because he has already punished his sinless Son for the evil deeds of his sinful sons.
To Orthodox Christians, this looks like a disagreement between the persons of the Holy Trinity. In the Orthodox understanding, mission is trinitarian. The Father sends the Son and the Holy Spirit into the world to liberate it from bondage to the evil one.
Orthodox evangelism is thus different from the evangelism of those who believe in the penal substitution theory of the atonement. The content of the evangel, the good news, is different. The strong man holds his goods in peace until one stronger than him comes, not as a conquering hero, but in the guise of one of the prisoners, one of the inmates of the concentration camp. He breaks the gates of the prison with its bolts and bars (depicted in the ikon of the resurrection, where Christ tramples upon the doors of hell, while raising Adam and Eve from the abyss.
The good news is that
Christ is risen from the dead
trampling down death by death
and upon those in the tombs bestowing life.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

Aulén, Gustaf. 1970. Christus victor. London: SPCK.
Bevans, Stephen B. & Schroeder, Roger P. 2004. Constants in context. a theology of mission for today. Maryknoll: Orbis.
Bosch, D.J. 1991. Transforming mission: paradigm shifts in theology of mission. Maryknoll: Orbis.
Cronk, George. 1982. The message of the Bible: an Orthodox Christian perspective. Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press.
Davies, J.D. 1971. Beginning now: a Christian exploration of the first three chapters of Genesis. Philadelphia: Fortress.
Hapgood, Isabel Florence (ed). 1975 [1922]. Service book of the Holy Orthodox-Catholic Apostolic Church. Englewood, NJ: Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese.
Hayes, Stephen. 1992a. Evangelism and liberation, in Theologia Evangelica, Vol. 25(2) June. Page 49-57.
Hayes, Stephen. 1992b. Mission as African initiative. Pretoria: University of South Africa. (Study Guide for Missiology IIIB Course, MSB302-G).
Hayes, Stephen. 1993. The IViyo loFakazi bakaKristu and the KwaNdebele Mission of the Anglican Diocese of Pretoria. Pretoria: University of South Africa, M.Th. dissertation.
Hayes, Stephen. 1998. Orthodox mission methods: a comparative study. Pretoria: University of South Africa. D.Th. thesis.
Hopko, Thomas. 1983. The Lenten spring. Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press.
Hopko, Thomas. 1984. The winter Pascha. Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press.
Oleksa, Michael (ed.). 1987. Alaskan missionary spirituality. New York: Paulist.
Oleksa, Michael. 1992. Orthodox Alaska: a theology of mission. Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press.
Ouspensky, Leonid & Lossky, Vladimir. 1989. The meaning of icons. Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press.
Ouspensky, Leonid. 1987. Iconography of the descent of the Holy Spirit, in St Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly. Vol. 31(4). Pages 309-337.
Rodger, Symeon. 1989. The soteriology of Anselm of Canterbury: an Orthodox perspective, in Greek Orthodox Theological Review. Vol. 34(1). Pages 19-43.
Runciman, Steven. 1988. The great church in captivity: a study of the Patriarchate of Constantinople from the eve of the Turkish conquest to the Greek war of independence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Schmemann, Alexander. 1973. For the life of the world: sacraments and Orthodoxy. Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press.
Schmemann, Alexander. 1974. Of water and the Spirit: a liturgical study of baptism. New York: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press.


Technorati tags
Orthodox theology, atonement, missiology, penal substitution

See also:
 
The significance of the “Antilytron” [*]
Το ίδιο ελληνικά


When Papism distanced itself from the Orthodox faith of the Church, its understanding of important issues pertaining to salvation was lost. Totally ignorant of how these issues can be misleading, Protestantism in its turn “inherited” the fallacious Papist positions and in fact, it quite often made them even hazier.

One such issue, which has been misconstrued to the point of blasphemy by the Westerners, is the issue of the “Antilytron”.
 
***

In their pursuit of Thomas Aquinas’ erroneous theories, Westerners developed their own juridical system by which they explain the ‘function’ of our Lord Jesus Christ’s sacrifice in the salvation of mankind.

Although there may be small differences between the various Western religions, they make the following, general assertions:

“Adam sinned, therefore in his person, all of mankind after him partook of sin. Everyone consequently had to undergo death, as they too were deemed guilty of the original sin. However, no sinner was as worthy as the relatively sin-free Adam to pay for the sins of all mankind. Thus, in order to satisfy His sense of justice, God sent the sinless Jesus Christ to suffer death in the place of mankind. This was the way that He “paid for the release” of mankind –as Adam’s equal- and whomsoever believes in His sacrifice, is released from death.”

But if we observe these assertions more carefully, we will realize that they are also irrational, and have nothing to do with the Christian faith, and especially with God’s justice and the incarnation of the Lord.
 
The problems with the juridical position

First of all, let’s take a look at some of the initial problems that the above positions create:

a. If Adam was the one who sinned, why did God consider all of mankind guilty? Isn’t that unfair?

b. If, however, God didn’t consider all of mankind guilty, then what kind of justice was that which had to be satisfied, by demanding the death of someone who is not guilty?

c. Was Jesus Christ truly an equal to Adam, who was a mere creation?

d. What kind of judge is so unfair, as to consciously condemn someone innocent to death, in order to save someone guilty? This act would have been the pinnacle of injustice! It would have been far easier and more generous, to grant absolution to the guilty party, rather than allow someone innocent to die unjustly.

e. If the ‘offer for release’ (=the Lord’s self-sacrifice) was in fact the offering demanded for the freeing of mankind from death (as in cases of abduction and the ransom demanded), then to whom was this ‘offering’ made?

f. If this ‘offering’ was made to God, then God must be identified as the ‘abductor’ who demands an offer for the release, and who would also be satisfied by one’s condemnation to death.

g. If the ‘offering’ was made to the Devil, then it must have occurred, despite the will of the just Lord. So, how did the Devil compel God to deliver His innocent Son to death, as an ‘offer for the release’ of mankind? That would mean the Devil has power over God!

The significance of the word “Lytron” (an offer for one’s release/freedom)

The various misinterpreters of this topic say that “Lytron” implies the compulsory payment of a certain sum of money for the release of a captive. But let’s see what the word really means, in the Holy Bible:

“When these things begin, you must rise up, and lift up your heads, for your final release is imminent” (Luke 21: 28).

“….we sigh, in anticipation of the adoption, of the release of our bodies”. (Romans 8: 23).

Given that the above words are used in reference to the Second Coming of the lord, they cannot possibly imply a payment of any kind. It is therefore obvious, that the expression “final release” signifies a setting free, without any payment demanded.

”Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, for He visited and implemented the release of His people..” (Luke 1: 68).

In this excerpt also, it indicates that the “release” has already taken place (text is expressed in the past tense), before the time of the Lord’s sacrifice. We see therefore that nothing was actually “paid”, and that the word “lytron” is used in the sense of “releasing” or “liberating”.

Similarly, the word “lytron” when used in reference to the Lord’s sacrifice, doesn’t necessarily imply the payment of a certain amount; it bears the meaning that this sacrifice released/liberated us, WITHOUT A PAYMENT being involved, to anyone.

Was Jesus Adam’s equal?

Heresies that do not admit the divinity of Jesus Christ are somewhat justified in making this mistake, hence, they are not able to comprehend the true meaning behind Jesus Christ’s sacrifice as analyzed below. Those however who are entirely inexcusable are the ones who –although admitting Christ’s divinity- maintain that Adam was the Lord Jesus’ equal.

Let’s take a look at a few Scriptural excerpts on this topic, where the superiority of Jesus’ sacrifice as compared to Adam’s disobedience is made very evident.
 
Romans 5: 15 - 20

Scriptural text
Αλλ' ουχ ως το παράπτωμα, ούτω και το χάρισμα. Ει γαρ τω τού ενός παραπτώματι οι πολλοί απέθανον, πολλώ μάλλον η χάρις του Θεού, και η δωρεά εν χάριτι τή τού ενός ανθρώπου Ιησού Χριστού, εις πολλούς επερίσσευσε.  
Και ουχ ως δι ενός αμαρτήσαντος το δώρημα. Tο μεν γαρ κρίμα εξ ενός εις κατάκριμα, το δε χάρισμα εκ πολλών παραπτωμάτων εις δικαίωμα. Ει γαρ τω τού ενός παραπτώματι ο θάνατος εβασίλευσε δια τού ενός, πολλώ μάλλον οι την περίσειαν τής χάριτος, και την δωρεάν τής δικαιοσύνης λαμβάνοντες, εν ζωή βασιλεύσουσι δια τού ενός Ιησού Χριστού.
Άρα ουν, ως δι ενός παραπτώματος εις πάντας ανθρώπους εις κατάκριμα, ούτω και δι' ενός δικαιώματος εις πάντας ανθρώπους εις δικαίωσιν ζωής. Ώσπερ γαρ για τής παρακοής τού ενός ανθρώπου αμαρτωλοί κατεστάθησαν οι πολλοί, ούτω και δια τής υπακοής τού ενός, δίκαιοι καταστάθησαν οι πολλοί.
...ού δε επλεόνασεν η αμαρτία, υπερεπερίσσευσεν η χάρις...

Translation  
But, misbehaving is not the same as giving. Because, if through one’s (Adam’s) misbehavior the majority suffered death, by comparison the Grace of God and the gift in Grace of the one person, Jesus Christ, was made abundant to many.
And the gift was not as though from one who had sinned. While the judgment that befitted the one (Adam) resulted in condemnation, the gift (Christ’s sacrifice) that sprang from the misbehavior of many, resulted in vindication. For, if with the misbehavior of one (Adam), death came to reign on his account, on the contrary, those who received the surplus of Grace and the gift of justice shall reign in life, through the one: Jesus Christ.
So therefore, just as through one misbehavior (Adam’s) all people were condemned, thus through one justice (Christ’s), all people were vindicated for life. Because, just as through the disobedience of one (Adam), many became sinners, thus through the obedience of one (Christ), many became just.
Therefore, wherever sin was abundant, there Grace was excessively abundant.

What more can one say? It is clear here, that while Adam’s sin became the cause of sin for many, the Lord’s sacrifice was obviously far superior, in than it not only erased Adam’s sin, it erased all the accumulated sins of billions of sinners!

Woe betide, if the Lord’s sacrifice had only the same worth as the imperfect Adam! Because the Lord, apart from being God, was also a perfect person. Adam on the other hand had not been created perfect, only “very good”. And the expression “very good” is a far cry from “perfect”, just as the expression “in his image” is lacking by comparison to the expression “in his likeness”. (Genesis 1: 31).

The recipient of the Lytron

If the Lord’s sacrifice was the “price” paid for the release of mankind from the bonds of death, it could not have been paid to God, because the one who reigns over death is the devil, and not God:

“….so that through death, He (Christ) may abolish the one who held the power over death - that is, the devil – and release those who, through fear of death, were forever subject to bondage….” (Hebrews 2: 14 - 15).

But then, if God had to pay something to the devil, it would mean that God didn’t have the power to impose His will “for free”. That would have made the devil a victor. However, the devil and all of his “crew” were in actual fact defeated, when Jesus died on the Cross. (Colossians 2: 13 - 15). If Satan were to receive a ‘release payment’ in order to set mankind free from the bonds of death, then Satan would have been victorious, and not Christ.

At any rate, the Holy Bible says that “God is Love”, not “justice”, so there is no chance that God would have wanted to sacrifice Love for the sake of a supposedly offended case of justice that required reciprocation. Not to mention that the death of an innocent person in the place of guilty persons would have signified injustice, and not justice.

God didn’t harbor any hatred for mankind on account of their sins! It was mankind that perceived God as a judge, on account of their own, unclean conscience: “…for, although we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son….” (Romans 5: 10)

God always loved us as a father, and never demanded satisfaction for any supposedly “offended justice” of His. We see this, in John I, 4: 9. 10:

“In this, was God’s love for us made evident: that He sent forth His only Son into the world, so that we might live, through Him. In this, is Love: it is not because we loved God, but because He loved us and sent forth His Son for the atonement of our sins.”

The significance of the Lord’s sacrifice

For Christians however, the significance of the Lord’s sacrifice is already known. Christians do not equate the worthiness of the Lord with Adam; they do not equate God with an unjust and insane assassin; they do not become the devil’s advocates.

The Church teaches that the Lord Jesus Christ became a perfect human so that - being one of our kind - He would defeat all those things that defeated and brought about sickness to human nature.

In His (Christ’s) person, human nature overcame sin, the devil and death. Because whoever allows himself to be defeated by someone, becomes that person’s slave”. (Peter II, 2: 19).

Therefore, in order for the Lord to rise from the dead and thus defeat death, He first had to die. But now, through faith in Jesus Christ, and in communion with His Body –the Church- every person can partake of this victory!

N.M.
Translation by A. N. Greek text

 
* Antilytron (Greek): anti (= in place of), lytron (= an offer for someone’s release/freedom)
 
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Πέμπτη, 15 Σεπτεμβρίου 2016

MINISTRY TO THE ORPHANS AND THE BISHOP’S ANXIETY


 
Photo from here

† Panteleimon
Bishop of Brazzaville and Gabon

Orthodox Diocese of Congo-Brazzaville & Gabon

In the city of Dolisie, in the south of Congo–Brazzaville, the Orthodox “St Efstathios” orphanage has been in operation since 2007. In this institution which was established by His Eminence Ignatios, the then Prelate of the Holy Metropolis of Central Africa in whose jurisdiction the local Church of Congo-Brazzaville also belonged until 2010, there are today 24 little boys aged from 5 – 7 years, whose needs are looked after by 8 paid members of staff.

The mission of the Institution is the protection and Christian upbringing of the twenty-four orphans, but always under the social principles, values and beliefs of their country, as long as they are in harmony with the historical commands of the Gospels. Please allow me to clarify that these children, as future Orthodox citizens of their country, are obliged to know, respect and implement the principles of their country, which are not very different from the relevant moral principles of Greece, at least in the way most of us were taught long ago, where respect to parents, teachers, family and social hierarchy, the holy and divine, ethics and customs and paternal tradition was an non-negotiable value.

However, this effort is not easy. The lack of family environment from the beginning of these children’s lives, the various origins of each, the differences in age and spiritual levels, the coenobitic manner of life, the complex psychological state of puberty, contemporary influences and the western way of life, as is promoted by the media, all create problems in the upbringing and behavior of these children. Love, dialogue, rules of conduct, the necessary training boundaries, order and discipline, always under the light of faith, are the criteria for training of these little orphans, although of course there is no lack of difficult times of childish discord and youthful tension.

Over and above all these essential issues, the operation of an institution in Congo-Brazzaville is a complex process. The Republic of Congo-Brazzaville, as a former French colony, follows the legal prototypes of France. Consequently, the legal payroll, the uninterrupted payment of social security contributions for workers and the strictly-safeguarded rights of those who have entered into fixed or indefinite employment contracts, the occasional changes to the legislation for charitable institutions and the periodic controls impose the lawful operation of the orphanage and its adaptation to every change which the state decides on. This is imperative, both for lawful reasons as well as for reasons of the honourable and serious presence of the Orthodox Church in the country of the Congo, seeing as this comprises one of the officially accepted four Christians churches of the country. The 9th August 2014 visit by Her Excellency the Minister of Social Affairs, Mrs. Emilienne Raoul to the Orphanage, who publicly expressed here congratulations on the excellent operating and living conditions there, as well as the handing to the Director Fr. Paul Diafouka the renewal document for operating permission, as now one of the three official orphanages of Congo-Brazzaville its definition as the best of all, confirms its successful operation.

However, the successful running of the orphanage demands large sums of money too. The full board for the 24 orphans, with three full meals per day, their clothing and shoes, their school expenses, purchase of medication for illnesses and epidemics which are easily passed on between the children who are constantly together (free hospitalization for the children at the General Hospital in Dolisie, when necessary, was ensured following the direct reply of its most kind Director Dr. Matthia Kassay, to the relevant plea by the Bishop) technical faults, and the maintenance of the complex, the salaries of the staff, as well as the tuition fees for technical schools for the older children (which was a system established in 2013, so that on reaching adulthood they would have the necessary knowledge for their professional lives), in conjunction with the even higher prices of goods in Greece, comprise endless anxiety for the Bishop. Securing of the amount of 2.500 ευρώ in total which is necessary every month for the above costs – only for the Orphanage of the Holy Diocese – over and above the paternal anxiety for the correct upbringing and Christian training of the little children, as well as the smooth overall operation of the institution, are a constant source of struggle for the Bishop.

So, it is easy to understand that the words of praise, the expressions of support and understanding, the best wishes for progress, strength and productivity of the above briefly described struggle, despite their totally pure intentions of those who express them, unfortunately are not enough.

Who can comprehend the Bishop’s struggle, when night finds him in exhausted tears praying to God for the revelation of that practical solution which will secure at least the following day’s meals for those twenty-four orphaned children…

Who can feel the mental anguish, when he begs for a little money for the orphans to people or agencies who could perhaps contribute as much as possible, but receives negative replies or even derogatory replies, even mockery because of a lack of emotion in the impenetrable shell of selfishness…

How many souls which have love can understand that an Orthodox Orphanage is not only a place of survival and of protection of children from known dangers lurking in Africa (prostitution, human trafficking, poverty, disease, famine, civil wars, death), but a literal Christian family in which the suffering child can change into a responsible person and an honourable member of the local community…

The loving financial assistance of some missionary societies, a few Holy Metropolises and very few private people sacrificially support the needs of the children in part. Despite all their loving contribution, this is not enough, as the costs are huge and continuous, the times are financially difficult and the needs of Orthodox missions globally are abundant and compelling.

My dear brothers and sisters,

Allow me to state my humble opinion, as it has been formed in the short period of my two years tenure of ministry in the African equatorial region, that mission is not a romantic story or an adventurous tale, nor a collection of experiences in the always attractive standpoint of the natural beauty of Africa. Also, Mission is not the place for narcissistic self-confirmation, neither a private setting for the solution of personal searches, disputes or arbitrary views and egocentric improvisations. Mission is a shared responsibility of the Body of the Church under heaven, according to the words of the Lord, the Apostolic and Patristic tradition and the two thousand year old history, order and experience of the Church, without distinction. Besides, this is what we confess when saying “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”!

And because Christ the King on the day of Judgment will judge us on the basis o the honest, genuine and sincere love of our fellow human beings, founded on His words “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me…” (Matthew 25:35-39), let us consider honestly the measure of the love which is in our hearts, a love which we truly accept as a way of existence and natural outcome of Christian life which we proclaim, that knows and exceeds distances, physical barriers, financial circumstances and personal priorities... “God loves a cheerful giver”! (2 Corinthians 9:7).


Please, see also

Participate! Support a child from the Diocese orphanage!

Serving the Least of the Brethren: the Missionary Work of "Orthodox Africa"!

Κυριακή, 11 Σεπτεμβρίου 2016

16 dead, 250 injured in Tanzania earthquake


Map of Tanzania locating Saturday's earthquake in the northwest
Map of Tanzania locating Saturday's earthquake in the northwest ©Laurence Saubadu (AFP)

dailymail.co.uk
 
At least 16 people died and 253 were injured in a 5.7-magnitude earthquake that struck northwest Tanzania and was felt throughout the Great Lakes region, local authorities said Sunday.
As rescuers scrambled to find survivors from Saturday's quake, Tanzanian premier Kassim Majaliwa headed to the worst-hit city, Bukoba, to attend a ceremony at its stadium.
"This tragic event is unprecedented. We've never known this in our country," he told mourners. "The government is with you. It will not abandon you."

Houses damaged following an earthquake measuring 5.7 magnitude which struck Tanzania's northwestern Great Lakes Zone on September 10, 2016 Houses damaged following an earthquake measuring 5.7 magnitude which struck Tanzania's northwestern Great Lakes Zone on September 10, 2016

President John Magufuli, who is from the region, said he was "deeply saddened".
A group of 15 boys at a secondary boarding school in Bukoba district are believed to be among the 16 dead and 253 injured, according to Salum Kijuu, governor of Kagera province where Bukoba is located.
More than 800 buildings have been destroyed, including 44 public ones, Kijuu told AFP.
Across the border in Uganda, an unknown number of homes have also been razed by the quake which struck at 1227 GMT at a depth of 40 kilometres (24 miles) in the region near Lake Victoria.
In the Ugandan village of Minziro in the district of Rakai, residents appealed for help on Sunday, describing terrifying scenes of rocks crashing down nearby hillsides.
"I am sure the government can't reconstruct our houses but in the meantime it can aid us with construction materials for tents," victim Masembe Remegio told AFP.
Earthquakes are fairly common in the Great Lakes region but are almost always of low intensity.

The Orthodox Metropolitan Jeronymos of Bukoba (photo from here)

- Tremors across the region -
The quake's epicentre was 23 kilometres (15 miles) east of the northwestern Tanzanian town of Nsunga, in Bukoba district, and was felt in Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and Kenya, the US Geological Survey said.
Bukoba city suffered widespread damage, with 270 houses destroyed and electricity disrupted, the Red Cross said in a statement.
Its main hospital was stretched to nearly full capacity and had limited stocks of medicine.
"Telecommunications have been disrupted and we are trying to get a clear picture of the damage to hospitals and other essential infrastructure," Andreas Sandin, Red Cross operations coordinator in East Africa and the Indian Ocean Islands, said in a statement.
No damage was reported in Tanzania's economic capital, Dar es Salaam, which is located some 1,400 kilometres southeast of Bukoba.
In Rwanda the shaking was felt across the country, with hotel staff and half-dressed visitors seen rushing out of their rooms in the capital, Kigali, when the quake struck.
In Burundi's capital Bujumbura, the president's spokesman Willy Nyamitwe tweeted: "I just felt an earthquake at 1429."

 
The coffins of earthquake victims pictured on September 10, 2016 at Kaitaba Stadium in Bukoba, northwest Tanzania before their burial service The coffins of earthquake victims pictured on September 10, 2016 at Kaitaba Stadium in Bukoba, northwest Tanzania before their burial service

The Tanzanian city of Bukoba suffered widespread damage in the earthquake, with 270 houses demolished and electricity disrupted, the Red Cross said
The Tanzanian city of Bukoba suffered widespread damage in the earthquake, with 270 houses demolished and electricity disrupted, the Red Cross said ©Tony Karumba (AFP/File)

Please, see also