It is one of the most explosive issues facing our world in the early years of this 21st century. Political and religious agendas around the world are bullied and coerced, reacting to a virus-like spiritual plague of religious fundamentalism. The Islamic fundamentalist reaction to Western imperialism and decadence is said to be a counter-attack on the "great Satans" of our culture (materialism, immorality, secularism, humanism, science and technology), all of which are blamed for taking our world to hell in a hand-basket.
Though the eyes of the world are currently focused on Islamic fundamentalism, the seeds of radical religious fundamentalism are found in virtually all of the world's major religions.
Fundamentalism, whatever its outward attire might be, is convinced that society wants to wipe out its faith and practice. Fundamentalists tend to see the world as "them" and "us"—they feel trapped, with their backs against the wall, and obligated to fight for their faith under their fundamentalist flag.
Extreme Islamic beliefs and practices are, without a question, a dangerous, turbulent storm of fundamentalism that overshadows our entire western world. But while it lurks in the shadows, extreme fundamentalism in the name of Jesus also portends a clear and present spiritual danger. Fundamentalism is fostering dramatic changes, forcing us to rethink our moral priorities, whether we like it or not.
When Calls for Peace Are Dismissed
Hate-filled rhetoric and passionate appeals for bloodshed in the name of God are the manipulative interpretations of teachers who are war-mongers thirsting for blood, yearning for revenge and violence. Terrorists who torture and maim, fueled by anger and lust (James 4:1-3) hide like cowards behind the skirts of God (or Allah), desperately trying to remake divinity into their own violent image.
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Editor's note: This article is a follow-up to Bearers of Co-Suffering Love
Some have asked me to explain "moral grief," looking at the Holy Fathers.
The best example of Moral Grief is Christ's prayer in Gethsemane just before his betrayal. As the fathers tell us, Christ had no fear of death. He certainly knew who He is. What then, was the "chalice" that He suffered from so greatly and wished to have it removed?
He was referring to His grief over the conditions and bondage of humanity. As the great Russian father, Antony Khrapovitsky says, "Christ suffered more greatly from His moral grief for humanity than He suffered physically on the cross."
Christ expressed no outrage over mankind's sins, which He had come to bear away. Even when critiquing the self-righteous, He was sharp and stern, but without outrage. With the woman taken in adultery, we do not see any moral outraged in Christ, rather, being concerned for her healing and salvation, He demonstrates a moral grief toward her accusers who were, despite of their own moral outrage, were immoral and full of sin themselves.
Moral grief never seeks the punishment or degradation of another, but feels grief over their bondage and inner human suffering. Moral outrage wallows in the desire for punishment, and rages against the other rather than feeling a deep sense of humble grief over their condition. I hope this will explain to some degree.
St Antony Khrapovitsky once wrote:
“In the garden of Gethsemane the Lord demonstrated the ultimate degree of co-suffering with the sins of every person, when He began to be oppressed by them to such a degree that He asked the heavenly Father to deliver Him from the agony. 'And was heard because of His reverence" as the apostle says (Heb.5:7), as an angel appeared and strengthened Him.'
"... How can I benefit from the Saviour's grief over people's sins, in the way that a corrupted person's soul is filled by a friend's co-suffering love? Only if I am convinced of the certainty that I too, I personally, as an individual, was and am encompassed in the heart of Christ Who grieves over my sins. Only when I am aware that He beholds me, stretches out His supporting hand toward me and encompasses me with His co-suffering love: only then is He my Saviour, pouring new moral strength into me, He "Who teaches my hands for war" (Ps. 17:34) against evil.
"This is possible only when He is not foreign to me, not a historical example of virtue, but a part of my being or, more correctly, when I am a part of His being, a participant of the Divine nature, as Apostle Peter says (Pt.1:4).T
PATRISTIC REFERENCES: CHRIST WAS NOT GRIEVED IN GETHSEMANE ABOUT HIS OWN SUFFERING AND CRUCIFIXION:
St Hilary of Poitlers devotes several paragraphs to refuting the idea that Christ felt fear in Gethsemane. He says that Christ's words, “My soul is sorrowful unto death” cannot mean that He was sorrowful because of His own impending death. He was sorrowful unto death in that He sorrowed so greatly over fallen humanity that He came unto death over it. “So far from His sadness being caused by death, it was removed by it.”
Concerning the words, “Let this cup pass from Me,” St Hilary says,
For this prayer is immediately followed by the words, ‘and He came to His disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter; could you not watch one hour with Me?...the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh Is weak....' Is the cause of this sadness and this prayer any longer in doubt?...it is not, therefore, for Himself that He is sorrowful and prays, but for those whom He exhorts.
The saint points out that Christ had no need to fear His passion and death, but that even those who were committed to Him would so fear it that at first, on account of it, they would flee and fear to confess Him, and that Christ was sorrowful over this. The whole passage is well worth reading. (See On the Trinity, Book 10:30—40).
Both St Cyril and St Ambrose directly confirm Metropolitan Antony's interpretation of the cause and significance of Christ's agony in Gethsemane, and the “cup” which He asked to have removed from Him.
It seems to me that fear is closely associated with our default understanding of God. Indeed, we might even say that for many people, fear is the instinctive emotional response to thoughts of God. Long-established expressions like “to put the fear of God into someone” illustrate just how intimately the emotion of fear is connected with the idea of God.
And, of course, those wishing to draw on the Bible to support the notion that fear is an appropriate response to God can do so with ease. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”, we are told in Proverbs 9:10. And there’s no shortage of accounts throughout the text of scripture where God or his angels appear to strike fear into people’s hearts.
So, fear is typically quite ingrained in our psyche as a response to God, and many assume that the Bible validates its appropriateness.
The writer of the first epistle of John, shortly after telling us that God is love, has this to say:
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.” (1 John 4:18)
And so we have a seeming paradox: on the one hand, fear of God is something appropriate and even valuable and necessary; but on the other hand, God is love, and as such, there is no place or reason for fear in him.
We have spoken about the action of co-suffering love, but now let us direct our attention to its bearers: in what feeling, in what experience is it expressed? It is evident that it is found in inner suffering for others, in co-suffering. And so we have come to the concept of redemptive co-suffering. The door is now open before us to a feasible understanding of the redemptive power of Christ's sufferings.
The Church clearly teaches those who would partake of the Holy Mysteries that the grace of regeneration is given from the co-suffering love of Christ the Saviour. This is expressed in the words of St Symeon the New Theologian, in the seventh prayer before Communion:
Neither the greatness of my offenses nor the multitude of my transgressions surpasses the great longsuffering of my God and His exceeding love for man, but with the oil of co-suffering [compassion] dost Thou purify and illumine those who fervently repent, and Thou makest them to partake abundantly of the light and to be communicants of Thy Divinity.
These are precious words which explain the mystery of redemption and expand the significance of Paul's words: "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to co-suffer with our weaknesses" (Hb.4:15). The fourth antiphon of Great Friday Matins clearly says that Christ's sufferings were His co-suffering for mankind: "O Thou who dost suffer for and with mankind, glory be to Thee."
Speaking of himself as a servant of regeneration, Apostle Paul clearly expresses the truth that co-suffering (compassion) which is filled with love and zeal for the flock is a regenerating power, which gradually instills spiritual life into those hearts where it had not previously existed, just as a child receives life in the birth sufferings of the mother: "My children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ is formed in you" (Gal.4:19; Jn.16:21,22). In another place, the apostle writes that the spiritual life of the flock increases according to the measure that their teacher dies physically in his pastoral suffering: "Thus death is actively at work in us, but life in you" (2Cor.4:12; cp.1Cor.4:10-16).
In the prayer for accomplishing the mystery of the consecration of bishops, the successors of the apostles, the regenerating power of their service is also described as suffering (that is, co-suffering with the sinful flock), in which the hierarch represents, to the people, Christ the true Teacher and Redeemer:
As it is not possible for the human nature to bear the Divine essence, by Thine ekonomy Thou hast appointed teachers for us having a nature like our own, subject to passions, who stand before Thy throne...make this appointed steward of the episcopal grace an imitator of Thee, the true Shepherd, Who has laid down Thy life for Thy flock....May he stand unashamed before Thy throne and receive the great reward which Thou hast prepared for those who have suffered for the preaching of the Gospel.
The co-suffering love of a mother, friend, a spiritual shepherd or an apostle is operative only when it attracts Christ, the true Shepherd. If, however, it functions only in the sphere of human relations, it can, it is true, evoke tender attitudes and repentant sentiment, but not a radical regeneration. The latter is so difficult for our corrupt nature that not in vain did Nikodemos, speaking with Christ, liken this difficulty to an adult person entering again into his mother's womb and being born for a second time. The Lord replied that what is impossible in the limits of human life is possible in the life of grace, in which the Holy Spirit descends from heaven and operates. And to grant us this gift, Christ had to be crucified and raised, as Moses raised the serpent in the wilderness, that all who believe in Him should not perish, but have life eternal (see Jn.3:13-15).
So that which grace-bearing people can do only in part and only for some people, our Heavenly Redeemer can do, and does do, completely and for all. Filled with the deepest compassion for sinful humanity during His earthly life, He often exclaimed: "O faithless and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I endure you?" (Mt.17:17). He was oppressed with the greatest sorrow on the night when the greatest crime in human history occurred, when God's ministers — with the complicity of Christ's own disciple, the former through envy, the latter through greed — decided to put the Son of God to death.
This oppressive grief possessed His most pure soul for a second time on the cross when the cruel masses not only were not moved to pity by His terrible physical sufferings (they could not come close to grasping His moral sufferings) but also maliciously mocked the Sufferer. One must suppose that during that night in Gethsemane, the thought and feeling of the God-man embraced all of fallen humanity — numbering many millions — and wept with loving grief over each one individually, as only the all-knowing divine heart could. Our redemption consisted in this. This is why only God, the God-man could be our Redeemer, and not an angel or a man. It was not at all because a more valuable sacrifice was necessary for the satisfaction of Divine wrath. Ever since this night in Gethsemane and that day on Golgotha, every believer, even one who is just beginning to believe, recognizes his inner bond with Christ and turns to Him in prayer, as to an inexhaustible spring of moral regenerating strength. Few are able to explain exactly why they so easily assimilated faith in the possibility of receiving new moral energy and sanctification from turning to Christ, but no believer doubts this, nor do even the heretics.
Having suffered in His loving soul over our imperfection and our corrupt will, the Lord poured into our nature a wellspring of new, vital strength, available to everyone who has ever or will ever desire it, beginning with the wise thief.
One may ask: "How does this happen? Upon what does the causal bond between suffering and regeneration depend if the latter is not an external gift of God as a reward for the merits of the One? How can one explain this transmission of moral energy from a loving heart into the hearts of the beloved ones, from the Sufferer to those for whom He had co-suffered? You have presented to us factual proof that it is thus; you have confirmed it with the words of the prayers of the Church and the words of the holy fathers and the Bible. Finally you wish, from this point of view, to explain the death agony of the Saviour, evidently ascribing only a secondary significance to His physical sufferings, the shedding of His blood and death. But we still desire to know what law of existence causes this communion of the Redeemer with those being redeemed, and the influence, which we ourselves have observed, of the co-suffering will of one man upon others. Is this merely a result of a conscious submission of the will of a loved one to the will of the one who is loving, or is there something taking place here that is deeper — something objective, something that takes place in the very nature of our souls?"
"Of course," we would reply to the latter. I have always been very dissatisfied when a collocutor to whom I had explained redeeming grace, responded from the point of view of scholastic theology, to this effect: you are expounding the subjective, moral aspect of the dogma, but you do not touch upon the objective, metaphysical (that is, the juridical) aspect. "No," I would reply. "In the transmission of the compassionate, loving energies of the Redeemer into the spiritual nature of a believing person who calls upon His help, we find manifested a purely objective law of our spiritual nature revealed in our dogmas, but which our dogmatic science has not noticed."
(St Antony Khrapovitsky)
Last week I wrote about how it is in our collective brokenness that we find our true humanity. Today I’d like to continue exploring the idea of brokenness a little further.
First, it might be useful to unpack what we mean by “brokenness” (or, at least, what I understand it to mean).
We often think of brokenness as a place we come to either when we’re faced with the consequences of our own actions or when the actions of others, or events beyond our control, leave us wounded and in pain. This is, I think, an entirely valid and appropriate use of the word “brokenness”: sometimes we are broken by the disastrous consequences of our own poor choices, by the actions of other people, or by a host of other seemingly random causes collectively known as “life”.
However, there is also another sense of the word “brokenness”, and it is simply this: that we are all wounded, and so we are all broken in various ways.
Some of the wounds we carry we are well aware of, maybe because we sustained them in some terrible experience that we will never forget, or perhaps simply because the pain of them is so great that it continues to dominate our world. Other wounds are buried under many layers of self-protective armour. Either way, and however well we might appear to mask it, there is brokenness in all of us, deep down.
So, all of us are or have been broken in some way. The only difference is that some of us know it and others don’t.
Often, it takes an experience of the first kind of brokenness to bring us to a place where we can acknowledge the second kind. In other words, it often takes an intensely painful crisis to bring us to a place where we become aware of – or are prepared to recognise – the underlying low-level brokenness we’ve been carrying around like heavy baggage for years. For me, it took the painful and humiliating admission that I had developed a drink problem to drag me to a place where I was open enough, and my defences were lowered far enough, for me to begin to be able to see and name the wounds I’d been nursing, some of them since childhood.
This brings us to two more things I think we can say about brokenness.
According to the theory of evolution, when a species encounters a crisis that threatens its very existence (for example, some kind of significant change in its physical environment), it must either adapt or risk extinction.
I believe the human species is facing a crisis that threatens its very existence. I’m not talking about a crisis arising from a change in the physical environment (though, of course, manmade climate change may well present such a crisis). I’m talking about the crisis that arises from a lethal combination of two factors: first, our ongoing inability or unwillingness to tolerate difference, and second, the increasingly easy availability of deadly technology.
Simply put, if we as a species do not learn to get along, sooner or later some group or nation is going to unleash destruction on an unprecedented scale. It’s a question of when, not if. If that happens, the best case scenario is that we will move (or rather regress) into an era of harsh authoritarianism in which the freedoms we cherish will be removed from us in an effort to enforce some kind of artificial “peace”. The worst case scenario is that it will be game over for the human race. Perhaps small pockets of humanity will survive here and there, but as a civilisation we will be back to the drawing board. Maybe that’s what it’s going to take for us to finally learn to live together.
Editor's Note: Clarion will be posting Michael Hardin's 20-episode series (excerpted from What the Facebook? vol. 1) on The Satan as a weekly release, each Thursday. CLICK HERE for the full pdf or kindle document.
I am often asked about the devil or the nature of evil or why there is evil in this world. Some folks would prefer that I do not talk overmuch about this. They say, since Jesus has defeated the devil, we should not give it too much air time. They are correct. As Karl Barth observed, the Bible only mentions the devil to dismiss him. However, the Bible does mention the devil so we too, even as we dismiss its/his presence and work. We must first clear away some misconceptions in the first few posts and note that the concept of the devil has a history.
Before I begin, however, I will lay my cards on the table so that as you follow along you will not be too surprised at what you will see. Primarily what I will be doing in these posts is seeking to work out an understanding of evil from a human perspective. If you are familiar with my writings you will know that the mimetic theory of Rene Girard informs how I read the Bible. I read it first as an anthropological text and then (and only then) as a theological one. The cross before the resurrection as it were.
As we begin this journey I hope you will find that reframing our understanding of the devil contributes greatly to our understanding of just what it is that is overcome in the life of Jesus. I hope you will find the courage to “cast out the satanic influences and impulses” in your own life. We who live in the light of God’s great liberation in Christ are already aware of the power of the gospel to deal with our sin, our addictions and the way sin manifests itself in the structures of our life. The devil is not an elusive concept nor a free floating spirit, nor a power to be feared. The satan had been crushed, laid low in the death of Jesus, never to rise, destined to doom.
You will notice that I do not capitalize the word satan. There are several reasons for this. Satan is not a name but a function (it means accuser). Second, the satan is not a person but a principle (more on this as our studies evolve). Third, the satan has been given way too much press in the Christian faith as a virtual equal or peer of God, as though God was a good eternal principle and the satan an evil eternal principle. Not so! Christians are not dualists; we are those who recognize that only Jesus has been given all authority and power (Matthew 28:16-20, Phil. 2:5-11).
Yet, it is also true that while Jesus has overcome the satan in his death and resurrection and ascension, it is also true that we still live between the times; we live as those who share in both this age and the age to come. We are still bounded in this life by sin, death and the devil, but even as we are bounded by such we are freed from fear of any of them. We are liberated from fear of judgment, for Jesus has forgiven us all of our sin. We are liberated from fear of death for we live in the promise of the resurrection of our bodies. We are freed from fear of the satan and freed from its authority over us by virtue of Jesus overcoming of the satanic principle. This is the gospel and it is good news indeed.
So while we will discuss the devil and at times it may appear as though the devil has the upper hand in human history, nevertheless we do so knowing that there is a world coming where sin, death and the devil will cease to exist. We live, as the theologians put it, with an ever expanding eschatological horizon opening up for us.
Next episode: (2) Hollywood, the Bible and The satan
Final conversation from True Detective (full video link - language warning).
Marty: “Didn’t you tell me one time, dinner once, maybe, about how you used to ... you used to make up stories about the stars?”
Rust: “Yeah, that was in Alaska, under the night skies.”
Marty: “Yeah, you used to lay there and look up, at the stars?”
Rust: “Yeah, I think you remember how I never watched the TV until I was 17, so there wasn’t much to do up there but walk around, explore, and...”
Marty: “And look up at the stars and make up stories. Like what?”
Rust: “I tell you Marty I been up in that room looking out those windows every night here just thinking, it’s just one story. The oldest.”
Marty: “What’s that?”
Rust: “Light versus dark.”
Marty: “Well, I know we ain’t in Alaska, but it appears to me that the dark has a lot more territory.”
Rust: “Yeah, you’re right about that.”Rust insists that Marty help him leave the hospital, Marty agrees.As they head to the car, Rust makes one final point to his former partner.
Rust: “You’re looking at it wrong, the sky thing.”
Marty: “How’s that?”
Rust: “Well, once there was only dark. You ask me, the light’s winning.”
Rust stares at all of the stars in the midst of the darkness.
Kenneth Tanner (FB post 15 June 2016):
It was always there in Psalm 23:
God does not visit evil on humanity, and God does not prevent the evil that men and the dark angels do.
Rather, God is *with us* as we endure the evils our departures from his light and life bring us.
"Even though I walk through of the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for you are with me."
Hannah Hurnard was a much appreciated and admired writer in the 20th century within the evangelical tribe—her insights on the mystical journey as articulated in an allegorical way have birthed an impressive vision in her many published books. There has been a tendency within the evangelical clan to be hitched to Calvinism and confessional theology but such an approach often misses a more thought through reflection on the nuanced nature of the inner life and faith journey.
The publication of Hannah Hurnard’s first book in 1954, Hind’s Feet on High Places, positioned her well as a sensitive writer on the seasons and nature of the interior journey as lived forth in the material world. Hind’s Feet on High Places was followed a few years later with her sequel, Mountains of Spices—yet again, she spoke to a generation of evangelicals who had a thirst for the deeper pilgrimage.
Hurnard was neither as austere as Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Process nor as intellectually demanding as Lewis’ Pilgrim’s Regress—she did write, though, with disarming simplicity about the nature of the devotional way in a manner that resonated well with how many experienced and interpreted their faith journey.
My Lord, your servants have turned against those you love. They say cruel and mean words. Do you not hear them?
My Lady, I hear the wind howling through the trees.
Surely, my Lord, you have not missed their strident tongues lashing those whom they deem offensive?
Ah my lady, it is indeed a wild wind that bears much malice.
So, my Lord, would you not speak to them so that their words of cursing which cut and stab will cease?
Yes, my lady, I would speak but the wind has no ears to hear and though, it claims me as its master it will not follow but goes its wild and destructive way.
Come, my lady. My cottage is near. The candles are lit and the fire burns warm.
Come, rest your sore heart in my love and let the wind rage till the morrow comes.
By Stephanie Nolte
I have been asked to explain the Trinity. The first thing I would say is that the doctrine of the Trinity is the way the Christian church frames our understanding of God. Notice I used the word ‘frames.’ A frame is the structure but it is not the house. The wisest in the history of Christianity have always known this. The term they use with reference to this is ineffability which means that which cannot be described with words or indescribable. Words or language, the frame of the house, will only take you so far. Fools reduce their knowledge of God by thinking that language is a medium capable of bearing the infinity of the divine.
We humans created our gods when, in our primordial evolution, we ritualized the mechanism of generative mimetic scapegoating. This action, which in its repetition spawned first religion then culture, is where all human language originates. Language is bloody. This is why it is important for any discussion of language’s capacity to carry revelation to have as its epistemic base the transformation of language in blood. Linguistics, or at least all Christian discourse, can only begin with the cross of Christ and the problem of its relation to sacrifice.
Second, having read and delved into both the Patristic as well the great 20th century writers on the Trinity, I would note several crucial elements of the way we measure the frame, the doctrine of the Trinity. Anyone can claim they are trinitarian because they believe God to be three persons but the same substance. However, what lies definitionally behind the words ‘person’ and ‘substance’ create all manner problems which are adopted as solutions and warp the frame considerably. What is eventually erected is like something out of a Tim Burton movie. Trinitarian doctrines of God abound in popular Christianity, but they are cartoons.
Silence is framed; it is always a silence of something. It is absence but it is idiosyncratic absence – absence in a context, absence of a kind of sound, absence in a kind of place, generated, constructed, coaxed, or imposed. To think of silence alternatively as a staple and simple absence is dangerous. It merges together the silence of the socially marginalized with that of contemplation, it divinizes suffering in its thinking of our silence before it as just as sacred as that of the believer before God. At the outset, then, we conceive of silence as expressed in many distinctive forms.
I will trace three particular silences: that of Thomas Aquinas, Manuel Bravos, and Henry Moore’s Reclining Figure (1951), arguing that the interaction of their soundlessness signals their interlocution. This will be a conversation between silences, for if we are to consider them each as different, we cannot only look to their expressiveness – we do not assume that each silence will reveal its distinctive nature through statement in an outward direction alone, just as we would not assume that all people would choose to communicate through writing essays. Rather, such a method, of following a conversation, allows us to see the subtle forms of communication taking place, among them the ability of silence to respond, to generate, and to redeem.
The silent conversation I will describe begins with the interruption of the theologian’s silence into the life of the silenced asylum seeker. The soundless dialogue continues with the suffering of the silenced, that which makes them silent, provoking the creativity of the artist. The artist’s work wordlessly responds, soundlessly speaking where nothing yet has been said. Finally, the silence of the art that results redeems the silence of failed speech. It declares that the silence of words is not an outright failure, but in fact the beginning of sense. The artwork’s silence in this scenario thus redeems the silence of the theologian. We will see how one silence interrupts, displaces, generates, and heals another silence; how they communicate in each other and to each other; how they remain, inescapably, forms of speech.
 Williams, R. (2013) “Making Representation: Religious Faith and the Habits of Language”, part of the Gifford Lecture Series, accessed 22/12/14 at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ib-HOy3vtA
 Coakley, S. (2013) God, Sexuality, and the Self. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press. p67
I want to repeat some things that I have said before because of some current political circumstances both in secular politics and within the Church: True morality consists far more in how well we care for others than in the external behaviour we demand of others. This why moralism is truly immoral and, moreover, moralism is the last refuge of the pervert.
What is true cannot be a heresy and what is false cannot be sound doctrine. We must stop telling lies as if we were doing so to defend doctrine. We cannot demand of educated people that they must choose between God and truth, but that they cannot have both. Nevertheless, this is being done, and it is not only immoral, but it is feeding atheism far more than any militant atheist could ever hope to.
Fear cannot produce sincere repentance, but only trigger a survival instinct which produces a false formula of repentance. Such repentance is not about being sorry for sins, but about regretting that you cannot get away with them. Only love can produce a true, heartfelt repentance.
Moral outrage is a form of public confession; we hate most in others what we fear most in ourselves.
Orthodoxy of the mind is merely an intellectual exercise. Until one attains to Orthodoxy of the heart, one is still an alien to the faith. This is why the prayer of the heart directs us to bring the mind into the heart.
With some sort of power, you can brutalise and bully people into what you consider correct external behaviour according to one or another "moral code," but like the law of the Old Testament, this cannot save anyone, it cannot serve for the transformation of the inner person.
Hypocrisy is among the greatest acts of immorality and sin. It is 100 times worse when the hypocrite is a hierarch or priest. It not only destroys the soul of the hypocrite but forms a stumbling block to others who seeking to follow Christ.
When first presented with the universalist hope, many Orthodox and Roman Catholics immediately invoke the authority of the Fifth Ecumenical Council (553), citing the fifteen anti-Origenist anathemas: “Apokatastasis has been dogmatically defined by the Church as heresy—see canon 1 … case closed.” Over the past two centuries, however, historians have seriously questioned whether these anathemas were ever officially promulgated by II Constantinople. The council was convened by the Emperor Justinian for the express purpose of condemning the Three Chapters. Not only does Justinian not mention the apokatastasis debate in his letter to the council bishops, but the Acts of the council neither cite the fifteen anathemas nor record any discussion of them. Hence when church historian Norman P. Tanner edited his collection of the Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils in 1990, he did not include the anti-Origenist denunciations, offering the following explanation: “Our edition does not include the text of the anathemas against Origen since recent studies have shown that these anathemas cannot be attributed to this council” (I:106).
Who then wrote the anathemas and when? Over the past century different hypotheses have been advanced, but historians appear to have settled on the following scenario, first proposed by Wilhelm Diekamp in 1899 and more recently advanced by Richard Price: the Emperor Justinian and his theological advisors composed the anathemas and then submitted them to the bishops for “approval” before the council formally convened on 5 May 553. We do not know how long before the council this meeting took place (hours? days? weeks? months?) nor who attended nor whether there was any actual discussion of the anathemas. One thing is clear—the Emperor wanted the anathemas cloaked with conciliar authority. A decade earlier he had denounced apokatastasis in an epistle to Patriarch Menas. Regardless of the origin of the 15 anathemas, we may confidently affirm that the Fifth Ecumenical Council did not formally publish them. The burden of historical proof now lies with those who maintain that the Council Fathers officially and authoritatively promulgated the anti-Origenist anathemas.
But let’s hypothetically assume that the Council did publish the fifteen anathemas. There would still remain the challenge of interpretation. Not all universalisms are the same. Just as there are both heretical and orthodox construals of, say, the atonement or the Incarnation, so there are heretical and orthodox construals of the universalist hope. The apokatastasis advanced by St Gregory of Nyssa, for example, differs in critical ways from the sixth-century theories against which the anathemas were directed. The latter appear to have belonged to an esoteric metaphysical system set loose from the Scriptures, as even a cursory reading reveals. The chasm between the two is enormous. Scholar Augustine Casiday suggests that we need to think of the anti-Origenist anathemas as the rejection of this system as a whole, each anathema denouncing one of its particulars (private email correspondence). Met Kallistos Ware made a similar point in 1998: