Thursday, March 31, 2011

Video: Footage From the Glorification of Saint Nektarios



St. Nektarios the Wonderworker of Aegina was officially recognized as a saint of the Orthodox Church by the Ecumenical Patriarchate on April 20, 1961.

Hieromartyr Hypatios the Wonderworker and Bishop of Gangra


St. Hypatios of Gangra (Feast Day - March 31)

Hieromartyr Hypatios was bishop of the city of Gangra in Paphlagonia (Asia Minor). In the year 325 he participated in the First Ecumenical Council at Nicea, at which the heresy of Arius was anathematized.

When St Hypatios was returning in 326 from Constantinople to Gangra, followers of the schismatics Novatus and Felicissimus fell upon him in a desolate place. The heretics ran him through with swords and spears, and threw him into a swamp. Like the Protomartyr Stephen, St Hypatios prayed for his murderers.

An Arian woman struck the saint on the head with a stone, killing him. The murderers hid his body in a cave, where a Christian who kept straw there found his body. Recognizing the bishop's body, he hastened to the city to report this, and the inhabitants of Gangra piously buried their beloved archpastor.

After his death, the relics of St Hypatios were famous for numerous miracles, particularly for casting out demons and for healing the sick.

From of old the hieromartyr Hypatios was particularly venerated in the Russian land. Thus in the year 1330 the Ipatiev Monastery was built at Kostroma, on the place where the Mother of God appeared with the Pre-eternal Christ Child, the Apostle Philip, and the hieromartyr Hypatios, Bishop of Gangra. This monastery later occupied a significant place in the spiritual and social life of the nation, particularly during the Time of Troubles.

The ancient copies of the Life of the Hieromartyr Hypatios were widely distributed in Russian literature, and one of these was incorporated into The Menaion of Metropolitan Macarius (1542-1564). In this Life there is an account of the appearance of the Savior to St Hypatios on the eve of the martyr's death.

The entry for the saint's Feast consists of his Life, some prayers, and words of praise and instruction. The pious veneration of St Hypatios was also expressed in Russian liturgical compositions. During the nineteenth century a new service was written for the hieromartyr Hypatios, distinct from the services written by St Joseph the Studite, contained in the March Menaion.



Apolytikion in the First Tone
Thou didst prove to be a citizen of the desert, an angel in the flesh, and a wonderworker, O Hypatios, our God-bearing Father. By fasting, vigil, and prayer thou didst obtain heavenly gifts, and thou healest the sick and the souls of them that have recourse to thee with faith. Glory to Him that hath given thee strength. Glory to Him that hath crowned thee. Glory to Him that worketh healings for all through thee.

Kontakion in the Third Tone
Celebrating blamelessly the sacred rites, O Hypatios, thou didst greatly multiply the talent that thou wast given; and when thou didst strive in contest, thou wast presented as a godly sacrifice and holy first-fruits unto Him that glorified thee with signs and wonders that tongue of man cannot tell.

Exhibition on Byzantium to be Held in Washington in 2013



March 29, 2011

A great exhibition on Byzantium will be held in Washington in 2013, featuring exhibits from three major museums in Greece (Byzantine and Christian Museum of Athens, Byzantine Cultural Museum of Thessaloniki and Benakis Museum) as well as Byzantine antiquities.

The exhibition will be presented in another U.S. State, currently under negotiation by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

The exhibition highlights the Hellenic character of Byzantium and will be structured on a chronological canvas, covering the entire Byzantine era (330 – 1453) and allows for a parallel development of specific issues of interest such as: the acceptance and integration of Ancient Greek Art, the contribution of Greek texts in the development of education, the codification of the Late Roman law, the position of women in Byzantine society, etc.

The exhibition aims to provide visitors a tour in selected centers of the Byzantine Empire, such as Thessaloniki, Athens, Thebes, Arta, Corinth, Mystras, Rhodes and Crete.

The course will be oriented by two decisive parameters for the character of the Empire; the Greek language as a means of culture and recollection and the dialogue of the Empirical leadership with church.

A twelve member scientific committee has been setup for the purpose of the exhibition, with the participation of the General Director of Antiquities and Cultural Heritage, the Director of Byzantine and Post – Byzantine Antiquities, the directors of all three museums and the director of EKEVYM, university professors, as well as other members of the Ministry.

The cost of the exhibition will be covered via sponsorship, one of which being OPAP, while the management of the funds will be performed by the scientific committee.

St. Dorotheos of Gaza: On the Holy Lenten Fast


By St. Dorotheos of Gaza

In the Law, God laid down that the sons of Israel should each year give tithes of all they possessed, and if they did so they were blessed in all their works. The holy Apostles, knowing this to be for the help and advancement of our souls, resolved to fulfil it in a better and higher way, namely, for us to deliver up a tithe of the very days of our lives as if to consecrate them to God, so that we may be blessed in all our works, and each year to be unburdened of the whole year’s sins. They elected to consecrate out of the three hundred and sixty-five days of the year, seven weeks of fasting, and so they ordained; but our Fathers, in their time, thought it advisable to add another week, both to train and better prepare themselves to enter on the labor of fasting and to honor with their fasting the holy number of forty days which our Lord fasted. The eight weeks, subtracting Saturdays and Sundays, makes forty days, but we honor Holy Saturday with a fast because it is a very holy day and the only Saturday fast of the year.

The seven weeks, without Saturdays, gives thirty-five days, and if we finally add the half of the brilliant and light-giving night, this makes thirty-six and a half, which is exactly a tenth of three hundred and sixty-five. For thirty is the tenth of three hundred, six is the tenth of sixty, and the tenth of five is one half. Here then, are the thirty-six and a half days, the very tithing of the whole year as one might say, which the holy Apostles consecrated to penance for the cleansing of our sins of the whole year. Whoever, therefore, keeps careful guard over himself, as is fitting during these holy days, will be rewarded with blessings, brothers, even if it happens that, being a man, he has sinned either through weakness or carelessness. You see, God gave us these holy days so that by diligence in abstinence, in the spirit of humility and repentance, a man may be cleansed of the sins of the whole year and the soul relieved of its burden. Purified, he goes forward to the holy day of the Resurrection, and being made a new man through the change of heart induced by the fast, he can take his part in the Holy Mysteries and remain in spiritual joy and happiness, feasting with God the whole fifty days. Paschal time, as has been said, is the resurrection of the soul and the sign of this is that we do not kneel in church during the whole season up to Pentecost.

Everyone who wants to purify himself of the sins of the whole year during these days must first of all restrain himself from the pleasure of eating. For the pleasure of eating, as the Fathers say, caused all men’s evil. Likewise he must take care not to break the fast without great necessity or to look for pleasurable things to eat, or weigh himself down by eating and drinking until he is full.

There are two kinds of gluttony. There is the kind which concerns taste: a man does not want to eat a lot but he wants it to be appetizing. It follows that such a person eats the food that pleases him and is defeated by the pleasure of it. He keeps the food in his mouth, rolling it round and round, and has not the heart to swallow it because he enjoys the taste. This is called fastidiousness. Another man is concerned about satisfying himself. He doesn’t ask for fancy food nor does he care especially about whether the taste is nice or not, he only wants to eat and fill his stomach. This is gluttony. I will tell you how it gets its name: margainein means to rage furiously, to be mad; according to the profane, margos is the name given to the man who rages furiously or is mad. When this disease or mania for packing his belly full of food comes upon a man, therefore, it is called gastromargia, the madness of the stomach, whereas laimargia is the madness of the palate. These must be guarded against and abandoned seriously by the man who desires to be cleansed of his sins. They accord not with the needs of the body, but with its vicious inclinations, and if they are tolerated, they lead a man into sin. As is the case with legitimate marital union and fornication, the practice is the same but the object is different. In the one case, there is copulation in order to raise a family, in the other, to satisfy a desire for pleasure. The same is true with feeding: in one case it is a question of the body’s needs and in the other of eating for pleasure. The intention is what makes it a sin. A man eats to satisfy a need when he lays down how much he will take each day and, if what he has determined on overloads him, takes a little less, or if he is not overloaded and his body is weakened, adds a little. And so he estimates exactly his need and he bases his conclusion not on pleasure but on preserving the strength of his body. And what he takes he receives with prayer, deeming himself unworthy of that comfort and he is not on the look out to see if others, as is likely, because of special need or necessity are given special attention, lest he himself hankers for that comfort or think it a trivial thing for the soul to be at rest.

One day when I was in the monastery, I went to see one of the elders–and there were many great men among the elders there. I discovered that his disciple sat down to eat with him, and in private I said to the young man: You know, brother, these elders whom you see eating and taking a little recreation are like men who had deep purses and kept at work, always putting something into them until they filled them up. And after sealing them up they went on working some more and amassed another thousand crowns, so as to have something to draw on in time of need, and so they preserved what was sealed up in the purse. And so it is with these elders. They persevered in their labors, always storing up treasures for themselves, and after sealing up the treasure they worked a little more, and they hold these treasures in reserve for times of sickness and old age so they have something to draw on, and still preserve the treasures they have stored up. But we haven’t even a purse to draw on!

As I was saying, therefore, we ought, even if we take food out of necessity, to consider ourselves unworthy of any kind of special relief or even of monastic life itself–and not take food purely for pleasure, and in this way food will not bring our condemnation.

Enough about sobriety in eating. We must not only keep a sharp watch over our diet, but keep away from all other kinds of sin so that as our stomach keeps fast, so also may our tongue as we abstain from calumny, from deceit, from idle talk, from railing and anger and all other vices which arise from the tongue.

So also let our eyes keep fast. No looking for trivialities, no letting the eyes wander freely, no impudent lying in wait for people to talk to. The same with the hands and feet, to prevent them from doing anything evil. Fasting in this way, as Saint Basil says, is an acceptable fast and, leaving behind all the evil to which our senses are inclined, we may come to the holy day of the Resurrection, renewed and clean and worthy to share in the Holy Mysteries, as we have already said.

First we go out to meet our Lord and receive him with palms and olive branches and seat him on the colt and come with him into the Holy City. What does this mean, sitting on a colt? He is seated on a colt that he may convert the soul (which, as the Prophet says, has become irrational and is compared to senseless beasts) into an image of God, and subject it to his own divinity. What does it mean, going to meet him with palms and olive branches? When someone marches out to war against an adversary and returns victorious, all his own people go before him with palm branches to mark his victory. The palm-branch is the symbol of victory. Again, when one man is injured by another, he desires to approach an authority who can vindicate him. He carries an olive branch and calls out, asking to be heard and helped. The olive branch is the symbol of mercy. Therefore, we go out to meet our Master Christ with palms because he is victorious–for he conquered our enemy–and with olive branches–for we are asking his mercy. May we, by asking, conquer through him and be found carrying the emblems of his victory, not only the victory by which he won for us, but also the victory which we won also through him by the prayers of all the Saints. Amen.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Man of God From Judah


According to the Orthodox Synaxarion, on March 30th we commemorate a prophet of the Old Testament simply known as "a man of God" in 1 Kings (3 Kingdoms) 13, though his name is revealed to us in 2 Chronicles 9:29 as Joel (some Orthodox listings name him Joad probably to not confuse him with the more well-known Prophet Joel).

The Holy Prophet Joel came from Judah and prophesied during the tenth century before Christ (See 1/3 Kings 13). The prophet was sent by the Lord from Judea to Bethel to denounce the Israelite king Jeroboam for polluting his nation with idol worship.

The Lord commanded the prophet, "Eat no bread, and drink no water, and do not return by the way you came" (1/3 Kings 13:9). The prophet Joel appeared to King Jeroboam and prophesied to him concerning the wrath of the Lord. When the king tried to gesture with his hand to seize the prophet, his hand suddenly withered. The king entreated the prophet to pray to the Lord that his hand would be healed. By Joel's prayer he received healing.

Deceived by the false prophet Emba of Bethel, Joel disobeyed the command given him by the Lord. The older man lied and told Joel that an angel had commanded him to bring him to his home and feed him. Because of his disobedience, the prophet Joel was killed by a lion. His body did not rest with his fathers, but was buried near the abode of the false prophet who led him astray.

It is not by coincidence that we commemorate this prophet on a day that most years falls within the Great Lenten period. Much like Adam and Eve in Paradise, Joel is commanded by the Lord to not eat or drink in the land during his censure of Jeroboam, yet he is deceived by the old prophet Emba who falsely tells him that an angel appeared to him and told him the opposite; so Joel went to his house and ate. We also have a command established by the Church to fast, and we are told by the Apostle Paul: "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!" (Gal. 1:8). Because Joel was deceived into thinking that God would contradict Himself in His command, this cost him his life, for the responsibility of a prophet (like that of every Christian) is great when it comes to obeying the commands of the Lord.

Some would probably see this punishment as too harsh. One wonders however if the outcome would have been different, like the outcome of Adam and Eve, if Joel had repented when the Lord told him of his disobedience. Instead, after the Lord tells him of his sin, we are told in verse 23: "So after he ate bread and drank water, he [Emba] saddled the donkey for him, and he departed." Joel the Prophet had plenty of time to repent, yet didn't, so along the road he is overtaken by a lion and killed. This was an example of Hebrews 12:6: "For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives." This is why the Church commemorates him. He was chastened so as not to "be condemned with the world" (1 Cor. 11:32). However, Jeroboam, whose hand withered and was restored by his humility after beholding the power of God, "did not turn from his evil way" (v. 32); thus he was condemned with the world.

Another important lesson we learn from this Old Testament chapter is to be vigilant against false teachers and prophets, and this applies just as much to the mature Christian as much as the less mature. We learn here that following these false prophets, even if our intentions are right, will eventually lead us towards disobedience, and our disobedience will have consequences.

Why was Joel the Prophet deceived by the old prophet from Bethel? He did this for several reasons:

· The prophet from Bethel was probably older (an old prophet, 1 Kings 13:11) and had the respect of the man of God.

· The prophet from Bethel identified with the man of God ("I too am a prophet as you are").

· The prophet from Bethel claimed a spectacular experience ("an angel spoke to me").

· The prophet from Bethel claimed to speak for the Lord ("by the word of the Lord").

· The prophet from Bethel did not seem to be an idolater who should be shunned ("Bring him back with you to your house").

· The prophet from Bethel offered no reward, other than simple food ("he may eat bread and drink water").

Notice how subtle the deception was, yet great were the consequences. For his disobedience Joel was killed by a lion and buried with the false prophet who deceived him.

During Great Lent and especially Holy Week we are called to greater vigilance in the spiritual life and obedience to the commands of the Lord. This commemoration on March 30th is an important reminder and warning that if we will be vigilant and obedient, we will receive our just reward; otherwise there will be consequences, whether they will be for our greater good or not.

On Despair and Salvation



Α nun possessed by a spirit of despair would say over and over again, "I am afraid that I will not be saved." And a wise elder replied to her:

"Who could then be saved if monastics cannot? For whom has God created Paradise? We will be saved. We ought to be joyful. We should admit that we are sinners, but also glorify God. To trust in God is like a continuous prayer. Think no evil. Blasphemous thoughts are like airplanes: they fly by, they disturb our tranquillity, and then they are gone. It is up to me to say when I am a sinner — not when the Devil wants me to."

******

The elder also said, "Various people can be comforted near a person who is free from stress."

******

A hermit said:

"What guarantees a safe journey to eternity is effort, dig­nity, the sense of being unworthy before God, hope (the spiritual oxygen), consolation, and certainty. Not misery and compelled obedience and forced prayer; not tears and sad­ness — these all come from Satan. Yes, I ought to weep for my sins, but all the while hoping in God's love. But I can­not stand it if I cry because the Devil wants me [to de­spair]. Many times Satan crushes a person with despair and the devil becomes the victor. But this does not happen when one is like a child on his father's trusting arm. Our trust in God is a ceaseless prayer that brings positive results. Despair comes from the Devil. Don't say, 'Oh, what has happened to me?' but give yourself to God totally and hope in Him.

Our obedience should not be done with misery or be­cause we happen to be monastics. The elder or the eldress is not like the Emperor Diocletian who gives us orders. Rather, we should be grateful to our elders and eldresses because our obedience to them protects us. We thus must not react to their directions negatively, nor disobey them.

* * *

An elder said:

"I have not dealt with many things. I am familiar with some patristic teachings and I keep trying. Nonetheless, one thing has become clear to me. There is no bitterness for man. When you face bitter situations spiritually, eventually they become sweet.

We come across a person who has sinned, has regretted it and repented sincerely; he is sad and confesses and re­ceives divine consolation. If one does not feel this way, it means that he should understand that something is not quit right with his conscience. He should go to confession again; then consolation will follow. This is the way we should go. A person shares in his fellow man's sorrow, prays for him, and asks God to help him."

From An Athonite Gerontikon.

The Siblings of Elder Paisios

His sister Christina

His brother Raphael

To his spiritual children the Elder wrote:

"To some people your love will be expressed with joy and to others it will be expressed with your pain. You will consider everyone your brother or your sister, for we are all children of Eve (of the large family of Adam, of God). Then, in your prayer you will say: ‘My God, help those first who are in greater need, whether they are alive or reposed brothers in the Lord.’ At that point, you will share your heart with the whole world and you will have nothing but immense love, which is Christ."

Epistles, p. 50.

Third Century Skulls of Christian Martyrs Discovered In Lagonisi



Recently a discovery of eight skulls pierced with nails were made during excavations in the ruins of a church in Lagonisi near Halicarnassus, the ancient Greek city at the site of modern Bodrum in Turkey. According to Professor Mustafa Sahin, the skulls are dated to the third century, and belonged probably to Christian missionaries between 40-45 years old.

The excavation is titled "Salvation Excavations of the Ancient City of Myndus" under the chairmanship of Professor Mustafa Sahin and the representative of the Ministry of Culture Netsmi Herold. The eight skulls have been transferred for research in the Department of Archaeology of Burdur involving anthropologists.

Professor Mustafa Sahin unfolded the atrocity as revealed by the skulls found among remains of the church in Lagonisi. The professor stated the following: "The skulls are of the Late Ancient Period and belong to people who were captured and killed by nails through the head then cut off from their bodies, probably to be shown as an example to the world, and buried. This is a practice of cruelty and horror that was applied during the Roman era at the expense of trying to spread Christianity."

Saint John Klimakos, Author of "The Ladder of Divine Ascent"


St. John of the Ladder (Feast Day - March 30 and the 4th Sunday of Great Lent)

By St. Nikolai Velimirovich

John Klimakos (Climacus) is the author of "The Ladder of Divine Ascent."

John came to Mt. Sinai as a sixteen year old youth and remained there, first as a novice under obedience, and afterwards as a recluse, and finally as abbot of Sinai until his eightieth year. He died around the year 563 A.D.

His biographer, the monk Daniel, says about him: "His body ascended the heights of Sinai, while his soul ascended the heights of heaven." He remained under obedience with his spiritual father, Martyrius, for nineteen years. Anastasius of Sinai, seeing the young John, prophesied that he would become the abbot of Sinai. After the death of his spiritual father, John withdrew into a cave, where he lived a difficult life of asceticism for twenty years.

His disciple, Moses, fell asleep one day under the shade of a large stone. John, in prayer in his cell, saw that his disciple was in danger and prayed to God for him. Later on, when Moses returned, he fell on his knees and gave thanks to his spiritual father for saving him from certain death. He related how, in a dream, he heard John calling him and he jumped up and, at that moment, the stone tumbled. Had he not jumped, the stone would have crushed him.

At the insistence of the brotherhood, John agreed to become abbot and directed the salvation of the souls of men with zeal and love. From someone John heard a reproach that he talked too much. Not being angered by this, John however remained silent for an entire year and did not utter a word until the brothers implored him to speak and to continue to teach them his God-given wisdom.

On one occasion, when six-hundred pilgrims came to the Monastery of Sinai, everyone saw an agile youth in Jewish attire serving at a table and giving orders to other servants and assigning them. All at once, this young man disappeared. When everyone noticed this and began to question it, John said to them, "Do not seek him, for that was Moses the Prophet serving in my place."

During the time of his silence in the cave, John wrote many worthwhile books, of which the most glorious is "The Ladder". This book is still read by many, even today. In this book, John describes the method of elevating the soul to God, as ascending a ladder.

Before his death, John designated George, his brother in the flesh, as abbot. George grieved much because of his separation from John. Then John said to him, that, if he [John] were found worthy to be near God in the other world, he would pray to Him, that, he, [George], would be taken to heaven that same year. And, so it was. After ten months George succeeded and settled among the citizens of heaven as did his great brother, John.


HYMN OF PRAISE: SAINT JOHN OF THE LADDER (KLIMACOS)

As a kind of torch on Sinai, the Mount,
John was glowing in heavenly light
Subduing the body, subdued his thoughts,
Thirty steps, he numbered toward victory.
Miraculous strategy, wonderful tactic
As a legacy, to the spiritual warrior he gave
The spiritual warfare, who desires to learn
And in this warfare to gloriously conquer.
"The Ladder," all miraculous, by the Spirit written,
After the dreadful strife was ended,
When John the Victor, the world from himself shed,
As a precious gift, to the brethren he brought it.
An epic poem, that is the soul of man,
When from dust, toward heaven it desires to climb,
An awesome epic poem of struggle and suffering,
A sparkling epic poem of faith and hoping.
This, John, to us gave, illumined by God,
Weapons, all-glowing, to you and to me.
And now before the Lord, John prays
That the Lord be pleased to send us help
When, to Him, by the Ladder we climb.
That to us, His hand He extends, that we
May to Him arrive.


Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
With the rivers of your tears, you have made the barren desert fertile. Through sighs of sorrow from deep within you, your labors have borne fruit a hundred-fold. By your miracles you have become a light, shining upon the world. O John, our Holy Father, pray to Christ our God, to save our souls.

Kontakion in the First Tone
As ever-blooming fruits, thou dost offer the teachings of thy God-given book, O wise John, thou most blessed, while sweet'ning the hearts of all them that heed it with vigilance; for it is a ladder from the earth unto Heaven that conferreth glory on the souls that ascend it and honour thee faithfully.

The Selfish Metaphor: Conceits of Evolution



January 31, 2011

Many people dismiss metaphors and imagery as surface polish. But just look at the way they have hijacked our thinking on evolution.

SELFISH genes, survival of the fittest, competition, hawk and dove strategies. Like all theories, Darwinism has its own distinct vocabulary. So distinct, in fact, that we end up asking how else we can talk about evolution? After all, isn't competitive evolution the only possible context for explaining the biological facts? The drama implied by competition, war and selfishness passes unnoticed because people are used to this rather hyped-up way of talking even about current scientific beliefs.

The trouble with metaphors is that they don't just mirror scientific beliefs, they also shape them. Our imagery is never just surface paint, it expresses, advertises and strengthens our preferred interpretations. It also usually carries unconscious bias from the age we live in - and this can be tricky to ditch no matter how faulty, unless we ask ourselves how and why things go wrong, and start to talk publicly about how we should understand metaphor.

Evolution has been the most glaring example of the thoughtless use of metaphor over the past 30 years, with the selfish/war metaphors dominating and defining the landscape so completely it becomes hard to admit there are other ways of conceiving it. In How The Leopard Changed Its Spots, biologist and complexity theorist Brian Goodwin suggested the kind of correction needed, remarking mildly that humans are "every bit as co-operative as we are competitive; as altruistic as we are selfish... These are not romantic yearnings and Utopian ideals, they arise from a rethinking of our nature that is emerging from the sciences of complexity". But that was in 1991 - and few were listening.

From the merest glance at a wider context, it becomes clear that competition cannot be the ultimate human reality, still less (as philosopher Daniel Dennett argued) the central creative force behind the universe. Entities complex enough to compete cannot exist at all without much internal cooperation. To create cells, organelles must combine; to create armies, soldiers must organise. Even the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins pointed out on the 30th anniversary of publication of his iconic book, The Selfish Gene, that genes are actually cooperative rather than egoistic.

So why has this imagery become so prevalent? Because it expresses deep conflicts originating in 17th-century England which are still unresolved in the western world. The central clash is between communal and separatist views of human nature. It rose out of the English civil war, which shifted the world picture from a feudal, communal pattern towards the more individualistic, pluralistic model we officially follow today. Ideals of personal allegiance, heroic warfare and the divine right of kings began to yield to civilian visions based on democracy, technology and commerce.

That individualistic, post civil-war world view has always been seen as scientific. This was largely because Newtonian physics viewed matter atomistically, as composed of hard, billiard-ball-like particles bouncing off each other in complex patterns - patterns which, under God, shaped that huge clock, the classical universe. Billiards, fashionable at the time, may have helped shape this view, while the vision of a vast, regular, unchanging cosmic machine was certainly reassuring.

The reality, however, was that society was changing unpredictably and would need other, very different kinds of metaphors and images, ones better able to reveal shifts and clashes of interest. To fill this need, philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau devised a kind of social atomism, along with the colourful individualistic metaphors it inspired and still inspires. Through this lens, people no longer appeared as parts of a machine: they were still atoms, but distinct, active, independent units.

But the philosopher Thomas Hobbes's claim that the natural state of humans was "a war of all against all" (put forward in a bid to stop people supporting misguided governments) accidentally launched a wider revolt against the notion of citizenship. The slogan made it possible to argue later that there is no such thing as society, that we owe one another nothing. This thought also inspired campaigns for admirable things like easier divorce and universal suffrage and it is still strong today, even though physicists themselves no longer see their particles as radically disconnected.

In the 18th century, economists eagerly applied individualism to commerce, arguing that free competition always serves the general good. Its champions could thus believe they were being scientific while still acting as good citizens. And its emphasis on conflict reassured them they were still heroes, that bourgeois life had not corrupted their machismo. So atomistic thinking, originally drawn from physics, acquired a social meaning in economics and was then returned to science as ideas of competition began to dominate 19th-century biology. The resulting jumble of atomistic ontology, laissez-faire economics and warlike noises came together fully in the theories of 19th-century "social Darwinists" like Herbert Spencer.

Charles Darwin actually hated much of it, flatly rejecting the crude, direct application of natural selection to social policies. In The Descent Of Man he insisted that humans are a deeply social species whose values cannot be derived from selfish calculation. Yet, as a man of his age, he still shared Spencer's obsessive belief in the creative force of competition. He ruled that natural selection was indeed the main cause of evolutionary changes, And - apart from sexual selection - he could not suggest any other possible source.

He was sure, however, that natural selection could not be their sole cause. He must be right: natural selection is only a filter and filters cannot be the sole cause of the coffee that comes from them. "Evolutionary coffee" - genuine new developments - could not emerge unless the range of selectables has somehow been shaped to make it possible. If that range were indefinite only randomness could follow, however much time elapsed.

Biologist D'Arcy Thompson pointed this out in On Growth And Form in 1917, noting the striking natural tendencies which contribute to evolution - the subtle, natural patterns such as Fibonacci spirals that shape all manner of organic forms, and the logic underlying patterns such as the arrangement of a creature's limbs. Thompson's work was little noted in the 20th-century's concentration on natural selection, but more recently biologists such as Brian Goodwin, Steven Rose and Simon Conway Morris have developed his work, showing how natural selection is supplemented by a kind of self-organisation within each species, which has its own logic.

Now the old metaphors of evolution need to give way to new ones founded on integrative thinking - reasoning based on systems thinking. This way, the work of evolution can be seen as intelligible and constructive, not as a gamble driven randomly by the forces of competition. And if non-competitive imagery is needed, systems biologist Denis Noble has a good go at it in The Music Of Life, where he points out how natural development, not being a car, needs no single "driver" to direct it. Symphonies, he remarks, are not caused only by a single dominant instrument nor, indeed, solely by their composer. And developing organisms do not even need a composer: they grow, as wholes, out of vast and ancient systems which are themselves parts of nature.

Recognising the cultural origins of evolution's metaphors and that we are slowly, painfully, creating new ones takes the drama out of things, but it does mean we will learn how to think about metaphors and their philosophical underpinning. We will discover we need them to serve us as thinking tools, not to turn us into slaves of our own conceits.

Mary Midgley describes herself as a freelance philosopher, specialising in moral philosophy. She studied at the University of Cambridge during the second world war alongside Mary Warnock and the writer Iris Murdoch. This essay was developed from her latest book "The Solitary Self" (Acumen).

Saint John of the Well

St. John of the Well (Feast Day - March 30)

During a persecution against Christians, the devout widow Juliania of Armenia hid from pursuers together with her two young children John and Themistea. She taught her children to pray and to read the Holy Scriptures.

From time to time John secretly visited a nearby monastery, thereby placing himself in danger. Once, a pious old man advised him to find a more secluded place for prayer. Returning home, the saint told his mother that he was going to visit the Elder. Thinking that her son would soon return, she let him go.

John went to the desert-dweller Pharmutios and received his blessing to live alone in the wilderness. The young ascetic found an abandoned well, which was filled with snakes, scorpions and other vile creatures. He lowered himself into the well and lived there for ten years in fasting, vigil, and prayer.

The angel who brought food to the hermit Pharmutios also brought bread for St John. The angel did not bring the bread directly to John, however, lest the young ascetic become filled with pride. Food was sent to him through his spiritual Father, Pharmutios.

St John had many temptations from the devil to test him. Demons assumed the appearance of his mother, his sister, his relatives and acquaintances in order to sadden the ascetic and compel him to give up his ascetic struggles. With tears they approached the well one after the other, begging St John to leave with them. All this time the saint did not cease to pray. Finally he said, "Be gone from me," and the demons vanished.

St John lived in the well until the time of his blessed repose. Through God's providence St Chrysikhios, who had struggled in the desert for thirty years, came to bury him. On the eve of his repose, St John told Chrysikhios of his life and struggles for salvation. After his death, numerous miracles occurred at the place of his ascetic deeds.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Greek Government Ignoring Autonomy of Mount Athos



Christine Pirovolakis
March 29, 2011

Monks from the 1000-year-old autonomous monastic community of Mount Athos on Tuesday defied the cash-strapped Greek government by refusing to pay property taxes.

The finance ministry, which has been forced to accept an international bailout, recently announced plans to tax the monks on any real estate in their possession outside the boundaries of the autonomous state.

Mount Athos, or the Holy Mount, is divided into 20 self-governed territories on the Athos peninsula in north-eastern Greece.

It serves as the spiritual centre of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Despite protests by the European Parliament, women, including female journalists, are banned from the rugged 300km² peninsula, which has been dedicated to the Virgin Mary since 1060.

Under the constitution, Mount Athos is also exempt from paying taxes or tariffs to the Greek government.

The 2600 monks who live on Mount Athos called an emergency session to complain that the Greek government was ignoring their rights as an autonomous state. They said they had written a protest letter to Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou.

The monks, who reportedly own millions of euros worth of real estate around Greece, have threatened to break off all contact with the government in Athens unless their demands are met.

Doctors credit the monks' peaceful lifestyle and healthy diet, which features no red meat, regular consumption of olive oil, plenty of fresh fruit, homegrown vegetables and daily portions of fish.

God Shouldn’t Be Used As A Scapegoat



The following was probably written by someone who is an atheist or agnostic as the tone seems to suggest, but it offers a valuable critique one rarely encounters when Christians give over-simplistic answers to highly-complex issues and how non-Christians view this.

Bethany Breeze
March 29, 2011

The tragedies of the earthquake in Japan March 11 were, to most people, unimaginable. Yet with images of the disaster flooding in, disbelief was able to turn into compassion, and compassion into action.

Simultaneously, Russian Orthodox priest Alexandr Shumsky published an article title “The end of the Japanese Miracle” March 14. In this, he wrote the earthquake and tsunami were God’s way of punishing Japan for offending Russia because some protesters had recently burned Russian flags and destroyed portraits of Russian president Dmitry Medvedev.

Among the support, unity and care of fellow human beings shown in wake of such a disaster, where exactly does the concept of God lie? An argument for “free will” as a necessity for an omniscient presence, and any other of the accompanying weak justifications for human suffering, simply fall flat in the face of reality.

So it is those who carry the name of God — religious figures and followers — that carry the God concept into situations of human pain and suffering.

“In the Judo-Christian tradition, the believers see the vengeful hand of God in any disaster, be it natural or social,” said Father Konstantin Kravtsov, a priest of the Annunciation Church in Moscow, Russia.

Shintaro Ishihara, Tokyo’s governor, said, “I think (the disaster in Japan) is tembatsu.” Tembatsu is a Japanese term that means “divine punishment.” His remarks are reminiscent of the New Orleans’ mayor in 2005, Ray Nagin, who said, “Surely God is mad at America. He sent us hurricane after hurricane after hurricane.”

I am not an environmental science major. But I have enough education and common sense to see the stupidity in these comments. These people are using God as a scapegoat. If something positive occurred in Japan, or New Orleans, at these times, I think it is safe to say these leaders would not be giving the credit to, or passing all the responsibility to God.

A website gotquestions.org said blatantly, “such events shake our confidence in this life and force us to think about eternity. Churches are usually filled after disasters as people realize how tenuous their lives really are and how life can be taken away in an instant.”

To say such a thing from a comfortable office far from devastation is both uncaring and disturbing. And now not only are earthquakes a divine punishment, they are a commodity. They can take advantage of people’s insecurities to create converts.

This superstitious cop-out technique, which is scientifically absurd and humanely disrespectful, can still be seen in many areas of our society we like to consider developed. It is simply exacerbated by discomfort and pain, as people need someone or something to pass the responsibility to and blame. Hurricane Katrina had nothing to do with the climate we have damaged if God was just feeling a little grumpy.

This is seen tragically in the face of dire illness as well. As my beloved 18-year-old cousin is currently fighting cancer for the second time, she deserves more than an “I’m praying for you.” This is the ultimate cop-out, and every time I see it I struggle to imagine how hearing this may feel when something as serious as cancer has a hold of your body. It is the ultimate denial of reality, passing of responsibility to actually help while building righteous pomposity.

If you are one to still seriously think a God created the tragedy in Japan like the disillusioned Shumsky, try going and telling that directly to a Japanese woman who has just had her entire life and family washed away. And if you think a God is controlling the illness of a loved one, try telling them straight to their face. Ignorance is easy from an armchair, but it’s a little harder when you are actually faced with reality.

Patriarch Irinej: Declare Yourselves Orthodox Serbs



March 29, 2011

Serbian Patriarch Irinej called on all believers, members of the Serb community in the region to declare themselves Orthodox Serbs during the forthcoming census of population, which is due to commence on April 1.

Serbian Patriarch Irinej called on all believers, members of the Serb community in the region to declare themselves Orthodox Serbs during the forthcoming census of population, which is due to commence on April1.

“By participating in the census, we demonstrate that we abide by the laws of the country in which we reside, but primarily that we strive for the salvation of our soul by living in harmony with God and our neighbors,” the Patriarch noted.

“In that respect, I call on all of you to take part in the forthcoming census, and thus assert your basic human rights and freedoms, so as to preserve your religious, cultural and national identity, guaranteed by Articles 9 and 14 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms,” Patriarch Irinej underscored.

Bulgarian Schismatic Priest Dies In Car Accident



March 29, 2011

Kamen Barakov, a priest from Bulgaria's alternative synod, who was among the front-runners of the rebel clergy, has been killed in a car crash.

The crash occurred on Monday on Sofia ring-road near the villages of Busmantsi and Kazichane. Barakov was driving his own BMW, but it was not immediately clear what caused the crash and whether other cars were involved in it. He died on the spot.

Kamen Barakov was one of those who secured the Alternative Synod victory in the Strasbourg European Court of Human Rights, which ruled in September last year that the Bulgarian state has unduly forced Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Christians to worship under only one Church by chasing out clergy from the 'alternative' synod out of temples.

The schism in the Bulgarian Orthodox Church was started in 1992 when a group of senior clergy headed by Metropolitan Pimen of Nevrokop decided to split from the rest, claiming that a Church headed by allegedly communist-related Patriarch Maxim is illegitimate.

The rightist Union of Democratic Forces cabinet of PM Filip Dimitrov was instrumental in supporting the rebel clergy and even attempted to ban the prior synod headed by Maxim, only to be countered by Bulgarian courts.

In 1998 Pimen repented in front of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, but after his death one year later the schism was flared up by his successor Inokentii in the alternative synod.

In 2004, the Bulgarian police stormed through 250 churches countrywide and detained many priests of the 'alternative' synod to restore proprietorship to the official Bulgarian Orthodox Church.

Trailer: "Sarantario, The Mountain of Temptation"



Here is a trailer for "Sarantario, The Mountain of Temptation". Its a documentary film shot in Israel-Palestine, which talks about a monk, Father Gerasimos, and his life in a "special" place like the monastery in Sarantarion Mountain. The monastery rises to a height of 350 meters above sea level and commands a magnificent and panoramic view of the Jordan Valley. It is the site where Jesus spent forty days and forty nights fasting and meditating during the temptation of Satan, about 3 km northwest of Jericho.

Directed & Filmed by Nikos Chrisikakis
Produced & Written by Maria Giachnaki
Edited by Kosmas Filiousis
Music composed by Vangelis Svarnas

GOATFILMS 2010

Saints Mark the Bishop and Cyril the Deacon, Martyred Under Julian the Apostate

Sts. Mark and Cyril the Martyrs (Feast Day - March 29)

Saint Mark was Bishop of Arethusa in Syria. In the days of Saint Constantine the Great, Saint Mark, moved with divine zeal, destroyed a temple of the idols and raised up a church in its stead. When Julian the Apostate reigned, in 361, as the pagans were now able to avenge the destruction of their temple, Saint Mark, giving way to wrath, hid himself; but when he saw that others were being taken on his account, he gave himself up. Having no regard to his old age, they stripped him and beat his whole body, cast him into filthy sewers, and pulling him out, had children prick him with their iron writing-pens. Then they put him into a basket, smeared him with honey and a kind of relish of pickled fish, and hung him up under the burning sun to be devoured by bees and wasps. But because he bore this so nobly, his enemies repented, and unloosed him.


Saint Cyril was a deacon from Heliopolis in Phoenicia. During the reign of the Emperor Constantius, son of Saint Constantine, he had also broken the idols in pieces. When Julian came to power, Saint Cyril was seized by the idolaters and his belly was ripped open. The other holy Martyrs celebrated today, martyred in Gaza and Ascalon during the reign of Julian, were men of priestly rank and consecrated virgins; they were disemboweled, filled with barley, and set before swine to be eaten.

The account of all the above Saints is given in Book III, ch. 3, of Theodoret of Cyrrhus' "Ecclesiastical History."

Reading courtesy of Holy Transfiguration Monastery - Brookline, MA


The text of Theodoret is below:

When Julian had made his impiety openly known the cities were filled with dissensions. Men enthralled by the deceits of idolatry took heart, opened the idols' shrines, and began to perform those foul rites which ought to have died out from the memory of man. Once more they kindled the fire on the altars, befouled the ground with victims' gore, and defiled the air with the smoke of their burnt sacrifices. Maddened by the demons they served they ran in corybantic frenzy round about the streets, attacked the saints with low stage jests, and with all the outrage and ribaldry of their impure processions.

On the other hand the partizans of piety could not brook their blasphemies, returned insult for insult, and tried to confute the error which their opponents honoured. In their turn the workers of iniquity took it ill; the liberty allowed them by the sovereign was an encouragement to audacity and they dealt deadly blows among the Christians.

It was indeed the duty of the emperor to consult for the peace of his subjects, but he in the depth of his iniquity himself maddened his peoples with mutual rage. The deeds dared by the brutal against the peaceable he overlooked and entrusted civil and military offices of importance to savage and impious men, who though they hesitated publicly to force the lovers of true piety to offer sacrifice treated them nevertheless with all kinds of indignity. All the honours moreover conferred on the sacred ministry by the great Constantine Julian took away.

To tell all the deeds dared by the slaves of idolatrous deceit at that time would require a history of these crimes alone, but out of the vast number of them I shall select a few instances. At Askalon and at Gaza, cities of Palestine, men of priestly rank and women who had lived all their lives in virginity were disembowelled, filled with barley, and given for food to swine. At Sebaste, which belongs to the same people, the coffin of John the Baptist was opened, his bones burnt, and the ashes scattered abroad.

Who too could tell without a tear the vile deed done in Phœnicia? At Heliopolis by Lebanon there lived a certain deacon of the name of Cyril. In the reign of Constantine, fired by divine zeal, he had broken in pieces many of the idols there worshipped. Now men of infamous name, bearing this deed in mind, not only slew him, but cut open his belly and devoured his liver. Their crime was not, however, hidden from the all-seeing eye, and they suffered the just reward of their deeds; for all who had taken part in this abominable wickedness lost their teeth, which all fell out at once, and lost, too, their tongues, which rotted away and dropped from them: they were moreover deprived of sight, and by their sufferings proclaimed the power of holiness.

At the neighbouring city of Emesa they dedicated to Dionysus, the woman-formed, the newly erected church, and set up in it his ridiculous androgynous image. At Dorystolum, a famous city of Thrace, the victorious athlete Æmilianus was thrown upon a flaming pyre, by Capitolinus, governor of all Thrace. To relate the tragic fate of Mark, however, bishop of Arethusa, with true dramatic dignity, would require the eloquence of an Æschylus or a Sophocles. In the days of Constantius he had destroyed a certain idol-shrine and built a church in its place; and no sooner did the Arethusians learn the mind of Julian than they made an open display of their hostility. At first, according to the precept of the Gospel, Mark endeavoured to make his escape; but when he became aware that some of his own people were apprehended in his stead, he returned and gave himself up to the men of blood. After they had seized him they neither pitied his old age nor reverenced his deep regard for virtue; but, conspicuous as he was for the beauty alike of his teaching and of his life, first of all they stripped and smote him, laying strokes on every limb, then they flung him into filthy sewers, and, when they had dragged him out again, delivered him to a crowd of lads whom they charged to prick him without mercy with their pens. After this they put him into a basket, smeared him with pickle and honey, and hung him up in the open air in the height of summer, inviting wasps and bees to a feast. Their object in doing this was to compel him either to restore the shrine which he had destroyed, or to defray the expense of its erection. Mark, however, endured all these grievous sufferings and affirmed that he would consent to none of their demands. His enemies, with the idea that he could not afford the money from poverty, remitted half their demand, and bade him pay the rest; but Mark hung on high, pricked with pens, and devoured by wasps and bees, yet not only showed no signs of pain, but derided his impious tormentors with the repeated taunt, “You are groundlings and of the earth; I, sublime and exalted.” At last they begged for only a small portion of the money; but, said he, “it is as impious to give an obole as to give all.” So discomfited they let him go, and could not refrain from admiring his constancy, for his words had taught them a new lesson of holiness.


Apolytikion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
Since they had slain through their abstinence and struggles the fiery ragings and fierce motions of the passions, the staunch Martyrs of Christ God laid hold on the graces to drive off the pains and illnesses of the sick and work wonders both while living and after death. Strange indeed is the miracle! That these bare bones should pour forth such overflowing streams of cures. Glory be to our only God.

Apolytikion in the Third Tone
In preparation for the contest, O glorious Mark, you anointed an assembly of martyrs and strengthened them by your steadfastness. You finished your course with them. And you were all found worthy of the joys of heaven. O righteous Father, pray to Christ our God to grant us his great mercy!

Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
Having been illumined by the grace of truth, you radiantly instruct the ends of the earth in piety, O glorious Hieromartyrs. Therefore we bless you in faith.

Jordan Asking For the Return of Possible Early Christian Writings


Robert Pigott
March 29, 2011

They could be the earliest Christian writing in existence, surviving almost 2,000 years in a Jordanian cave. They could, just possibly, change our understanding of how Jesus was crucified and resurrected, and how Christianity was born.

A group of 70 or so "books", each with between five and 15 lead leaves bound by lead rings, was apparently discovered in a remote arid valley in northern Jordan somewhere between 2005 and 2007.

A flash flood had exposed two niches inside the cave, one of them marked with a menorah or candlestick, the ancient Jewish religious symbol.

A Jordanian Bedouin opened these plugs, and what he found inside might constitute extremely rare relics of early Christianity.

That is certainly the view of the Jordanian government, which claims they were smuggled into Israel by another Bedouin.

The Israeli Bedouin who currently holds the books has denied smuggling them out of Jordan, and claims they have been in his family for 100 years.

Jordan says it will "exert all efforts at every level" to get the relics repatriated.


Incredible claims

The director of the Jordan's Department of Antiquities, Ziad al-Saad, says the books might have been made by followers of Jesus in the few decades immediately following his crucifixion.

"They will really match, and perhaps be more significant than, the Dead Sea Scrolls," says Mr Saad.

"Maybe it will lead to further interpretation and authenticity checks of the material, but the initial information is very encouraging, and it seems that we are looking at a very important and significant discovery, maybe the most important discovery in the history of archaeology."

They seem almost incredible claims - so what is the evidence?

The books, or "codices", were apparently cast in lead, before being bound by lead rings.

Their leaves - which are mostly about the size of a credit card - contain text in Ancient Hebrew, most of which is in code.

If the relics are of early Christian origin rather than Jewish, then they are of huge significance.

One of the few people to see the collection is David Elkington, a scholar of ancient religious archaeology who is heading a British team trying to get the lead books safely into a Jordanian museum.

He says they could be "the major discovery of Christian history", adding: "It's a breathtaking thought that we have held these objects that might have been held by the early saints of the Church."

He believes the most telling evidence for an early Christian origin lies in the images decorating the covers of the books and some of the pages of those which have so far been opened.

Mr Elkington says the relics feature signs that early Christians would have interpreted as indicating Jesus, shown side-by-side with others they would have regarded as representing the presence of God.

"It's talking about the coming of the messiah," he says.

"In the upper square [of one of the book covers] we have the seven-branch menorah, which Jews were utterly forbidden to represent because it resided in the holiest place in the Temple in the presence of God.

"So we have the coming of the messiah to approach the holy of holies, in other words to get legitimacy from God."


Location clues

Philip Davies, Emeritus Professor of Old Testament Studies at Sheffield University, says the most powerful evidence for a Christian origin lies in plates cast into a picture map of the holy city of Jerusalem.

"As soon as I saw that, I was dumbstruck. That struck me as so obviously a Christian image," he says.

"There is a cross in the foreground, and behind it is what has to be the tomb [of Jesus], a small building with an opening, and behind that the walls of the city. There are walls depicted on other pages of these books too and they almost certainly refer to Jerusalem."

It is the cross that is the most telling feature, in the shape of a capital T, as the crosses used by Romans for crucifixion were.

"It is a Christian crucifixion taking place outside the city walls," says Mr Davies.

Margaret Barker, an authority on New Testament history, points to the location of the reported discovery as evidence of Christian, rather than purely Jewish, origin.

"We do know that on two occasions groups of refugees from the troubles in Jerusalem fled east, they crossed the Jordan near Jericho and then they fled east to very approximately where these books were said to have been found," she says.

"[Another] one of the things that is most likely pointing towards a Christian provenance, is that these are not scrolls but books. The Christians were particularly associated with writing in a book form rather than scroll form, and sealed books in particular as part of the secret tradition of early Christianity."

The Book of Revelation refers to such sealed texts.

Another potential link with the Bible is contained in one of the few fragments of text from the collection to have been translated.

It appears with the image of the menorah and reads "I shall walk uprightly", a sentence that also appears in the Book of Revelation.

While it could be simply a sentiment common in Judaism, it could here be designed to refer to the resurrection.

It is by no means certain that all of the artefacts in the collection are from the same period.

But tests by metallurgists on the badly corroded lead suggest that the books were not made recently.

The archaeology of early Christianity is particularly sparse.

Little is known of the movement after Jesus' crucifixion until the letters of Paul several decades later, and they illuminate the westward spread of Christianity outside the Jewish world.

Never has there been a discovery of relics on this scale from the early Christian movement, in its homeland and so early in its history.

Is the New Testament Forged?




Jerry Newcombe
March 28, 2011

The scholar is the iconoclastic Dr. Bart Ehrman, who teaches religion at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

The book is called Forged: Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are. Ehrman said on a radio broadcast that about 75 percent of the New Testament documents are supposedly forged. They’re frauds.

Dr. Sam Lamerson is a conservative New Testament scholar who teaches at Knox Seminary in Ft. Lauderdale. (By way of full disclosure, I earned a theology degree there). He heard Ehrman on a radio broadcast say words to this effect: “I want to be the scholar that uses the F-word about the Bible. I want people to know that these books were forged.”

“Forged” is a strong word. Several of the New Testament books claim no authorship at all. Church tradition has attributed them to various writers, but the biblical text itself does not claim authorship for these particular books. For instance, none of the four Gospels (of which tradition names the writers as Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) actually have the names of the authors at the beginning of their documents.

But if a document is anonymous, how could it be a forgery?

Dr. Mike Licona, a rising star in New Testament scholarship, has been reading an advanced copy of Forged. He told me that the most prolific biographer of antiquity is widely held to be Plutarch (as in Plutarch’s Lives), yet of all the 50 or so existing manuscripts we have of Plutarch, none of them are signed.

Were they forgeries? By Ehrman’s definition, it would seem so. But no serious scholar holds that view.

Dr. Licona, who has debated Ehrman twice, told me, “What we’re seeing from Ehrman [in Forged] is not new information. It may be new to many readers who aren’t used to looking at the academic stuff, but it’s not at all new.”

Ehrman goes on to assert that many New Testament books that do claim authorship within the text, such as Ephesians, Colossians, and the letters of Peter and James, are not written by the claimed authors. It should be noted that this is not based on manuscript evidence. It’s based largely on the style of the text, and there are many conservative scholars who are not convinced by these arguments. Thus, Ehrman is stating liberal opinion as fact.

Ironically, Ehrman even states in his own book, “Virtually all of the problems with what I’ve been calling forgeries can be solved if secretaries were heavily involved in the compositions of the early Christian writings.” [p. 134]

But that’s exactly what happened.

Conservative scholars note that many of Paul’s writings begin with his name…and that of a co-author, such as Timothy, Silas, or Sosthenes.

Dr. Lamerson, who interestingly worked his way through seminary by doing magic tricks, knows sleight of hand when he sees it (or in this case, hears it). He said, “Of course, being forged is very different from having a secretary or having someone help you with the text or not knowing who wrote the text because their name simply isn’t included.”

Ehrman likes to tout that he’s a former evangelical, who went to Moody Bible Institute and Wheaton College. Ehrman then went on to Princeton Seminary where he began to have some doubts about his faith. That faith finally shattered when he was teaching at Rutgers University. Now, he’s an agnostic.

So why are Bart Ehrman and other liberal scholars even concerning themselves with this stuff if they don’t believe it?

Amazingly, Jesus made a warning that fits here (if the Gospel of Matthew is to be believed-and, no, it wasn’t forged; it just isn’t signed). He admonished those who “shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces.” He said, “You yourselves won’t go in, but you prevent others from going in.”

I’m concerned that many people will hear Bart Ehrman and think that he speaks for all the scholars. He does not.

Many people might miss the Gospel because they take Ehrman’s word as Gospel. It is not.

It is liberal opinion repackaged well for a mass audience.

For anyone needing a scholarly rebuttal to Bart Ehrman’s 2011 book, feel free to read Terry L. Wilder's excellent article called "Pseudonymity and the New Testament," which appears in a 2001 book, Interpreting the New Testament: Essays on Methods and Issues. (Indeed, his arguments aren’t new.)

Dr. Paul Maier, a professor of ancient history at Western Michigan University and a first rate scholar of the New Testament and its history, told me, “Both [Ehrman] and his publisher [HarperOne] are guilty of cheap sensationalism with little or no regard for the truth.”

Ehrman’s book went on sale on March 22, 2011. Just in time for Easter, he, his publisher, and the lackeys in the media who go for all the anti-faith iconoclasm get another chance to try and cash in. What a friend we have in Jesus.

Monday, March 28, 2011

St. Nektarios: The Pure In Heart Perceive God and Discover Him


By St. Nektarios of Aegina

It is evident that unbelief is an evil offspring of an evil heart; for the guileless and pure heart everywhere discovers God, everywhere discerns Him, and always unhesitatingly believes in His existence.

When the man of pure heart looks at the World of Nature, that is, at the sky, the earth, and the sea and at all things in them, and observes the systems constituting them, the infinite multitude of stars of heaven, the innumerable multitudes of birds and quadrupeds and every kind of animal of the earth, the variety of plants on it, the abundance of fish in the sea, he is immediately amazed and exclaims with the Prophet David: "How great are Thy works, O Lord! In wisdom Thou made them all."

Such a man, impelled by his pure heart, discovers God also in the World of Grace of the Church, from which the evil man is far removed. The man of pure heart believes in the Church, admires her spiritual system, discovers God in the Mysteria, in the heights of the theology, in the light of the Divine revelations, in the truths of the teachings, in the commandments of the Law, in the achievements of the Saints, in every good deed, in every perfect gift, and in general in the whole of the creation. Justly then did the Lord say in His Beatitudes of those possessing purity of the heart: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."

Orthodox 3D Cinema in Murmansk


March 28, 2011

The metochion of the Trifon Pechenga Monastery in Murmansk plans to open an Orthodox cinema for religious and educational films.

The cinema will have 70 seats and will be equipped with 3D technology, Murmansk Vestnik reports. The cinema will not only be showing Orthodox movies, but also educational films. The first viewers to test the new cinema will be school children, who will be shown a film about traffic safety. This event is organized in cooperation with the traffic police.

The metochion is located on the outskirts of Murmansk and will be a huge complex when it is completed. The institution will have several churches and chapels, a 150 bed shelter for homeless people and a hotel for pilgrims.

Trifon Pechenga is the world’s northernmost monastery, located in the Pechenga municipality on the border to Norway. The monastery is currently under construction, after the former buildings burned to the ground in 2007.

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