Friday, March 7, 2008

A Prophet in an Orthodox Cassock

Sometimes a voice rises, that pushes through the backrooms of theological debate, and becomes a clarion call to reformation and renewal. It can often come from a place unlooked for and unexpected. Like Luther who, before the time of his ascendancy to world renown, was a simple pastor and theologian trying to lead his own small flock from the excesses and corruptions of false teaching. Luther’s teachings and corrections sweep like a prairie fire across the landscape of the Church and brought renewal and reformation to the broad spectrum of churches and parishes. Why? Because deep within the heart of true believers, every where, something was terribly amiss. Like the proverbial elephant in the room, something needed addressing that no body wanted to touch and no body wanted to face. But once the subject matter was addressed the boil was lanced, the issues were faced, and spiritual health began to come into the Body of Christ..

A young leader in the Russian Orthodox Church in Vienna and Austria is a good case and point. Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev is this young leader. He positioned himself during a midweek session at the World Council of Churches Central Committee meeting. He was allowed to ask questions of the moderator. And with the skill of an accomplished Senator in debate, he crafted his questions with a long introduction in the spirit of a modern day prophet. His words brought shame and conviction to an organization that has greatly erred from its spiritual foundations. His words remind me of the truth that God is building a universal church composed from all church organizations across the globe. I am glad to be called a fellow brother of this young Russian Orthodox bishop!

Listen to his words in full and pray for him to have greater influence in Europe:

"I would like to draw your attention to the danger of liberal Christianity. The liberalization of moral standards, initiated by some Protestant and Anglican communities several decades ago and developing with ever-increasing speed, has now brought us to a situation where we can no longer preach one and the same code of moral conduct. We can no longer speak about Christian morality, because moral standards promoted by 'traditional' and 'liberal' Christians are markedly different, and the abyss between these two wings of contemporary Christianity is rapidly growing.

We are being told by some allegedly Christian leaders,who still bear the titles of Reverends and Most Reverends, that marriage between a woman and a man is no longer the only option for creating a Christian family,that there are other patterns, and that the church must be 'inclusive' enough to recognize alternative lifestyles and give them official and solemn blessing.

We are being told that human life is no longer an unquestionable value,that it can be summarily aborted in the womb … and that Christian 'traditionalists' should reconsider their standpoints in order to be in tune with modern developments. We are being told that abortion is acceptable … and that the church must accommodate all these 'values' in the name of human rights.”

What, then, is left of Christianity? In the confusing and disoriented world in which we live, where is the prophetic voice of Christians? What can we offer, or can we offer anything at all to the secular world, apart from what the secular world will offer to itself as a value system on which society should be built? Do we have our own value system which we should preach, or should we simply applaud every novelty in public morality which becomes fashionable in the secular society?”

When are we going to stop making Christianity politically correct and all-inclusive? Why do we insist on accommodating every possible alternative to the centuries-old Christian tradition? Where is the limit, or is there no limit at all?

Many Christians worldwide look to Christian leaders in the hope that they will defend Christianity against the challenges that it faces…. Our holy mission is to preach what Christ preached, to teach what the apostles taught, and to propagate what the holy Fathers propagated.

I am convinced that liberal Christianity will not survive for a long time. A politically correct Christianity will die. …traditional Christians will consolidate their forces in order to protect the faith and moral teaching which the Lord gave, the Apostles preached, and the Fathers preserved."

I may not dress in the distinct black cassock of a Russian Orthodox bishop nor agree with every nuance of his doctrinal distinctions but he and I both stand on the bedrock foundation of the Word of God and the Apostle’s Creed. So may his tribe increase and may his influence abound to the glory of God.


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Nathan Lee Lewis said...

Thanks for recognizing the brotherhood and the valid salvation of this Orthodox Bishop. It is rare that one in your realm of religious culture would do so. Orthodox Christians also refrain from judging the salvation of the non-orthodox believer. There is much more truth to be found in the church established by the Apostles. I invite you to visit me at and

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