Sunday, August 13, 2017

Charlottesville and the End of Reason: A Critical Virtue Signal

The belief that one race or ethnicity is "better" than another was once couched in scientific terminology and spread around as the cancer known as eugenics.  Despite what most people tend to think "positive eugenics" is still alive and well even in biological thought, though whether or not it is tied to races is another story.  Indeed what frankly constitutes "better" in these scenarios is sketchy at best and tends towards the view either that one race is smarter or better behaved and another is either not intelligent or behaves as animals.

The modern world has many myths that we still desperately cling to yet know that all or most of these myths bear as much truth as what Belial peddles on a regular basis.  For instance, as stated above, eugenics ties ethnicity to genetics and in turn ties these ethnic distinctions to other traits such as intelligence.  The problem of course is that culture is left out and frankly different cultures can and do select for different traits which get passed on to the next generation.  Does this involve intelligence?  Does this involve violent tendencies?  I sincerely doubt it, or at least doubt that it bears any real weight on the surviving phenotypes.  But left out of this whole discussion is this, namely, culture and genetics.

Culture and genetics:  Two things you cannot change (well almost) and so this rides the mechanistic predestination gravy train.  You are genetically lower in melanin or higher, you are genetically predisposed to a higher intelligence, you may even be genetically predisposed to heart disease as well.  But notice that I said "predisposition."  Determinism is wrong and antithetical to what we would deem western liberal society.  Why is that?  Because the myth the United States for instance was founded on is not collectivism but individualism.  Voluntarism of the individual to choose association freely - "liberty."  Liberty of course is a buzz word which is actually uncomfortably used by either the right wing in politics or the Libertarians.  Indeed "freedom" is such a slippery word while liberty is not that many politicians and pundits I believe are afraid to use it to describe freedom...because they peddle something else.

Charlottesville, VA is a case in diametrically opposed ideologies coming into intense, violent, and deadly conflict.  But both radical sides have some things in common...they simply don't know it.  So let's lay some myths out on the table, or what Michael Polanyi might call "premises" and move into the realm of analysis and talk about the danger of both sides and why it is deadly important to be careful of our rhetoric and our action while taking, frankly, a good look in the mirror.

The lesson from this national tragedy are going to be many, but among them let us believe truth to be real, to be able to be attained by rational argumentation, and to call things out whether we like them or not in a spirit of humility and self-examination.

MYTH 1:  All men are created equal.  This is flat out nonsense and the far right wing denies it, if by far right you mean white supremacists.  They do not believe that the human being of other ethnicities is created equal but rather some are created better than others.  This much is obvious.  The only problem is the far left agrees with the far right.  While the far right touts purity on the basis of ethnicity in scientific terms, enter the cultural Marxists who argue the same thing on the basis of culture, money, and power.  All men are not created fact that phrase is offensive because it is misogynistic.  White men are often lumped into one collectivist category, blamed for a sin they have no control over by who they are or where they are born, and by their cultural dispositions.  This sounds markedly similar to what the far right wing might say about, I don't know, young black men.  This is not "equivocation" this is an outright reality - and this is why there is polarization:  Two sides of a coin calling the other not just wrong but blaming the other camp for things outside of their control in most cases.

TRUTH 1:  All men are created equal in dignity, fallen in sin, subject to death and corruption, and called to something greater in the love of God brought about by Jesus Christ.  The hermeneutical circle of the left and right are closed forever to this option - the right still clinging to elements of science and certainty from the Modernist period that gave tremendous suffering in Europe, and the left clinging desperately to a narrative in the midst of no truth.  Both are atheistic and Nietzschian in character even if both have a theological underpinning (more on this later).  In the absence of truth and rationality there is nothing but power plays and strength for what one believes or thinks is right...and since Christianity to Nietzsche was a slave mentality God forbid you examine yourself and find you are in error.  Being critical of one's self is only for losers who need psychotherapy or something apparently.

MYTH 2:  There are bad guys and good guys and we know who they are.  Both sides believe this myth with such fervor that both either seek to violently silence the opposition or use political means to strip them of their rights protected under free speech.  The use of words to silence conversation or to call out someone who disagrees with you as "bigot," "sexist," "homophobe," etc. might as well be "commie" or "pinko" from the McCarthy era.  The shoe is apparently on the other foot now and rather than learn from the battle to be a Marxist even in politics or private life as protected speech, we go after racists and any other who oppose us in the same way - blacklisting, firing, publicly ridiculing, etc.  McCarthy would be proud of the left.

TRUTH 2:  There are good and bad guys and very often we have no clue about who is who because this thing called "gray areas" exist.  There is a common mistake in reading the Bible and it is when someone reads it and immediately says who they identify with and who they think they are in the story.  Helpful hint, it is rarely Judas Iscariot or Simon Peter in the midst of their failings, or perhaps even St. Paul being an unforgiving fellow with regard to John Mark.  We could all at times use the prophet Nathan to set us on the path of reading Psalm 51...we are the man.  Of course the right believes God is on their side just because (a form of Christendom based on who we are) and the left ultimately believes God is on their side because they channel their inner 60's hippie theologians and "speak truth to power" prophetically...because being self-righteous and heavily political isn't dangerous at all.  The fact is both believe they are the good guys and are always the good guys, and if they are not, say, if they are white they are exonerated because they noticed or cared and that was enough.  We all have within us good and evil and frankly we can see our neighbor's speck so much easier than our own plank.  Again - quoting Jesus only partially or for our political benefit and narrative is the cool thing to do in the west.

MYTH 3:  All are taught the same thing and what we were taught was correct.  Conversely - everything we were taught is wrong, a lie, and we see the truth.  Both sides hold to this in some fact both premises.  Matthew Hale, a white supremacist from my high school (several years prior to me), could bring up Nazis and WW2 Germany positively even if you were talking about toast.  It was an insane fascination that led to him forming the World Church of the Creator.  He later learned that threatening to kill a federal judge wasn't the best life decision and went to prison (Chelsea Handler I'm kind of looking in your direction).  Some of what we were taught is correct, some isn't.  When I teach elements of literary and historical criticism I use the Civil War as a perfect example (this is apropos because Charlottesville began as a White Supremacist rally to fight against removing Civil War Confederate monuments).  I say, "can you spot which document was written by a Confederate soldier vs. a Union one?"  I then make up a bit of text but pepper it with words like "yank," "Johnny Reb," "the Union," "Northern Aggression," etc.  The fact is you learn, particularly about history, what your government wants you to learn.

TRUTH 3:  We are taught different things and some are true, some are false.  The Civil War is by far more complicated than simply slavery was cool vs. slavery was wrong.  That thinking is flipping insane yet almost every public school kid in the north thinks it's true to the point where removing Confederate monuments and even defacing them was given official sanction (in say, New Orleans).  I know people who firmly hold (and there is some reality to it) that the Civil War was about states' rights over the federal government.  There is truth to this - the Civil War ended up being the natural outgrowth of the Federalism vs. Antifederalism debate after the Articles of Confederation failed (note the last term of that document when you see "Confederacy").  At the same time slavery was quite a big and important issue because the law that was being forced as policy for new states directly involved slavery.  While the south lost, they were given the same pay by the Union following the war as northern veterans.  They were granted the right to have monuments because they are called "rebels" not "traitors."  They lost in a violent political battle but believed they were upholding the proper element of the United States ("these" United States prior to the Civil War...after "THE").  They have been continuously humiliated by the North, misunderstood to the point where people think the Confederate Battle Flag was the actual country's flag, make jokes about their intelligence, inbred families, etc.  Frankly the North is and has been obnoxious and narrow minded towards the Civil War because "we won."  There's your narrative.  Try fitting Robert E. Lee's views of slavery into that narrow view because you can't do it...he believed in state's rights yet opposed slavery.  Welcome to the gray area.

These are just three myths that both sides either hold to or deny in spectacularly similar fashion - from the all or nothing view regarding the Civil War and slavery, to the incorrectness of all men being created equal, to the absolutist view that they are right and they have God on their side (or the arc of history) giving them full reign to bring down righteous judgment on their enemies.

The United States especially has to live within a dialogue between two realities - we are free to associate in politics/we are automatically signed up for the social contract, we are bound by our genes/we are free to choose, we are blessed by God/we have done immense evil.  Everyone has a theology for their politics but most people seem to think only the right does - this is wrong.  The liberal theology has had way more effect on American culture than the just couches its theology better.  Bear in mind as well...for 1930's Germany made use of liberal theology and Barth was only once again, a flipside of the fascist coin.  He could just as easily fall into the trap.  George Orwell is an important figure because he saw the danger of his own side's extremism.  Would all public intellectuals be that honest.

For our society to exist, both far left and far right must be wrong on several myths - if we have no freedom, we are lost.  If we have no way of talking to each other based in reason, we are lost.  If we cannot recognize the essential equal dignity of a human being, we are lost.  If we cannot spot bad thinking, we are lost.  If we cannot be free to disagree politically without losing our jobs/loved ones/lives, we are lost.

Here is my estimation of what is the case today.  You are free to disagree and I don't care if you want to march against me as the antichrist I will fight for your right to do that.

CHARLOTTESVILLE - Started because some wanted to protest the removal of Confederate memorials and the rally was done by a White Supremacist.  If you aren't racist but agree that the memorials should be kept you are just screwed because there is nothing you can do.  Like Trump, you could fart wrong and offend everyone.  You have no place because you have bought neither narrative and for you, God help you.  The news media blew it out of proportion causing a larger riot and a large counter-riot.  Those who went against the main protesting group had every right to do so and I have sympathy for them.  Again, if you disagree with the racists but agree that the memorials be kept, do you avoid the march or march in the counter-demonstration?  This of course blew up to bad levels as the white supremacists came armed and the anti-protesters blocked the streets.  I have never defended hitting pedestrians on roads but I will also say they should be arrested - there have been cases where people needed to get to the hospital and could not, leading to further injury or death.  I understand you want to inconvenience other people but if it was your relative or you in a similar situation you would have no room to complain.  You do not win friends over to your side like that and you are a public health hazard - because you also will not move for emergency vehicles.  You are an absolute danger.

That being said, the man who ran over the woman should also be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law - it appears he was a supporter of the demonstration and this absolutely could be interpreted as him lashing out.  However - if you decry the car hitting the person you MUST also decry the violent rhetoric and actions of the anti-Trump riots and the BLM riots (again, BLM being the Marxist opposite of groups like the KKK and other fascist groups - they tend to act similarly).  Any calls or action for violence politically cannot be tolerated...from right or left.  When either side is stuck they red herring their way out of the issue, like BLM violence makes it ok for fascist violence or something, and vice versa.  That's absolute bullshit.  Both are wrong.

As of today I have read calls to assassinate Trump, all supporters of Trump called racists, calls for the prevention of such speech at the rally, and other thugish tendencies from the left.  This is not ok.  This is how you become the next Hitler.  I know you think he was only about killing Jews but he also was about seizing power by any means because he was...wait for it...a Nietzschean!  You and he have that both in common politically.  Besides, in addition to being a felony how stupid are you people!?  Yes, we will be free after we rid ourselves of such and such a what you think this is a Disney movie with a clear good/bad guy and happy ending?!  That's how you get a police state morons!  Gee, assassination of a populist candidate (Bernie was equally a populist btw...but people can't think consistently)...sounds a lot like what happened at the end of the Roman Republic with Julius Caesar - worked out real well for them...really cemented that democratic spirit.  In addition populists are often assassinated by the establishment - so Soros and other globalists who don't like Trump or who wouldn't like Bernie would eventually do it or try and get public support for it.  Learn history and stop being a sheeple.

Censorship of speech because you don't like it is EXACTLY what the Bill of Rights was designed to prevent - tyranny of the majority.  The protection of your..."liberty."  It is possible to disagree with someone and yet respect them and fight for their right to do and say what they long as you don't encourage and promote violence for political ends.  Far right racists - you are wrong and sinful in your opinions.  Those who have joined you because they feel their culture threatened should not be seduced to an extreme side where you simply "hurt back."  There are other ways of being proud of your white culture be it southern US, German, Irish, etc. and not be a racist - don't listen to the far left's bullshit on that and become fanatics.  Far left whackos - you are wrong and sinful in your lies and constant self-righteous fear mongering.  You are outright dangerous to a level even the far right is not and you scare me far more because while they are reacting you are acting - you are pushing them with your nonsensical myth and narrative.  Stop seeing everyone as morally tied to their opinions unless it is the foundation of their opinion (as with the racists).  No one likes to be considered far right of anyone I know...I know plenty who espouse radical leftist thought and frankly if they get their way I'll be next just because I disagree with them.  These are my rights to you psychos.  I have right and left friends who aren't guilty of this - and to them I thank them that they would be willing to fight and die for the ideal to protect my and each others' rights to disagree peacefully.

Finally - news media - you should be abolished.  I know of nothing going on in the world except for what Trump may or may not have done with Russia, that he picked a fight with Kim Jong Un (actually if people paid attention KJU has been being quite forceful recently - but of course starting something with him is war mongering...and he's Communist so he's ok comrade - eyes roll), or that Charlottesville is blowing up.  That's all I know and have known.  You make me sick because you feed off of human misery promising news and information yet painting it for our consumption as a good because you are equally large corporations who see dollar as the bottom line.  CNN, your feeds to my phone have literally included the headlines, "click here to find out how" like you studied at the school of Buzzfeed journalism and clickbaiting.  If you all want the respect of people start earning it and be honest about your reporting...stop trying to mind control people to your political ends.  ANTIFA - you are guilty of violent crimes against the state just as the far right...the police should deal with you.  Trump - stop being an idiot - stop being an internet troll.  It was funny during the campaign and early on but now we have to get some things done...stop being overtly political with a martyr complex and get shit done.

So there is my "critical virtue signal" - one borne with much thought over the past few days and as little moral outrage as I can muster.  We have lost our way and unless we start to see how both sides are playing us...a house divided amongst itself cannot stand.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Hank Hanegraaff and Eastern Orthodoxy - Conversion or Apostasy?

This is my first post in just over 4 months and a lot has happened both within my own life and the world at large.  Donald Trump has become the 45th president of the United States, Brexit was passed, Bill O'Reilly was fired from Fox News, and most mentally stable leader of North Korea has indicated he is willing to use nuclear weapons on the west if they should attempt aggressive action.  For myself, I was diagnosed in January with Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma and have been undergoing chemotherapy for the last 2.5 months with 3 more treatments to go.  I have, yet again, been denied access to several PhD programs at prestigious institutions, and I have endeavored to both review my biblical languages while also working on several articles for publication.

In addition, the most important holiday has occurred just this last Sunday (and no I'm not referring to income taxes being due several days after the usual April 15th) - Christ is Risen!  Truly He is Risen!  This year both Eastern and Western churches celebrated Holy Week and the Resurrection of Jesus on the same day.  This was a time allowing both churches to recognize the truth upon which our salvation is built, namely the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.  We no longer have to be dead in our sins, we no longer have to fear the grave and its gaping maw, and we no longer have to fear the one who controlled death with his satanic schemes.

The Orthodox Church has traditionally reserved this time, from the earliest days of the church, to baptize new members.  While this is no longer the only time the Church baptizes, nonetheless Holy Saturday or Palm Sunday become a major time for such a joyous sacramental event.  As a convert from Lutheranism myself, I was not rebaptized but received into the Church by means of Chrismation.  I was welcomed as a one who now was truly home.  Others have experienced the same joy and truth that the Church can bring to one who is seeking.  This last year one Evangelical figure was received into the Church as well - Hank Hanegraaff, also known as the "Bible Answer Man."  His conversion has caused quite a stir in the Evangelical community.  Some have said he is wrong and in this there is no harm even if they and I disagree.  After all, if they agreed with Hank and me they would be Orthodox.  Others however have taken a more, shall we say, sectarian approach and decidedly saying Hank has left the Christian faith.  This is not simply a conversion from one confession or body to another for is outright apostasy from the religion of the Apostles.

The Orthodox rarely engage in debate and this is unfortunate, because it is one of the reasons many misunderstand the Church and her rich heritage.  They are left to refer to books and generalities, not fully understanding that which they approach from the outside.  James White recently talked about this on his radio program the Dividing Line, and it is sad that many in the "old country" do not partake of debate with Protestants and even worse that many who are cradle Orthodox have very little idea how diverse Protestantism really is.  If we speak the truth in love...indeed, if we claim to have the FULLNESS of this Truth, how can we not engage those who seek to engage us.  The Orthodox Church is the church of Justin Martyr, of St. Augustine, of St. Maximus the Confessor, St. John of Damascus, St. Gregory Palamas, and so many others who engaged in debate with both Christians and non-Christians regarding the Truth the Church can we NOT do the same after their example.  We are called to engage those in our surroundings and not to simply retreat back to a safe corner of mystical obscurity - a type of disinterested disdain for more rational arguments as if God did not include a brain in our created form.  With that said, I wish to respond to several points in the article published by Pulpit and Pen regarding their recent visit to Hank's Greek Orthodox Church.

The article is written by Jeff Maples.  Right off the bat one thing is apparent...he's never been to an Orthodox church before, much less any of the liturgies of the Church.  One must wonder where he gets his sources from as well...let's analyze his points as he presents them.  To bear in mind, he attended the Matins and Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom that starts roughly at 11:30pm on Holy Saturday and goes until probably close to 2am on Easter morning.  This is indeed a long service, though not the longest in the church year.

The points below match Mr. Maples' points from his article:

1) Immediately he comments on his personal experience in the Roman Catholic Church and then indicates that the Greek Orthodox Mass (even lower-cased it) was long and tedious.  Hopefully Mr. Maples never hears complaints about services in his church being too long...sorry the most important holiday service took so long.  In addition, most Orthodox do not refer to the service as "Mass" - this is a Latin word and would not, especially in a Greek church replace the Greek word "Liturgy."  What did he find tedious about it?  No details, just another complaint about the length and how it "showed no signs of slowing down" - yes, that's it.  Don't get me wrong...sometimes it can get repetitive and I get tired standing a lot (I do often chant so I rarely get to sit during these services...imagine how the clergy and altar servers feel), but we aren't there for what we want...this isn't an American "I choose what I like" situation...this is the work of the people - the LITURGY - and has been given to us to humble us and bring us back to what we have put ourselves under.  The liturgy is not meant to stifle emotion (during Holy Week especially I find this impossible to believe) nor even spontaneity, but it is meant to help direct us and guide us...keep us honest and frankly to make worshiping God something that flows form our being and joins with other people.

2) At this point I'm simply picking up bigotry and distaste for what is "different."  "Smells and bells" being likened to toking up in the dorm room?  Sorry do you need a Lay-Z-Boy and nachos???  I don't think the Old Testament church heard your disdain for incense and bells...and I'm sure the descriptions and images of worship in St. John's Revelation would equally make you reel in disgust.  At least we don't have dried blood dripping down the altar while everyone mills about like at the Temple.  I truly cannot take this complaint seriously as a reason Hank is not saved...this is just distaste.  Revelation 8:4 specifically uses imagery of a bowl of incense mixed with the prayers of the saints...does that not sound like what you SAW during the liturgy Mr. Maples?   But the Orthodox Church has apparently muddied and distorted the Gospel...we worship "too long" and are too "ceremonial."  Mr. Maples I hope is aware that liturgies were not only similar in use of incense but also could take 6-12 hours...and that was when people were being killed for the faith.

3) The Liturgy was vain and repetitious...for starters "vain" has more to do with the mindset of the people doing the praying, not the prayer itself.  When Jesus is warning against it He even explains this as "they think they will be heard because of their many words."  We are heard by God even when we simply pray in need "Lord have mercy."  That is not the point of all the repetition you recognize.  While you're at it...yet again, I don't think the Psalmist heard you - how often does "the mercy of the Lord endure forever" in Psalm 136?  Hey...that sounds a lot like the response to the LITANY!?  Holy cow more Scripture in the Divine Liturgy...wild huh?!  It could also be that the Godman was unaware of Psalm 136 and will either recant His statement or we should strike the Psalm from the canon.

"Every prayer included an invocation of Mary and the saints." - Yes...why not?  And don't give me this "it's not in Scripture nonsense" as neither are computers, modern instruments, English, sound systems, etc.  That principle among the more Radical Reformers that affected Christian worship is followed by about 0.1% of all American Protestants.  We are to pray for one another and unless you want to go at your life alone you often ask for prayers from others...and not one word of Scripture says those who await the resurrection with Jesus are unaware of us or stop praying for us.  The body of Christ is joined in Him and has the same Holy Spirit...that this is forbidden is merely an argument from silence in the Scriptures and using a principle that itself isn't even followed.  Indeed, angels are around us as well, am I not able to ask them to pray for me or reflect on the scandal my sin causes them?!  It is STRONGLY indicated in Scripture that at the very least the angels are aware of us (Matthew 18:10).  Also...Christ alone is the mediator to the Father...all prayers, including the Mother of God go through Him because He is also the HIGH PRIEST.

In addition the scriptural elements of this practice could fill a post in and of themselves...needless to say, as is typical with THIS brand of Protestant rhetoric, a rush to interpret Scripture AGAINST a perceived heresy or falsehood often ignores other passages that call the interpretation into extreme question...keep this in mind for "graven images."

4) Very little teaching - so that homily of St. John Chrysostom that welcomed all regardless of whether they worked from the 1st or the 11th hour...i.e., salvation as a gift given to the laborers by the Ruler...not good enough?  Were you expecting 1 hour of some dude talking?  Unfortunately preaching had fallen by the wayside in the Byzantine tradition but this has been coming back into vogue - hopefully as will apologetics.  To not have preaching, especially GOOD preaching is indeed a travesty in the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, the very golden-mouthed preacher and one of the Three Holy Hierarchs.  If there is one thing I will give most Baptists...they are excellent preachers.  As for the eerie chant...again, not really going to defend it because I'm not scandalized by it.

5) MR. MAPLES NOTED THE ICONS!!!  I was wondering when this point would come up and frankly I thought it would be point 1!!!  He only at this point comments on their expressions as emotionless and lifeless.  Yes, Byzantine iconography not only tells the biblical stories or shows the saints but emphasizes their DISPASSION - they also are in heaven which is why they are "floating" often in a golden background (sometimes this can be green and the Romanians often use a deep blue for the background).  Icons are not senior pictures they are theological ideals showing that which is more "true" than even the physical appearance (though more recent saints do look like they appeared in life and St. Paul for instance does appear as he is described...balding) - icons have rules...this is why we can recognize a given saint in Russia, Lebanon, Ethiopia, the US, etc.  Finally, there is sometimes the appearance of a twinge of sorrow in their eyes...they look out and see us who still suffer under the cross and the world that is lost - that is another reason they pray for us.  A further discussion of Orthodox icons and their dispassion can be found here.  The only icon that shows extreme emotion is Christ the Bridegroom (sometimes portrayed as "Extreme Humility") which is often displayed during the start of Holy Week for veneration.

6) The clergy and the people seemed low energy and unenthusiastic...there are 2 reasons for this that are unrelated.  The first is that, like many churches, there are those who are Chreasters...they show up for Christmas and Easter often as a cultural thing - not often would I expect much energy from them.  As for the others...Mr. Maples should be aware that the people and the clergy (especially the latter) have been in MANY services this week...including the very long service on Thursday evening, the Holy Saturday Liturgy, and now this liturgy that goes into 2am...they are TIRED...and yet they keep going.  This doesn't show lack of enthusiasm it shows devotion and WORK.  In addition to the services many do other devotional acts during Lent and Holy Week...the priest most likely visits shutins and adds a large amount of confessions to his week...and many churches that are smaller also have many who volunteer (can't afford secretaries or other staff) and even clergy who are worker-priests (though these are usually the secondary clergy).  Face's a lot of physical work and this is when a lot of it occurs.  And I'm shocked that at midnight not one person was smiling as they were shouting CHRIST IS RISEN!  I've yet to be at an Orthodox church for this service where that did not occur.

7) This point I have noticed and it is something that angers me a lot as well - especially from the clergy who should be setting examples.  I don't like the smoke breaks I don't like the idle chat in service, and I don't like checking cell phones for texting purposes...that said, jumping from bad behavior of some to the whole church is absolutely unfair both to the church body and the individuals like Hank.  How many churches has Mr. Maples been in or been a part of that he would call "holy" that have bad apples?  While this is a problem (it's also more of a cultural thing than an Orthodox thing - many in the Mediterranean world do fact I've talked to Muslims who confirm this happens at mosques even in the US with people from "the old country").  I tend to see it less in some Orthodox cultures (more in Middle Eastern and Greek, less in Russian) so while it isn't good it also isn't a reflection on the Church's teachings or those who pursue holiness within the is sin and as I said...really upset at the clergy for this.  It is a problem.

8) I don't understand this point at all - we ask God to do things...and in fact Scripture is filled with examples where God expects us to ask Him to act.  When Jesus walks on the water he means to walk past (Mark 6:48) and He only addresses them when they cry out thinking He is a ghost.  Yes God already knows what we want and need...but if what Mr. Maples here observes is true one wonders why he prays for anything.  We ask, we pray, we implore God for His mercy, grace, forgiveness, etc.  Why WOULDN'T we?!  This is supposed to be the God who hears us, who promises to be with us, to have known our temptations yet be without sin.  This is why the congregation answers "AMEN" to the prayers - if we thought we were "activating God" we would not be able to confidently answer such.

9) This is a bold claim for 2 hours of observation and no background - he clearly talked to no one, walked in with an agenda, and had so many misunderstandings it was insane.  There was no Gospel - depends on how he's defining it...I don't know what else to call the Catechetical Homily of St. John Chrysostom, the singing of "Christ has risen from the dead trampling down death by death and upon those in the tombs bestowing life," the singing of the Hymn of Justinian, the recitation of the Nicene Creed, the repetition of the Words of Institution after declaring that Christ "gave Himself up for the life of the world," etc.  So much of the Gospel is crammed into this from Scripture itself that you would have to think Mr. Maples doesn't accept the perspicuity or sufficiency of Scripture to make this claim!!!  What would change a lost man Mr. Maples?  An hour of moralizing preaching that taught him the evils or errors of this church, or that church, or what have you?  

"It was literally a Pagan practice"...I just don't know how to politely respond to this so I'll move on.  "Pure witchcraft was going on in this place" - as opposed to???  From your complaints I would imagine you sit around watching a sermon (not too long mind you) not praying because God has already known what you will need from eternity...that's what I've gotten from your complaints.  You are clearly not studying Scripture closely or half your arguments wouldn't have been phrased as they is pure, unquestioned dogmatism from certain repristinating theologians in your tradition ( are following a tradition here yourself).  

Mr. Maples' understanding of the Orthodox stance on deification is conflating us with the Mormons...I also know he did not get this from the liturgy he attended as this is not mentioned as far as I can recall...and if you can pick this up there and not "the Gospel" then that's both sad and speaks more for what you're looking for.  

What is theosis/deification?  While there are many subtle interpretations of it, it is not a strange doctrine in the history of the church, including the Latin and even Protestant ones (scholarship regarding deification in the works of Luther, Calvin, and the Wesleys is a current fad).  Often it is associated with the passage in St. Athanasius who in "On the Incarnation" says, "God became man so that man might become god."  St. Irenaeus says the following regarding the incarnation itself and what it gives to humanity through the life, death, and resurrection of the human nature that has been joined to the divine Logos:

Therefore, as I have already said, He caused man (human nature) to cleave to and to become, one with God.  For unless man had overcome the enemy of man, the enemy would not have been legitimately vanquished.  And again: unless it had been God who had freely given salvation, we could never have possessed it securely.  And unless man had been joined to God, he could never have become a partaker of incorruptibility.  For it was incumbent upon the Mediator between God and men, by His relationship to both, to bring both to friendship and concord and present man to God, while He revealed God to man.  For, in what way could we be partaken of the adoption of sons, unless we had received from Him through the Son that fellowship which refers to Himself, unless His Word, having been made flesh, had entered into communion with us? - St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies III:18 (from Schaff's ANF and
But I hear what Mr. Maples might say here...this isn't the Bible - well the Bible teaches the same.  Psalm 82:6 is repeated and interpreted by Jesus Himself in John 10:35 that those whom the Word of God came were also called "gods."  Those of us who have laid our hope on Jesus Christ have indeed received this Word of God who came in the flesh.  It is through Him we receive adoption as sons (Rom. 8:15, 23; Gal. 4:5; Eph. 1:5), partake of the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4), receive the justification He won for us (Rom. 3:24, 5:1; Gal. 2:16-17, etc.), and have been made temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19-20).

Our nature is perfected through this is not transformed to the divine nature...this would be heresy and blasphemy!  Yet at the same time we are "in Christ" and have Christ "in us."  We are united to His body with Him as the Head...this is the union mentioned.  What good is Christ's "imputation" and "substitution" if we reject repentance?  If we are not united with Him?  What purpose apart from the debt does the incarnation play?!  Mr. Maples seems to be suggesting a pure "exitus/reditus" understanding of the Gospel which is not sufficient nor biblical.  It is the rising of us to life from the tomb on Easter morning which is where justification is found...for it is HIS justification...the recognition of His sacrifice by the Father who raises Him to life (Rom. 4:25, 5:16 and 18).

I call the misrepresentations and seemingly willful ignorance in Mr. Maples' post more wicked than what he heard in the liturgy.

As an aside I would say that Mr. Maples includes in addition to numerous biblical and factual errors...a bit of logical problems.  He complains about the length and deadness of the it cannot change anyone.  Yet at the END of his post he says, "It would have been easy for one to let their guard down and become entranced by the production."  Which is it...boring, repetitive, long, tedious, or seductive???

I challenge Mr. Maples to a true discussion and exchange - perhaps a discussion of biblical doctrine and the faith of the we have seen, his interpretations are lacking and can be, just as the Tempter's use of Scripture itself in the desert, dismissed with a proper understanding of Scripture.

To end this post - let me quote St. Mark the Ascetic and his 22nd point from On Those Who Think They are Made Righteous by Works:  "When Scripture says 'He will reward every man according to his works' (Mt. 16:27), do not imagine that works in themselves merit either hell or the kingdom.  On the contrary, Christ rewards each man according to whether his works are done with faith or without faith in Himself; and He is not a dealer bound by contract, but God our Creator and Redeemer."

And to repeat (but not in vain) once more that which demons hate and despise...CHRIS IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN!