Western Rite Critic

A Balance to Contagious Enthusiasm

Children of The False Promise


dispensationchart.jpgIn the 1980s, with the ascendancy of Dallas Theological Seminary, and the influx of evangelicals en masse into political culture, we saw the rapid growth of dispensationalism not only as a religious underpinning of nearly all protestantism in the US, but also an underpinning of neoconservatism, reaganism, and modern political life. In short, it systematized the culture according to a religious philosophy, specifically a heresy that has become a cultural heresy.

domeontherock.jpgThe dispensationalist believes the heresy that there is another people of promise, other than the Church, who has access to a unique soteriology – namely, Israel. This correlates very neatly with the almost mindless support of Israel politically in the US since 1949 (and is the primary cause of the US’s hostile relationship with the Muslim world since that time).

In 1982, DTS (as a case study) flourished with their new theological Masters program, as the ideological and institutional center, of this movement in culture and religion. Even most evangelicals hadn’t heard of Ryrie or even Scofield before that. And in that same year, Israel invaded Lebanon, with US support. Hal Lindsey lit the bookshelves, TV, and radio, on precisely these subjects – Israel and “prophesy”. Just one year before (1981) is the beginning of the L-curve of “rapture” literature in the US – beginning with Chuck Smith (Edgar Whisenant would follow), and is also the year Reagan took office and the beginning of Reaganism and a new brand of neoconservatism to go with the politicized neo-evangelicalism. So what does this have to do with Western Rite? . . .

Without going into the details on the heresy of dispensationalism, its origins, and its many impieties, religious and political life was and is (though latent now) awash with it. Consider a moment, for contrast, Orthodox thinking:

We are Israel. Period. Go ask an elevator full of Jews what a Jew is, and you’ll start an argument over whether a Jew is an ethnicity, a citizen of the state of Israel, or a practitioner of Judaism. The dispensationalists have their ideas about it, too. But us?

arkofthenewcovenant.jpg“We’re just Jews,” an old Bishop used to say. Abraham is St. Abraham. Isaac is St. Isaac. For that matter the first man is St. Adam, and he was Orthodox, just like the angels before him. There is one Faith, and always has been – never two. We are the children of Abraham like stars. Our temple is the temple, and our Christ (Messiah) and his Mother are the fulfillment of everything therein, to which everything in the temple looked forward just as we now look back on the faith of the fathers as our faith.

The Theotokos is the Ark of the New Covenant, the Ark of our salvation, the New Eve. Christ is the New Adam who made from one blood all the nations of the world, who made a new thing, so that union with Him is the fulfilled promise of salvation. Indeed, he descended into Hell, and preached to our fathers, the patriarchs, and made them now of one body with us. There is but one path of salvation for Jew and Greek a like, and both are made one. This is the meaning of peace on earth. All peace, of all kinds. Indeed, this is the Millenial Reign of Christ, the “1000 years” of peace. In this peace of God, which passes understanding, the union of men is possible, without reference to ethnicity, to culture, for God has made of one blood all the nations of the World, rendering no difference of dispensation for Jew and Greek. There is one Faith, only one Baptism, and certainly there is only one Spirit and one Lord in whose bond we share.

Christ (with his Mother) is the fulfillment of ALL promises, and this is the point of the geneologies beginning the gospels. Seed of David, save us sons of Abraham, who say Hosanna! The Kingdom is upon us, the King has entered Jerusalem and is enthroned upon our hearts, and He shall reign a thousand years, indeed forever and ever, the King with us always, even unto ages of ages.

abraham.jpgIt is absolute and unadulterated heresy to say that there is any other people who have a unique soteriology outside of the Church. We are the True Jerusalem, the Israel of God. The middle wall of partition is broken down, and there is neither now Jew nor Greek, but both are one. There is only one means of salvation: the Church. The Jew is the one who inhabits the Jerusalem of Christ’s economia – his Incarnation breaking forth in history – in his inviolate Church. The Church is One and cannot be divided, and is the fullness of the Faith and safe ark of the faithful, when the destruction that comes is wreaked upon the world. But the dispensationalist cannot accept this. He supports the state of Israel and Jewish people politically and with an anti-Orthodox religious doctrine. For him, the promised are fulfilled not in the Christ and Theotokos to the Church, but are dispensed to an ethnic/national/religious Israel, and they await the Millenial Reign of Peace as though it has not yet come, and can only come when the state of Israel is ascendant politically and geographically (and militarily), rebuilding the temple where the Muslim dome now stands.

dispensation-beliefs.jpgAside from the pernicious heresy, do you see the mandate for the last 60 years of war in the Middle East? It is absolutely essential to anyone even vaguely from this pervasive tradition, even if they don’t really fully grasp why “Israel MUST be supported!” to quote the US president.

Imagine now if this type of thinking, religiously, politically — culturally, embedded in all the religious assumptions of the convert, is allowed to remain unconverted. And I do mean ALL the religious assumptions, for dispensationalism is doctrinally ubiquitous. It changes the meaning of all Christ’s words, all his acts, the ecclesiology, the attitude toward the Theotokos, Saints, ikons, salvation itself, everything. What would be the mentality, the attitude, religiously and culturally (for those are the two things we’re talking about) of someone who came to Orthodoxy clinging to that kind of training.

It would be one that conflates and confuses culture, ethnicity, and religion. It would have a specific set of attitudes about ethnocentrism, about homogeneity, about religious ritual (specifically about rites), and we would see those issues, from mainstream evangelical/protestant/catholic culture become issues in Orthodoxy.

This is a hard thing to explain or fully grasp if one is not intimately familiar with the results of this tribulational, millenial, raptural, age of grace, age of law, age of innocence, parenthetical age, age of the church, age of israel, dispensationalist thinking, and how it affects the overall hermeutic evangelicals bring to scripture and therefore to everything, given their framework.

Converting from that can be very hard.
One has to relearn everything. The basic meanings of psalms, of the Sermon on the Mount, of the acts of the Forerunner, and of the more serious doctrines of the meaning of the Church, Christ’s saving work, and conversion and Christ’s economy. In other words, a dispensationalist in attitude or in thought cannot understand the Gospel. Even John 3:16 will be a different flavour. So much so, that one Othodox Bishop even required converts from any heterodox confession, during the renunciations, to specifically renounce the heresy of dispensationalism, the notion that ethnic/national/religious Israel has a special grace and salvific promise waiting in the future, and that there is any salvation awaiting Israel outside the Church. Breathe and spit. Breathe and spit, they had to do. Or they could not become Orthodox.

Before, we carried an [article] on Cradle and Convert, Jew and Greek as a template for addressing attitudes surrounding the Western Rite. This is yet one more set of concerns on this topic of conversion, ecclesiology, soteriology, eschatology, (ulimately anthropology and christology), psychology, and the Western rite.

Dispensationalism is nationalism, ethnocentrism, and phyletism made into a religious psychology and epistemology. Dispensationalism is a form of Judaizing. It is gnostic in character, and creates a psychological state of raised consciousness (or “awareness”) that undoes in the mind all the words of the apostles and teachings of the Church. And it correlates with the particular set of concerns that keep coming up related to converts who quickly become Western Rite, with regard to culture, ethnicity, and the fundamental doctrines of ecclesiology and soteriology – the Church itself, and salvation and what conversion is.

One may contend this is not a coincidence. How many such books, tapes, videos, study bibles, etc. are on the shelves of the mind, let alone those of the home?

The danger of nationalism lies in its subconsciously altering the hierarchy of values, so that the nation no longer serves Christian justice, truth or itself, and no longer evaluates its life in accordance with these qualities. Instead, Christianity itself and the Church begin to be assessed and evaluated by the extent to which they serve the state, the nation, etc.” – Fr. Alexander (Schmemann)

Now we Orthodox have something of our own that is like dispensations, namely the days of creation. In six days God made all things, and on the seventh God rested. The eighth day of Creation is union with God – theosis – our only salvation, and so we say that Christ’s entire Economy (oikonomia, age of creation/redememption, condescension, Incarnation) is the eighth day, the all-sufficient day, the aeternal day that will see no end. the word oikonomia, when it appears in scripture, is translated, in the West, as ‘dispensation’. You see how there is one dispensation for all human beings. We begin our history not with Adam or the creation of the world. We begin with God becoming man, making the union of man and God possible – we begin with the Incarnation, and we do history looking back from there to the beginning, and forward from there to now, the Judgment, and Heaven. Christ is the center of one great age, dispensation, economy of the salvation of all creation. The Incarnation is our peace, our millenial reign, our rapture, and no one comes to the Father but by Him.

O Lord, Glory to Thy Condescension! We know no other age of salvation: a light unto the Gentiles, the glory of thy people Israel.

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February 3, 2008 - Posted by | -- Eschatology, -- Phyletism, Western Rite Issues | , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

9 Comments »

  1. Let’s cut to the chase: the Evangelicals are in the Orthodox Church to the extent that even prayers to the Theotokos were minimized in proofs of the Orthodox Study Bible. Many were on the fast track to priesthood and still are.

    I think it’s fair to say that “rebuilding the Temple” along with neocon politics has eclipsed the Rapture…

    Comment by publican123 | March 24, 2009 | Reply

  2. I found these sites were really helpful too (see below)! I come from a dispensational church that had me CONSTANTLY CONFUSED and waning in faith! Not to mention all other icky fleshed out things that happened to me in that church… I came out of false doctrine by reading, praying and searching online and I found these to be so great!

    http://jesus-messiah.com/prophecy/not-one-stone.html

    http://www.amazon.com/review/R23N0VKWEW03X3

    Dispensationalists and Preterists are ICKY ICKY WRONG. I have many Jewish friends and I am translating what I’ve learned into spanish for them. They are latin jewish. Has anyone ever read the Talmud, a book today’s flesh jewish religion adheres to? It is so blasphemous and horrendous I literally can’t write it here. Do a search online and you too will say dispensationalists REPENT if you think God has a hand or a plan on these traditions in the future kingdom that are revolting!

    God’s plan for Jew first and for gentile is to come into the LOVE OF GOD and His perfect plan of salvation through Jesus’ sacrifice end of story. Its final.

    Comment by jewelsprout | February 17, 2009 | Reply

  3. oooooooooooooooo I AM SO GRATEFUL for this post!

    Its simple and beautiful. We are saved by Jesus all else is heresy.

    Comment by jewelsprout | February 17, 2009 | Reply

  4. I am unaware that the bizarre “Rapture” beliefs are held by anyone in the Antiochian Western Rite Vicariate (AWRV), or by any Western rite Orthodox clergy or laity I’ve ever known, whether officially recognised or old-calendarist. My two cents.

    Comment by hieromonachusaidanus | February 17, 2008 | Reply

  5. Father. Thank you, as always, for your insight.

    You’re right, I don’t believe Joachim of Fiore is the source of the ‘rapture’ doctrine per se, merely a predecessor in the intellectual pedigree of dispenstationalism. But, admittedly, I say that because I see him as the intellectual predecessor of a lot of other Western thought that has created the crucible out of which a whole host of other things have come – from marxism, hegelianism, and a lot of mainline Protestant doctrine to revolutionary teleology in general, in France, throughout Europe, the Soviet Union, and in England and the United States’ own forms of government. And also, of course, the contemporary format of dispensationalism which includes now the rapture theory.

    An example of this – Sheridan’s book (I believe it’s called “They speak with other tongues”)- can’t remember, it’s been a couple of decades – attempts to show a pedigree of Charismaticism dating back to apostolic times. Of course, it forces him to appeal to apocalyptic cults, non-Christian groups that favor a kind of possession like Mother Ann Lee and the Shakers (a woman who claimed to be the Incarnation of the Holy Spirit, from what I remember), and ultimate the gnostics (e.g. the Montanists), of course. One knows it has to go there, to the anti-Orthodox and enemies of all Christians. The thing is, he’s partly searching for a pedigree, and partly right in finding a kind of pedigree of that attitude. In the same way, one finds the pedigree of Protestantism in Roman Catholicism, for which we call the Pope the first Protestant. Though you could argue just as effectively that that too goes back to the gnostics.

    All I’m saying in Fiore’s case is that his thinking enabled the current environment through a chain of intellectual pedigree of which he is but a link, but I think an important and underestimated one. Just an opinion.

    I’m wondering if what you say is true about the Anglicans. It’s a question I have. I assume at face value that the anglo-catholics are the more likely to convert, and the low-anglicans are more likely to just create something like the CEC. But then, seeing a lot of the CEC convert (albeit some of them are remaining Protestant by going to Rome), I wonder for precisely that reason. The AngloCatholics were concerned about things like succession to begin with. The CEC types weren’t. They imitated high church, but based it on low church attitudes, if you see what I’m saying.

    Anyway, you might be right. I have no idea whether dispensationalist attitudes held sway in the CEC (not necessarily the rapture, but the attitudes about law/grace, the reading of the scriptures, etc.) Those concern me far more than a ‘rapture’ doctrine does. When the words of the Sermon on the mount cease to apply to Christians, we’re not of the same Faith. When Israel (not as in the Church) is seen as a future people of promise, that’s serious heresy, and there’s belief in the efficacy of reinstitutes sacrifices for ‘tribulation saints’, we’re not even talking about the same religion any more. That’s the occult. But I don’t know that the CEC had any of this at all; probably one of their former members who read the site could be of more help here.

    I do link charismaticism and dispensationalism as forms of one another, though. The charismatic doctrine denies that the Holy Spirit came once for all in fullness, offering a different ecclesiology, mysteriology and, arguably, theology. Instead, they must divide the times into a pre-Pentecost, post-Pentecost, then personal Pentecost and Age of the Spirit (a la Fiore and a la dispensationalism). And so there seems to be a lot of attraction of Charismatics either to classic dispensationalism, or contemporary evangelical dispensationalism, or a variant of that which allows for Charismatic belief. Since those things directly affect the mentality about the mysteries, the church itself, who the Holy Spirit is (not in doctrinal confession, but in what the attitude says about it), and indeed about the whole economy of Christ, it’s at least a question here.

    Again tho, I’ve no specific reason, other than charismaticism, to ask that question about the CEC – I just don’t know. It IS extremely refreshing to see that Orthodox bookstores do not typically contain a lot of “end times” writing, even if they do some times contain heretical writing. I picked up some neo-gnostic work by a Russian priest who clearly worshipped Wisdom as an aeon descending from the divinity, and would much rather it had been Tim Lahaye.

    Comment by tuD | February 17, 2008 | Reply

  6. You’re right that there is a divide amonst High/Low Anglicans – my experience, however, is that only “High” Anglicans and Episcopalians – Anglo-Catholics – have any desire to come into Orthodoxy. Low Anglicans are far less liturgical, and have an Ecclesiology which places little emphasis on Apostolic Doctrines like the “Real Presence,” Apostolic Succession, etc. High Anglicans are drawn to Orthodoxy because they see we have maintained the Apostolic teaching – and, while I have met many very sincere and well-intentioned members of the WRV, I do know that some others were drawn to Orthodoxy as a source of “valid orders.” Low Anglicans would not trouble themselves at all with the idea of Apostolic succession, and would sooner set up on their own than come to Orthodoxy looking for “succssion.” Generally speaking, that is.

    As far as the “rapture” being a Jesuit idea inspired by Gioachino di Fiore, this is really only Protestant Propaganda. You see, the Evangelicals were taken to task by many Protestant and Catholic scholars, who pointed out that the rapture doctrine was a brand-new idea with no basis in Christian historical thought. This sent Evangelicals on a quest to “prove” that their idea had been around for much longer. They found a document by “Pseudo-Methodius,” written in the mid-7th century. Pseudo Methodius did not teach a rapture, but he hinted at chiliasm and held to the theory (still current in many Orthodox circles) that the end of the world is somehow tied to the existence of Orthodox monarchies.

    Joachim di Fiore did teach a type of chiliasm and dispensationalism, but from what I’ve found he did not teach the rapture, per se. I could be wrong on that.

    What’s really happening, is that Evangelicals are grasping at straws to prove their doctrine is more than 200 years old or so. The Roman Catholic Church condemned Fiore at the 4th Lateran Council in 1215, and again in 1263 under Pope Alexander. In fact, one of Fiore’s opponents was the pillar of Roman Catholic thought, Thomas Aquinas. So, his teachings cannot be said to be a part of Roman Catholic thought – in fact, one of the books that helped me reject my own belief in dispensational theology was written by a Roman Catholic (“Will Catholics be Left Behind?” by Carl Olson).

    My experience with Protestants, is that those outside the Evangelical sphere of influence (like Anglo-Catholics, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, etc.,) are thoroughly opposed to the Rapture doctrine. In fact, the sound, scholarly attacks upon the Rapture by so many good authors even convinces some Evangelicals. For instance, the pastor of my Southern Baptist church rejected the Rapture – even though this bought him a lot of flack from his own family and his congregation. Nevertheless, he refused to incorporate the Rapture into his sermons, despite the fact that the “Left Behind” series was all the rage, and it was the only thing most Protestants cared to talk about for several years.

    Anyway, I wouldn’t worry too much that WR folk will have accepted this theory; Anglo-Catholics probably pride themselves on not following the Evangelical fad in this regard. If it exists anywhere, it would be in the Evangelical Orthodox – but I remember reading a pamphlet and a book written by former EO people, which stressed the need for Protestant converts to understand the Orthodox Church’s teaching on the matter. So, I bet it’s even a moot point there.

    Finally, I don’t know much about the CEC. I would imagine that their insistence upon the Seven Sacraments, Ecumenical Councils and Apostolic Succession indicates a general hesitancy to embrace new, Evangelical doctrines. If their “charismatic” element is always held to their doctrinal standard, I think this is a safe bet. But if their “charismatic” element is viewed as more important than their doctrinal foundations, who knows what some of them believe?

    Comment by fatheraugustine | February 17, 2008 | Reply

  7. What about the CEC? I’m not implying – I don’t know – but I am curious.

    You might be right about this. My experience w. the Episcopalian/Anglicans, however, is that they’re divided into ‘wings’ of low church protestants and anglo catholics. Not neatly divided, mind you – endless shades in between, but still some distinct trends, which at least give room for some of this thinking. Again, I may be wrong.

    Lastly, I think the Roman Catholics are credited (via Joachim of Fiore) with coming up with the model in the first place, it being based in some thinking, on the occult. We certainly see a lot of same thinking prevalent in the academies, in politics, and in religion, in one form or another owing its pedigree to Joachim and, again, arguably the occult.

    Of course, there’s a lot of clamour among some Protestants that it’s a Jesuit doctrine – not sure if that’s fair, but the Jesuits get blamed for everything, and confused with Roman Catholics in general. I remember a group of Protestants denouncing someone who shared their politics, and the only claim they could foment was “He’s a Jesuit!” He wasn’t, of course; he was just Roman Catholic. 🙂

    Comment by tuD | February 16, 2008 | Reply

  8. As a former Protestant myself, now a convert, I can say that I don’t believe the dangers of this largely Evangelical Protestant theology are a danger to the Western Rite. In fact, I’d look to the parishes of the former “Evangelical Orthodox” as the single most likely place for this type of thinking to still exist.

    Episcopalianism, Anglo-Catholics and Roman Catholics all (from my experience with them) have long since rejected and continue to reject the dispensationalist attitudes and teachings about the “rapture,” etc. I don’t think the Western Rite is as likely to experience these problems as the Evangelical Orthodox are.

    Comment by fatheraugustine | February 16, 2008 | Reply

  9. This is a nice excerpt from a Bishop’s Horos (Confession of Faith) that deals with the subjects.

    and sitteth on the right hand of the Father, and He shall come again with glory, to judge both the quick and the dead, Whose Kingdom shall have no end;

    Which Kingdom began in His First Advent in humility, continueth now, and abideth forever; and I reject and utterly repudiate any and all the heresies of the “Bible Christians” and “Fundamentalist-Dispensationalists” and “Born Againists”, i.e., that set of confusing and mutually contradictory but equally unChristian doctrines called “dispensationalism” which state that Our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ did not make, by His Incarnate Life, Death, Resurrection, Glorious Ascension and Heavenly Intercession, a full and complete fulfillment of all the prophesies and types of the Old Covenant and of its sacrifices, temples, kingdoms, promises and ministries; and I repudiate and anathematize that teaching and them that teach that there will be some future time or “dispensation” before His Second Advent in Glory when men will again approach God acceptably through the reinstated temples and sacrifices of the Old Law, and likewise repudiate and anathematize any who would presume to teach that heresy that there will in that future time of reinstated sacrifices of the Old Law be a “people of God” called “tribulation saints” separate and distinct from all right-believing Christians, who approach God not through the Mystery of His Sacrifice in the Holy Eucharist, but who, following rigorously the heretical implications of their false doctrine, take up again turtle doves and lambs, and turn from Our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ the True Priest, Altar, Lamb and Sacrifice of God, and who would thus presume to be a new nation and royal priesthood without Holy Baptism, Chrismation, Eucharist, or Orders;

    And I reject and repudiate absolutely the notion that there will be a future millennial reign of Our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ after a period of tribulation brought upon the world by Antichrist, not because there will not be a real Antichrist or real tribulations brought about by him, nor even because a pretended “restoration” of the sacrifices of the Old Law will not occur, for of all these things do the Holy Fathers testify; but I do repudiate and reject their false and perverse understandings of these things who, with their “Bible Maps of the Ages” and all similar cabalistic charts and graphs of dispensations and temples and kingdoms and raptures, teach only materialism and the gratification of their bellies, since they are concerned only for political messiahs and earthly riches and kingdoms and privileges of the Old Law, and that, looking for Christ, they are deceived, and actually prepare for Antichrist;

    Moreover, I anathematize as the most obnoxious and repugnant of the dispensationalists’ heresies that odious twisting of Holy Scripture called the “Rapture”, by which is meant that Our Lord returns in two stages, the first time secretly to “snatch up” His Church prior to that period of spiritual suffering and warfare known to them and their charts as the “Great Tribulation” in order to save His Church from that suffering which He Himself spared not Himself; I repudiate it as being the very denial of the Resurrection and the Spirit of martyrdom and willingness to endure sufferings for His sake Who suffered for us and Who overcame death for us, not that we might not suffer or die, but that these things might be made the means of our own salvation;

    Wherefore, I anathematize all them that have aided in the spread these damnable and detestable doctrines, to wit, Scofield, Darby, Ryrie, Pentecost, Chafer, Lindsay, Bloomfield, and any of like mind with them;

    Comment by Asher | February 6, 2008 | Reply


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