mercredi 28 janvier 2015
mercredi 16 juin 2010
Mormons and Patristic Studies
How Mormons Use the Church Fathers to Defend Mormonism
by Chris Welborn
The patristic period of church history refers to the first few centuries following the New Testament period. The Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox churches typically have held this period in higher regard than have other churches. This is not surprising, since they share many points of theology and morality from this period. These churches also claim a line of divine authority from the New Testament period through the patristic period to this day.
Mormons have studied patristic writers increasingly since the middle of the twentieth century so as to use them to justify their church’s claim to be the true church. In doing this, they presuppose without qualification that Mormon theology and practice are true, and that the same Mormon theology and practice that are prevalent in the present day also were normative in the New Testament period. They then examine patristic writings to find similarities and dissimilarities to their theology and practice. The similarities, they say, were a remnant of authentic New Testament belief. The dissimilarities, however, they blanketly attribute to Hellenistic (Greek) philosophy, which they suppose entered and corrupted the church after the apostles died. In using patristic sources, Mormons have scoured unorthodox as well as orthodox Christian writings. Many of these Mormon scholars are competent in their various fields, but their constant motive to validate Mormonism often distorts the conclusions of their study of this period.
The first 500 to 600 years after the New Testament period is referred to as the patristic period,1 a time during which many theological beliefs and ecclesiastical traditions developed and solidified. Protestants generally have little knowledge of what occurred in the church during this period. The Eastern Orthodox churches and the Roman Catholic Church have always had the most regard for the patristic period. In the earliest writings, beginning at the end of the first century, it is quite easy to see trends, practices, and beliefs developing that correspond most closely with the Eastern Orthodox and Western Catholic churches. There are, however, relatively few points of contact between the writings of the patristic period and modern conservative Protestantism apart from some similarities of Christology (the study and nature of Christ), theology proper (the study and nature of God), and morality. Protestants’ views of this period have ranged from outright rejection or indifference (Anabaptist traditions) to high regard (Anglican, Lutheran, and other “high church” denominations that claim to be lineally related to the patristic period).
THE BLACK HOLE OF CHURCH HISTORY
The notion that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as the LDS or Mormon Church) is even interested in the patristic period at all may come as some surprise to those who are familiar with LDS teachings. Mormons historically have taught that with the death of the New Testament apostles and prophets, divine authority left the church. This authority was reestablished in the 1800s by Joseph Smith, Jr., founder of Mormonism, who claimed to be the recipient and restorer of divine authority back to earth. Mormons claim that this authority had been lost for centuries because of the advent and supremacy of wickedness and religious corruption in the place of Christian truth. Mormons initially demonstrated little positive regard for the theological and historical formulation of Christianity after the New Testament period because of their belief in this apostasy, or falling away from the truth.
Filling the Black Hole
Like the LDS, most newly formed religious movements believe that Christianity started pure but became corrupt, resulting in a period of church history that they see as a black hole. To them, little or nothing in this black hole has real value. After a certain period of time passed, they claim, some individual or group arose at last to restore Christianity to its pure form. Divine favor now rests on the earth again, they believe, because of the presence of either the new or restored church.
In their early years, Mormons largely ignored the patristic period because of this black-hole mentality, but increasingly they have found the period useful, even essential. Mormons, like most authoritarian groups that claim either exclusive or the purest divine favor, have an ulterior motive behind their newfound interest in this period: the validation of their sect. Note, however, that denominational validation is irrevocably tied to the presupposition that a black hole existed in Christian history. Mormon scholar Kent P. Jackson says, “It is the apostasy of early Christianity which creates the very need for the [Mormon] faith: if there had not been an apostasy, there would have been no need for a restoration.”2 In other words, Mormonism would have been—and would currently be—irrelevant. This of course is unacceptable to devotees of any given sect who claim that their institution is necessary for the attainment of God’s fullest favor.
Measuring Patristic Beliefs by Mormon Standards
The fundamental standard by which Mormons measure patristic beliefs is modern LDS theology and practice. This nonnegotiable premise must be recognized in order to understand Mormon work in patristics.
Mormons have demonstrated two ways of looking at the patristic period. First, they look for what they consider incorrect theology; that is, any ancient doctrine (or practice) that does not agree with current Mormon beliefs. They believe that these teachings were the result of corruption. One of the most common explanations that modern Mormon academics use for this corruption is a line of argumentation elaborated by nineteenth-century German liberal Protestant scholar Adolph Harnack. Harnack and several contemporaries asserted that, during the patristic period, Hellenistic (Greek) philosophy entered the Christian church, secularizing and defiling true theology and ecclesiastical practice. Mormons teach that this happened because the divinely appointed officials (and hence their authority) had already left the earth. The first Mormon to use this argument was B. H. Roberts in the early twentieth century.3 Since then, Mormons have built on, elaborated, and refined this notion of corruption such that it is now a foundational construct in modern Mormon claims for an ancient apostasy.
Second, Mormons look for remnants of what they consider correct theology; that is, theology that agrees with current Mormon beliefs. To Mormons, an important feature of this alleged correct theology is that historically the Eastern and Western Catholic churches either rejected it as heretical or ignored it as incidental. Mormons inductively argue that the existence of ancient teachings that are similar to current Mormon theology is evidence that the earliest Christians in the period of purity before the apostasy also believed such theology. Mormons then assert that as the Catholic churches grew corrupt and politically dominant, they pushed this alleged true theology out of existence, suppressing it and its advocates. Mormon academicians thus pick through the proverbial patristic refuse pile for scraps of theology that actually or potentially can match their own, while scarcely touching the banquet of teaching in the Bible.4 Perhaps the reason for this is that the Bible provides a poor foundation for Mormon theology and practice. This realization drives the diligent Mormon examination of extrabiblical sources, from ancient discarded beliefs to heretical new revelation, to find support for the existence of their Church.
IMPOSING MODERN MORMON THOUGHT ONTO ANCIENT CHRISTIAN TEXTS
Hugh Nibley (1910–2005), the father of modern Mormon patristic study, educated at Brigham Young University (BYU), University of California at Los Angeles, and University of California at Berkeley, served as a beacon for other Mormon scholars. He was an example in terms of his natural intelligence and language ability, but also in his thorough knowledge of patristic and intertestamental source material. Nibley, a voracious reader, had an uncanny knack of finding ignored or discarded elements of patristic and intertestamental theology and practice. Prior to Nibley, Mormons who used patristic sources mostly looked for elements of theology that were incorrect (according to Mormon standards) and that could be attributed to corruption entering the church. Nibley was the first to search comprehensively for theology that supported Mormon beliefs and to use it competently to the advantage of Mormonism.
Roughly two generations of LDS religious scholars have arisen since Nibley. Like Nibley, most have sought graduate-level education at recognized schools outside of Utah. Unlike Nibley, whose knowledge was broad (though still surprisingly deep), most of these scholars have specialized in areas of intertestamental literature or patristics that are quite narrow. Due to the apologetic nature of their commitment to Mormonism, however, and its sustained, wide-ranging search for correct and incorrect early Christian theology, many of these scholars have successfully crossed into areas of study outside of their training.
David Paulsen, who is trained as an attorney and a philosopher, and who currently teaches at BYU in the Department of Philosophy, is one such person.5 Paulsen has done much work on patristic statements that say God is embodied and physical. He has shown, for example, that Origen (d. AD 254?) as well as Augustine (d. AD 430) wrote that some Christians variously believed that God was physical, having an embodied form.6 Tertullian (d. AD 220) went beyond these third-person affirmations and personally claimed to believe that God is physical. Then, in an excessive generalization common to Mormon scholarship regarding the patristic period, Paulsen asserts that this belief in a physical, embodied God represents the earliest widespread Christian belief. Paulsen conjectures that by the late patristic period this true (i.e., Mormon) belief was being choked out of existence by the false (i.e., non-Mormon), philosophically infused teaching of the Catholic majority, which taught instead that God the Father was a spiritual entity without a physical, bodily form.
Nibley frequently uses the same inferential logic in his chapter on the doctrine of baptism for the dead in Mormonism and Early Christianity.7 Nibley claims that the earliest Christians believed that salvation for the dead was the preeminent postresurrection message of Jesus. He presents patristic parallels to Mormon baptism for the dead that he has found in ancient Coptic inscriptions, in secret teaching alluded to by various ancient persons, in a statement by the second-century Shepherd of Hermas, and in the third-century theologian Origen.8 Nibley typically picks over incidental patristic points while he ignores the canonical Gospel accounts that nowhere show Jesus having an interest in this type of baptism. Nibley takes certain early statements that he interprets in a distinctly Mormon sense of baptism for the dead, applies these statements to the earlier time of Jesus, and arrives at a theology literally read back in time.
This method of reading modern belief back in time is common in the history of biblical interpretation. First, an individual or group finds one or two Bible verses that seem to support a peculiar theology that is already held by the individual or group. The intent of these verses is then assumed to be the same as the modern practice or belief. Once a connection has been made, no matter how weak, those Bible verses become “proof” for what must have been normative for the Christian community in the pure, original, early church. Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, have done this with verses in Acts 15 to justify their blood restrictions, and with verses such as Acts 5:42 to justify their door-to-door ministry. Certain groups have interpreted the “keys of the kingdom” passage in Matthew 16 to support their line of authority. No one is immune from this or other types of errant biblical construction, showing the necessity of careful biblical interpretation for all persons.
CONTRIBUTIONS TO FRUITFUL PATRISTIC STUDY
Not all Mormon use of patristic sources is incorrect, biased, or sloppy. The notion that whatever Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, or other unorthodox groups say is automatically incorrect is false. Conservative Protestantism often has promoted this type of thinking, at least implicitly, in regard to these groups. Arguments need to be weighed on their own merits, not on the merits of those who present them. Cults and false religious movements actually have much truth to teach Christians and serve as adversarial sharpening stones by which authentic Christianity historically has become stronger. This has occurred through the opportunity to exercise sober biblical interpretation, sound theological formulation, and careful use of reason and logic in rebutting false teaching.
Some Mormon examination of early Christian writings is competent and untainted by sweeping apologetic conclusions. This is true even at times when the motives for examination are sectarian and apologetic. Mormon scholar S. Kent Brown, for example, presents an informative study that summarizes Coptic and Greek inscriptions from ancient patristic-era Egypt.9 These inscriptions range from funerary to ornamental to liturgical and illustrate how Christians uniquely lived and believed in that time and place.
Mormon scholar Wilford Griggs, likewise, has studied Egyptian Coptic Christianity of the same period and up to AD 451, showing that it was able to grow and flourish apart from Catholicism. Egyptian Coptic Christianity was never bound to Roman authority, nor did it have a formal doctrinal structure—characteristics deemed as essential especially to Western-based Catholicism. Griggs’s implicit point, or “hidden agenda,” according to fellow Mormon reviewer Keith Norman, was that there were places and contexts where Christianity could and did flourish apart from Eastern or Western Catholicism.10 This supports and expands the thesis presented by the Protestant scholar Walter Bauer in Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity, that Catholicism was not necessarily the earliest form of orthodoxy. Catholics, rather, in the beginning were just one of many groups that claimed the name “Christian.” Those groups later labeled as “heretical” had just as much initial claim to authentic Christianity as did Catholicism.11 As Western Catholicism gained political power, however, these heretical groups were marginalized and excluded by the Catholicism that was gradually becoming orthodoxy. Griggs’s implicit argument is that if Coptic Christianity can be considered authentically “Christian” despite its distant relationship with Catholicism, then so can Mormonism be considered Christian despite its lack of relationship with other Christian denominations. Griggs’s study of Coptic Christianity is an example of reasonable scholarship, despite the forced apologetic bias that drove his study.
Perhaps Protestants could also benefit from his implicit conclusions in validating Mormonism. If Protestantism seeks to justify its authenticity, its reason for existence, apart from Catholicism, then early historical examples of other groups doing the same can prove helpful. This does not guarantee the validity and truthfulness of the teachings of any given Protestant denomination any more than it does for Mormonism, but it can prove to be illuminating and support the concept of authentic Christianity existing apart from the Catholic tradition.
DETRACTIONS FROM FRUITFUL PATRISTIC STUDY
One topic on which Mormonism seriously has misrepresented patristic thought is the theological concept of deification. Some early writers who were professing Christians made questionable statements that at first may appear to support the Mormon concept of human progression to the status of gods. Justin Martyr in the mid-second century, for example, said in his interpretation of Psalm 82 that humans could “become worthy to turn into Gods.”12 This statement appears to be similar to the Mormon concept of human exaltation to divinity. In the immediate context, however, Justin explains his meaning, saying that these persons have power “to become sons of the highest.” In other places in the same work, Justin makes it clear there is only one God, which is in striking contrast to the Mormon doctrine of human progression: “Neither will there be another God…nor was there [another God] from the beginning…besides the one making (creating) and arranging everything. Neither is [there] another God reckoned for us and another for [the Jews], but [only] that one [who] led your fathers out of Egypt.”13
Justin also states that “above God there is no other.”14 On one hand he says that humans can turn into Gods; on the other he says there is but one God. Giving Justin the benefit of the doubt that he did not contradict himself, it is unlikely that his phrase “turn into Gods” meant “to become Gods in the same sense as the biblical God,” as is assumed by Mormon authors. It is likely, rather, that he meant a human becomes a “son of God” in the sense of becoming one of God’s people, keeping God’s commands.15 In this view, a human remains human and yet becomes a son of God—ontologically distinct from the one true God—by turning from error and following the ways of the one true God.16 This interpretation accords well with Justin’s overall theology and does not make him contradict himself in terms of how many actual Gods exist, as the Mormon interpretation does.17
Other early Christian writers used deification terminology; however, most of these writers were careful to safeguard the unity of God, abundantly affirming that there is only one true God. They, therefore, could not have been using deification language in the sense of a human becoming another God in addition to the God presented in Scripture. In other words, they did not mean (as Mormons have continually misrepresented them) that humans become gods by nature (i.e., in actual being) to join a group of gods that includes the “Heavenly Father” God of Christianity.18 The church historian and Eastern Orthodox scholar Jaroslav Pelikan shows that the patristic term deification (or divinization) is synonymous with the patristic term salvation.19 Modern Eastern Catholic theologians have defined deification in the same essential way their patristic forebears did, using it to refer to salvation as participation in the communicable attributes of God’s nature (i.e., those attributes of God’s nature that can be communicated to or possessed by a human, such as holiness, power, and glory) without violating that singular divine nature.20 Eastern Orthodox writer Kallistos Ware makes this clear: “The union between God and the human beings that he has created is a union neither according to [divine] essence nor according to [person], it remains thirdly that it should be a union according to energy. The saints do not become God by essence nor one person with God, but they participate in the energies of God, that is to say, in His life, power, grace, and glory.”21
Eastern Catholic writer Vladimir Lossky concurs, saying in his interpretation of deification, “If we [humans] were able at any given moment to be united to the very essence of God…we should not at the moment be what we are, we should [,rather,] be God by nature. God would then no longer be Trinity.”22 In this case there would be many divine persons beyond the three persons of the Trinity, a notion Lossky rejects as unbiblical. The Mormon doctrine of deification results not only in multiple divine persons beyond the three in the Trinity, as Lossky demonstrates, but also in multiple divine beings beyond the one true God, which is polytheism. Mormons, moreover, not only believe this, but they assume it to have been the theology of the ancients.
Most introductory logic textbooks list a logical fallacy called equivocation that occurs when “some word or group of words is used either implicitly or explicitly in two different senses”23; that is, one word is used to mean two different things. An elephant’s trunk is not a clothes trunk; likewise, patristic and Eastern Orthodox deification is not Mormon deification, despite the fact that Mormon authors would like to think so.24 A classic example of equivocation is when Mormon authors argue that since the Christian community has considered the patristic writers and Eastern Orthodoxy to be Christian, despite having taught deification, so too should Mormons be accorded the title “Christian” despite teaching deification. Mormon deification, however, means attaining godhood within the same basic god-man nature or species as the Mormon “Heavenly Father” God. This pagan notion of deification is sharply divergent from the patristic notion of deification (or salvation), in which a human participates in the presence of God while remaining a distinctly different kind of being.25 In the latter, there remains a sharp qualitative difference between divine and human nature.26 The two natures, divine and human, have been joined only in Jesus.
RELATING MOTIVES TO PROCEDURES AND RESULTS
Certain conclusions of Mormon scholars concerning the patristic period are accurate and helpful. Their sectarian motive of trying to justify the belief that the Mormon Church is the true church, however, has led them to examine the field in an incomplete, patchwork manner. Further, in order to support their theology, Mormons sometimes have interpreted patristic works in ways that force meanings onto the texts that the authors never intended and distort the authors’ intended meanings. In such circumstances, these Mormons are predisposed to drawing faulty conclusions.
1. The Latin pater means “father.” The Fathers are the first Christians who wrote after the period of the New Testament. Patristics is the study of these earliest, post-New Testament writings.
2. Kent P. Jackson, “‘Watch and Remember’: The New Testament and the Great Apostasy,” in By Study and Faith: Essays in Honor of Hugh Nibley on the Occasion of His 80th Birthday, ed. J. M. Lundquist and S. D. Ricks (Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1990), 81.
3. B. H. Roberts, The Mormon Doctrine of Deity: The Roberts-Van Der Donckt Discussion (1903; repr., ed. D. L. Paulsen [Salt Lake City: Signature, 1998]), 180.
4. The Mormon Church historically has been disinterested in serious biblical exegesis, or interpretation of the Bible based on the original languages. The Church, instead, despite possessing many scholars (but no official leaders—apostles or prophets) who are competent in biblical languages, holds to a four–hundred-year-old English translation (KJV). It primarily “proof-texts” passages that agree with its existing theology—the same thing it does with patristic passages. Likewise, the Utah Mormon sect has shown little interest in serious systematic or biblical theology based on original language work.
5. Paulsen wrote his dissertation (University of Michigan, 1975) defending the Mormon concept of a limited God.
6. See, e.g., Paulsen’s “Early Christian Belief in a Corporeal Deity: Origen and Augustine as Reluctant Witnesses,” Harvard Theological Review 83 (1990): 105–16; “The Doctrine of Divine Embodiment: Restoration, Judeo-Christian, and Philosophical Perspectives,” BYU Studies 35, 4 (1995–96): 7–94; (with Carl Griffin) “Augustine and the Corporeality of God,” Harvard Theological Review 95 (2002): 97–118.
7. Hugh Nibley, “Baptism for the Dead in Ancient Times,” in Mormonism and Early Christianity, ed. T. Compton and S. Ricks, vol. 4, The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1987), 100–167.
8. Origen claimed that John the Baptist went to a spirit prison type of place (similar to Mormon belief) and baptized persons in anticipation of Jesus’ imminent arrival.
9. S. Kent Brown, “Coptic and Greek Inscriptions from Christian Egypt: A Brief Review,” The Roots of Egyptian Christianity, ed. B. Pearson et al. (Philadelphia: Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 1986), 26–41.
10. This was Griggs’s doctoral dissertation at UC Berkeley. C. W. Griggs, Early Egyptian Christianity: From Its Origins to 451 C.E., no. 2, Coptic Studies Series (New York: E. J. Brill, 1990). Reviewed by K. Norman, BYU Studies 31 (Spring 1991): 183–87.
11. Walter Bauer, Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity (1934; 2nd ed. repr., ed. R. Kraft and G. Krodel [Philadelphia: Fortress, 1971]).
12. Justin, Dialogue with Trypho 124. Author’s translations here and subsequently.
13. Ibid., 11.
14. Ibid., 56.
15. Ibid., 123–24.
16. Ibid., 95.
17. See Justin, 1 Apology 6, 9, 41 “all the gods of the nations are devil-idols”; Dialogue, 55, 73, 123–24.
18. See especially Keith Norman, “Deification: The Content of Athanasian Soteriology.” Ph.D. diss., Duke University, 1980. Norman (a Mormon) incredibly argues that deification by nature is exactly what Athanasius meant in using this terminology and concept. Athanasius, however, like the rest of the patristic writers who use deification terminology, was very careful to safeguard the unity of the divine nature, in contrast to the creation.
19. Jaroslav Pelikan, The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine, vol. 1, The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971), 155, 266, 345. Deification has been retained by the Eastern Catholics but redefined by the Western Catholics.
20. Mormon scholars are divided on this point. Stephen Robinson, for example, assumes current Eastern Orthodox conceptions of deification to be essentially the same as patristic notions, whereas Daniel Peterson thinks Eastern Orthodoxy has deviated from the earliest patristic notions. See, e.g., Robinson’s use in Are Mormons Christians? (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1991), 61–63. This is in contrast to Peterson, “‘Ye are Gods’: Ps. 82 and Jn. 10 as Witnesses to the Divine Nature of Humankind,” in The Disciple as Scholar: Essays on Scripture and the Ancient World in Honor of Richard Lloyd Anderson, ed. S. Ricks, D. Parry, and A. Hedges (Provo, UT: FARMS, 2000), 552–53; so also Daniel Peterson, Stephen Ricks: “We suspect, in fact, that even relatively late statements on theosis [i.e., deification] represent the Hellenization of an earlier doctrine—one that was perhaps much closer to Mormon belief” (Offenders for a Word [Provo, UT: FARMS, 1992], 92).
21. Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Way (Crestwood, NY: SVS Press, 1979), 168.
22. Vladimir Lossky, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church (1944; repr. Crestwood, NY: SVS Press, 1998), 69–70.
23. Patrick Hurley, A Concise Introduction to Logic, 7th ed. (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2000), 681.
24. Contrary to most patristic scholars, Mormon scholar Keith Norman argues at length in his “Deification: The Content of Athanasian Soteriology” that this is what Athanasius meant. He then goes on to assert a contradictory tension between Athanasius’s desire to safeguard the single divine nature and his teaching of human deification.
25. Many ancient Greek and Roman pagans believed that the gods had once been mortal humans who had become gods upon death—in a qualitative fashion very similar to the Mormon belief. Put simply, the gods were just bigger, better, “promoted” humans. This is ironic in light of the Mormon charge that Christian orthodoxy was corrupted by Greek and Roman pagan influence.
26. Jordan Vajda, formerly a Dominican Roman Catholic priest but now a Mormon, delineates this difference in Partakers of the Divine Nature: A Comparative Analysis of the Patristic and Mormon Doctrines of Divinization. (Published as Occasional Paper No. 3. [Provo, UT: FARMS, 2002], and in his M.A. Thesis [Graduate Theological Union, University of California, Berkeley, 1998]).
dimanche 14 mars 2010
Em 2007 comemora-se o aniversário de 90 anos da Revolução Russa de 1917 e 40 anos da morte de Che Guevara na Bolívia. Os mitos e o idealismo dessas datas camuflam a mais assustadora criminalidade do século XX. Poder-se-ia dizer que o comunismo foi a pior e mais destruidora tragédia da história humana. Em números de mortos, supera o nazismo e demais guerras mundiais somadas. O golpe de Estado bolchevique de 1917 foi o prenúncio da devastação de um país: a Rússia no começo do século XX era um das nações mais ricas do mundo. Ao contrário da mitologia esquerdista, possuía um dos mais audaciosos sistemas de educação pública da época e ainda uma das maiores frotas comerciais do mundo. Um pouco antes da revolução, 50% da população russa já era alfabetizada, graças às reformas de Alexandre II, o mesmo que libertou os servos em 1861. Embora no país predominasse a população agrária, essa característica não era em si comum à Rússia, mas a vários países da Europa; a industrialização, financiada pelo capital francês, inglês, alemão e nacional, fazia germinar um país moderno e empresarial. Por outro lado, a Rússia era uma das maiores produtoras de cereais e alimentos do mundo, tendo seu recorde de safra em 1913, cálculo jamais superado pelo regime comunista. Há de conjecturar que, embora houvesse a cultura autocrática e repressiva do czarismo, a sociedade russa conheceu um esplendor intelectual inimaginável, nas figuras de escritores como Dostoievski e Tolstoi e músicos como Tchaikovski e Rachmaninov, entre outros. Sem contar uma verdadeira elite de cientistas, educadores, matemáticos e biólogos, gerados por esse esplendor.
No entanto, em 1917, toda essa realidade mudou. O que poderia ser o destino de uma nação potencialmente próspera acabou caindo no pesadelo mais profundo do totalitarismo. O bolchevismo conseguiu destruir completamente uma sociedade constituída. Massacrou os quadros intelectuais, econômicos, políticos e militares mais significativos da sociedade russa. Impôs terror, violência e destruição em todas as esferas da vida social. E conseguiu arruinar completamente um país. Comerciantes, intelectuais, administradores, aristocratas, matemáticos, empresários, profissionais liberais, proprietários de terras, clerigos, quase todos foram aniquilados pelo terror vermelho. Quando esses grupos sociais deixaram de existir, o terror se generalizou entre os operários e camponeses, ora assassinados, ora reduzidos a mais completa tirania. A matança indiscriminada da população se associou a mais completa criminalização da vida social. Milhões de pessoas foram presas e deportadas para os campos de concentração na Sibéria e em outros locais da União Soviética. Na verdade, milhões de pessoas foram usadas como mão de obra escrava, para sustentar a inépcia econômica do regime. A indústria nascente russa foi destruída, e a coletivização, junto com o massacre de milhões de camponeses pela fome, escasseou e esgotou a produção de alimentos. A Rússia, que no inicio do século XX exportava alimentos, hoje é uma importadora de comida. Graças a Lênin, que matou cinco milhões de camponeses de fome. Graças a Stalin, que matou outros seis milhões e desestruturou a agricultura russa, tornando-a completamente inócua.
Mas o bolchevismo não foi apenas um sistema de criminalidade, terror e destruição inaudita do povo russo. Ele devastou o Leste Europeu e massacrou os melhores quadros intelectuais, econômicos e políticos dos países ocupados. Espalhou seu veneno pela Ásia, África e América Latina, com o preço de miséria, opressão e homicídios em escala demencial. Imbecilizou o povo, tornando-o servil ao Partido e à sua ideologia estéril e sufocante. Exterminou a liberdade civil e política dos povos. Insuflou guerras, caos e revolta por onde passou. E como um sistema imperialista, expandiu a dominação e impôs despotismos em qualquer lugar por onde se estabeleceu. Foi, em suma, uma ameaça à civilização e as suas liberdades, uma ameaça de levar o mundo no século XX ao reino das trevas.
Impressionante é presumir que uma ideologia tão destrutiva e tão inspiradora de genocídios seja algo a inspirar os intelectuais. De fato, o bolchevismo é uma ideologia de intelectuais radicais, uma idealização que sacrifica a realidade ao plano da loucura. O simulacro de sofisticação em Marx, Lênin, Engels, Rosa e seus congêneres mais vulgares, como Mao Tse Tung e adjacências, não sobrevive ao peso da realidade. Porém, a intelectualidade se corrompeu: o século XX foi o século da mentira, o século da mentira e cumplicidade dos intelectuais. Raramente se mentiu tanto pela ideologia. E o socialismo foi capaz de falsificar a história e a realidade pela ideologia. O mito em torno da Revolução Russa é um emaranhado de falsificações. Mentiras e mais mentiras repetidas a exaustão, até que se tornem verdades sacralizadas. Daí a entender a tamanha popularidade de mito, ainda que a realidade denuncie os piores crimes.
E Che? Che Guevara é produto dessa mentira histórica, dessa cumplicidade criminosa dos intelectuais do século XX. O mito Che não sobrevive à realidade; ele é o contrário daquilo que representa. Em nome da liberdade, foi um defensor das piores e mais criminosas ditaduras, criador de campos de concentração e trabalhos forçados em Cuba. Prócer do idealismo e da vida faustosa, não passava de um fanático e um assassino em massa, executor sumário de centenas de inocentes. E para aqueles que idealizam a paz mundial, era um homem que acreditava na violência como resposta para todos os problemas do mundo. Se o movimento terrorista, com sua crença fanática na destruição como resposta para tudo, surgiu no niilismo russo e instaurou sua ação política de Estado na Revolução Russa, Che Guevara é a personificação do Netchiaev, do espírito do terrorista russo no militante latino-americano. Já havia precedentes para isso: a revolução francesa já tinha inaugurado o terror do Estado revolucionário, na ação dos jacobinos e suas guilhotinas, esses bolcheviques de perucas. Todavia, o moderno “terrorismo de Estado”, em sua escala monumental de violência, por assim dizer, é uma inovação comunista, já que o movimento comunista é, por definição, um movimento terrorista dentro e fora do poder.
Países economicamente arruinados, miserabilizados, indigentes; povos bestializados na servidão, na mentira, na estupidez e na ignorância, vítimas de uma ideologia nauseante em todas as esferas intelectuais, políticas e culturais da sociedade; regimes tirânicos, policialescos, traiçoeiros, destruidores dos laços morais e espirituais de solidariedade humana, na delação, no medo e no terror; assassinatos, expurgos, deportações em massa e milhões de cadáveres. Como diria um historiador, é o sacrifício do homem comum, verdadeiro, imperfeito, autêntico, pelo plastificado “homem novo” socialista, artificial, desumanizado, despersonalizado. Ou nas palavras de Nelson Rodrigues, uma “antipessoa”. No total, cem milhões de mortos em todo o mundo. Esse é o preço do comunismo em toda a história do século XX. Há o que comemorar?
lundi 18 janvier 2010
Some time recently, a good friend of mine sent me a link to a website and told me, "The Orthodox should be warned about this." I clicked on the link and was met with a website called "True Life in God," peppered with iconography that made me think for a moment that I might be looking at the archdiocese website. Instead, it was the website for a woman named Vassula Rydén, and on the main page speaks of angels and messages.
I felt a shrill go up the back of my neck, realizing that I was dealing with someone who claimed to have had personal revelations with God and was attempting to share it with the world. As I did further research, what I found shocked me, and I began to realize that perhaps Christians in general, not just Orthodox, should be warned about this woman. I was even more inspired when I learned that friends of friends (even those attending my church) were following this woman like a prophet of old, and were even giving her prayer books to their children to read. Therefore, this struck rather close to home.
The casual reader should be warned that this is perhaps the longest post I will make on my blog for some time, but I believe the time spent will not be wasted. Heresy and controversy within the Church need to be discussed, just as they were hundreds of years ago at the ecumenical councils. No, I am not claiming to be the new Athanasius, ready to take on the Arians - God forbid the prideful thought from entering my mind! However, I do want to at least be a source of education for some and protection for others. I pray that God will allow me to be an instrument for Him and in His name alone. Amen.
Who is this Vassula Rydén?
According to her own website (source) she is an ethnic Greek from Egypt who "belongs to the Greek Orthodox Church." She claims to have started receiving messages from Jesus Himself (through an angel named "Daniel"), beginning in Bangladesh in 1985. According to her website, she has "been invited to speak in more than 70 countries and has given over 900 presentations," even being asked "at 3 occasions to speak on unity in the World Council of Churches of Geneva." She has many "Beth Mariam" charity houses for the poor and orphans. She is married to a Lutheran. Her manifestations are, according to her testimonial video, "still continuing" (source).
The first thing that caught my eye was, although she claims to be a Greek Orthodox, her Orthodoxy should rightfully be called into question. In both her visions and speeches she speaks of the "immaculate heart" of both Jesus and the Virgin Mary, a concept decidedly Roman Catholic both in origin and use. She is said to have handed out rosaries to people and paid homage at Roman Catholic shrines, even going so far as to claim a message from God saying "blessed are those who will pray the Rosary" (source). She believes in purgatory and teaches that our prayers save people from Purgatory (source). She claims to have visited hell and saw something closer to Bill Weise's view than the Church's belief on hell (source). Her teaching on the Holy Spirit is more akin to Charismatic preachers on late-night TBN than the writings of the Church Fathers. Her views on universalism and ecumenical movements (which I'll get to later on in this post) would be better placed in the sermons of the Emergent Church. Overall, I don't find anything Orthodox about her.
My feelings seemed to have some merit, as I found out that she really had no solid knowledge of her Orthodox faith - let alone any Christian faith at all. She admits in her testimonial video (source, again) that she "wasn't a Church-goer" and that she "wasn't looking for God at all." She knew "God existed" and "knew a little bit," but never "had any catechism." When she got married she "abandoned" her Orthodoxy and became involved in the international organization that sent her to places across the world, neither her nor her husband practicing religion in the meanwhile. Then, in 1985 in Bangladesh, she was writing down a list of groceries and suddenly saw her "guardian angel", who physically held her hand and began to write what he wanted her to say. He introduced himself as Daniel. She was excited and began to talk to Daniel. He instructed her to read scripture, and then continued to deliver messages from God afterward.
Something seemed familiar about this experience, and it was then that I realized the way that the supposed angel Daniel communicated with Vassula is a way many mediums supposedly communicate with ghosts. The method is known as "automatic writing" or alternatively "ghost scribbles." It entails a person scribbling on a piece of paper and allowing the ghost to write for the person, sending out messages that can be either crystal clear or incoherent (the 1980 film "The Changeling" features this). Such communication really belongs in the hands of the occult - why, therefore, should we be expected to follow theology based on unorthodox methods of communicating with God? It would be like revelation given through tarot cards.
Of course what also bothered me was the fact she was receiving supposed revelations from an angel. I couldn't help but think to myself: who else has received revelation from God? Some names come to mind: Mani, Mohammad, Joseph Smith...but perhaps this list is unfair. Daniel, for example, met and spoke with Gabriel, yet he was a prophet and the role of prophets ended with John the Baptist (Luke 16:16). It's also worth mentioning that the minute Daniel came in contact with Gabriel he became frightened and fell on his face (Dan 8:17). Likewise, the shepherds who saw the angel announcing Christ's birth were just as afraid, for the first words out of the angel's mouth are "fear not" (Luke 2:10). The apostle John, seeing an angel twice, is so overcome he prostrates twice and has to be told not to (Rev. 19:10; 22:8). Here we have three groups of people in scripture - a devout prophet of God, humble laymen, and the most beloved disciple - who all reacted with fear of God at the first sight of an angel. How did Vassula first respond when she met her angel?
I was so happy that I was almost flying around the house, my feet barely touching the ground and I was repeating loudly: "I am the luckiest person on earth, and I am probably the only person on earth who could communicate in such a way with her angel!" [source]
Keep in mind that this is after a supposed angel of God has manifested himself to her and has touched her hand and made it move and write - her reaction seems the polar opposite to how those in the past who simply saw an angel. This isn't entirely new - there are people who claim to be watching TV, see Jesus walk in, and kept watching TV like nothing had happened. Oftentimes when a person claims to have met an angel or Christ Himself and not given the reaction that has scriptural precedent, the very claim itself is false.
Perhaps before we pass judgment on Vassula's revelation, we should review the essence of these revelations in detail. They're readily available on her website, posted in chronological order and even in order of subject. They are also quite voluminous: I started reading from the start in 1985, and after two or three hours had only gotten to 1987. Nevertheless, they must be looked at to truly understand the essence of her message.
The "Messages from Christ"
Early on in her record of messages, Vassula records how she began to have doubts that mere experiences with God - especially on so high a level - are possible. Immediately her visions return, assuring her all is well.
(I'm reading a book in which many people reported "experiences with God", but almost all those people are told by 'experts' that they should forget what they experienced because it's not God; they tell them that only highly elevated souls experience these things from God and one has to be highly elevated too. As I know I'm none of this and far from good, I decided to stop these meetings by writing with God; I might as well 'pack-up' the whole thing. They seemed to say that to reach God you have to be a saint and they made me believe God is so far. So I will drop the whole thing, leaving my hand to write for the last time what it wants, led by "the force" that has been writing all these months.)
Vassula! do not leave Me, beloved, be calling on Me and be learning from Me; remember, I am beside you all the time; I, God, am living in you; believe Me, I am the Almighty, the Eternal God;
No. It can't be. It can't be God. Those that know would prove to me that it is not God. Only highly pure souls who are worthy, God reaches giving such graces.
I am not beyond reach! Vassula, I do not refuse anybody; I blame all those who discourage My countenance to My children to come to Me; whoever teaches that to be able to be with Me or be accepted by Me should be pure or worthy are those who are damaging My Church... [source]
In general reading, one might be forgiven for misunderstanding that it seems Vassula is being told that generally anyone can come to the Lord for help. This certainly is true - however, keep in mind that this is being done in the context of receiving personal messages from the Lord and having these Charismatic "experiences." It might have been better for her to give it up (or seek more orthodox training in regards to theology), but she then has a vision telling her not to. The next message elucidates on the last one:
...never ever fall into traps set up by evil; never believe in any message which brings you unrest; do understand why evil is trying very hard to stop you; daughter, any message condemning My previous messages1 is from evil; the devil is trying once again to stop you and discourage you; I, who am your Saviour, am confirming to you that all the messages bearing calls of love and peace, leading those that are lost to find their way back to Me, are all from the Father and Me...
And so we have an emphasis on the "personal" relationship with God, which forgoes any true understanding therein. This is emphasized by a later speech Vassula gave seminarians in Asia:
Vassula told them that it is essential to have a personal relationship with God in order to know and understand God. It is very important not to become "bureaucrats", "bookish" nor "technical" theologians. What is important is to give space to the Holy Spirit to reveal Himself to them and to have an intimate relationship with God. Only then they will be able to serve God and His people, as He wants them to. [source]
I'm suddenly reminded of a Charismatic woman who told John MacArthur, Evangelical apologist, to throw away his Bible, church history, and lexicon and just experience the Holy Spirit. How can one experience God, however, with no foundation of which to discern the spirits (1 John 4:1)?
Ultimately, this vision of Jesus tells her that he will make her his disciple.
I will guide you, little one;
come, take with you My Cross and follow Me; remember, I will help you; you will be My disciple; I will help you to reveal Me; I am Holy, I am Holy, so be Holy, live Holy; I will give you My support... [source]
After this vision, which results in several visions of the cross, Vassula wonders to herself "if it was from the devil, how dumb can he get?" Perhaps Vassula cuts the devil short - I'll get to that at the very end of this post.
In a later message Vassula's vision of Christ repeats His self-affirmation:
...many do not believe that I work in this way too; some do not believe in Me at all...I am telling you this so that you are prepared and aware of these people, since they are deaf and blind and have closed their hearts; they will want to justify their cause; they will tell you that this is not Me, that all of this comes from your mind, they will feed you with venomous theories; they will find ways of showing you that you are wrong, they will let you read their theories to prove to you that you are wrong; so I am warning you, daughter, do not let men discourage you; do not let your era destroy you [source]
Another early vision Vassula has is Christ telling the story of His crucifixion. Some of it is both strange and peculiar:
I gazed upon the crowds, from where I was hardly seeing; from My swollen eyes, I watched the world; I saw no friend among those who mocked Me; no one was there to console Me; "My God! My God! why have you forsaken Me?"; forsaken by all those who loved Me;
My gaze fell on My Mother; I looked upon Her and our hearts spoke, "I am giving you My beloved children to be your children too, You are to be their Mother";
all was ending, salvation was near; I saw the heavens open and every angel stood erect, all stood in silence, "My Father, into Your hands I commend My Spirit, I am with You now"; [source]
Christ claims that this is all the beginning of "His call."
...do not fear, why are you fearing to be holy? remember, you are in the beginning of My call;
What does this really mean?
it means that you are still learning from Me; I will be teaching you and showing you My Works; I am only in the beginning of My call, you will discover later on how I work; I will call you later on at the appointed time to find Peace... [source]
So what is the purpose of this revelation?
I want to remind you that the Revelations I am breathing in you are not just for your own benefit, they are meant for others too, who are in desperate need of My Bread; I come to feed all of you who are hungry; My Message is one of Peace and Love and to remind you of your foundations and who created you; [source]
daughter, My Church needs to be renewed; I have come to consolidate My Church; otherwise multitudes are bound to be lost [source]
...all those that have eyes, let them see; all those that have a heart, let them understand, that it is I, Yahweh Sabaoth, who speaks; I have never forsaken you; I am delivering Wisdom to re-establish My given Word; I come to remind you all of My love for you, blessing you all; I do not want to see you lost, woe to the unwise! purify yourselves for the time is near; listen to My words, for in doing what I ask you I will forgive you; I am guiding you to live in Peace and Love, for I am a God of Peace and Love... [source]
Christ needs to "reestablish" His given Word? Was it not eternal? Did He not promise that the Gates of Hades would not prevail against His Church (Matt 16:18)? Did He not promise that He would be with Christians until the ages of ages (Matt 28:20)? Why would Christ, the Incarnate Word, have to restore His written Word?
There are times where the words of this vision of Christ seem to contradict not only His teachings, but those of the Church Vassula claims to belong to.
I love you as you are ... be My bride, Vassula [source]
His bride? The bride of Christ? This contradicts Orthodox theology that Christ's bride is reserved for the Church and the Church alone. This is why Christ is called the bridegroom, and why so many metaphors of bridegrooms in the gospels are obvious metaphors for Christ. There are times when Christ even clearly refers to Himself as the bridegroom.
I can hear some responding to this by pointing out that nuns call themselves "brides of Christ" (Vassula brings this up in one revelation), and that virgin saints were often called brides to Christ. The problem is that those were metaphorical titles obviously given because of their virgin or abstaining lifestyle - they were not dedicated to another man. Vassula, on the other hand, is married. Why then is Christ calling a married woman His bride?
The messages are continually attacking those who would doubt Vassula, even claiming they are turning against Christ's church.
...I love you, son, understand that by trying to stop Vassula you are unwillingly damaging My Church... [source]
I don't recall even the most devout saints being given such a defense. One could rightfully argue that attacks against the Church are attacks against Christ (Jesus asks Saul, "Why are you persecuting Me?" when Saul was only attacking the Church) but never was this reserved for a single individual. This is only the trait of false prophets who seek to protect themselves of any criticism from followers. But Vassula claims to be sent from Jesus to revive the church, and the vision of Christ even asks her, "Daughter, will you revive My Church?" (source)
Some of the messages present some peculiar dialogue between the vision of Jesus and Vassula.
Vassula, do you know why I chose you?
No, I don't, Jesus.
I will tell you then; I chose you because you are helpless and by far the most wretched from any man I know of; wretchedness attracts Me because I can console you; you are helpless and insufficient, unable of mastering any language [source]
Vassula was "the most wretched from any man" that Christ knew of? Seriously? Osama bin Laden, Ghaddafi, Kim Jong-Il, Robert Mugabe...all these other men out there were not better choices? When Christ took Saul, persecutor of the church and zealot of Jewish theology, and transformed him into one of the greatest of the apostles, that was a miraculous sign of grace. I don't want to sound demeaning, but turning an agnostic into a charity worker is not any greater sign of grace by comparison.
As I said earlier, Vassula's messages support more Roman Catholic dogmas than Orthodox. This message, for example, claims that Vassula's love for God is freeing souls in Purgatory:
Vassula it is I, Jesus Christ; I am with you, beloved; do you know that I am guiding you through Hades?...your love for Me is healing them; I use your love as a remedy to cure them; heal them Vassula, heal them; you are bearing My Cross with Me, Vassula; these works are heavenly works that My Father is revealing to you, many heavenly works are still hidden and are but mysteries to you... [source; in the footnotes, Vassula identifies "Hades" and "healing them" as referring to those in Purgatory]
daughter, today you will follow Me in the dark dominion of My foe to see how those souls who refused Me suffer;
Jesus, are they lost?
those in hell are, but those in purgatory are saved with love by My beloved ones who make prayers and amend; do not fear for My Light protects you and I am with you; [source]
Perhaps one of the strangest parts of the messages is that the vision of Christ does not seem to understand the Trinity. One example:
Jesus, You do not really need anybody, especially me!
no, I do not need anybody, I suffice by Myself; but do I not share everything I have with you? I am your Saviour, your Healer, your Father, your Spouse; I am your God who will never ever abandon you... [source]
daughter, I always loved you, but you had forgotten Me; I yearned to be loved by you, to hear you call Me Father; [source]
Vassula, love is love; I want you to love Me without restraint; I am your Holy Father who loves you intimately; approach Me and love Me intimately; I want to be intimate with you... [source]
At one point, the vision of Jesus even reprimands Vassula for not calling Him Father.
Vassula why, why were you avoiding calling Me Father? Vassula I love being called Father; I am Father of all humanity;
I love you, Father.
I love you too; [source]
Christ is her Father? We should call Him Father? Not even the apostles were told this!
At one point, Vassula admits confusion about the calling of Jesus Father. The vision returns and confronts her about this, explaining it.
(Here I felt embarrassed. I still do not understand, who is the Father, and what is the difference between the Father and Jesus. If He refers to God the Father, then how could Jesus say He is also Father?)
listen Vassula, give your attention to Me; learn that God and I am One; I am the Father and the Son; now, do you understand? I am One, I am All in One, I am All in One,
You are all in one?!
(Here I thought it would be difficult to understand and write down as also the question of Holy Spirit was in my mind too.)
let us try; the Holy Spirit comes from Me; do you understand now? all in One, the Holy Trinity is One; you can call Me Father too; Wisdom comes from Me, I am Wisdom too; [source]
On the surface it may be hard to discern what is happening here, as Christians do believe that God is one. The problem, however, is two-fold:
First, Vassula claims that the vision of Jesus says "the Holy Spirit comes from Me" - this is the filioque, or believe that the Holy Spirit comes from the Son, which was added to the Nicene Creed by the Roman Church and has been condemned by Orthodoxy ever since. We must therefore ask, again, if Vassula claims to be Orthodox, why does she hold up so many non-Orthodox beliefs?
Second, the entire explanation is very modalist in tone. Modalism, remember, believed that God was One Being revealed through Three Stages, much like ice can be solid, liquid and air at one point or another but not all at once. God is one, this vision of Jesus says, and therefore He may be called Father. Yet in orthodox Trinitarian doctrine, God is one Being revealed through three distinct Persons - you cannot call the Son by Father because only the Father is Father, just as you could not call the Father the Son, because only the Son is Son. The Persons in the Trinity, while being united in Essence, are still distinct from one another.
Therefore, whatever this is teaching her the Trinity...it cannot be God.
It should be noted that not only did Vassula have visions of Jesus, but visions of the Virgin Mary as well. Here is one such conversation, which leads to a strange announcement:
remember, daughter, Wisdom has brought you up; do realise why;
It is not just for me? All this, it's meant for others, too?
yes, you are being formed to be God's bearer;
I do not know how to be God's bearer.
God has preached to you and has taught you to love Him; trust Him for His riches are innumerable and His Mercy unfathomable; He loves you with ineffable tenderness and watches over you with loving eyes; every heavenly word lives forever; [source]
God's bearer? This is a sign that if Vassula ever was Orthodox, she forgot what she was taught. God's bearer is what the Virgin Mary is - her title, Theotokos, literally means "God bearer," and she is the only one. Even if Vassula is not speaking in this context, her use of the phrase is completely erroneous. Incidentally, Vassula also refers to the Virgin Mary as "St. Mary"...Orthodox do not consider her one of the saints, again calling into question how orthodox her Orthodoxy is.
The vision of Christ tells Vassula that he will give her secrets:
I will continue My teachings in giving you a secret; Vassula take your scrap book; fear not for My teachings come from Wisdom, all mysteries have not yet been revealed; all works are given to those who know how to love Me;
(I will take my scrap-book now ... Jesus gave me the secret. Then He said: "I will reveal many more hidden works to you." That was the third secret.) [source]
Then, like something out of the history of Islam or Mormonism, the vision of Jesus tells Vassula to read from a book He possesses and she is unable to.
(You have a book? which You took out from Your mantle from the left side with Your right hand?)
I have a book;
(It's not very big.)
exactly, you are discerning well, Vassula; look inside and read what it says;
(I try, but I am not very good at it.)
My altar is you;
I can't Jesus, I can't figure out the rest!
try again, My altar upon which I will...
(I can't see. I think I'm reading wrong!) [source]
The identity of the book book is later revealed:
...its cover is golden; look inside it and read, "I will make of you My altar, upon which I will place My burning desires of My Heart, My Flame will live within you; be drawing from My Heart and fill your heart; I, the Lord, will keep My Flame ablaze for ever and ever;"... [source]
Vassula is the alter of Christ? Christ's alter is the cross, upon which He died.
Also peculiar is how the vision of Christ claims she receives the revelations.
Vassula, I desire that My words be known by many; words that come directly from My lips, for all the revelations I breathed into you are from Me [source]
Christ breathed into Vassula the revelation? The revelations are god-breathed? Such a title is solely reserved for scripture (2 Tim 3:16).
The revelations continue from here, with many events such as a visit to God's "holy abode" and seeing the gates of Purgatory near Hell (source), but I think from here we should look and see how Vassula applies her revelations and influence.
The Messages in Application
From these messages comes Vassula's teachings, all of which center on love and unity, even across denominational lines. She teaches that all Churches (Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant) should unite, and that to keep divided is to follow the devil. In one interview she even said that "Christians are in sin because of their division...lay people and Church authorities have to humble them selves and unite" (source).
She also teaches interfaith dialogue...and, unfortunately, preaches universalism. Her message, she says, is one for all mankind (ibid), which even extends to non-Christians. Though this is not always clear, some of it came out in a speech she gave at an interfaith conference:
As a Christian I believe that our Creator created us all from His Sublime Love to be able to return this love and live holy, as He is holy. We are all equal before God' eyes. St. Paul says there is no Jew nor Greek, slave or free man, man or woman. All, in the Eyes of God, are one. Those who are in different religions are no less creatures made in the image of God and destined ultimately to live in the house of God...
And as one of our Greek Bishops said to us in Egypt in an inter-religious pilgrimage we had, I will take his words and quote them: "as we gathered today in the Church under the same dome and we didn't differentiate Christians from non-Christians or of other religions. From today we will announce to the whole world that men can live in reconciliation as long as they learn to love first their God, whoever He is, whatever His Name is, and then I'm certain that love for their fellowman will spring up as well..." [source]
St. Paul would certainly be shocked to hear her using his words of equality among Christians as equaling salvific equality along interfaith lines, which was not Paul's point at all and completely contradicts his ministry. Paul does say there is neither Greek nor Jew, etc, but he says this is because they are all one in Christ (Gal 3:28). To say that men simply need to love "their" God "whoever He is" and they are "destined ultimately to live in the house of God" contradicts Christ's statement that He alone is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and that no one gets to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). It also contradicts His warning that any one who denies Him will be denied by Christ before the angels of God (Luke 12:9).
Such blatant distortion of scripture cannot come from a messenger of God. Such ready acceptance of false religions over the living faith of God is further evidence that her message cannot come from God. If she is indeed speaking to an angel, it is not an angel of God.
Many times the tenant of Vassula's preaching seem to be her messages, or inspiration from them. Indeed, some of her speeches (such as this one) seem to quote her own messages just as much as scripture. They are treated with equal authority. She states opinions given in her messages and states that it "belongs to God and comes from God" (ibid), and therefore must be followed. In a speech to Bangladeshians, she says that they should feel honored that "God chose their country to reveal His message of 'peace, reconciliation, unity and love'" (source) as if Bangladesh is on par with Jerusalem. She also said that God "told her from the beginning of this revelation that the messages of True Life in God will spread all over the world. A prophecy that is being fulfilled!" (ibid)
At the beginning of this post I mentioned the prophet Daniel, and it should be noted here that the only people who received revelation from God were prophets, and what God handed down was usually written into scripture and made canon. When you hear the words, "God said to me," it's usually quoting from a prophet in the Old Testament. When these words are spoken in our modern times, we have to be careful.
Some Orthodox who support Vassula might interject and point out that the saints and Church Fathers often claimed to have spoken to an angel or even Christ. Of course, few of these saints ever claimed their sightings to be a revelation, or claimed that they were being given messages non-stop to spread love to mankind. St. Anthony the Great, for example, is said to have spoken to Christ, but it was simply to give him strength and was more a personal matter between himself and God - the encounter itself was not the basis of his preaching.
Of course, the great problem with the Church Fathers might be that they were all "'bureaucrats', 'bookish' and 'technical' theologians," who did not "give space to the Holy Spirit to reveal Himself to them" so that they could have "an intimate relationship with God," as only then could they be able "to serve God and His people, as He wants them to." Saints Basil the Great, John Chrysostom, and John Damascene would all be saddened to know that personal revelations trumped their hard work and dedication to studying the scripture and patristics of their faith.
Does she have ecclesiastical support?
Most notable on Vassula's website is the page featuring supposed statements from various religious leaders showing support for her cause (source). She also includes "testimonies" from various clergy from various churches (source). Is this the case? It would seem sad, given that there are some large names there, especially among the Orthodox church.
Yet is this truly the case? Does she have widespread support among the various Churches? Deeper research proves otherwise. It's interesting to note that, while she claims to be Greek Orthodox, the Orthodox Church in Greece has declared her self-excommunicated:
The Committee, having examined the evidence, has reached the conclusion that Vassula Ryden has expelled herself from the Orthodox Church, although she still presents herself as a member.
In addition it should be known that the Church periodical "Dialogos" in its issues number 14 and 17...has printed extensive reports regarding Vassula Ryden's organization.
Vassula asked the Greek Minister of Justice to bring to trial for slander and libel both the Secretary of the Greek Orthodox Synodal Commission on Heresies, Fr. Kyriakos Tsouros, and the Church publication. The trial was scheduled for 30 June 2000; however Ryden withdrew the charge two days before the hearing. [Dialogos, issue number 25, page 32, 2001; quoted from here]
In addition, many Orthodox officials do not believe her word has any real validity, nor should it be taken seriously.
In 1996, Mons. Damaskinos declared that Vassula Ryden, in the eyes of all those who are considered as the authentic bearers and continuers of the tradition of the Orthodox Church, was opposing the conscience of that Church which believes that Divine Revelation has been achieved once and for all through the Apostles. He also criticized in that occasion the attitude of the seer, who had organized a broadly advertised meeting on the same date that the Geneva Churches and Christian communities had scheduled their annual gathering for the Christian Unity Week. [ibid]
In 1995, Fundacion SPES of Argentina asked the representative of the Greek Orthodox Church in that country about the case of Vassula Ryden. The answer was given by Fr. Demonstenes in the name of Mons. Gennadios Chrysoulakys. He stated that the Greek Orthodox Church does not recognize any voice outside the established ecclesiastical hierarchy and if Mrs. Ryden has something to communicate, she should do it through the hierarchy. [ibid]
Even Coptic Orthodox have attacked her:
1. In receiving the sacraments at altars other than those of the Orthodox Church [justifying this by quoting the Decree Orientarium Ecclesiarum of Vatican II], Mrs Ryden is disregarding Orthodox canonical discipline which forbids it.
2. Mrs Ryden should seek the canonical permission and blessing of the local Orthodox hierarch having jurisdiction in each place, prior to addressing public meetings, rather than act in the face of their sometimes expressed opposition and criticism.
3. Until such time as a canonical Orthodox hierarchy is able to make a detailed and full examination of the messages received by Mrs. Ryden, they should be regarded with grave caution and their authority attributed solely to the views and aspirations of Mrs Ryden herself, rather than any angelic, saintly or divine source. [taken from this website]
In addition to this:
...the statement in the True Life in God UK Newsletter No. 6 (November 2005) that His Eminence Abba Seraphim along with H.M. Queen Elisabeth II and the Archbishop of Canterbury, "sent us their good wishes for the meeting" is untrue. [ibid]
Roman Catholic officials have also criticized her. Here is a letter sent by the Archbishop of Monterrey to his flock:
An invitation of the True Life in God group and of the Dos Sagrados Corazones Prayer Groups [Two Sacred Hearts prayer groups] is circulating in the Archdiocesan community of Monterrey, regarding their January 30 and 31 retreat-conference at the Best Western Valle Real Hotel with Mrs Vassula Ryden (Greek Orthodox) and "renowned Catholic priests". I therefore consider it my pastoral duty to make the following declaration:
1) First of all I must clarify that I was not previously informed of this event.
2) The True Life in God group and the Dos Sagrados Corazones Prayer groups are not registered nor recognized by the archdiocesan commission of lay people [Comisión Arquidiocesana de Laicos – CAL].
3) In accordance with repeated notifications from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on some essential points of Mrs Vassula Ryden's writings, I cannot authorize the spreading of her writings and teachings in our local Church of Monterrey.
4) Regarding the "renowned Catholic priests" who are supposedly participating in this event, since we do not know who they are, from where they come nor to which Diocese they belong, they are not authorized to exercise the sacerdotal ministry in this Archdiocese. [source]
In one article, Vassula mentions meeting dozens of Catholic bishops in India on the subject of Christian unity, and hints that she received support from them. The bishops were later written to by inquisitive minds, and the following responses were received from two:
Bishop Thomas Mar Koorilos, recently appointed to the office of Metropolitan Archbishop of Tiruvalla, wrote that Mrs Ryden was not invited by [the KCBC] to address the conference. She was visiting Kerala and then she requested for a word to speak to the bishops which our chairman has allowed, that is all (private mail dated July 18, 2007).
Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Mar Thomas, Auxiliary Bishop of Trivandrum and recently appointed Apostolic Visitator in charge of the Malankara Catholic Community in North America and Europe, added that it was not intended to support her or to promote her preaching. On the contrary the Bishops council gave her an opportunity to present her faith before the prelates clergy, religious and the selected laity so that they must get a first hand knowledge about her teaching. The general conclusion was that her teaching was questionable and therefore [the KCBC] is not endorsing her. Hence the matter is over and we are fully following the teaching of the magisterium of our Church (private mail dated July 18, 2007). [source]
Fr. Mitch Pacwa, renowned Catholic scholar and apologist, has commented on Vassula himself. He wrote on his experiences in an article entitled "The Spirit of a Prophetess" - the very opening of the article alone is frightening:
Vassula had asked me to examine all five volumes of her published notebooks for problematic statements. She suggested that notes could be added to later editions to correct any confusing or imprecise statements about Christ. I read her books, wrote my notes, and in the fall of 1992 sent them to her spiritual advisor, Fr. Michael O’Carroll, C.S.Sp., for his response.
I then received a call from Fr. O’Carroll, who was then promoting a trip by Vassula. Father O’Carroll strongly suggested I not publish my findings. He said I showed “not one single sign of Christian charity”...
What I particularly did not like about Fr. O’Carroll’s subsequent letter was its spiritual threat (which also appears in Vassula’s writings): “Since your article and the distress, the real hurt, it inflicted on Vassula, God the Father has spoken to her. He is very severe on those who oppose her. This [book] will be published." [source]
Pacwa rightfully attacks the confusion of the Trinity that Vassula (or her angel) seems to portray:
In Vassula’s own handwriting (the handwriting in the notebooks changes depending on who is speaking) she calls Jesus the Father, and so does “Jesus” on numerous occasions. He also says “I am your Holy Father,” and writes, “Little one call Me Abba” and in Greek, “call Me Baba”; “say, Abba to Me every now and then”; and “Come in your Father’s arms.” “Jesus” instructs people to pray to him, “You are the-One-God-and-Only, the Just One, you are indeed the Lamb, You are our Heavenly Father.” Still more problematical are the times “Jesus” writes statements like “the Father and I are One and the same.”
“Jesus” responds to those who would criticize Vassula for calling him Father: “If they accuse you because you call Me Father it is because they have not understood that the Spirit of Love you received and speaks through you, brings you peace and love to cry out: Abba!” This fails to answer the objections about calling Jesus “Father” or to remove the confusion among the divine Persons which Vassula introduces. [ibid]
It seems therefore that her claims of approval among the general Christian faithful do not hold water.
Many times it seems that when she receives support or words of kindness from leaders, they admit later that they were not aware of who she was. This is very similar to the trend among Evangelical pastors who readily supported Gail Riplinger's KJV-Only book New Age Bible Movements, only to later admit that they had never read it.
Vassula claims she works in the interest of the Church. She claims to be Orthodox. She claims to have God teaching her, training her, and giving her understanding for passages of scripture. She claims to know Jesus on a personal level.
Yet she claims that Christ calls her his bride, a title solely reserved for the Church and the Church alone. She distorts scripture to suit her personal philosophy. She seems to present revelation based around her universalist and politically correct world view. Her messages seem to be Emergent modernist thinking mixed with the style of St. Brigitte. All in all, I do not even know if I would call her a true Christian, let alone a true Orthodox.
I can see many interjecting here that she is doing nothing wrong, as she is merely preaching that people love each other - how could that not come from God? The problem is that prophecy and prophethood given in a time when the era of prophets is over cannot be considered sincere. Furthermore, this love which Vassula focuses on and preaches across interfaith lines is simply an easy "feel good" love that even atheist hippies would agree with. It is not the love of God transmitted to humankind, for how can it be? It allows the denial of God within its universalism. Love is good, yes, but like all things love can be distorted and used for evil. St. Maximos the Confessor warns us that "demons attack us invisibly in the guise of spiritual friendship, pretending that they want to accomplish the death of sin by means of which in themselves are good" [Third Century on Theology, 78].
Let us ask ourselves, what is the situation of these revelations? A woman with no strong theological education, using occult methods of communication, begins to speak to an "angel" who gives her a revelation that quite often contradicts the scripture she admits to not being familiar with beforehand. No where else could I find a more fitting place to quote the warning from St. Peter of Damascus:
There is nothing astonishing in the fact that the devil assumes the form of "an angel of light" (II Cor. 11:14), for the thoughts that he sows in us also appear to be righteous when we lack experience. [Book II, Chapter IX]
One begs to question whether or not Vassula truly believes all this. Is it all an elaborate hoax? If so, she is guilty of blaspheming God and deceiving perhaps thousands. If, however, she truly has received visits from spiritual forces and is deceived, I pray that God will free her from this deception. In the meantime, many are being deceived by her supposed revelations, and we must fight this with education and sincere love from our sincere God.
There is a famous quote by St. Paul in St. Peter of Damascus's warning, one that I'm sure many reading this have been thinking the whole time. I will end the blog with the full passage of scripture, quoted in context:
For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. [2 Corinthians 11:13-14; ESV]
original avec comment. http://catechumens-tale.blogspot.com/2010/01/contra-vassula-ryden.html