Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Untraditional Traditionalists (Part 2)

Kissing the Koran. Participating in an Islamic observance of Ramadan. Working with the World Council of Churches. Attending prayer meetings with witch doctors, Buddhists, and Hindus. Are these the latest deviations of leftwing theologians in a liberal Protestant denomination? Yes. They're also commonplace among Anglicans, Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholics, and others who claim to be deeply rooted in history and faithful to apostolic and patristic faith and practice. For example:

"It was Sunday, and Cardinal Bernard F. Law had come to pray. So, wearing a gold crucifix and a flowing black robe with red trim, Law removed his shoes. Then, as the imam chanted the sunset prayers, the bishop knelt with his forehead just inches from the carpet and offered praise to Allah. No doubt, Law looked out of place at the Islamic Center of Boston last night - but he didn't feel that way. Law, who participated in the Wayland mosque's Ramadan observance as a gesture of good will, said he felt right at home among the Muslim worshipers....After the prayers, Law shared the iftar, the meal breaking the daily sunrise-to-sunset Ramadan fast." (The Boston Globe, "Law shares prayers, feast, hope with Muslims", November 25, 2002)

"Pope John Paul and religious leaders including Muslims and Jews, Buddhists and Hindus, committed themselves on Thursday to work for peace and shun violence. Christian monks in brown woolen habits, saffron-robed Buddhists, black-cloaked Muslims, Sikhs wearing turbans, white-bearded Orthodox patriarchs and rabbis traveled together on a peace train to pray near the tomb of St. Francis. 'Violence never again! War never again! Terrorism never again! In the name of God, may every religion bring upon the earth justice and peace, forgiveness and life. Love,' the Pope said....Wearing his traditional white robe, the Roman Catholic leader sat on a red stage flanked by religious figures as they each addressed a crowd of 3,000 people in a white tent....The Pope...lit peace lamps with other participants...Assisi, a medieval city accustomed to Western choirs and Gregorian chants, was treated to something different as religious pluralism ruled. Geshe Tashi Tsering, wearing a crimson and saffron robe, began his time on the center stage with a Buddhist chant....It was the third such day of peace led by the Pope...After a morning session, the religious groups went off to pray in various rooms before sharing a vegetarian lunch and returning to the tent for the final pledges....But outside Assisi, not everyone was happy with the events. 'To pray with heretics, schismatics, rabbis, mullahs, witch doctors and various idolaters creates confusion among Catholic believers,' Federico Bricolo and Massimo Polledri, members of an Italian government coalition party, said in a statement." ("World Religious Leaders Join Pope in Peace Bid", Reuters, January 24, 2002)

"On Friday, the pope prayed with members of the Jewish community and Marek Edelman, the sole surviving leader of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, at Warsaw's Umschlagplatz, the ghetto site from which 300,000 Jews were deported to Treblinka and Auschwitz." (The Jerusalem Post, "Poland's chief rabbi asks 'Mr. Pope' to remove Auschwitz cross" June 13, 1999)

"Catholics around the world are also being urged to pray for peace, and some local churches have planned services with other faiths....The call by John Paul II for a day of prayer has brought a positive response from the leaders of the world's religions." (BBC News, "Worried Pope prays for peace", January 23, 2002)

Yes, to be deep in history is to be Roman Catholic. Sometimes. But not on this issue.

Polycarp, the disciple of the apostle John, probably wouldn't have attended Pope John Paul II's prayer meeting:

"Let us be zealous in the pursuit of that which is good, keeping ourselves from causes of offence, from false brethren, and from those who in hypocrisy bear the name of the Lord, and draw away vain men into error. 'For whosoever does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, is antichrist;' and whosoever does not confess the testimony of the cross, is of the devil; and whosoever perverts the oracles of the Lord to his own lusts, and says that there is neither a resurrection nor a judgment, he is the first-born of Satan. Wherefore, forsaking the vanity of many, and their false doctrines, let us return to the word which has been handed down to us from the beginning" (Polycarp, Epistle to the Philippians, 6-7)

"And Polycarp himself replied to Marcion [a heretic], who met him on one occasion, and said, 'Dost thou know me?' 'I do know thee, the first-born of Satan.' Such was the horror which the apostles and their disciples had against holding even verbal communication with any corrupters of the truth" (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3:3:4)

It doesn't sound like Ignatius would have been attending a Ramadan observance with Cardinal Law or the prayer meetings of Pope John Paul II:

"But if any one preach the Jewish law unto you, listen not to him. For it is better to hearken to Christian doctrine from a man who has been circumcised, than to Judaism from one uncircumcised. But if either of such persons do not speak concerning Jesus Christ, they are in my judgment but as monuments and sepulchres of the dead, upon which are written only the names of men. Flee therefore the wicked devices and snares of the prince of this world" (Epistle to the Philadelphians, 6)

"I give you these instructions, beloved, assured that ye also hold the same opinions as I do. But I guard you beforehand from those beasts in the shape of men, whom you must not only not receive, but, if it be possible, not even meet with...I have not, however, thought good to write the names of such persons, inasmuch as they are unbelievers. Yea, far be it from me to make any mention of them, until they repent and return to a true belief in Christ's passion, which is our resurrection. Let no man deceive himself. Both the things which are in heaven, and the glorious angels, and rulers, both visible and invisible, if they believe not in the blood of Christ, shall, in consequence, incur condemnation....It is fitting, therefore, that ye should keep aloof from such persons, and not to speak of them either in private or in public, but to give heed to the prophets, and above all, to the Gospel, in which the passion of Christ has been revealed to us, and the resurrection has been fully proved." (Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, 4-7)

The council of Laodicea taught:

"It is not permitted to heretics to enter the house of God while they continue in heresy....The members of the Church are not allowed to meet in the cemeteries, nor attend the so-called martyries of any of the heretics, for prayer or service; but such as so do, if they be communicants, shall be excommunicated for a time; but if they repent and confess that they have sinned they shall be received....It is unlawful to receive the eulogiae of heretics, for they are rather a0logi/ai [i.e., fol-lies], than eulogiae [i.e., blessings]. No one shall join in prayers with heretics or schismatics....It is not lawful to receive portions sent from the feasts of Jews or heretics, nor to feast together with them." (6, 9, 32-33, 37)

We read in the Apostolic Constitutions:

"If any one, either of the clergy or laity, enters into a synagogue of the Jews or heretics to pray, let him be deprived and suspended....If any Christian carries oil into an heathen temple, or into a synagogue of the Jews, or lights up lamps in their festivals, let him be suspended." (8:47:65, 8:47:71)

When we compare these sentiments to the behavior of so many modern people who claim to have such deep historical roots, we're reminded of the comments of John Montgomery:

"The final authority [for Catholics] is the living Magisterium, which, a priori, stands above criticism. Words, documents, and entire epochs of Church history have suffered the death of a thousand qualifications, and Rome still remains; ever-changing, ever the same. But what about the Protestant evangelical who, without a Magisterium, contemplates the path taken by his Roman Catholic counterpart?" (God's Inerrant Word [Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House, 1974], p. 275)