Orthodoxy and Postmodernity
The Struggle for the Soul of the Church
The Orthodox Christian faith has been for me, as it has been for many, the last bastion of sanity, peace, and spiritual guidance; the fulfilment of authentic existence and a connection to real, lived, revealed Tradition that can be found amongst the various pockets of prelest, delusion, and spiritual ignorance peddled by every self-help guru and self-styled grand master of the occult to be found on every corner of the Internet and in every “spirituality” and New Age section in any bookstore.
If I’m being completely honest, I owe everything to the Orthodox faith. It has been for me a guiding light, a place of refuge, a port of safe harbor against the vileness, the cruelty, the moral bankruptcy and spiritual destitution of the spirit of our age. If my I may go so far, the revelation of the Orthodox Christian faith as it has been revealed for twenty-centuries is the only thing I have complete and absolute confidence in. Without it, I think I would have slipped into madness given the sheer weight of what we last few men of the West are currently facing if I did not believe, as the Elder Paisios once said, that “God will have the last word.”
But the following isn’t mean to be a personal story of any kind, certainly not a story of my “come-to-Jesus moment,” but simply an observation of what I have seen among the various currents affecting Orthodoxy and traditional Christianity and, more importantly, what is to be done about the challenges we are facing.
In many ways this article is meant to be my “universal letter” of sorts, the “epistle of Lukas Eidolon,” if you will. Moreover, I am writing the following because I believe that an attack is looming on the Orthodox Church—the only thing in this life that I love with a real, loving devotion—and the forces of subversion, not merely content to sit idly by as all of Western Christianity continues its downward spiral into apostasy and schism, now look with leering eyes and yawning maws to rend the lifeblood from the body of one of the last strongholds of real, authentic lived Tradition.
Orthodoxy and Postmodernism
The Orthodox faith has not yet faced the full front of the crisis that is Postmodernity. This is because the Oikoumene—insulated from the subversive ideologies and trends that made inroads into the West after the end of the Second World War—was under the totalitarian boot of Communism which, in a very roundabout way, managed to shield most of the Orthodox world from what would eventually become an even greater threat.
When we are speaking about Postmodernism, we are not merely referring to an intellectual current that arose out of literary criticism, although certainly Postmodernism proper has its origins in post-structuralism which preceded it, as well as in Deconstruction. But moreover, Postmodernity refers to a time in history, to that period characterized by the arrival of a post-industrialization, of certain trends in popular culture that can be traced back to the 1980s, of the mass economy and the rise of consumerism, and finally, the economization of early computers and the emergence of the Internet. All of these, it is fair to say, mark the beginnings of a period which signaled the passing of one phase of modernity to another.
But Postmodernity—or rather, Late Modernity, because we are not yet nearing the end of the Modern project—has come a long way since the previous two decades of the 1980s and the early 1990s when the Internet Boom really took off into full swing. The world has been fundamentally changed by rapid globalization, access to cheap and affordable personal computers and the rise of social media and Internet culture.
Corresponding to this was the triumph of the United States over the Soviet Union, of Liberalism over Communism. Postmodernity, therefore, would henceforth be defined by the currents and trends of the victorious United States of America as it assumed the role of world hegemon; American culture would now become World culture.
This meant that all the political ideologies and social movements to emerge from Liberalism—feminism and “free love” in the sphere of the sexes, secular humanism over traditional religious norms, Keynesianism is the field of economics, “civil rights” and tribal identity movements accompanying the influx of non-White populations to the West—would gradually intensify as the years rolled by and the United States extended its influence across the globe.
Orthodoxy may be well acquainted with foreign occupation—as it has been with the Tourkokratia under Islam—and it may know the extent of overwhelming political oppression at the hands of Godless atheists—as it has under Communism—but it is not prepared to face the menace of both at the same time, as exemplified by the influx of Moslem populations into Europe and neoliberalism’s stranglehold over Western politics in forms of both American imperialism and the monster of the European Union.
The following are my suggestions, based upon my own personal observations, of what should be done—rather, what must be done—if both the Oikoumene and the West are to face these twin pincers of the Postmodern world head on and come out all the better for it, and not, as I fear, put off this mounting crisis until it is far too late.
Orthodoxy and Identity
Of call the issues that confront the modern Church, none is so misunderstood as the condemnation directed against any form of ethnic identity, or self-determination of the rights of peoples, as has been done in the name of combating ethnophyletism.
The term Phyletism from phili (Greek: φυλή) meaning “race” or “tribe” was a termed coined at the Pan-Orthodox Synod at Constantinople in 1872. The synod was called to deal with the establishment of a certain episcopacy created to minister only to ethnic Bulgarians who were living there.
However, the glaring problem with this that most smug, condescending Ameridox, who are the always the first to condemn nationalism of any kind as “phyletism,” don’t understand is that this particular ruling by this particular synod—whose claim to truly being “Pan-Orthodox” is seriously in question, as, ironically, no Bulgarian hierarchs where present at this entirely Greek council—is that the so-called “heresy” of phyletism only pertains to ecclesiastical exclusion of one ethnic group from the Church based on geographic parochialism. This is to say that, for example, the Greek Orthodox Church must only minister to ethnic Greeks or that the Russian Orthodox Church must only minister to ethnic Russians. Put simply, ethnophyletism is the refusal to allow anyone of a particular ethnic group access to the Holy Mysteries on the basis of race and not, as it as so often cited, as a condemnation of nationalism or identititarianism itself.
Looking into the background of this disaster of an ecclesiastical controversy, it’s easy to see it for the farce that it is. The Bulgarians living in the city of Constantinople felt alienated by the overwhelming number of ethnic Greeks who held clerical offices—sometimes bought at a price from their Ottoman overlords—and felt rightly justified in their frustration that all Orthodox services were conducted in Greek, by Greeks, for the Greek population of Constantinople.
So, when Bulgarian Constantinopolitans came together and decided to establish parishes to fulfil their liturgical needs, the Greek hierarchs were having none of it, and gathered at once to condemn the Bulgarians of “racism.”
If anything, it was the Greeks who were the true phyletists because, rather than acknowledge their own prejudices and systematic corruption, they doubled down on their own ethnocentrism to preserve the cushy lifestyle they had acquired under the service of their Ottoman masters.
The whole idea that Orthodoxy and national or ethnic identity are somehow incompatible is utterly ridiculous. This criticism of course is being directed at a Church whose parishes are often derided as “ethnic clubs,” which makes this accusation even more humorous. The fact of the matter is this denouncement on the part of wanting to preserve one’s peoples ethnic of cultural identity by stupid, dumb deracinated Ameridox, is not only a gross interpretation of Galatians 3:28, but flies in the face of the entirety of Orthodox Church history.
For example, Cyril and Methodius didn’t proselytize to the Slavs in Greek, Latin or Syriac, but spoke to them in their own language, on their own terms. This urge to bring in newly converted peoples into orbit around some monolithic liturgical, ecclesiastical and universalist pole—as we see with Catholicism and in such figures as a Boniface or a Patrick—is non-existent in Orthodox Church history.
Orthodoxy has understood, from it’s very beginning, that you must speak to people in their own language. That was the beauty of the miracle of the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost which allowed the disciples to understand each other in a way they otherwise couldn’t. This is why such a truly ancient and storied cultural diversity has developed within Orthodoxy, why it has so many rich and varied flavors—a Russian flavor, a Greek flavor, a Slav, Romanian, Levantine, Egyptian and Ethiopian flavor—each people coming together to worship the One, Triune God in their own way, in a way that is unique and particular to them.
And let’s not forget that the sacrifices—sometimes of catastrophic proportions—have been given by entire nations, not just individual martyrs. The people of the Balkans—Greeks, Serbs, Montenegrins, Rumanians, Bulgars—suffered, bled, fought, died and were martyred for generations at the hands of the Turk. That is why the Balkans, despite its many problems, remains the flower of Orthodoxy, the garden of martyrs, the evergreen tree of the Orthodox Christian faith.
If wanting to preserve one’s national identity were so evil, so anathema, so contrary to the spirit of the Gospel, it is conceivable that Czar Nicholas I’s decision to declare “Orthodoxy, Autocracy and Nationality” as the official policy of the Russian Empire would have been met with outright condemnation by the Church’s bishops and hierarchs. But no, Russia is—and remains—the Third Rome, the New Byzantium, the guiding light of the Gospel as a beacon to all nations in the face of Godless atheistic Liberalism, of mass democracy, and anti-Traditional globalist subversion.
The fact is these radical ecumenicists—almost always American converts from Protestantism—don’t have a leg to stand on in this debate. The entire history of our Church, of its martyrs, of its liturgical practices and religious life, disprove their entire baseless argument. If these people, these ignorant, cultureless Ameridox goofballs, really wanted to get rid of any racial or ethnic distinctions within the Church, then they should just as well denounce the Brotherhood of Saint Moses the Black as quickly and intensely as they do the Legion of Saint Ambrose.
Otherwise, they should just keep their impudent mouths shut.
Orthodoxy and the Homosexual Question
Last year I wrote about the horrible court case involving then seven-year old James Younger in my home State of Texas in which his mother, Anne Georgulous, tried to obtain sole custody of the boy to transition him into a girl. Thankfully, the judge ruled in favor of the father, Jeffrey Younger, and James and his brother Jude were spared the nightmarish outcome of what might have been had Georgoulos managed to impose her sick, deluded will upon the boys.
I had hoped that with this ruling we could put all this grotesqueness behind us—but no—the Adversary never rests. On December 21, 2019 an article by Fr. Aaron Warwick of Saint Mary Orthodox Christian Church of Wichita, Kansas was published on the weblog Orthodoxy in Dialogue advocating in all but name for the recognition of homosexual unions.
Having read the article, Fr. Aaron at first makes a very reasoned and compassionate plea, calling out the hypocrisy of holding heterosexual fornication to one standard and homosexual sodomy to another. Then, after having made what was, at least in my opinion, a reasonable argument, he ventures off into dangerous waters. Fr. Aaron writes:
“In reality, I believe we should accept that, like most heterosexuals, most homosexuals will find life long abstinence to be impracticable. In such cases, it is my strong conviction that we should encourage homosexuals to find a lifelong partner. While I understand this offends the sensibility of many Orthodox Christians, I again point to how our Church has dealt with the sin of divorce and remarriage. Namely, we do not enforce the strict legal and scriptural injunctions of our Church; rather, we act in a pastoral manner, allowing people an opportunity to continue working out their salvation within the Church. We never ask a remarried individual to eventually, someday leave their new spouse so their sin will not persist. We simply recognize this person needs compassion and a chance to do as well as they possible can. Furthermore, we realize that the best way to encourage this is for an individual to belong to some form of community that requires mutual submission and the restriction of one’s sexual life to focus on no more than one person.”
This kind of tip-toeing around what should be considered impermissible behavior in the life of the Church is almost reminiscent of the kind of sentimentalist haranguing of Fr. James Martin of within Roman Catholicism. It appears Fr. Aaron, having taken a page out of Martin’s playbook, tosses his net into the proverbial waters only far enough to where he can yank it back for the sake of plausible deniability.
After having been reprimanded by Metropolitan Joseph of the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America, Fr. Aaron has since retracted his statements and issued an apology over publishing the article and stated that he “does not advocate a position in support of same-sex marriage blessings by the Church.” The apology, as of this publication, has now since been removed by the editors of the Orthodoxy in Dialogue website. Curiously, however, the original article remains up.
For those out of the loop, Orthodoxy in Dialogue is a crypto-Communist web project meant to promulgate and promote heresies contrary to the Orthodox faith. Their website also features a directory of Orthodox priests and hierarchs who have promised to condone homosexual activity, and whose identities they have vowed to keep secret. In doing so, they are literally sheltering heretics in the Church.
I want to make something perfectly clear: I’m not advocating that the Church shouldn’t pastor to those suffering from homosexual tendencies; far from it. However, it’s rather curious that the people over at Orthodoxy in Dialogue talk about being “LGBTQ accepting” and not, as they very well should be, being ministers to those Orthodox Christians who suffer from homosexual inclinations. The former position condones the sin to the detriment to the sinner, the latter sees the sin for what it is, a passion that needs to be dealt with—with love, empathy and compassion, of course—but a sin nonetheless. It is very telling how the editors at Orthodoxy in Dialogue treat homosexuals as just another identity group and not, as they should, as fellow Christians, suffering ones to be sure, but all the same.
And herein lies the problem: if you’re one of the alphabet people who puts your sexual identity before your faith, you’ve already committed a grievous mistake. By doing so you’re saying that your identity as a G or an L or a T (because let’s face it, there aren’t really any B’s) takes greater precedence in your life than your identity as a member of Christ’s body and that, of course, is a dangerous error. The response of the Church and its hierarchs should be that they remain firm in its teachings on homosexuality¹ and treat it as another form of fornication, which means that access to the Eucharist should be restricted until such a time as that person is absolved through the Holy Mystery of Confession and the act of repentance.
The problem isn’t with gay people as such, the problem lies with the LGBTQ movement. Its existence is antithetical to Orthodoxy and the two can never be reconciled in any meaningful way. The reason being is that the alphabet people have used and will continue to use the movement as a sort of fifth column to subvert and undermine traditional institutions. At first, we were told: “we only want to marry who we love!’ Then, we were told: “we want to use the bathrooms of our choice!” After that, “we demand the right to adopt!” Again, “children can identify as whatever gender they please!” And finally, here we are at drag queen story hour.
Much like a certain nomadic tribe from the Middle East, the mentality of the alphabet people has been to subvert the traditional customs and institutions of their own homelands for the sole reason, apparently being, to see how far they can push the proverbial envelope. Because, without a cause to fight for, more rights to accumulate, their identity would cease to exist; since the alphabet identity is a false one and isn’t grounded in anything substantial, meaningful or real.
Orthodoxy and Sexuality
The existence of sex has hounded Christian theologians, apologists, monastics, clerics and lay people since Paul’s day.
The Council of Jerusalem, as mentioned in the Book of Acts, which was called to deal with the problem of Judaizing, eventually came to a ruling on what prohibitions the early Christian community would observe and which ones it would reject and among these was refrainment from “fornication” or sexual immorality.² To absolutely no one’s surprise, sex outside of marriage was a problem for some early Christian churches as evidenced in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians³ and to the Galatians.⁴
Attitudes towards sex and sexuality have changed drastically since Paul’s day. And let’s be honest, they’ve changed drastically within the last fifty years. But whether we like it or not the impact of the Sexual Revolution can be felt in almost every arena of public life. For some, the Sexual Revolution has been a blessing, a true liberation in the fullest since of the word, where one is finally able to enjoy to the fullest all the various fruits of sexual pleasure uninhibited by the constraints of religious moralism. For others, it has been nothing but disastrous, a descent in sexual pauperdom.
The rise of the Neomasculine movement in the early part of the last decade brought with it the coinage of various phrases and idioms that would reflect the peculiarities of hookup culture and the dating scene. Among these was the 80/20 rule, a nod to the Pareto principle—a law originally applied to economics which posits that “80% of the outcomes come from 20% of the causes”—having now been applied to the sexual marketplace to refer to a disparity in which eighty-percent of women compete for the top twenty-percent of desirable men. This reality of the sexual marketplace has seemed to be confirmed in a 2015 study by Medium that found that “the bottom 80% of men are fighting over the bottom 22% of women while the 78% of women are fighting for the top 20% of men.”
Of course, there could be a lot of variables at play here, especially considering that many men only use online dating apps and websites just to get laid. But we should be careful not to mistake the forest for the trees, studies like these are common enough and seem to reach similar if not positively identical conclusions. All in all, we’ll just have to chalk it up to common sense that the most beautiful and fertile women will almost always prefer the tallest, fittest, most attractive men.
So, what does any of this mean for Christianity? Or rather, the formerly Christian West?
The fact is the number of bachelors has never been higher, over half of all marriages end in divorce and, increasingly, more and more children or born out of wedlock. These are the realities we find ourselves in; there’s no use and trying to get around it, and the prospect of forming stable, lasting, monogamous relationships seems ever more unlikely for an increasing number of men as well as increasingly undesirable as well. After all, why bother? The creation of ever more and more dating apps and online dating websites gives more and more men the (fleeting) hope that they might get lucky and land a woman burned-out enough to tolerate their miserable existence long enough until they can reach orgasm or, even more unlikely, might be able to experience some kind—any kind—of emotional and physical intimacy.
Coupled with this is the ever-expanding ocean of online internet pornography which gives men a quick, instantaneous release of all their pent-up sexual energy and frustration. The amount of free “Tube” sites that are in existence are beyond counting and are readily accessible to anyone. Any dumb schlub with an internet connection can hop on over to his battle station, bootup his PC and with a few clicks, millions upon millions of videos catering to every fetish conceivable can be immediately streamed for his personal enjoyment. All of this, it’s fair to say, is much easier, not to mention requires much less investment, than forming a real physical relationship.
But the real issue here lies with the Church’s response, or more appropriately, it’s lack of a response to this overwhelming crisis. Sure, porn is bad, lust is a sin, don’t commit adultery—we’ve heard it all before. But what exactly has the Church done in putting forth of a solution?
Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
Because Christianity began as an apocalyptic movement, there was never placed any strong emphasis on something as ephemeral as the needs of the body. After all, “in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage,”⁵ right? Well, two-thousand years onward and we’re still where we were at two-thousand years prior, with all the same carnal lusts, desires, sexual fantasies and inclinations that the fallen human mind can long for.
Historically, the Church managed to avoid, for the most part, all the nasty little hang-ups that originated from sexual desire by ordaining Holy Matrimony as one of its sacraments and, for a long time at least, this worked well enough. But beginning in the latter half of the early Twentieth-century, marriages in the United States, not to mention the whole of the Western world, have been disastrous and have ended in failure, divorce and, increasing worrying, spousal abuse.
It’s no wonder then why perpetual bachelorhood has become seen as a preferable alternative to marriage, why non-monogamy and polyamory are becoming increasingly trendy and popular. The Church’s solution of “just get married” is becoming increasingly irrelevant to some, impossible to many and ultimately condescending to all unmarried bachelors.
The late writer and philosopher of the New Right, Guillaume Faye, had this to say about Christianity’s aversion to sex and sexuality, writing in Sex and Deviance that:
“The repressive sexual obsession of Christianity (whether Catholic or Protestant) has gradually exhausted itself since the end of the 1960’s. The pressure-cooker has burst. The sexual liberation which began in the 1970s has ended in the sad sex of the pornographic industry, the submission of couples to psychiatrists and to ‘successful’ and mechanically normalized sex (and thus the increasing fragility of the couple), the animalization of the now primitive erotic code and the code of seduction, the cult of sexual therapy, (for which Freudian scholasticism prepared the ground), the destablising of the sexual awakening of adolescents through pre-mature access to simplified pornographic spectacles, brutal and virtual. (Faye 234)”
It should be noted going forward that Faye, as one of the original founders of GRECE, was therefore something of a Pagan, or at least an atheist with Pagan inclinations, and is coming at the issue of the Christian approach of sex and sexuality from a heavily negative, anti-Christian (specifically, anti-Catholic) perspective. Still, sometimes it’s useful to take a page from our opponents (although I would consider Faye as something of a fellow traveler, as he shared the same concerns as we do) to understand ourselves where our own pride and haughty convictions would have clouded our better judgement. Faye continues:
“We must nevertheless insist on the fact that Christian puritanism is partly responsible for this inversion, for the birth—by way of reaction, by a brutal explosion as of a repressed person—of universal pornography, the deviation of Eros the breakdown of family codes and rules, and of the ideology of panmixia. The mental mechanism is easy to explain: the aberrant forbidding of normal sexuality which combines marital reproduction, eroticism, and regulated infidelity has given way as soon as the prohibitions collapsed, to a sort of blowing off steam as opposed to a return to normality. Sex having been presented as diabolical by Christian morality; Eros became the figure of the dark tempter, a disfigured god. Unconsciously, contemporary sex-mania still thinks of itself as sin. The attraction of sin explains the deviations of sexuality. The delinquent sex maniacs are travelling the same road as St. Augustine, though in a different direction. From a debauchee, he became a sexaphobe; they, having been sexaphobic puritans, have become debauchees. It is still the same path, however, whether you are travelling in on direction or the other.”
Faye asserts that it was Christian moralism in the realm of sex that eventually paved the way for the forms of sexual deviance and debauchery so common in the postmodern West today. He argues that the pre-Christian societies of Europe had a much more honest, deeply realistic and life-affirming view of sex, whereas the Christian view of sexuality almost comes off as Manichean. Interestingly, it should be noted that St. Augustine (mentioned above) began his spiritual journey as a Manichean before eventually converting to orthodox-catholic Christianity. It probably isn’t outside the realm of reason to speculate that Augustine’s views on sex were in some way deeply influenced by his former Manicheanism.
So, what, then? Does this mean that I agree with what Faye has said and our answers lie in a return towards some weird orgiastic, Pagan view of sex and sexuality? Of course not.
There are plenty of reasons to go along with the Christian view that a healthy, monogamous sexual relationship within the bond of marriage is the ideal. In the practical sense, it means that less children will be born out of wedlock and that less single mothers and their bastard children will have to be supported by the generosity of the State. In the less-than-practical sense, namely the romantic, it means that by encouraging people to marry at a young age, the couple will develop a mutual intimacy through pair bonding that would not have been possible if the two (or the one) went through partners like one goes through different T-shirts throughout the week.
The question then becomes how does the Church make the idea of marriage appealing in the eyes of its young people?
A possible solution could be found in Russia. A 2019 article published by Radio Free Europe reported that “Peter and Fevronia clubs” are popular meeting places for Orthodox Christian singles looking for prospective marriage partners. This hands-on approach, organized by the local parish, is a brilliant way for unmarried Orthodox men and women to connect with one another. After all, Orthodoxy, when compared with other Christian denominations, is in something of a demographic crisis.
Let’s face it, outside of winning converts, birthrates are the only way that a sacred Tradition is passed on to the next generation; “If no babies are crying, your church is dying”, commented one internet minister. We cannot be a Church for the elderly and immigrants who only bother to attend services anyway because their parish functions as a kind of ethnic club. If we do, then we might as well conceded defeat to that other, much angrier, Abrahamic religion as it gradually fills the gap that Christianity left behind in the wake of Existentialism’s rise to prominence. You know the one I’m talking about.
Out of all the problems that Postmodernity is confronting the Church with the issue of sex is the most visual, the most graphic, the most immediate.
This for two reasons: because 1) Christian ethics pertaining towards sex and sexuality are seen as sort of an archaism in the modern world and 2) because it ties in so well with our ongoing demographic crisis. No one is having enough sex anymore, well, within the bond of matrimony anyway, but who cares. The fact of the matter is that in the Western world the number of coffins is outpacing the number of cradles and, increasingly, those being born within the West are of increasingly non-Western decent, mostly from African, Mohammedan and Latin American backgrounds.
This cannot continue. It is a sign of civilizational suicide. As obscene as it might sound, the frontline for winning the future begins in the bedroom. You cannot maintain your civilization with other people’s children. And, if we are to be serious about securing a future for our children, we can no longer hold celibacy—in of itself, that is, for the sake of chastity—as some kind of “virtue.” In doing so we become more Manichean than Mani, more life-hating than the Gnostics.
To be brutally honest, celibacy has produced more mass shooters than it has saints, and the Orthodox Church will have matured when it ceases to conceive of the world, with all its myriad problems, as a monastery.
Marcion of Sinope was an early Christian theologian and preacher who was born towards the end of the 1st Century whose teachings flourished into a rival movement that at one point nearly threatened the preeminence of the Church of Rome.
Marcion is noteworthy for several reasons, the foremost being that he was the first major Heresiarch to challenge the theological orthodoxy of the then Undivided Church, even going so far as to draft the first known example of a New Testament canon. Marcion put forward the idea, along with the early Gnostics, that the God of the Old Testament was fundamentally incompatible with the God that Jesus preached. Yahweh, in the mind of Marcion, was a violent, jealous, vindictive and ultimately imperfect god whose flawed nature led him to create an inherently imperfect universe.
But why does any of this matter? Both Marcion and Marcionism were universally condemned by every single contemporaneous Church Father around to feel the repercussions of this heresy including such names as Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus⁶, Clement, Tertullian⁷, Hippolytus and Origen⁸. While the heresy of Marcionism may be dead, it’s ghost—it’s spectre, if you will—still lingers like an unhappy shade over the shoulders of some of the most “preeminent” theologians, not only within Orthodoxy, but in other Christian denominations as well. What I am alluding to is the heretical doctrine of apocatastasis, or “universal reconciliation” which is to say that all human beings, regardless of how horrible their actions were on earth, will eventually be spared the fires of hell because of some misplaced notion of God’s everlasting mercy.
But wait, you may ask, Marcion wasn’t an adherent of universal reconciliation, right?
But herein lies the crux: the proponents of apocatastasis are essentially dividing the Godhead—the All-Holy Trinity—into two. The universalists, as we might rightly call them, love to go on about God’s mercy while conveniently downplaying his wrath as can be exemplified by even a brief reading of the Old Testament. In short, they are calling God a schizophrenic, they are saying that God is not the same being he was in the time of the Old Testament Faithful as he is now, that he is somehow divided, and all that talk about “dashing the heads of infants against the rocks”⁹ and “breaking His enemies with an iron rod like they were potters vessels”¹⁰ was just a literary device, nothing more than colorful language. And to think, we’re not even taking into account how these loons manage the impressive feat of sweeping the entirety of Hades under the rug!
Among the modern forerunners to this resurgent heresy is Unitarian Universalism, a formerly Protestant movement that schismed away from the main body of Christianity to eventually embrace all religions (as well as irreligion) as equally valid for spiritual growth and actualization. It should be noted that Unitarian Universalism is not the same thing as perennial philosophy or Radical Traditionalism, which holds to the belief that all the world’s major sacred Traditions are paths to the one eternal Primordial Tradition which has existed with God from before all ages, cycles, time and creation.
No, Universalism, on the other hand, says that one is free to be as eclectic as one wants, to pick and choose whatever makes one “feel” good from all the other religions and philosophies that one happens to find palatable. A little bit of Vedanta on Monday, a little Buddhism on Wednesday, Wicca on Friday and a helping of Native American spirituality sprinkled with some Feminist critical theory on the weekend is all perfectly acceptable to Universalism.
Never mind the fact that all the world’s sacred Traditions vary widely from one another, are separated by the gulfs of different times, different places and are meant to appeal to different attitudes, inclinations and dispositions depending on one’s caste, inner nature and spiritual outlook. Universalism, on the other hand, recognizes no such distinctions.
Foremost among the promulgators of the doctrine of apocatastasis within Orthodoxy, however, is one David Bentley Hart.
An esteemed academic and renowned essayist, Hart holds something of a celebrity status in Orthodox circles for his apologetics. He frequently goes toe-to-toe with atheists, arguing that aesthetic perfection is sufficient enough to prove God’s existence. However, and perhaps most glaringly, Hart is an unashamed promoter of universal reconciliation.
Hart has openly stated that Gregory of Nyassa, an early Church Father, is one of his major influences. However, a cursory examination of Hart’s writings shows him to have been also influenced by the Roman Catholic theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar and the Anglican theologian John Milbank.
Hart’s influences are telling. Gregory of Nyassa was one of the only few Church Father’s (other than Origen) to have openly professed the doctrine of apocatastasis. So, too, with von Balthasar who was a major intellectual driving force within Nouvelle théologie, a Catholic theological movement that sought to make concessions towards modernity which eventually culminated in the reforms brought about by the Second Vatican Council. Notably, von Balthasar published two books where he argued for universalism: Dare we Hope “That all Men be Saved” and Love is Credible. The title of the former itself would be a reference for Hart’s book That all Shall be Saved in which he, too, argues quite flatly the case for universal salvation.
John Milbank, the last of Hart’s influences, as well as the only one still currently active, is notable for his apparent condemnation of the social sciences and liberal arts—not because of their heavy-handed involvement in promoting Postmodernism and Frankfurt School-style cultural criticism—but because they promote, as he calls it, an ontology of violence. Milbank is a student of Marcion in the most absolute sense. Unable to accept the violence, the strength, the life-affirming brutality of the peoples of the Old Testament—he, ever the Marcionite—personally concocted an entire contra-Biblical theology centered on what he calls an ontology of peace which, if taken seriously, may be most vile, despicable and downright obscene affront to the Gospel ever crafted.
But more on that later.
Frist, we need to return to Hart, because as one of the most prominent contemporaneous Orthodox theologians, most of my criticism must—fairly, of course—be direct towards him.
Hart is a frequent contributor to the online magazine First Things, an internet journal examining religious issues in the sphere of public life. Back in October of 2015, Hart published an article entitled Saint Origen, defending the early Church Father’s inclinations towards apocatastasis as well as his own. Referring to universal reconciliation, he writes:
“I found myself hovering at the edges of a long, rambling, repetitive intra-Orthodox theological debate over the question of universal salvation, and specifically the question of whether there exists any genuine ecclesial doctrine hostile to the idea. It is an issue that arises in Eastern Christian circles with some frequency, for a number of reasons, some of them reaching back to the first five centuries of the Church, some only as far back as the middle of the nineteenth century in Russia. Not that there really is much of an argument to be had on the matter. Orthodoxy’s entire dogmatic deposit resides in the canons of the seven ecumenical councils—everything else in Orthodox tradition, be it ever so venerable, beautiful, or spiritually nourishing, can possess at most the authority of accepted custom, licit conjecture, or fruitful practice—and the consensus of the most conscientious and historically literate Orthodox theologians and scholars over the past several decades (Evdokimov, Bulgakov, Clément, Turincev, Ware, Alfeyev, to name a few) is that universalism as such, as a permissible theologoumenon or plausible hope, has never been condemned by the Church. Doctrine is silent on the matter.”
Doctrine is most certainly not silent on the matter, and Hart is grievously mistaken to assume that Orthodoxy’s “entire dogmatic deposit” lies with the Ecumenical Councils only. True, Orthodoxy is that one branch of Christianity defined by its faithfulness to the pronouncements of the God-inspired Ecumenical Councils, but Hart makes the mistake to believe that the Councils, and by extension Canon Law, constitute the only depository of theological doctrine. Hart, like most egg-headed ivory tower theologians, neglect the decrees of that other important religious document so central to the heart of Orthodoxy—the Holy Bible.
And let us be absolutely clear: nothing in the New Testament remotely alludes to apocatastasis, and believe me, I’ve looked. I have studied the Gospels, the Epistles and the Apocalypse many times over and nothing—not a single iota of Scripture—even suggests that all sinners will ultimately be reconciled to God after some hypothetical final “restoration” of the world.
Universalists love to cite 1 Timothy 2:4 as proof that Paul, and by extension the Apostles and the early Church, believed in some final restoration of human beings to God. These people deliberately misinterpret the text, misconstruing the fact that God “desires” all people to be saved with the idea that God “wills” all people to be saved. This is a deliberate misinterpretation of what Paul said but, if we’re being honest; if the universalist camp really stuck to what has been revealed, taught, and preserved through the Holy Scriptures, they would have to come to accept that their fallacious arguments don’t have a leg to stand on.
“But there are those who find this an intolerable state of affairs, sometimes because of an earnest if misguided devotion to what they believe Scripture or tradition demands, sometimes because the idea of the eternal torment of the derelict appeals to some unpleasantly obvious emotional pathologies on their parts. And the fiercest on this score seem to be certain converts from Evangelicalism who bristle at the thought that Orthodox tradition might be more diverse, indeterminate, and speculatively daring than what they signed on for. And so the argument went on, repeating a familiar pattern. Those who were keen to defend the gates of hell against every assault of hope cited the small handful of New Testament verses seeming to threaten everlasting damnation; those on the other side responded that none of those pericopes, when correctly interpreted and translated, says what the “infernalists” imagine, and then cited the (far more numerous) passages proclaiming universal rescue.”
In true arrogant fashion, instead of even bothering to name the supposedly plenteous verses from the Scriptures that outweigh the “small handful of New Testament verses” that contradict what seems to be so flagrantly obvious in Hart’s mind; he brushes over the issue entirely, instead accusing those who would dare to hold true to what was actually taught by Christ in the Gospels of suffering from “obvious emotional pathologies.”
But don’t take my word for it, or Hart’s word for it that matter, Scripture is abounding with references to Hell and its finality. In fact, these are made ever more obvious in Jesus’ parables, specifically those in Matthew’s Gospel. We read in the Parable of the Great Banquet¹¹, the Parable of the Ten Virgins¹², the Parable of the Talents¹³ and, most explicitly, in the Parable of Sheep and the Goats¹⁴ as well as in the Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man¹⁵ mentioned in Luke that there will be consequences for ones actions here on earth and—unless Hart or anyone else can prove otherwise—the rendering of judgement by God on the soul—first in the particular judgement then at the Last—will be final.
But if even this was not enough, if the profound evidence taken directly from the Gospel wasn’t enough to convince Hart or any other misguided universalist that the finality of Hell isn’t just an “infernalist” scare tactic, let us now turn to that one book of Christian eschatology which lays out in no uncertain terms the final fate of all unrepentant sinners, the Apocalypse—the Book of Revelation.
We read in chapter 20 verse 15 that:
“And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”
Nothing could be clearer. Apocatastasis is at best a fantasy and at worst a heresy dreamt up by the stupid, but well intentioned that misleads the faithful to not take the eternal fate of their immortal souls with absolute seriousness. I wish I could end this section here. I really do. But to do so I think would be too premature.
“Dare we hope that all men be saved?” Of course. And we as Christians have the moral obligation to pray for, not only the souls of the living, but for the departed who died in their sins so that God in his infinite compassion and ever-loving kindness might have mercy on them. But judgement is ultimately up to God, not up to men, and to sweep under the proverbial rug all the nasty bits of the Bible that deal with the realities of war, the execution of justice and final judgement is not only intellectually dishonest, but so morally unconscionable that I would suspect it is enough to put one’s own soul in danger.
This is because apocatastasis isn’t just a nice little ideal to be hoped for, that all men, regardless of their actions, might have a share in eternal life and the Kingdom of God. Its ultimate implications are far more worrying, far more troublesome and far more disgusting than I or Hart or anyone could put into words.
Put simply, apocatastasis is the obscene belief that a child and his rapist and murderer will ultimately reconcile in the world to come.
The Failure of Theology
The extent to which the advent of Modernity and its impacts upon the human race are able to be fully known, or much less understood, is uncertain. Overall, it’s too soon to tell how devasting the Modern experiment will be, not only on the future of human life and civilization, but the entire ecosystem of the planet. Protomodernism, such as we might call it, had its genesis with the onset of the Renaissance, the so-called Enlightenment and the “Age of Reason.”
Traditional institutions, lifepaths, ways of understanding and relating to world, as well as the ancient knowledge of Traditional metaphysics in the West—preserved from the days of medieval scholasticism—were very gradually, then very rapidly, replaced by the emerging cults of reason; of liberalism and democracy against divine right of kings, an ever-emerging confidence in the infallibility of science to solve the crisis of what it means to be human and to understand the world, as well as an unshakeable faith in the supposed reality of materialism and secular, profane philosophy.
After it’s three-century long gestation period, Protomodernism emerged from its chrysalis into Modernity proper with outbreak of the First World War; of which we are still feeling the effects. The question of how to respond to Modernity has troubled Christian theologians, scholars and thinkers for almost two-centuries, and it is still a question that even the brightest Christian minds still struggle to find answers too.
In the current era, many major Christian denominations have either fully embraced Modernism in toto or have at least made concessions to it. With regards to the former, we have seen every single mainline Protestant church in the United States either embrace this apostasy completely or schism into different sects because their clergy were unable to work out the major ideological differences between the theological liberals on the one hand and the religious conservatives on the other.
For example, as of this year, the United Methodist Church has agreed to split as early as May over irreconcilable differences pertaining to heretical ideas such as the ordination of open homosexuals to the clergy and the blessing of same-sex “marriages.”
The Roman Catholic Church—which likes to present itself as the retainer of Traditional Western Christianity—has itself been overtaken by modernists (which, if we’re being honest, is the least of its problems at the present moment) as exemplified by the development of Nouvelle théologie mentioned earlier. Among the initial founders of the kinds of thought associated with Nouvelle théologie were names such as Karl Rehner, Henri de Lubac, and of course the aforementioned Hans Urs von Balthasar as well as the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger who went on to become Pope Benedict XVI.
The promulgation of these ideas eventually led to Modernism’s triumph over the Roman Church in the Second Vatican Council. Nouvelle théologie, it should be known, was a reaction against the anti-modernist tendencies of Neo-Scholasticism which had preceded it. The Neo-Scholastics attempted to preserve, such as it was, the orthodox teaching of the Catholic Tradition against the encroachments of modernity, which had been under assault since the Reformation and intensified with the outgrowth of secular liberal, anti-clerical movements such as Freemasonry.
Since then, Western Christian theologians—of both Protestant and Catholic backgrounds—have attempted to confront, in some meaningful way, the crisis that is the modern world. And in this regard, they have been absolute failures.
Nouvelle théologie, Neo-Orthodoxy, Radical Orthodoxy and liberation theology have either fully embraced or continue to make concessions to Postmodernity which is—in all matter of fact—the spirit of Antichrist. They fail and continue to fail for very simple reasons: 1) they lack a unified theory of metaphysics and 2) they lack a unified theory of politics.
When it comes to the other great sacred Traditions of the world, Christianity is at something of a disadvantage when it comes to confronting the spectre that is Postmodernity; precisely because it lacks a coherent metaphysics on which to challenge Postmodernism’s presumptions.
While other Traditions may possess a complete system of metaphysics, Christianity does not. This is because Christianity is grounded, not in metaphysical assumptions, but in theological ones. While other religions may possess a theology of some kind, Christianity alone is a theological religion. In spite of this, Christian theology has, rather clumsily, attempted to construct a system of metaphysics upon it’s Christology, the only absolute that it recognizes.
Understanding who the person of Jesus Christ is, is the entire raison d’être of that religion’s existence. And compared to that issue alone, all other areas of thought and speculation, of merging the sciences to its esoteric body of knowledge, of developing a real concrete understanding of metaphysics is of no concern at all.
This is why Christianity has suffered as it has in the Modern Era and continues to suffer in the Information Era, because it has never attempted, at least not sufficiently, to reconcile the sciences—biology, geology, astronomy, physics—to its own Christological and theological understanding of the cosmos. The fact that debates of over creationism and Darwinism existed in the first place are a testimony to that fact.
Though to be fair, the medieval Western Church came the closet with the development of scholasticism. However, the Western Church never expanded upon this knowledge, never incorporated it into a unified system of metaphysics which is why the West essentially had to import its metaphysical systems (which were really just occult sciences) from the East in the forms of Hermeticism, alchemy and Kabbalah. In the East, the situation was only marginally better.
Although not possessing a unified system of metaphysics per se, although the metaphysical speculations found in the writings of the Dionysius the Areopagite and Maximus the Confessor come the closest. Despite this, Eastern Christianity, having possessed a deeply rooted tradition of monasticism, succeeded in developing a rich history of mystical theology.
Monasteries are the laboratories of Orthodox mystical, theological and liturgical thought and it is doubtful that Orthodoxy could have survived the passing of the centuries as well as it has, in the face of so numerous and ever-present dangers and heresies, without the prayers and perseverance of its monastics.
And this deep tradition of asceticism, inner prayer and mystical contemplation, which has come to define to the Orthodox practice of hesychasm—the struggle for inner stillness through the recitation of the Jesus Prayer—has set Orthodoxy apart from its Western cousins, which have either been too intellectual (dare I say, Barlaamite?) or too fundamentalist in their approaches to formulating a pure system of metaphysical thought.
But let us be clear, mysticism—or moreover, mystical experience—is not the same thing as metaphysics. And to the uninitiated and the unprepared it can be an overwhelming, heavily traumatic and deeply nightmarish experience when not formally guided by the learned teaching of a spiritual elder. The line between mystical contemplation and ecstatic experience is very thin, and it’s incredibly easy to confuse the two as one in the same thing.
And this, I’m afraid, is where Orthodox mystical theology falls short. While incredibly useful to the spiritually prepared monk, there is no science of hesychasm, no science of theosis to help yoke the individual Self to God. At least, there is no precise science in this measure. Palamas, Climacus, and Theophan the Recluse have, through their writings, come the closest to finally pinning down what was so missing from Christian life: a spiritual tradition of initiation beyond baptism meant to guide both layman and monk to restoring oneself to that true state as it existed before the Fall; a guidebook towards the heavenly kingdom, a true ladder of divine ascent.
I previously stated that the other reason why Christianity has suffered in its ability to confront the crisis of Modernity head-on is because it lacks a theory of politics. Which, at least from the outset, is fine. Sacred Traditions do not normally busy themselves with politics; that is generally not their area of concern. The problem, though, is that one Tradition does possess a theory of politics. In fact, the Tradition itself also functions as a political theory.
I am talking of course about Islam.
Islam is the only religion, out of all the world’s religions, to divide the world into friend and enemy zones, into the Dar al-Islam and the Dar al-Harb, the House of Peace and the House of War. The early Muslim community, the Ummah, ceased to be a religious community, merely, as soon as Abu Bakr, it’s first Caliph, had the power—like Mohammed before him—to decide to wage war on his non-Muslim neighbors. War, after all, is politics by other means, and the one sure thing that elevates all human thought and activity into the domain of the political is the act of war, of making a distinction between friend and enemy.
This isn’t to say that other major world religions, Christianity among them, have been necessarily non-violent. Hinduism reserves a caste for its warriors, the kshatriya, as does Sikhism with its Khalsa. The Old Testament is filled with lurid scenes of war and many figures of the Tanakh were in facts warlords themselves. But here the distinction must be made: while certain religious Traditions may possess prescriptions for conducting warfare, it is only when a religious community organizes itself as a people in relationship to power, viz., a State, that it ceases to be a mere “faith community” and becomes a political unit. For example, it is for this reason that Oliver Cromwell of the Puritans ceased to be a mere religionist during the English Civil Wars and became a political leader, a warlord, the Lord Protector of the theocracy he himself established in Britain.
But for a Tradition to adopt a form of politics it need not necessarily establish itself as a theocracy. On the contrary, like many religious Traditions, Christianity was able to ingrain itself into political life through monarchism. This is because monarchy is the human race’s most natural form of government. Monarchy, in its essence, is a perfect reflection of not only natural law but reflects the divine ordering of the cosmos.
Therefore, any attempt to graft Christianity onto democratic-republicanism is doomed to failure, precisely because the democratic-republican ideal was born out the atheistic, revolutionary, Freemasonic subversion of the European Enlightenment. The two are fundamentally incompatible and any attempt at creating a “Christian democracy” under the supposed guise of Christian social teaching is impossible. It means that one is trying—through some weird alchemy—to creating a chimera of sorts, a monstrous hybrid out of two things that are diametrically opposed to one another’s existence. In fact, the only example where we see democracy appear anywhere in the Bible is where Christ is presented to the mob in Jerusalem where the Jews in the crowd demand that Barabbas be released in his place.
But the absence of monarchy doesn’t not mean that Christianity has ceased to be political, or that it should for that matter. Christianity, whether Christians wish to acknowledge it or not, is part of the great game between competing ideological factions now that neoliberalism is starting to the way of the dinosaur. For Christianity to remain relevant in the sphere of public life, it must assume the language of politics, viz., being able to make the friend and enemy; who is on the side of the Body of Christ and who is in league with the spirit of Antichrist. And for this to happen Christianity needs to attach itself to political ideologies.
However, I am under no delusions that many of my fellow Christians will vehemently disagree with me on this matter. In fact, I can already hear their screeching voices condemning me as a demagogue, a provocateur, a crypto-Pagan more concerned with the affairs of this life than the world to come. But what I am advocating for is not new, not in the slightest, and certainly no less controversial or blasphemous than the battles that took place at Tours or Lepanto which were absolutely political in their nature; because they were conditioned responses to real and immediate threats.
This is why the theology of people such as John Milbank is as diabolical as it is, because it is an obscene perversion of Christ’s command to “resist not evil.”¹⁶ The whole concept of a supposed “ontology of peace” is a vulgarism. It completely disregards the brutal realities of this world and the righteous need to confront them. It proposes to sit idly by—to shake our fists at the wicked and those who have sold their souls to Moloch—and to simply raise our voices in mere consternation all the while innocents suffer, while Christians are persecuted, while the unborn are slaughtered, when the obvious solution—the only solution—is through violence. This is because the concept of the political implies violence, because the world is violence. And make no mistake, the kingdom of Heaven is won by violence, and only the violent take it by force.¹⁷
I think I have said all that I have needed to say, or least all that I am able to say at the present hour. We would be gravely mistaken to believe that just because the Orthodox Church remains one of the only few Traditions to hold out against the onslaught of global subversion it will remain so perpetually. Even though the gates of Hell will never overcome the Church of Christ,¹⁸ that doesn’t mean it’s foundations cannot be shaken.
The fact is if we remain leisurely complacent in our present security because the Church is, for now, a redoubt of sanity, then we risk letting slip away all the sacrifices our saints, confessors and martyrs have made for our sake over the course of centuries. What is imperative now is we redouble our efforts, bunker down and prepare for the worst. And, believe you me, I believe the worst is yet to come.
I am predicting that by the end of this decade many priests, bishops as well lay people alike will fall into apostasy and, not just embrace, but openly espouse modernist heresies such as gay marriage, the ordination of women as deacons, allow open and unapologetic Freemasons into the Church, promote certain positions found within liberation theology and seek to establish ecumenical ties with not only schismatic Christian denominations, but even Islam.
We need to prepare for this coming catastrophe while we can and what that requires is that every Orthodox man and woman of good, moral conscience call out these heresies, and those who promote them, for what they are and never buckle down even under immense criticism from one’s fellow parishioners and priests even under threat of excommunication. After all, are we seeking after the approval of men, or of God?¹⁹
The indignant might ask, “who are you to judge your fellow Christians, let alone members of the clergy?”
The Church, that’s who. And never forget that, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, that we are the Church. The hand-wringers and pearl-clutchers who are always so quick to say “judge not lest ye be judged”²⁰ are also all-too quick to forget that it also says in John’s Gospel to “judge not according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgement.”²¹
Never forget that Nestorius was the Archbishop of Constantinople, that Pope Leo IX, an Orthodox hierarch, led the entire West into schism because it meant he would continue to enjoy the political position carved out for him by the Frankish emperors and that even today their sits in Constantinople an Ecumenical Patriarch, a Freemason, openly promoting schism between Russia and the Ukraine.
Those who would accuse us of promoting schism ourselves for simply pointing out the truth—what every true Orthodox says and thinks in private—would do well to remember that men are fallible, that no one, not even the hierarchs of the Church are beyond criticism, and that God is no respecter of persons.²²
So, my beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, my dear friends, hold fast to the teachings that you have received,²³ that some of you have known even from your infancy,²⁴ because truly I tell you we are approaching the last hour²⁵ and that the violence, consternation and ridicule we endure for Christ’s sake is never lost on Him who is before all ages, we need only endure for a while longer.
Take heart in the light of the Gospel, commit yourselves to the study of the Holy Scriptures, resolve yourself to prayer. Hold no grudges among yourselves, forgive your brother even when he doesn’t deserve it, because truly none of us are deserving of God’s love and mercy.
The peace of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ be with you all.
- Leviticus 18:22, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.
- Acts 15:20.
- 1 Corinthians 6:9, 6:18, 7:2.
- Galatians 5:19.
- Matthew 22:30.
- Psalm 137:9 (LXX: 136:9).
- Psalm 2:9.
- Against Heresies
- Against Marcion
- Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew 15.3.
- Matthew 22:11-14.
- Matthew 25:1-13.
- Matthew 25: 14-30
- Matthew 25: 31-46.
- Luke 16 19:31.
- Matthew 5:39.
- Matthew 11:12.
- Matthew 16:18.
- Galatians 1:10.
- Matthew 7:1.
- John 7:24.
- Thessalonians 2:15.
- 2 Timothy 3:15.
- 1 John 2:18.