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Messages - David Garner

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1
Your Turn / Re: New CPH Large Catechism
« on: January 31, 2023, 10:18:20 AM »
I'm listening to a podcast on marriage by Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick and Fr. Stephen DeYoung right now.  It's called "Lord of the Spirits," and the podcast I think is called "One Flesh."

Anyway, they had a discussion that I think is relevant to the issues you all are discussing now.  They pointed out how people like to say polygamy is sanctioned in the Scriptures, and Father Stephen said basically "just because the Bible describes something does not mean it prescribes it."  And he noted the Patriarchs in Genesis, and how of the three, the picture of a good marriage we get is Isaac and Rebekah.  Isaac, as I know from my own studies, is the picture of faithfulness among the hierarchs.  Whereas Abraham doubted God's promise to deliver him a child through Hagar, Isaac prayed to deliver Rebekah from her barrenness.  Whereas Abraham fled to Egypt to escape famine, Isaac did not go to Egypt because the Lord forbade it.  Etc.  Anyway, Isaac only ever had one wife -- Rebekah.  I don't think this is accidental.  Neither do Fathers Andrew and Stephen.  Jacob then follows Abraham's lack of faith and disobedience, with predictable results, and it is not until Joseph emerges as a true type of Christ that we see the fruit of Isaac's faithfulness (ironically through the faithlessness of his father and brothers).

In this way, it seems to me, the Old Testament does not promote polygamy, but in fact describes its negative effects on God's people.

2
Your Turn / Re: Are the sheep to still judge the shepherd?
« on: January 25, 2023, 04:24:01 PM »
A few months ago our bishop came and was talking to the parish.  He asked "who is the highest authority in the Orthodox Church?"

A few of us said "Christ," to which he said "yes, but who is the highest earthly authority?" (Checkmate Sayedna!).

Several answers, all of which were really good -- the local bishop, the Councils, the Ecumenical Councils, etc. -- were given.  The bishop said (paraphrasing) "no, you are.  Nothing is ever dogmatized in the Orthodox Church without being accepted by the people and received as the Apostolic deposit.  The Church proclaims, but the Church does not dictate."

I thought this was a solid argument.  Everyone in the Church is under the authority of someone else.  Even the Patriarch has a father confessor.  But more, the Church as a whole is the ultimate authority.  This has played out in more ways throughout history than one can count. St. Mark of Ephesus is a good example. 

In any event, there are obviously differences in ecclesiology here, but we certainly think the sheep judge the shepherd.  Not normatively, but in a sense, ultimately.

3
Your Turn / Re: Theology of transgenderism
« on: January 24, 2023, 01:03:22 PM »
At my neighborhood Giant Eagle supermarket in Pittsburgh, one of the cashiers began to seem different. It was a gradual process. Eventually I could see that it had a direction, that ambiguity was not intended to be the end point. When that end point seemed to be reached, and the cashier gave me my change, I said, "Thank you, ma'am." Was that a wrong thing to do, or a right one?

Peace,
Michael

There is a difference between politeness and delusion.  One can be polite, even to one who is delusional.

One cannot be polite to another who demands you share in the delusion.

All of this is contextual.  I would assume you did the right thing here by being nice to someone.  But if that same someone said "I'm just as much a woman as your wife or daughter," I don't think it's loving to affirm that.  It depends on what we're talking about, IMHO.

4
Your Turn / Re: Coronavirus news
« on: January 17, 2023, 04:20:10 PM »
I got the vaccine as soon as I could, and the first booster, mostly because I need the vaccine to do my job as a pastor and gain admittance to various places, and needed the booster in order to travel overseas. But then I lost interest in trying to keep up, so that is as far as I went with it.

I do not doubt that the benefits outweigh the risks in most cases. I do not have trouble with the vaccines so much as the mandates and the effort to shame the unvaccinated or essentially badger or coerce them into getting vaccinated.

I have never had the slightest fear of flying. But I know some who do have the fear. Even though the statistics absolutely demonstrate it is comparatively safe, some people don't want to get in an airplane. The cost-benefit analysis of forcing someone to fly is not just efficiency of transportation but also recognition of personal liberty. Some people are extremely suspicious of the whole medical field, distrusting it even more than airplanes. Forcing them against their will to get vaccinated is a huge negative that outweighs the risk of letting those who don't want the vaccine remain unvaccinated at their own risk.

I'm roughly the same.  I got the first two shots, but I never bothered with the booster because by the time that came around 1) I had already had COVID despite being vaccinated, and 2) it wasn't really killing people anymore, at least not relatively healthy people.

I stay away from my elderly parents when I feel sick.  That's about it these days.

But I also don't really cotton to people claiming the vaccines are causing young men to drop dead.  I think there is a vast gulf between that claim and any evidence to back it up.

5
Your Turn / Re: Coronavirus news
« on: January 17, 2023, 03:21:15 PM »
This article may be of interest to some. Warning - it is data driven, not emotion driven.

Today’s article is about mRNA vaccines and the unvaccinated and sudden deaths that are being hyped up in a lot of the news media.

https://yourlocalepidemiologist.substack.com/p/covid-19-vaccines-and-sudden-deaths

Thank you for posting this. 

6
Your Turn / Re: Dr. James Nestingen, RIP
« on: January 12, 2023, 09:51:46 PM »
How is this responsive to what David has written?  You ask a question which he already answered satisfactorily, and reply with substantially similar examples of "good works", albeit more specifically Lutheran, as if he didn't offer any.  Strongly implying this Lutheran behavior is uniquely meritorious.

My response to what David wrote was to seek more specific answers to what are the good works that God has prepared for us to walk in.

I gave some responses as examples.  Here are others:

Some reactions to these quotes. First of all, why should we, who are not Orthodox, care? They are not Scriptures. They are not our Confessions. They have no authority over us. However, we can still learn from them.

Quote
“Prayer is by nature a dialog between man and God. It unites the soul with its Creator and reconciles the two. Its effect is to hold the world together”
-- St. John Climacus

I disagree. Prayer is a communication between us and God. It is Jesus who reconciles us to his Father, not our prayers.

Quote
“Virtues are formed in prayer. Preserves temperance, suppresses anger, restrains pride and envy, draws the Holy Spirit into the soul and raises man to Heaven”
-- St. Ephraim

It seems to me that he is describing relationships between people. It also seems to be that "being raised to heaven" thwarts God's plans to have us do the good works that God had planned for us to do on earth.

Quote
“Meditation on the scriptures teaches the soul the discourse with God… Without the pursuit of Holy Scriptures the mind can never approach God”
-- St Isaac the Syrian.

Yup, scriptures can increase our knowledge about God. It doesn't change God's relationship with us.

Quote
Who does prayer and meditation on the Scriptures help?  Is approaching God a good in and of itself, or must it always be with an eye toward our neighbor?

How does prayer, meditation, and scripture help us? What does that help look like? I maintain that they can increase the fruit of the Spirit which are primarily about our relationship with other people. How can one talk about becoming more loving, if there aren't other people to love? How can one talk about a decrease of anger, if there aren't other people who anger us?

The neighbor is the result of the growth God gives. Frankly, seeking such growth usually comes because one has an eye on the self - and we aren't what we would like to be - especially in terms of our interactions with others.

Quote
The Fathers speak often of the virtues being good for us, not God.  God doesn't need our virtue.  We do.  That extends, obviously, to works of mercy as well, but it also extends to prayer and drawing near to God, which is its own end.

I often heard that if God seems far away, who moved? Any sense of a distancing between us and God, comes from our own mental state. We take Christ within us. His body and blood become of us. He flows through our blood to every part of our bodies. Paul talks about putting on Christ. He is as close as a warm winter coat. How can we get any nearer than that? Prayer can open up our minds to understand how close God is to us. What we can do is become more aware of that intimacy in our minds that God has already given us.
It strikes me, Brian, that you often talk like a complete materialist. How does, say, having food and drink help a person? Only if there is such a thing as physical health, and health is simply better than malnutrition, and being a healthy person needs no further justification. Nutrition doesn't save a person. It doesn't give them a relationship with God. So why should we feed the hungry? The fact is that there is such a thing as physical health and there is such a thing as spiritual health. And some thing nourish and sustain spiritual health like food nourishes physical health. That you can only conceive of Christians as having an already perfected and unalterable relationship with God and no possible good thing to do other than to assist others with their physical needs makes you wonder if you believe in the spiritual world at all.

“The body prospers in the measure in which the soul is weakened, and the soul prospers in the measure in which the body is weakened.”
—Abba Daniel

7
Your Turn / Re: Dr. James Nestingen, RIP
« on: January 12, 2023, 09:48:33 PM »
How is this responsive to what David has written?  You ask a question which he already answered satisfactorily, and reply with substantially similar examples of "good works", albeit more specifically Lutheran, as if he didn't offer any.  Strongly implying this Lutheran behavior is uniquely meritorious.

My response to what David wrote was to seek more specific answers to what are the good works that God has prepared for us to walk in.

I gave some responses as examples.  Here are others:

Some reactions to these quotes. First of all, why should we, who are not Orthodox, care? They are not Scriptures. They are not our Confessions. They have no authority over us. However, we can still learn from them.

A fair question. They are all pre-schism, if that matters at all.

8
Your Turn / Re: Dr. James Nestingen, RIP
« on: January 12, 2023, 04:52:26 PM »
How is this responsive to what David has written?  You ask a question which he already answered satisfactorily, and reply with substantially similar examples of "good works", albeit more specifically Lutheran, as if he didn't offer any.  Strongly implying this Lutheran behavior is uniquely meritorious.

My response to what David wrote was to seek more specific answers to what are the good works that God has prepared for us to walk in.

I gave some responses as examples.  Here are others:

“Prayer is by nature a dialog between man and God. It unites the soul with its Creator and reconciles the two. Its effect is to hold the world together”
-- St. John Climacus

“Virtues are formed in prayer. Preserves temperance, suppresses anger, restrains pride and envy, draws the Holy Spirit into the soul and raises man to Heaven”
-- St. Ephraim

“Meditation on the scriptures teaches the soul the discourse with God… Without the pursuit of Holy Scriptures the mind can never approach God”
-- St Isaac the Syrian.

Who does prayer and meditation on the Scriptures help?  Is approaching God a good in and of itself, or must it always be with an eye toward our neighbor?

The Fathers speak often of the virtues being good for us, not God.  God doesn't need our virtue.  We do.  That extends, obviously, to works of mercy as well, but it also extends to prayer and drawing near to God, which is its own end.

9
Your Turn / Re: Dr. James Nestingen, RIP
« on: January 12, 2023, 09:56:54 AM »
Another way to get at the point is to ask, what is the purpose of the "100%" in the professor's statement that we remain 100% sinful our entire lives in this world? How is that different from simply saying that we remain sinners? What would be the difference between someone who was 75% sinful and someone who was 100% sinful? Why introduce the whole concept of percentages into a template that does not admit of percentages?

I think the introduction of the 100% is an attempt to head off any possible temptation toward works-righteousness. Don't even think about it, it ain't gonna happen. You're never going to make yourself right with God. That's what Jesus did for you, and it is done. Totally. As such, it seems innocent enough and even salutary given the human propensity for pride and self-deception.

However, introducing percentages into a discussion of justification ends up being theologically paralyzing. It is a message of despair to the one who actually has a converted will. It says to the drunkard who wants to be sober that there really is no such thing as sobriety, or if there is, it is impossible to attain or even make progress toward, but don't worry, drunkenness is okay, too, and ultimately doesn't matter. The end result is libertine antinomianism (which devolves into legalistic puritanism about matters unrelated to the faith) about this life coupled with glib universalism about eternal life. As such, much of what Christians have written through the ages prior to the 20th Century makes no sense.

Very well said.  I was reading the whole "100% sinner" thing and while I understand it intellectually because I was Lutheran for a decade, it struck me wrong for reasons I couldn't really put my finger on.  Besides the obvious things like rendering salvation into a purely juridical or forensic judgment where God expects perfection and I ain't it, I think you've hit the nail on the head here.  The real problem is it forecloses any possibility of following, however weakly, the will of God.  And you're also correct that the desire here is a good one -- we do not wish to delude ourselves into thinking we can earn salvation by doing good.  But taken to the extreme, as it is here, it also excises Ephesians 2:10 right out of the Bible.

St. Paul says we are saved:

1). By grace,
2). Through faith, and
3). For good works

Reducing salvation to the mere transactional level ignores that we are saved for a purpose, not simply in a vacuum.  God saves us SO THAT we might do His will without the conditions of the Law or threat of punishment hanging over our heads.  The problem with the Pharisees was not that they kept the Law, but rather that they lacked mercy.  And Jesus never once criticized the Pharisees for keeping the Law.  He criticized them for believing that lawkeeping was a greater good than love.  That's why He called them whitewashed tombs.  They were outwardly clean, but inwardly rotten.  And so it is with us too.  Likewise, He did not call Matthew, the tax collector and traitor to the Jewish people, in order that Matthew might continue to live in his sin.  What did Jesus say to the Pharisees at the house of Levi?  "I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."

He did not say "I have come to call sinners, but no need to repent -- just keep doing what you're doing, it's all good."

10
Your Turn / Re: Dr. James Nestingen, RIP
« on: January 11, 2023, 05:24:41 PM »
Obviously I approach monasticism from an Orthodox context, and in the Orthodox Church we can see the abuses that can occur when monastics become prideful.  But we also get to see the beauty present in simple people living simply, having as their only vocation praying for the life of the world.

I do confess I see the approach taken in the confessions as throwing the baby out with the bathwater.  And I also confess to some sympathy with that, given that some sorts of monasticism can lead to self righteousness, rigorism and abuse.  But that is not all forms of monasticism.  Perhaps it was in medieval Europe, but I wouldn't trade the Desert Fathers for a whole college of laypeople praying.  Neither would I substitute them for that, but I think both are helpful, and needed.

As a couple of examples of where the loving sort of monasticism trumps the rigorist sort:

"It is better to eat meat and drink wine than to eat the flesh of one's brethren through slander."
--Abba Hyperechius

"A dog is better than I am, for he has love and does not judge."
--St. Xanthias

"A brother sinned and the presbyter ordered him to go out of church. But Bessarion got up and went out with him, saying, ‘I, too, am a sinner.’"
--Abba Bessarion

There is so much good there, it pains me to see it set aside simply as a rebuke to those who abuse the practice.

11
Your Turn / Re: Dr. James Nestingen, RIP
« on: January 11, 2023, 09:30:01 AM »
Brian, the issue is not who does it, God, us, or both in cooperation. The issue is whether it happens at all. Is it possible for one to grow in holiness, to be more sanctified than he was yesterday? Assuming we’re talking about a baptized Christian, he can’t be more baptized, more saved, more justified than he was yesterday. But can he be more sanctified, holier, more faithful? Set aside who might make it happen— can it happen? Does it happen? Or do people remain 100% sinful in every thought, word, and deed, and 100% forgiven in Christ and that is the end of the story in this life?

I agree, but what does that sanctification/holiness life look like. Way back in seminary I did a study on "spiritual." The key verses are 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 where Paul describes people who are unspiritual.

1 Brothers and sisters, I couldn’t talk to you like spiritual people but like unspiritual people, like babies in Christ. 2 I gave you milk to drink instead of solid food, because you weren’t up to it yet. 3 Now you are still not up to it because you are still unspiritual. When jealousy and fighting exist between you, aren’t you unspiritual and living by human standards? (CEB)

Our spiritual growth is centered on our relationships with other people. While we will never be perfect, we can improve. (From what we've recently seen in congress, we might conclude that they are going backwards.)

I guess - and I fully grant this is not coming from a Lutheran perspective -- I would reject the idea that one cannot grow in holiness vis a vis God.  As Pastor Speckhard said, you can't be more justified or more "saved" or whatever.  But you can deepen your unity with Christ in numerous ways.  You can pray more.  You can repent more.  You can serve more.  You can study the Scriptures more.  You can seek to know God better.  Those are things that Lutherans rightly reject when certain traditions suggest that is how you become saved (we do as well).  But I'd want to hear more about why we would think they are things that are impossible after conversion. 

What are we saved for?  Did God give us a life in Christ or did He simply leave us to return to our sin?  St. Paul instructs the Ephesians "we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them."  Jesus Himself says to those He has healed or forgiven "go and sin no more."  Even when I was a Lutheran, I didn't think those passages of Scripture needed to be explained away.  I just never thought we were saved on account of whether or how well we do those things.  And it isn't that I think we do, in fact, "go and sin no more."  It's just that when Jesus instructs us so, I don't think the answer is as simple as "that's not possible."  We are called to live in Him, not to live for ourselves.


How would praying more, repenting more, serving more, study more make one more holy? One could withdraw from all the cares of the world and enter a monastery where one could devote all one's time to such endeavors. Does that really make us more holy? Jesus came to seek the lost. This type of holiness seems to avoid the lost. As an old saying goes: "He's so heavenly minded that he's no earthly good."


There's been a meme on Facebook that indicates that spiritual maturity is being able to sit down at table with Judas; not just with friends. That expresses the maturity I see in 1 Corinthians 3; and Ephesians 4. Spiritual growth (as well as the fruit of the Spirit) are measured in our relationships with other people.

I find this terribly judgmental and sad.  And self-centered -- holiness is found in the things you prefer, not in the things others do.  The truth is monasticism is needed, and good, and yes, holy.  It is not everything, but it is something.  People going into the world to take the light of Christ to a dying world is also needed, and good, and yes, holy.  Putting them in opposition to one another misses the point, I think.  If spiritual growth and fruits of the Spirit are measured in our relationships with other people, perhaps consider your relationship to the monastics you so casually toss aside and judge and mock here.

12
Your Turn / Re: Dr. James Nestingen, RIP
« on: January 10, 2023, 02:57:01 PM »
Brian, the issue is not who does it, God, us, or both in cooperation. The issue is whether it happens at all. Is it possible for one to grow in holiness, to be more sanctified than he was yesterday? Assuming we’re talking about a baptized Christian, he can’t be more baptized, more saved, more justified than he was yesterday. But can he be more sanctified, holier, more faithful? Set aside who might make it happen— can it happen? Does it happen? Or do people remain 100% sinful in every thought, word, and deed, and 100% forgiven in Christ and that is the end of the story in this life?

I agree, but what does that sanctification/holiness life look like. Way back in seminary I did a study on "spiritual." The key verses are 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 where Paul describes people who are unspiritual.

1 Brothers and sisters, I couldn’t talk to you like spiritual people but like unspiritual people, like babies in Christ. 2 I gave you milk to drink instead of solid food, because you weren’t up to it yet. 3 Now you are still not up to it because you are still unspiritual. When jealousy and fighting exist between you, aren’t you unspiritual and living by human standards? (CEB)

Our spiritual growth is centered on our relationships with other people. While we will never be perfect, we can improve. (From what we've recently seen in congress, we might conclude that they are going backwards.)

I guess - and I fully grant this is not coming from a Lutheran perspective -- I would reject the idea that one cannot grow in holiness vis a vis God.  As Pastor Speckhard said, you can't be more justified or more "saved" or whatever.  But you can deepen your unity with Christ in numerous ways.  You can pray more.  You can repent more.  You can serve more.  You can study the Scriptures more.  You can seek to know God better.  Those are things that Lutherans rightly reject when certain traditions suggest that is how you become saved (we do as well).  But I'd want to hear more about why we would think they are things that are impossible after conversion. 

What are we saved for?  Did God give us a life in Christ or did He simply leave us to return to our sin?  St. Paul instructs the Ephesians "we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them."  Jesus Himself says to those He has healed or forgiven "go and sin no more."  Even when I was a Lutheran, I didn't think those passages of Scripture needed to be explained away.  I just never thought we were saved on account of whether or how well we do those things.  And it isn't that I think we do, in fact, "go and sin no more."  It's just that when Jesus instructs us so, I don't think the answer is as simple as "that's not possible."  We are called to live in Him, not to live for ourselves.

13
Your Turn / Re: Dr. James Nestingen, RIP
« on: January 10, 2023, 09:39:23 AM »
"From this, then, it follows that as soon as the Holy Ghost, as has been said, through the Word and holy Sacraments, has begun in us this His work of regeneration and renewal, it is certain that through the power of the Holy Ghost we can and should cooperate, although still in great weakness. But this [that we cooperate] does not occur from our carnal natural powers, but from the new powers and gifts which the Holy Ghost has begun in us in conversion, as St. Paul expressly and earnestly exhorts that as workers together with Him we receive not the grace of God in vain, 2 Cor. 6:1."

https://bookofconcord.org/solid-declaration/


You should have copied the whole paragraph.

b It follows from this, as has been said, that as soon as the Holy Spirit has begun his work of rebirth and renewal in us through the Word and the holy sacraments, it is certain that on the basis of his power we can and should be cooperating with him, though still in great weakness. This occurs not on the basis of our fleshly, natural powers but on the basis of the new powers and gifts which the Holy Spirit initiated in us in conversion, f as St. Paul specifically and earnestly admonished, that “as we work together with” the Holy Spirit “we urge you not to accept the grace of God in vain” [2 Cor. 6:1*].  This should be understood in no other way than that the converted do good to the extent that God rules, leads, and guides them with his Holy Spirit. If God would withdraw his gracious hand from such people, they could not for one moment remain obedient to God. If this passage were to be understood as if the converted person cooperates alongside the Holy Spirit, in the way two horses draw a wagon together, this interpretation could not be tolerated without damaging the divine truth.

* Against objections, the use of 2 Corinthians 6:1 was retained here, probably as a counter to Philippist use of this passage, after the model of Melanchthon (CR 21:761; Loci 1543, 96). The Latin translation of 1584 supplemented the reference with quotations from 1 Corinthians 6:9, 16, and 15:10.
[K&W, pp. 556-7]

The b indicates that this came from David Chytraeus's contribution to the "Saxon-Swabian Concord" of 1573.
The f inticates it came from the "Bergen Book," 1577

Our desire to do what is right comes from the Holy Spirit working in our lives.

I'm not seeing any part of that which suggests we ought not strive to will and do the good.  That God is the cause of our willing and doing (something we Orthodox would not reject as such, though we would quibble a bit in the details) does not then argue that we ought to let sin abound so that grace may abound all the more.

By no means!  We are called to a life in Christ.  We are not called to return to the pigsty.

14
Your Turn / Re: Dr. James Nestingen, RIP
« on: January 09, 2023, 03:16:39 PM »
"From this, then, it follows that as soon as the Holy Ghost, as has been said, through the Word and holy Sacraments, has begun in us this His work of regeneration and renewal, it is certain that through the power of the Holy Ghost we can and should cooperate, although still in great weakness. But this [that we cooperate] does not occur from our carnal natural powers, but from the new powers and gifts which the Holy Ghost has begun in us in conversion, as St. Paul expressly and earnestly exhorts that as workers together with Him we receive not the grace of God in vain, 2 Cor. 6:1."

https://bookofconcord.org/solid-declaration/

15
Your Turn / Re: Dr. James Nestingen, RIP
« on: January 09, 2023, 01:48:08 PM »
Amen, Reader David.

"Are we to persist in sin that grace may abound?"


What other choice do we sinners have? Strive for perfection? Maybe strive for mediocrity? (We might reach that.)

St. Paul’s response to his own hypothetical question was “by no means!” It’s curious you went the other direction.


I asked questions. I'll ask it in another way. Is it possible for us to not persist in sin? Paul answers that question in Romans 7. He couldn't.

Do you think those two passages are in any way opposed to one another?  That is, do you consider that if we cannot achieve perfection in this life we ought not bother striving for it?  More to the point, do you think that is what St. Paul is teaching?

We strive to become more Christ-like in our relationships with our neighbors and as witnesses to the grace of God in Jesus Christ. All this falls under our civil righteousness about which we have the power to make improvements. Everything about our relationship with God has been perfected through Jesus Christ. There's nothing more we can do.

This just recites the Lutheran view of synergy (which is to say, it rejects synergy).  That's well and good, but the problem is, it doesn't answer the question.  Did St. Paul mean "by no means" or did he mean something more like what you said, which is essentially "why bother?"

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