Sunday, March 27, 2005

Schiavo Case: Judge Greer ousted from the Church

"You must know that in all likelihood it is this case which will define your career and this case that you will remember in the waning days of life... I hope you can find a way to side with the angels and become an answer to the prayers of thousands."

These words were written to County Circuit Judge Greer by his pastor William Rice of Calvary Baptist Church (SBC) in Clearwater, Fl. Shortly afterwards, Judge Greer withdrew from church membership.

Calvary Baptist and Dr. Rice have had a history of activism for the cause of life, which is evident from the letter he wrote to the Florida Baptist Witness. It appears that Judge Greer's way of life has taken a divergent course from that of his Christian association.

James A. Smith Sr., executive editor of the Witness, had the following to say. “It appears that Judge Greer has chosen to remove himself from the loving care of a biblically sound church rather than to submit to the biblical obligation to exercise his public duties in a manner that is consistent with his Christian faith. This is regrettable for Judge Greer because he could not be better served than to be under the teaching of Dr. Rice."

Such a perspective is diametrically opposed to that of Mary Repper, a long time friend of the judge. She told reporters that, "The people in that church should be ashamed of themselves, to demonize George and to ask him to leave for doing his job, for upholding the law. To me, that was the most offensive thing that has happened so far."

That the "honored" judge would allow his friend to make these kind of public statements is telling. It makes explicit what was already manifest in his unwavering refusal to consider new evidence. Terri was declared "brain dead" and the verdict was set in stone, never to be reconsidered.

These statements by Ms. Repper make abundantly clear that the judge recognizes no higher law than the state's. For him, as for all secularists, law is created ex nihilo by the exercize of the autonomous human will.

A few hours ago, Terri was administerd last rites by her priest. May God the Father and Jesus Christ his Son receive her into their presence at long last. Terri, you're almost home.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Sergius Bulgakov on Church Unity

I actually haven't read that many Eastern Orthodox writers. But last summer I discovered Fr. Alexander Schmemann (1921-1883) and Fr. Sergius Bulgakov (1871-1944). These men are divine gifts for the whole catholic Church, and have much to say to all those who are burdened by the divided state of the visible Church.

Fr. Bulgakov stands in a tradition of Russo-Christian philosophers that had to cope with the destruction of Holy Russia in the Bolshevik Revolution. It became his task to reinterpret Orthodoxy apart from a nationalistic dependent mode, a problem that still bedevills the majority of Orthodox.

An excellent on-line resource for Bulgakov may be found at the Sergius Bulgakov Society.

The following is an excerpt from Fr. Bulgakov's essay "By Jacob's Well":

"There is no such priesthood in Protestantism, but the people of the Church, the 'royal priesthood', remains there, and the potential power of Holy Baptism is fulfilled and revealed there in other ways, in certain devout rites and prayers instead of in effective sacraments. But if these are ineffective, can we say that they are nothing? One cannot say this, for the priesthood is not a magical apparatus for the celebration of the sacraments but a ministration of the Church which exists in the Church and for the Church...

"A more direct and true communion in sacramraments with the Protestant world is hindered by the presence of a rightly ordained priesthood: this is the threshold over which Protestantism must pass, the re-establishement of an apostolically ordained hierarchy.

"These barriers do not exist, however, for those sections of the divided Church which have retained this succession and have therefore a correctly ordained priesthood. Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism belong to this category, together with the ancient Eastern Churches (as well as the Episcopal Church in Protestantism and Anglicanism, in particular in the case of a positive solution of the question of Anglican ordination). The Priesthood of Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy are mutually uncanonical owing to the existing schism, but this does not prevent their mutually recognizing each other.

"The following conclusion of the utmost importance follows from this: Churches which have preserved their priesthood, although they happen to be separated, are not actually divided in their sacramental life. Strictly speaking, a reunion of the Church is not even necessary here, although generally this is hardly realized. The Churches which have preserved such a unity in sacraments are now divided canonically in the sense of jurisdiction, and dogmatically, through a whole range of differences; but these are powerless to destroy the efficacy of the sacraments.

"What is required for complete communion, and where do we start? The predominant formula runs: sacramental fellowship must be preceded by a preliminary doctrinal agreement. But is this axiom so indisputable as it appears? Here on one scale of the balance we have a difference in certain Christian dogmas and theological opinions, and an estrangement which has been formed through centuries; on the other we have the unity of sacramental life. May it not be that a unity in the sacrament will be the only way towards overcoming this difference? Why should we not seek to surmount a heresy in teaching through superseding a heresy of life such as division? May it not be that Christians sin now by not heeding the common eucharistic call?

"...[T]he way towards the reunion of East and West does not lie through tournaments between the theologians of the East and West, but through a reunion before the Altar. The priesthood of the East and West must realize itself as one priesthood, celebrating the one Eucharist, and, if the minds of the priests could become aflame with this idea, all barriers would fall...

"A realization of our unity as something given and at the same time of our disunity as a fact which we cannot ignore is present as a vital antithesis in the soul of the modern Christian. This antinomy cannot leave him in peace. He cannot remain indifferent to it, for he must seek its resolution."

I think Fr. Bulgakov's words speak for themselves. They arise from a living faith in the reality of Christ's Church and Holy Sacraments. Part of my purpose here at UO is to provide resources that help us think "outside the box." All that lies between us and the blessed future is the dead weight of our sinful unbelief, an unbelief that says God is unable--the sacraments are insufficient--to achieve the unity for which Christ prayed in John 17.

"The liturgy is heaven on earth." -- Fr. Sergius Bulgakov

Friday, March 25, 2005

Terri Schiavo, Holy Martyr

It is now Friday night, the eighth day that Terri Schiavo has been deprived of food and water. She is going to die because her husband has an irrevocable power of death over her that has been sustained by the courts, on both the state and federal levels.

The amazing irony is that Terri may very well pass on Easter Sunday, the day that Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. This irony will be lost on the "right-to-diers" who disavow the social relevance of God's Kingdom in the present age. Terri will die, but she will be raised to be with Jesus.

"Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years."

What a high honor Terri has been granted! She has been given the opportunity to be a martyr for the cause of life itself. Her frail life has become the focal point of a titanic struggle between two cities, two cultures, the culture of death and the culture of life.

The reality of this conflict cannot be obscured by the cynicism of the American populace. About two-thirds in an ABC News poll said the political leaders who are trying to keep Terri alive are more concerned with using her case for political advantage than with her or the principles involved in keeping her alive. Such a read on the intentions of the last minute efforts of Congress and our President to save her arises from a jaded worldview that is incapable of attributing virtuous motives to anyone. It is nihilism.

Despite the best efforts of the Enemy of life, Terri will live. And her perserverance and martyrdom will be a banner and insignia which will rally to itself a great army for the cause of the holy innocents.

"Verily, verily I say unto you, unless a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit."

Unpopular Opinions is Back!

After an initial burst of enthusiasm last year around the election, the posts stopped coming. This is not because I stopped engaging the issues. Rather, I set too high a goal for myself. I was going to attempt an overview of covenant history starting in Genesis and going all the way through biblical history!

In a format such as this, the best approach is to write articles on various subjects and gradually work toward composing a comprehensive paper on the subject. Right now my religio-political thought is at the experimental phase. Now is the time to test my hypotheses by Scripture and by submitting them to a community of Christians who are interested in such things.

If you haven't already, please read my initial post which lays out the general theses I wish to demonstrate from Scripture and illustrate from history.