Prayer in the Church Fathers - A request for help from Catholic/Orthodox brothers and sisters.

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Hamilton Ramos | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Mar 20 2019 3:08 PM

Very interesting information:

While the Eastern Orthodox Christians in the first four great Councils (325–451) admirably defined and defended the doctrines of Christ’s eternality, deity, unipersonality, perfect humanity, and duality of natures, they neglected any in-depth study of Christ’s work.

Such neglect was also in large part due to the fact that even the best of the Greek Orthodox fathers, such as the Cappadocians, frequently became masters of compromise and synthesis in their attempts at reconciling aberrant philosophies, such as Origenism, Neo-Platonism, and Neo-Aristotelianism, with biblical doctrine. They often depict sin as a human weakness that any person can overcome by sheer will power. Salvation is initiated by baptismal regeneration and maintained by partaking of the Eucharist, confessing to a priest, doing works of penance, and practicing mystical contemplation. Patristic training originated from classical pagan schools that instilled proneness towards Neo-Platonic mysticism.

 Beale, D. (2013). Historical Theology In-Depth: Themes and Contexts of Doctrinal Development since the First Century (Vol. 1, p. 487). Greenville, SC: Bob Jones University Press.

 Neo Aristotelianism, mysticism etc. is clearly separated from Biblical doctrine. The point I am trying to make.

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Mar 20 2019 3:35 PM

Hamilton Ramos:
 Neo Aristotelianism, mysticism etc. is clearly separated from Biblical doctrine. The point I am trying to make.

Until you provide a definition of your meaning of mysticism, a meaning that clearly is uncommon, you cannot make a point. You might as well be talking gibberish ...

Hamilton Ramos:
While the Eastern Orthodox Christians in the first four great Councils (325–451) admirably defined and defended the doctrines of Christ’s eternality, deity, unipersonality, perfect humanity, and duality of natures, they neglected any in-depth study of Christ’s work.

Given that there was no "Eastern Orthodox Christians" as a distinct group in the first 5 centuries .... but Copleston's History of Philosophy, Volume I: Greece and Rome is probably the best source. While he is occasionally irritatingly Lutheran, I would suggest you read Von Harnack, Adolf. History of Dogma. Edited by T. K. Cheyne and A. B. Bruce. Translated by Neil Buchanan. Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1897. (in Logos e-books) to get a decent, although a bit dated, understanding of the history of Christian beliefs. If the quote you gave from Beale is typical, you will need a more accurate antidote.

 

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Mar 21 2019 1:05 PM

Some online resources of varying quality:

https://www.academia.edu/1234204/The_Influence_of_Philosophy_in_Early_Christianity

https://indieskriflig.org.za/index.php/skriflig/article/view/719/2291

https://dc.etsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3542&context=etd

MJ. Smith:
If the quote you gave from Beale is typical, you will need a more accurate antidote.

It occurs to me that this may come across as more negative than I intend. Background: I was in an Greek Orthodox summer class with a professor from a reputable Texas seminary. He introduced himself as a professor of church history whose offerings included Orthodoxy. But he had never seen an Orthodox service nor known an Orthodox Christian ... hence he signed up for the course. Significantly the class also included a Coptic Catholic Jesuit priest who was interested in learning more about Byzantine Christianity. By the end of the class, the Texas seminary professor had a very long reading list. He explained that his Protestant seminary had not had a class on the Early Church Fathers and that pre-Reformation Christianity was a one semester course. He had read what he thought was broadly in preparation for teaching the course but that it was a case where he did not know that he did not know a broad swath of Church history, worship and doctrine.

I have learned from experience, that authors writing primarily for people who share similar beliefs, are frequently in a situation similar to the Texas professor. I have also observed that authors who are Protestant and come from a tradition that emphasizes the apostolic succession of bishops tend to have educations that includes significant pre-reformation as well as reformation forward coursework. Therefore, I frequently end up suggesting Anglican or Lutheran sources for early history.  With the expanded interest in the Early Church Fathers, this will eventually cease to be necessary.

P.S. For much the same reasons, I find Catholic and Orthodox sources weak from the Reformation forward.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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Rick Brannan (Faithlife) | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Mar 21 2019 4:12 PM

I haven't read the whole thread, but here's one resource that may be useful:

Charlesworth, James H., Mark Harding, and Mark Kiley. The Lord’s Prayer and Other Prayer Texts from the Greco-Roman Era. Valley Forge, PA: Trinity Press International, 1994. It includes an annotated bibliography of over 100 pages on relevant material. Regarding examples of prayers of early Christians, in my off time I've been doing research into early Christian fragmentary papryi and have located transcriptions for several prayers and translated them. You can see them here (go to the bottom of the page for Prayers and Amulets): https://rickbrannan.github.io/StuffEarlyChristiansRead/data/html/ 

Rick Brannan
Data Wrangler, Faithlife
My books in print

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Ken McGuire | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Mar 22 2019 6:05 AM

Like MJ, I was shocked by the Beale quote you posted - and even more shocked to see how well this work has been reviewed online, with a few reviews saying how well he knows the primary sources.

What I have learned in trying to seriously engage some of these figures is that while they are almost always using the terminology of various forms of Platonism, they are also critically engaging it. I know no theologian who does not use some of the philosophies of their age - and in my opinion there are many who are less aware of the problems of this than figures like Athanasius, Basil, and the Gregories. And they are deeply interested speaking of Christ's work. It may not be fully systematic, but there are lots of passages showing that it is soteriological thinking that is driving their attempt at describing the ontology of God and Christ.

Yes - they are developing the language to talk about the faith. And even in the doctrines of God and Christ, as they are working out the language they are not fully consistent as they are teasing out HOW to talk about this consistently. They may not have a fully developed sense of Original Sin as worked out by Augustine and the Reformers. But they certainly saw overcoming sin as part of the work of Christ and so not just "a human weakness that any person can overcome by their sheer will power."

In fact, as Augustine would soon argue, this is one reason they teach baptismal regeneration. It is an acknowledgement that the power of sin is such that all of humanity needs to be cleaned by Christ.

I have probably gone too far already, but while there are a few who do seem to try to use these figures to bring back Christian Neo-platonism, there are many others who have found that what they are talking about goes well beyond their vocabulary of their time and that we can learn much about who Christ is and what he has done by reading their works. We may not always agree with them. We may think there are things that can be said better. But there are people who I hear in the pulpit that I can say the same thing....

SDG

Ken McGuire

The Gospel is not ... a "new law," on the contrary, ... a "new life." - William Julius Mann

Posts 556
Hamilton Ramos | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Mar 22 2019 7:54 AM

Thanks for the info MJ.

I do not accept Mysticism defined as the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the believer so that he / she understands / experiences correctly the things of God, because Jesus never used that term to explain such phenomena.

Psalms 51:11

Cast me not away from your presence,and take not your Holy Spirit from me.

I do not see a reference to mystical experience here. God takes away or bestows the Holy Spirit, no mystical experience involved, just His sovereign will.

Matthew 3:11

I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

It seems that many traditions forget about the "He (Jesus) will baptize you with the Holy Spirit", a key mission of His. I do not see any mystical concept mentioned in that.

Luke 1:67

And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying, 

Contextually, it seems that Zechariah was filled due to the influence of the hand of the Lord. No mystical contemplation, etc.

I can go on, but a better study can be done by you on this particular situation. To correctly restore koinonia with God the Holy Spirit is needed. That Holy Spirit is given through God's sovereign will, to His elected ones. It seems that is dependent on compliance with the requirements for the New Covenant that were set by God:

Read / hear the Gospel (understand that is God's unmerited favor the one that allows us to be restored to koinonia), Believe in the one He sent (Jesus), repent of missing the target, confess sins and Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, baptize as per Acts 2:38, receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (seal of the New Pact), and walk humbly with your God doing as He tells you to.

But it seems that you and I are in way different wavelengths,nothing wrong with that, just I do not think that mystical is the correct label to refer to the experience of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Biblically such experience is not called that.

As for the Catholic Mystics that you say are not associated with occultism, if they lived a holy life, they are fine, regardless of what they are called.

But in the Bible, people of God are called holy, not mystics, so I do not understand why the misnomer.

Peace and grace.

Posts 556
Hamilton Ramos | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Mar 22 2019 8:06 AM

Thanks MJ for the links, especially https://indieskriflig.org.za/index.php/skriflig/article/view/719/2291, I will take a good look at that when I get the chance.

Very good clarification.

Just to be clear, we can have all the human authors in the world write about all the religion topics there are. Yet from my perspective it stands that Jesus is the only one come from above, and the only one that had the power and authority to bestow the Holy Spirit to humans as was shown in John the baptist explanation of the multipurpose of Jesus' missions.

I hope you understand that Jesus as the only authorized spokesperson on the subject, never used the concept mystical, mysticism, contemplative mysticism related to the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Therefore I reject such terminology when referring, to about such experience. You may call me close minded, fundamentalist, biblicist, etc. and I do not mind, the true Lord and Savior is Jesus Christ, and He is the one I will have to give account to. 

If He asks me eventually, why you did not accept the term mystic when referring to the experience of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, I will just say: You did not use it to describe the baptism of the Holy Spirit when you visited Earth the first time.

Is up to Him to see what will be of me then.

I think is my God given right to choose, and I stay with the Bible witness.

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Hamilton Ramos | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Mar 22 2019 8:08 AM

Thanks for sharing Rick, excellent.

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Hamilton Ramos | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Mar 22 2019 8:10 AM

Excellent post Ken, thanks for sharing.

Posts 556
Hamilton Ramos | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Mar 22 2019 8:19 AM

MJ. Smith:
of which Neo-Aristotelian are you speaking? rhetorical criticism? scholastic rediscovery via Islamic philosophers?

Thanks for the links MJ.

You just proved my point. There seems to not be a "Neo Aristotelianism" article that explains what is it, how did it diversify, who promoted it, or contributed to its development, how it differs from normal Aristotelianism, etc.

If my memory serves me, the term hypostasis defined as Substantive reality, was the product of Neo Aristotelianism. I tried to investigate what that Neo Aristotelianism was about, and did not find that much information.

Info on Neo Platonism is more available.

I just do not seem to find an article the way we find in the ISBE (well structured that touches on key elements) for example about such term. 

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Mar 22 2019 11:05 AM

Hamilton Ramos:
I do not accept Mysticism defined as the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the believer so that he / she understands / experiences correctly the things of God, because Jesus never used that term to explain such phenomena.

Thank you for the definition. It explains why we could not communicate - I have never heard the term used in that sense and would never use the term to refer to that phenomena. The closest I can come to that definition is from Indwelling Presence by George A. Maloney. 

Hamilton Ramos:
But in the Bible, people of God are called holy, not mystics, so I do not understand why the misnomer.

Not a misnomer but a classification unrelated to your definition. 

Hamilton Ramos:
As for the Catholic Mystics that you say are not associated with occultism

Mysticism has no particular tie to Catholicism see the list of individuals from Wikipedia which includes Presbyterians, Lutherans, Jews, Orthodox, Anglicans, Quakers, Catholics ... It is rare to find mysticism associated with occultism as they require two quite incompatible approaches. In mysticism, the "practitioner" simply "tills the soil" with spiritual disciplines and waits ... whether or not they ever have a mystical experience is entirely up to God. In the occult, the stance of the "practitioner" is closer to that of a natural scientist ... if I do z,x,y correctly, then I get the experience/power/et. al. that I have "worked for".

Hamilton Ramos:
 Neo Aristotelianism, mysticism etc. is clearly separated from Biblical doctrine. The point I am trying to make.

But you can't make this point unless (a) you know what neo-Aristotelianism is, (b) use a standard definition for mysticism, etc. There is a significant difference between arguing terminology and arguing concepts. Most notably, the first is a waste of time except in the context of trying to create common understanding across a linguistic divide.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Mar 22 2019 11:48 AM

Hamilton Ramos:
You just proved my point. There seems to not be a "Neo Aristotelianism" article that explains what is it, how did it diversify, who promoted it, or contributed to its development, how it differs from normal Aristotelianism, etc.

  1. Neo-Aristolelianism/Pseudo-Aristotelianism is a school of philosophy not a single position. Like all schools, one finds summaries in books on the history of philosophy or, occasionally books on the school. IIRC it had little influence on early Christianity compared to the other philosophical and cultural movements of the time. It consisted primarily of commentaries on Aristotle and pretty much died out by the 3rd century i.e. the 200's. However, Neo-Platonism absorbed some elements of Aristotle.
  2. Again, IIRC (I took history of philosophy 50 years ago, my memory is faint) it was most active in the Islamic philosophers which is, obviously, much later, and it is there and some Jewish scholars (think Maimonides) where you will easily find piles of information. Now if you were to ask me about the Arabic critique of Aristotlian logic, that's something fresh in my mindWink
  3. Albertus Magnes and Thomas Aquinas were major names in the bringing of Aristotelianism into Christianity - a millennium later
  4. IIRC hypostasis as a term comes from the Neoplatonists & Stoics. It entered Christianity 4th century or so, after Aristotelianism was dead. For a brief history on the development of the doctrine of the Trinity see https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/trinity/trinity-history.html .

But I am not a historian of dogma and I'm too lazy to do the research beyond a quick refreshing of my memory by checking time periods - something I'm not particularly good at remembering. Read all the volumes of Copleston's History of Philosophy to get a comprehensive overview of Western philosophy. Read all of Harnack's History of Dogma to get a comprehensive overview of the development of dogma in the West. Read Old's The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures in the Worship of the Christian Church to understand the history of Bible interpretation and preaching. Eventually, after your definition of mysticism has changed, read McGinn's The Presence of GodBe very careful in reading to check that you are using words in the same way as the author. Read to understand the perspective the author is trying to present, not to argue against it. Build the framework on which to understand your other reading so that we use words to mean the same thing and can understand each other. And yes, it does take the hard work of plodding through series such as those I suggested above.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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Hamilton Ramos | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Mar 24 2019 8:14 AM

Hi MJ, as usual your superb input really helps edify the flock.

MJ. Smith:
Not a misnomer but a classification unrelated to your definition. 

Ok, I catch your drift, we are referring to different situations, thus the misunderstanding.

Jacob Needleman, associates the concept of occult Christianity with some conceptions of Jesus as a magician. That is why I reject mysticism (when is associated with occultism and magic) in relation to the indwelling, work, and nature of the Holy Spirit, who has nothing to do with anything unholy.

MJ. Smith:
In mysticism, the "practitioner" simply "tills the soil" with spiritual disciplines and waits ... whether or not they ever have a mystical experience is entirely up to God.

This is important and part of what I am referring to all along: commitment to a gnostic, occult, magical etc. current will not allow you to get the true and original experience with the Holy Spirit of God.

Any paranormal experience if related to such gnostic, occult, magical etc. is not of the Holy Spirit of God. God is clear, choose life, and life is Jesus Christ, and He bestows the Holy Spirit to those that choose Him.

In the Gospel is not suggested to wait and see, we must be participants actively in the requirements set by God for the entrance in the New Covenant.

We are also to cut ties with anything of an occult, gnostic, magical, etc. allegiance. (an in metanoia, repent from dead deeds, etc.).

MJ. Smith:
But you can't make this point unless (a) you know what neo-Aristotelianism is, (b) use a standard definition for mysticism, etc. There is a significant difference between arguing terminology and arguing concepts. Most notably, the first is a waste of time except in the context of trying to create common understanding across a linguistic divide.

Yes, MJ, but in this you have been most helpful:

https://indieskriflig.org.za/index.php/skriflig/article/view/719/2291

In the part where it talks about "Aristotle and the trinity", it is obvious that the original hypostasis concept as "substantive reality" originated in this current.

And the point stands. Substantive reality is something that has effect on your senses. It does not have to be a person.

Same example I gave before:

When you look at yourself in a mirror, there is a substantive reality (your mirror image) there. You can perceive it with your sight.

Now, God is so awesome, that He can make an image of Himself (substantive reality) have life in Himself John 5:26.

And that answers the question some atheist ask: if God cannot die, how can you say Jesus died?.. well, Jesus was a Divine Substantive reality of God (hypostasis) that as having life in Himself He could lay down that life for us. The Hypostasis of God with life allowed by Him died for us, God Himself (Father) cannot die.

So that Hypostasis eventually became the New Temple of God where the fullness of Deity dwells bodily.

Even though hypostasis makes sense, it is just a theological construct to try to facilitate understanding of modes of living (God's) that we do not fully understand, because we are not Him.

And if we strictly follow principles of Biblical theology, we should understand that our terminology may not be valid if not verified by the Scriptures.

Mystic, hypostasis, trinity, are not part of the Canon.

But the following is (thus the only non negotiable):

John 14:6

Jesus said to him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

So if you tell me that the above verse is a non negotiable of the faith I will tell you yes.

If you tell me that a human made definition of the Trinity, with a modern person term in it is non negotiable, I will say no, because the Bible does not say so.

Hypostasis when was going to be translated to Latin had no exact match word. So someone suggested Personae (which means the mask worn by an actor, not a person in the modern term).

Tertullian was not convinced but he agreed to the use of that particular term, because the Bible says Jesus is the image of the invisible God (like a mask).

When and how did Latin Personae (mask worn by an actor in a play) became person in the modern term? it beats me.

So my allegiance is to an old version of the trinity definition: Love relation between Divine Substantive realities.

Such is supported in the Bible, so I have no problem with it. Substantive reality (image of the invisible God), alive to die for us (Jesus allowed to have life in Himself), love displayed: Jesus sacrificing for us, and God allowing His incarnated Son to pay the price for us.

Kind regards.

P.S. Hope Logos eventually gets the journals in the pipeline:

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1468-0025.2008.00462.x

Fascinating and instructive stuff.

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Mar 24 2019 5:49 PM

Hamilton Ramos:
In the Gospel is not suggested to wait and see, we must be participants actively

You consistently misunderstand/misrepresent what I say; I am dropping out of the OT discussion.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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Fr Devin Roza | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Mar 25 2019 12:14 PM

Here is a wonderful collection of prayers from the early Church Fathers... http://www.faithandworship.com/early_Christian_prayers.htm

Their prayers are directed to both God the Father and God the Son, quite freely. Prayers directly to the Holy Spirit are not as common, but also do exist - see the last prayer on this page as an example. I think the reason for this is that we pray to the Father and Son through the Spirit. 

Liturgy also tends to be directed to both the Father and the Son in the Spirit. But the Eucharistic prayer in Christian liturgy is traditionally addressed especially to the Father, in which we share (as a Biblical "memorial") in Christ's once for all offering of himself to the Father for our salvation in his crucifixion, death and resurrection. Praying as the Body of Christ in union with its Head, the prayer is especially directed to the Father in union with the Son in the Holy Spirit.

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Hamilton Ramos | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Mar 25 2019 8:43 PM

Your call MJ.

I just do not understand: 

Jesus never set an example of:

 MJ. Smith: In mysticism, the "practitioner" simply "tills the soil" with spiritual disciplines and waits ... whether or not they ever have a mystical experience is entirely up to God.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       The Apostles never did such a thing. They believed, repented, baptized as per Acts 2:38, and when received the Holy Spirit, they had a restored koinonia with God. To me is like the mystics you talk about and the Apostles were in totally different experience of Christianity. So to me mysticism must be something foreing to the teaching of Jesus, to the Gospel, and to the Bible.
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Hamilton Ramos | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Mar 25 2019 8:44 PM

Thank you Fr. Roza.

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Liam Maguire | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Mar 25 2019 11:52 PM

Hamilton Ramos:

Your call MJ.

I just do not understand: 

Jesus never set an example of:

 MJ. Smith: In mysticism, the "practitioner" simply "tills the soil" with spiritual disciplines and waits ... whether or not they ever have a mystical experience is entirely up to God.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       The Apostles never did such a thing. They believed, repented, baptized as per Acts 2:38, and when received the Holy Spirit, they had a restored koinonia with God. To me is like the mystics you talk about and the Apostles were in totally different experience of Christianity. So to me mysticism must be something foreing to the teaching of Jesus, to the Gospel, and to the Bible.

Please stop. 

Fr Devin's post has taken the discussion back on-topic, please can we leave it there. 

Thank you.

Check out my blog 'For Fathers'

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Hamilton Ramos | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Mar 26 2019 5:07 AM

I agree Liam.

Related to the topic:

Jesus prayed to the Father, so should we.

Jesus said that the Holy Spirit was going to be our Paraclete: so is expected we interact with Him.

Jesus said that anything asked for in His name (godly of course) would be had: so it is ok to pray in His name.

I do not understand why complicate things, the Bible is clear.

Kind regards.

P.S.

Not sure if the following can help you:

https://ebooks.faithlife.com/products/166977/rediscovering-the-church-fathers-who-they-were-and-how-they-shaped-the-church

There seems to be information from different angles there:

Posts 416
Liam Maguire | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Mar 26 2019 8:10 AM

Hamilton Ramos:

Thank you for the resource recommendation, Hamilton. 

Check out my blog 'For Fathers'

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