Monday, August 10, 2009

Holy Fire


Lucian, one of the weirdest characters I've ever run across on the Internet, and my friend David Bryan, have commended the Holy Fire of Jerusalem to me as testament to the Eastern Orthodox Church's validity. Their comments take place in this thread. I have several thoughts.

1st, thanks much for the vid. It's far from clear what's happening though. At first it's dark, then some regular joes come running out into the crowd with two candles aflame. And the miracle is...?

2nd, such an occurrence seems to be just a bastardised mishmash of out-of-context Bible accounts. A temple (from the OT, but unknown to the NT). A priest (from the OT, and unknown in the NT). A holy place (more like the pagan practice of the high places in the OT). By a church that doesn't preach the Gospel. Fire occurring spontaneously, that doesn't consume (which happened one time at the burning bush and was a sign of YHWH's direct presence).

3rd, EOx appeal to this occurrence as substantiating their church's authority from God. Maybe they should focus on getting the Gospel right first? Just a suggestion.

4th, most of the other vids I attempted to view didn't work. Of the ones that did, what are they supposed to prove? That the Holy Fire doesn't burn people? Have you even watched these? Take a look at this one. I could go home and do the same with my own candle and a Bic lighter. The vids are purported to be evidence for the miraculous origin of the fire, but they're just not any good. So it's not like I accept only video evidence of divine miracles or something like an atheist would demand, but since the site offers video evidence to back up its claims, I'll critique it. If they really want to be convincing, they should hold it up to their faces for minutes at a time instead of just waving it around a 6 inches from their beards so the heat can dissipate.

5th, demonic activity is more probably the origin of this occurrence. A group that claims a perverted Gospel with a perverted sense of church gov't with a perverted authority and perverted expectations and perverted Christology finds "evidence" for itself by a spectacular "supernatural" occurrence? What does that sound like?

6th, I certainly have my doubts that God would grace the Church of the Holy Sepulchre with a display of Holy Spirit glory. For one thing, are the people in the vid in church or at the circus? Sheesh. For another, I know for a fact that said building is the site of incessant fights and territorial squabbles between the various ethnic Orthodox and the Romanists who have planted their flags in the various niches and alcoves. If the reps of a given church leave their alcove, not one minute goes by before it is taken over by one of the others, and not returned willingly.

7th, I find it highly ironic that David Bryan seems to think that this is a true sign from God, and yet it is virtually content-less. And the Scripture, which has tons of content, is errant. What's wrong with this picture?

24 comments:

Rhology said...

Interestingly, Phil Johnson posted this today as well.

Seth said...

Alan, I’m usually pretty patient with the EO/RCC traditions, errant as they may be, because I’m also bothered by analogous junk that persists in our protestant groups (as you know well, but for another debate). However, I’m right with you on the fervency of this one:

(1)Having been to the Holy Sepulcher on a number of occasions, I would add that while it is certainly a very beautiful and ornate place, the idols and images are beyond disturbing - not even on the same level as the debates about what is or isn’t an acceptable use of an “icon”. The religious ceremonies immediately demand rigorous examination – much of what I have seen there by the EO and RCC pilgrims IS NOT OKAY:

You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them… (Ex. 20:4-5).

(2)Natural or supernatural, the sign of fire isn’t a “sure thing” and requires validation.

Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them (Lev 10:1).

It performs great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in front of people, and by the signs that it is allowed to work in the presence of the beast it deceives those who dwell on earth (Rev. 13:14).

Rhology said...

I got the info for my 6th point from eyewitness testimony from Seth and our mutual friend Shay, by the way.

Rhology said...

Seth, you might be interested in these posts I did a while back:

One

Two

Three

Also, lest anyone should say "but that's just popular piety!" in an effort to downplay the gross practices that occur at the Ch of the HS, you'd need to show how your church has condemned such practices and how your church has made serious attempts to curtail them.

Lucian said...

Well, ...

- You exist;
- Jerusalem exists;
- the Holy Sepulchre exists;
- You're young;

- You like traveling to foreign places (on missions);

- the sites and countries mentioned aren't going anywhere, since tektonic plates aren't moving anywhere THAT fast;

- You can buy candles from home, so as to make sure this way that they're not dipped in phosphorus, so as to apparently instantaneously ignite on spot;

- when lighted, keep the flame on Your skin and/or hair constantly on the same spot.

- basically make sure it's not some cheap trick, like the ones Moses pulled in front of Pharaoh, but his magicians were able to replicate through illusionism.

5th, demonic activity is more probably the origin of this occurrence.

I read You loud and clear: I mean, with a Master casting out demons with the power of Satan, what else could You POSSIBLY expect from the likes of us?

For another, I know for a fact that said building is the site of incessant fights and territorial squabbles between the various ethnic Orthodox and the Romanists

Add Jews and Moslems into the mix, and exchange the word "building" with the word "city", or "Jerusalem", and voila! :-)

What's wrong with this picture?

What's wrong is that I expect the Patriarch of Jerusalem (for instance) to be spot on on theological issues, ... but if he were to say something like "I was at a party the night that King Nebuchadnezzar's two sons killed their father", and then historians and journalists would cover that particular event, or story, and demonstrate that it was actually ONLY ONE son that did it, I would not see this as a threat to the dogma of the Holy Trinity. That's basically it, in a nutshell.

David said...

Might I direct your attention to Dura Europos?

http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://campus.belmont.edu/honors/ECArchOne/DuraEuroposWestWall.jpg&imgrefurl=http://campus.belmont.edu/honors/ECArchOne/ECArchOne.html&usg=__4hJYYyGnmI5Yf_lse1IpsfTDvoc=&h=425&w=730&sz=162&hl=en&start=10&sig2=0jn2N5uKcrjAo5x-aoq1bQ&tbnid=gJeQJ28mZC8auM:&tbnh=82&tbnw=141&prev=/images%3Fq%3DDura%2BEuropos%26gbv%3D2%26hl%3Den%26sa%3DG&ei=WOCASojGJ4uANoaejc4K

This site contains one of the oldest surviving Christian churches and one of the oldest surviving Jewish synagogues in the world. They date from around 200 AD. And both are covered top to bottom with (shock! horror!) images!

Then, of course, there's the description of Solomon's original Temple with its images! of angels and animals... http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20Kings%207;&version=50;

I looked at your links, so I know you're familiar with the cherubim and serpent which Moses commanded. Hmmmm...

Seth said...

David,

Have you been to Israel? Mingling of pagan and YHVH-mandated worship has always been a problem. In addition to "images" many of the ancient synagogues are adorned with figures of goats and medusa heads (i.e., Chorazin)! Many of these are hellensitic (goat-god Pan, i.e., Caesaria Philippi - Banias) and others are from the Babylonian captivity (also think Kaballah). Chorazin and Capernaum are excellent examples of the mixing of Jewish (menorahs, David-stars) and pagan imagery. Jesus had something to say about the spiritual condition of these places (Matt 11:21-23):

Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.
But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you.
And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.

A similar scenario appears in Ezekiel, culminating in the glory of the Lord departing from the Temple.

It is a fact that these images are pervasive. If you believe what the bible says on numerous accounts, it is clear that God was never pleased by it and sometimes acted very severely to clean it up. I really hope that the inter-mingling of the EOC has a happier ending!

Seth said...

Also, Moses' serpent, which was not intended to be a tool for worship, was eventually destroyed by Hezekiah due to its misuse (2 Kings 18:3-4):

And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that David his father had done. He removed the high places and broke the pillars and cut down the Asherah. And he broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it (it was called Nehushtan)

John said...

"demonic activity is more probably the origin of this occurrence"

Maybe the resurrection is the result of demonic activity... if you take this thinking to its logical end.

John said...

"A group that claims a perverted Gospel with a perverted sense of church gov't with a perverted authority and perverted expectations and perverted Christology"

BTW, I'm curious what you perceive to be all these Orthodox perverted things. Especially the Christology one.

Rhology said...

John,

The resurrection? Well, if one wanted to commit the unpardonable sin, I suppose so...
The point is, the Scr reveals very clearly that the Res is a result of God's power and was, among other things, to show God's approval of the sacrifice of Christ and to be the firstfruits of the resurrection from the dead and glorification, and to grant us eternal life. The Scr does no such thing for this "holy fire". And since it leads people into internal confirmation of a false teaching (EO-doxy), it's demonic. Similar in fact to "miracles" that Benny Hinn and Kenneth Copeland "perform".

Perverted Gospel = your own works can contribute to your redemption.
Perverted church gov't = the priesthood and patriarchs, apostolic succession.
Perverted authority = Sola Ecclesia. Whatever The Church® says is what the Scr means, even if the Scr says nothing of the kind.
Perverted Christology = the Eucharist divinises the human nature of Christ in that He is really, substantially present in multiple locations at once.

David said...

The resurrection? Well, if one wanted to commit the unpardonable sin, I suppose so...

How do you know that you are not doing that by denying the Holy Fire?

Perverted Gospel = your own works can contribute to your redemption.

"But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?" - James 2:20

Perverted church gov't = the priesthood and patriarchs, apostolic succession.

"whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them." - Acts 6:6

"So when [the Apostles Paul and Barnabas] had appointed elders (presbyters, priests) in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed." - Acts 14:23

"Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands." 2 Timothy 1:6

"For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders [presbyters] in every city as I commanded you" - Titus 1:5

"Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you." - Hebrews 13:17

etc, etc, etc.

Perverted authority = Sola Ecclesia.

"And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it." - Matthew 16:18

Perverted Christology = the Eucharist divinises the human nature of Christ in that He is really, substantially present in multiple locations at once.

"And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them and said, 'Take, eat; this is My body.'" - Matthew 14:22

John said...

"Perverted Gospel = your own works can contribute to your redemption."

It seems to me that a lot of faith and works discussions are people talking at cross purposes.

How and where do you see the alleged belief in "works contribute to your redemption" playing out in Orthodoxy?

Rhology said...

David,

B/c the Scripture knows nothing of Holy Fire-type occurrences. And b/c so far everythg I've seen to support it (like the pics and vids) is bogus.
How do you know you're not doing that by denying that Benny Hinn's "miracles" are real?

And the rest of your out of context Scr psgs bolster my point.

John,

Read Romans 11:6 and then tell me whether your works play any part in your being made right before God.

John said...

"B/c the Scripture knows nothing of Holy Fire-type occurrences."

How many miraculous events in scripture were in scripture prior to them occurring?

Just so I understand your hermeneutic, do you deny all miracles that don't have an exact correspondence in scripture?

"How do you know you're not doing that by denying that Benny Hinn's "miracles" are real?"

A miracle that is mentioned, I believe, as early as the 4th century is on a bit of a different level to Benny Hinn, don't you think? A 1600 year conspiracy theory is a bit Da-Vinci Code-esque don't you think?

"Read Romans 11:6 and then tell me whether your works play any part in your being made right before God."

When Paul made that accusation against the Galatians, he came armed with Exhibit A - circumcision. Do you have a corresponding Exhibit to present? The apostle gave no less.

David said...

B/c the Scripture knows nothing of Holy Fire-type occurrences.

See 1 Kings 18:30-39.

And b/c so far everythg I've seen to support it (like the pics and vids) is bogus.

Please explain. I believe it was you (it may not have been) who previously claimed they could do the same thing at home with a piece of wood and a bic lighter. I challenge you to video tape yourself doing this and post it here if you really believe this. I'd especially like to see you try to hold your face in the fire as people do with the Holy Fire.

And the rest of your out of context Scr psgs bolster my point.

You have yet to demonstrate that they are out of context. Whereas your quote from Romans below is most certainly out of context, as Scripture makes abundantly clear that faith and works work together and even that works perfect faith. (See James 2:22).

Read Romans 11:6 and then tell me whether your works play any part in your being made right before God.

Read James 2 and tell me whether works don't play a part.

Rhology said...

John,
How many miraculous events in scripture were in scripture prior to them occurring?

how is that analogous? Is this event in Scr?


do you deny all miracles that don't have an exact correspondence in scripture?

Not necessarily, but God-wrought miracles have a redemptive purpose and an interp within God's redemptive grid. As I said in the OP, demons are responsible for miraculous activity among unbelievers.


the 4th century is on a bit of a different level to Benny Hinn, don't you think?

Miraculous healings and speaking in tongues? Surely you jest.
So, your answer?


Do you have a corresponding Exhibit to present?

Baptism.


David,
1 Kings 18:30-39.

Oh, this Holy Fire comes down from Heaven to consume sacrifices? A prophet is present? False prophets too?
And of course, that was to confirm YHWH's true religion as true. This doesn't do it. It all comes down to that - miracles have a limited range of purpose, and contradicting Scr isn't therein.


I'd especially like to see you try to hold your face in the fire as people do with the Holy Fire.

Show me some of the vids where people are actually holding their faces in the fire, rather than just waving it around under their long beards. Seriously, come on.


Scripture makes abundantly clear that faith and works work together and even that works perfect faith. (See James 2:22).

James' description refers to justification BEFORE OTHERS of one's faith. Read the context.
Now, what is your answer to Romans 11:6? Justification before others is not in the context, but the definition of grace and works IS, in a salvific sense. You can't just say "Oh yeah? Here's a Bible verse that says the opposite! Nyah!" and expect to make any sense.

...

Actually, you believe in the errancy of the Scr. Why are we even discussing this? You CAN just throw out verses that seem to say the opposite of anythg that makes you uncomfy and that'll be the end of it for you, since an errant text's authority can be dispensed with by one wave of the magical errancy wand.

Seth said...

See 1 Kings 18:30-39.
+
I'd especially like to see you try to hold your face in the fire as people do with the Holy Fire.
=
... well, let's just say I'd recommend not putting your face in Elijah's Holy Fire.

Again, the question is why is the EOC "Holy Fire" like (or not like) Elijah's Baal-defeating fire, Solomon's Temple-inaugurating consuming fire, or Nadab and Abihu's unauthorized death-inducing fire?

If it is like the tongues of fire in Acts 2, then the precedence thing comes up again: Pentecost as a miraculous event is a prophetic fulfillment and = Jewish Passover + Sabbath + 50 days.

John said...

"Baptism"

Ok, well let's substitute baptism into the text of Galatians and we'll see what happens.

Gal. 5:2 Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive baptism, Christ will be of no benefit to you.
Gal. 5:3 And I testify again to every man who receives baptism, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law.

So Rhology, have you received baptism? Being a baptist, I would expect so. That doesn't really work does it?

David said...

Oh, this Holy Fire comes down from Heaven to consume sacrifices? A prophet is present? False prophets too?

You asked for a similar occurrence, not an exact replica.

And of course, that was to confirm YHWH's true religion as true. This doesn't do it.

I would argue that this does exactly that.

It all comes down to that - miracles have a limited range of purpose, and contradicting Scr isn't therein.

How does the Holy Fire contradict Scripture?

James' description refers to justification BEFORE OTHERS of one's faith. Read the context.

I have, many times. Please point me to a specific verse or set of verses which you think lays this out. I think the text is plain enough in itself: "faith without works is dead" and "a man is justified by his works" is pretty clear to me.

Now, what is your answer to Romans 11:6?

The answer is the divinely inspired letter of the New Testament written by St. James, the brother of the Lord. Each and every verse in Scripture must be taken in the context of the whole of Scripture. And Scripture, when all is read in context, says that salvation and redemption are indeed a free gift of God by grace. Works, however, are necessary in order to realize this redemption. Again: "Faith without works is dead." "Even the demons believe -- and tremble."

You CAN just throw out verses that seem to say the opposite of anythg that makes you uncomfy and that'll be the end of it for you, since an errant text's authority can be dispensed with by one wave of the magical errancy wand.

The slippery slope argument is a logical fallacy which you use a little too often. As I stated in my posts in that topic, I believe the Scriptures to be inerrant in matters of dogma (that is, those things which must be believed and/or practiced for salvation), while not necessary inerrant, due to the fact that it was written by men (albeit under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit), in every single historical or material fact.

Rhology said...

John,

Your input of baptism misses the point. Why were the Galatians tempted to be circumcised? Do you remember? If anyone gets circumcised for any reason, does that mean they are forsaken by CHrist? Or was it the motivation that was at stake?


David,

You asked for a similar occurrence, not an exact replica.

The only similar thing is "fire", but the Elijah fire actually burned stuff, as Seth stated.


How does the Holy Fire contradict Scripture?

Your CHURCH does, not necessarily the HF itself.


Please point me to a specific verse or set of verses which you think lays this out.

It's the entire discussion. Ab and Rahab were justified in the eyes of all as having real faith. Ab had ppl watching him - his family and household, the guys who went halfway up the mountain with him, Isaac, Sarah, and every reader of Genesis.
Now, please show me in the context where James is dealing with the righteousness of a sinner before God. That's Eph 2's exact context. I have a fine explanation for James 2; you have nothing wrt Eph 2. The view that accts for ALL of it is the correct one.


The answer is the divinely inspired letter of the New Testament written by St. James, the brother of the Lord.

IOW, you have no answer. QED.


Works, however, are necessary in order to realize this redemption.

"But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace." Sound familiar?


Slippery slope

No, I'm not making that argument. I'm simply pointing out that your distinction between dogma and peripheral truths is specious and ad hoc, and it's one the Scr never makes. Of course, if it did, you'd dismiss it b/c you'd consider it errant.
You're a mirror-worshiper; the Scr says what you want it to and the parts you don't like, for whatever reason, are errant. Have fun with that.

David said...

Now, please show me in the context where James is dealing with the righteousness of a sinner before God.

Are we "saved" in the eyes of others as well? "Can faith save him?" - James 2:14. And what words you you add to James 2:22 ("Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?") [altering Scripture to make it a just little more "inerrant" being a Protestant Tradition starting with Martin Luther himself]? Your argument is reaching; the context you assert is nowhere to be found in the letter of James itself.

Of course, James isn't the only place in Scripture which makes clear that works work together with faith. Read Acts 10, especially Acts 10:4. This passage is even more significant because Cornelius was a Jew, a nonbeliever in Christ, when he said those prayers and gave those alms which "came up as a memorial offering before God." This verse also argues against the Calvinist doctrine of depravity. After all, how can an utterly depraved person have done things which came before God to count towards his salvation?

John said...

" If anyone gets circumcised for any reason, does that mean they are forsaken by CHrist? Or was it the motivation that was at stake?"

There's a lot more that could be said, but let's just look at the motivational aspect. The understanding of Jews is that works are in and of themselves righteousness. Do do the Law IS righteousness, end of story.

On the other hand, baptism is us receiving a gift from God. That the thing is sacramental, that we are not gnostics who must have everything important be an intellectual exercise, that we enjoin the physical and the spiritual, does not make it a work in the Jewish sense.

Or in other words, since we are going along for the moment with your characterisation of the problem as motivational, you would have to show that the motiviation that is going on in the head of an Orthodox Christian being baptised is entirely equivilent to the motiviation of a Jew in keeping the Law. If you can't certainly establish that, then your thesis fails on its own criteria. Since I've explained to you that the motiviation is NOT the same, and that our motivation is to receive a gift, whereas the Jewish motivation is to fulfil a legality, I put it to you that your objection fails.

David said...

Rhology, I think I'm going to end my involvement in this conversation for now; perhaps this can be our next debate topic (haha). I'll leave the last word to Christ himself on the matter: Read Matthew 25:31-46 and see what the Lord himself says he base his judgments upon.

David