Jan 092017
 

God and the Church

Much of what I see written about the Church these days is less about theology and more about practicality. 

It is not that theology is absent, but it is often enlisted mainly to advocate for a certain form of church order, polity or to try and understand its diminishing status in much of  Western life and culture.  This is to some extent understandable.  Along with the rapid decline of mainline denominations both in America and Europe, we are also witnessing a politicization of US evangelicals unseen, to the same extent, since the American Civil War, some 150 years ago.

What is more painful, however, has been to come to terms with, especially theologically, the exposure of abuse that has taken place within our churches.  We think immediately of the crisis of child abuse and resultant “cover-ups” within the Roman Catholic churches, both here and in Europe. While such abuse, sexual and otherwise, is not unknown in Protestant  and evangelical circles, there are other patterns of abuse that have more often come to light.  In evangelical communities especially, where often the pastor has little accountability to either peers or strong lay councils or boards, numerous issues have come to light.  Many of these issues have received comment from others.  They range from pastors employing the so-called “Moses Model”, to the largely accepted nepotism of pastors’ wives, children, in-laws, etc. taking up positions of responsibility in a single church, to pastoral over-reach in terms of financial accountability (or the lack thereof), to the “pastor as star’ syndrome which often times seems endemic within certain circles.

Now, let us be clear, whether such behavior is evidenced in a Roman Catholic parish, or an evangelical free church, or a mainline Protestant denomination, the desired result is the same – control.   Along side that “desired result” is a related behavior that is shown all too often – those whom you cannot control, you exclude.  The exclusion may be subtle or blatant, but the message is clear nonetheless – “You’re not one of us”.

It strikes me, however, that this is the opposite of our relationship with God.  The whole point of that relationship is inclusion, that is, for us to be brought into the life of God himself.  The manner in which that inclusion is accomplished is rooted in the nature of the Triune God himself. Here, I am speaking of the ontological nature of the Trinity.  Most often we  speak of the economic Trinity, that is, the activity of God and the roles of the three persons with regard to creation and redemption.  When, however, we speak of the ontological nature of  the Trinity, we are speaking of something different but, I believe, something which we are called upon to imitate and to model as the Church. 

You see, our relationship with God is part of a dynamic of giving and receiving.  It is a ongoing continuum of bestowal and counter-bestowal.  St. Augustine recognized this in aligning the statement that, “God is Love” with God’s trinitarian nature, for God the Father is the Lover, God the Son is the Beloved and the Holy Spirit is the bond of Love.  As the Father loves the Son, he bestows himself upon the Son.  The Son receives this gift and, in turn, gives it back to the Father.  The gift given, bestowed and returned again, is God the Holy Spirit.  It is an ongoing eternal relationship of love and inclusion, of that which is entirely love, bestowed, given, received and given back that God might be “all in all”.  

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” (Jn. 15:9)  You see, this is the relationship that I believe Christ is calling the Church to imitate.  Or again, “I in them and You in Me–that they may be perfectly united, so that the world may know that You sent Me and have loved them just as You have loved Me.” (Jn. 17:23)  While we always consider this latter verse as a call to Church unity, I believe it is something much more, it is an invitation for the Church to participate in the life of God. 

When we consider early communion practices, I think the early Church understood this dynamic, even if it took time to fully articulate.  We know from the Didache, Ignatius and other early writings that believers would gather together to offer themselves to God.  The sign and symbol of that self-offering would be the bread and wine that was to be placed on the altar.  In the ante-Nicene period, all who were able would bring bread and wine which would be gathered together.  A small portion would be placed on the altar, while the rest of the offering would be set aside to be distributed to the poor.  The offered gifts on the altar would be consecrated and then given back as the body and blood of Christ to the people.

Do we see what’s happening here?  We give ourselves to God in the symbols of bread and wine.  God accepts the gift and bestows upon us, by the work of the Holy Spirit, the gift of his Son.  In this giving, receiving and giving again, we are given a glimpse of the ontological nature of  God himself.  The gift is freely given.  The message to the believer is not one of control, but one of love.  It is an invitation to inclusion, not exclusion

I am coming to believe that abusive situations in the Church – sexual abuse, emotional abuse, pastoral abuse and authoritarianism, lack of financial disclosure, nepotism, cliques, pastoral narcissism and all the rest – are not merely matters of “bad practice”, but something far worse. I had always wondered about the harshness of Christ’s words, when he said, “If anyone causes one of these little ones – those who believe in me – to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea.” (Mk.9:42)  Now, after the many things that we have witnessed in recent decades, I begin to understand.  The sin is not merely against the person offended, the person excluded, the person made to feel unwelcome… No, the sin is against the God who wants to show the world that his nature is love and through the gift of his Son has demonstrated what love really is.

Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD

The Project

  73 Responses to “The Church and the Life and Love of God: Duane W.H Arnold PhD”


  1. The Church and the Life and Love of God: Duane W.H Arnold PhD
    by Michael
    God and the Church

    Much of what I see written about the Church these days is less about theology and more about practicality.

    It is not that theology is absent, but it is often enlisted mainly to advocate for a certain form of church order, polity or to try and understand its diminishing status in much of Western life and culture. This is to some extent understandable. Along with the rapid decline of mainline denominations both in America and Europe, we are also witnessing a politicization of US evangelicals unseen, to the same extent, since the American Civil War, some 150 years ago.

    What is more painful, however, has been to come to terms with, especially theologically, the exposure of abuse that has taken place within our churches. We think immediately of the crisis of child abuse and resultant “cover-ups” within the Roman Catholic churches, both here and in Europe. While such abuse, sexual and otherwise, is not unknown in Protestant and evangelical circles, there are other patterns of abuse that have more often come to light. In evangelical communities especially, where often the pastor has little accountability to either peers or strong lay councils or boards, numerous issues have come to light. Many of these issues have received comment from others. They range from pastors employing the so-called “Moses Model”, to the largely accepted nepotism of pastors’ wives, children, in-laws, etc. taking up positions of responsibility in a single church, to pastoral over-reach in terms of financial accountability (or the lack thereof), to the “pastor as star’ syndrome which often times seems endemic within certain circles.

    Now, let us be clear, whether such behavior is evidenced in a Roman Catholic parish, or an evangelical free church, or a mainline Protestant denomination, the desired result is the same – control. Along side that “desired result” is a related behavior that is shown all too often – those whom you cannot control, you exclude. The exclusion may be subtle or blatant, but the message is clear nonetheless – “You’re not one of us”.

    It strikes me, however, that this is the opposite of our relationship with God. The whole point of that relationship is inclusion, that is, for us to be brought into the life of God himself. The manner in which that inclusion is accomplished is rooted in the nature of the Triune God himself. Here, I am speaking of the ontological nature of the Trinity. Most often we speak of the economic Trinity, that is, the activity of God and the roles of the three persons with regard to creation and redemption. When, however, we speak of the ontological nature of the Trinity, we are speaking of something different but, I believe, something which we are called upon to imitate and to model as the Church.

    You see, our relationship with God is part of a dynamic of giving and receiving. It is a ongoing continuum of bestowal and counter-bestowal. St. Augustine recognized this in aligning the statement that, “God is Love” with God’s trinitarian nature, for God the Father is the Lover, God the Son is the Beloved and the Holy Spirit is the bond of Love. As the Father loves the Son, he bestows himself upon the Son. The Son receives this gift and, in turn, gives it back to the Father. The gift given, bestowed and returned again, is God the Holy Spirit. It is an ongoing eternal relationship of love and inclusion, of that which is entirely love, bestowed, given, received and given back that God might be “all in all”.

    “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” (Jn. 15:9) You see, this is the relationship that I believe Christ is calling the Church to imitate. Or again, “I in them and You in Me–that they may be perfectly united, so that the world may know that You sent Me and have loved them just as You have loved Me.” (Jn. 17:23) While we always consider this latter verse as a call to Church unity, I believe it is something much more, it is an invitation for the Church to participate in the life of God.

    When we consider early communion practices, I think the early Church understood this dynamic, even if it took time to fully articulate. We know from the Didache, Ignatius and other early writings that believers would gather together to offer themselves to God. The sign and symbol of that self-offering would be the bread and wine that was to be placed on the altar. In the ante-Nicene period, all who were able would bring bread and wine which would be gathered together. A small portion would be placed on the altar, while the rest of the offering would be set aside to be distributed to the poor. The offered gifts on the altar would be consecrated and then given back as the body and blood of Christ to the people.

    Do we see what’s happening here? We give ourselves to God in the symbols of bread and wine. God accepts the gift and bestows upon us, by the work of the Holy Spirit, the gift of his Son. In this giving, receiving and giving again, we are given a glimpse of the ontological nature of God himself. The gift is freely given. The message to the believer is not one of control, but one of love. It is an invitation to inclusion, not exclusion.

    I am coming to believe that abusive situations in the Church – sexual abuse, emotional abuse, pastoral abuse and authoritarianism, lack of financial disclosure, nepotism, cliques, pastoral narcissism and all the rest – are not merely matters of “bad practice”, but something far worse”

    Wait…All this stuff we see in CC is bigger than Cc? I’m familiar are with the Roman Catholic stuff, but have not invested time into researching how widespread it is outside the CC denomination.(there, I said it)

    Just how rampant and widespread (outside cc and Roman Catholic Church) are these issues?

  2. Ugh, didn’t mean to copy/paste all that…Sorry. I only wanted the last paragraph that I quoted.

  3. What a great article Duane. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this matter.

  4. Duane,

    When the early church collected food for the poor, was it the poor within the congregation or in the unbelieving community or both?

  5. #3
    Jean,
    Many thanks. They collected for both. You may remember that one of the complaints of the emperor, Julian the Apostate, was that the Church cared more for the poor pagans than did their friends! This seems to have been the case from the earliest times…

  6. #1
    Loads of abuse situations have come to light in the Church of England, the Episcopal Church (especially in private schools), numerous churches in Canada… the list goes on and on. In terms of straight out pastoral issues (finance, bullying, etc.) it is really across the board, but seldom spoken of…

  7. I think this is one of the most important pieces we’ve ever published here and I think Duane’s analysis of the root of these issues has to be thoroughly thought through and discussed.

    Until we deal with the root, we can’t control the branches…

  8. Duane, I think you are on to something here. However, I don’t always think exclusion is bad especially when a church will not conform to an orthodox understanding of the trinity and instead embrace a form of modalism.

    With modalism, I think people get the wrong idea of God that somehow He is a narcissistic power hungry ego. No wonder pastors that flirt with this doctrine, show these tendencies. If they view God this way, they completely miss what love is. This is in stark contrast to the giving and loving relationship within the ontological trinity that you eloquently spoke about.

  9. #8
    Steve,
    Agreed. I would argue that it applies as well to marriage – “husbands, love your wives…” You constantly hear about “submit”, but it is usually divorced from the reciprocal love that is actually indicated. Just a thought…

  10. Notice the physicality involved. Love is demonstrated through physical means: bread, wine. Love is not just a mind game, it involves actions in the physical world.

  11. Except that I wouldn’t want to say the ontological and the economic are something different. We ought to say the ontological *is* the economic, or we end up, as TF Torrance notes with a God behind the back of Jesus. We don’t want to say this exactly the way Rahner does, which almost gives us a panentheism, but we don’t want to say this the way Athanasius and TF Torrance do at least; so that with the Dominical teaching we can say with Jesus “when we see the Son we see the Father.” That said there are things in the economy, in the incarnation, that we would not want to read back into the immanent or in se nature of God; I’d agree with that.

  12. rather *we DO want to say this the way Athanasius …

  13. #11 #12

    Agreed, I was merely using the term to point away from only looking at the economic… I am wholly Athanasian, as you may know!

  14. Xenia@ 10. Before God created the world, the Trinity existed. So while I agree that there is something to the physical elements of bread and wine, love existed long before that in the very reality of the Trinity.

  15. this is something vitally worth getting straight in our minds and, maybe worth repeating, Stephen up there at #1
    from the context of my years on this earth, coincidentally, i was thinking on this this morning… just thinking – no in-depth analysis… it seems to me that the only thing that i remember the N.T. instructing the Church to “cast out from their midst” (love the K.J. language) was heresy such as touched on at #8 and blatant, ongoing sins involving honesty and s*x…
    and, yet today these are the very things we dance around, cover up and tolerate, do we not? “we” referring to the churches

    perhaps, a case can be made that i am wrong (a case can always be made 🙂 )

  16. “Now, let us be clear, whether such behavior is evidenced in a Roman Catholic parish, or an evangelical free church, or a mainline Protestant denomination, the desired result is the same – control. Along side that “desired result” is a related behavior that is shown all too often – those whom you cannot control, you exclude.”

    There is your complete explanation of the Calvary Chapel split….

  17. I am glad that the love of Christ is demonstrated in his love for the church and giving himself for her. Therein we learn to do likewise and cleanse the body with water and the word.

  18. “We give ourselves to God in the symbols of bread and wine. God accepts the gift and bestows upon us, by the work of the Holy Spirit, the gift of his Son.”

    I would LOVE to see MLD’s response to this.

  19. one of the reasons for the Phxp is the need to let folk know that just because the church building has a cross hanging somewhere or a stylized diving dove it doesn’t make them an instrument of God anointed to dispense truth
    two things make me feel safe in a congregation: one is the atmosphere of warmth and humility (grace) and the other is the clear fear – awe – of a Holy and Righteous God
    it’s been interesting to me to read here where some are finding this sanctuary today

  20. Okay. I’ll tackle this head on via the following question.

    I’m in the ministry. I’m a pastor’s son.

    Working under my father.

    No doubt, that is nepotism.

    What if I have sensed the call to be in the ministry?

    To teach and preach the Bible?

    Because my dad is a well known preacher, that doesn’t exclude me?

    Right?

  21. To Josh’s question – if I understand how the phrase is being used, I don’t think I agree with it – but I think Duane may have worded it wrong,

    I don’t think I need to present anything to God in order to receive the gift of his son. Sounds too much like tossing a virgin into a volcano to receive what God wants to deliver. But I could be wrong. 😉

  22. #20
    CotscoCal,
    Not knowing you, are you describing your personal situation or are you asking a hypothetical question?

  23. I agree (I hope) with Babs. I think that Eph 5:26 is a great example of Baptism being efficacious for salvation – it is how God builds his Church and shows his love for it.

  24. #21
    MLD
    I may have phrased it awkwardly – we offer the simple gifts of bread and wine, symbols of our lives and labors. In the consecration of those elements through the Eucharistic prayer we receive Christ “in, with and under” the elements of bread and wine. I do not really like the term consubstantiation as it hearkens back to Aristotelian categories. I prefer “real presence”.

  25. Duane @24 – I may be cutting this really too fine, but the reason we Lutherans call the Sunday morning service – The Divine Worship Service – is that the whole proceeding is God’s service – that Jesus comes to us to serve us.

    This is why I ‘split a hair’ in us bringing anything to God at this time.

    I too prefer real presence over consubstantiation, which is really a misapplied term as we do not believe there is any change in the elements as is seen in transubstantiation.

    But we also believe in the ‘real presence to be real real as opposed to the reformed version of ‘spiritual’ real presence 😉 .

  26. Duane,

    True, you don’t know my personal situation.

    Fair enough.

    I might simply say, then, that it might be a blanket statement you made in regards to nepotism.

    Or maybe not. 🙂

  27. Costco,

    There are exceptions to every general truth…that doesn’t mean that in a general sense nepotism hasn’t been a scourge to the church…it has been.

  28. Thanks, Michael.

    I do find it fascinating that “nepotism” was the rule for the Levitical Priesthood.

    I’m not saying that is how it still must be in the New Covenant.

    But it also suggests it is not wrong; in and of itself.

    In some cases, maybe there are benefits to it.

    Then again, I am a little biased. 🙂

  29. Duane Arnold,

    No, I’m not aware of your theological commitments, but glad to hear you’re Athanasian.

  30. #25
    MLD
    I do believe you have the offertory in the Divine Worship Service…

    #26
    CostcoCal
    Without knowing the particulars of your situation, I would be hesitant to comment. That being said, generally speaking I believe the sort of nepotism of which I spoke is not a good thing. It raises issues of favoritism, questions of confidentiality and a myriad of other concerns – perceived or real. Again, that is just my opinion from observing other situations. I hasten to say, I would not presume to judge any aspect of your ministry, but I believe these concerns are real in the minds of many…

  31. #29 ‘The Early Episcopal Career of Athanasius of Alexandria’, Notre Dame Press, 1991

  32. “Just how rampant and widespread (outside cc and Roman Catholic Church) are these issues?”

    Well, there is the Sovereign Grace Ministries (now Sovereign Grace Church) movement,
    Mark Dever and the 9 Marks movement. Blatant cronyism and abuse are alive and well in those movements.

  33. Duane,

    Again, fair enough. Truly.

  34. Duane @30 – “I do believe you have the offertory in the Divine Worship Service…”

    But it is not in anyway an offering that could be considered an entry fee. This is why we do it so late in the service so it is solely an act of thanksgiving – after the absolution after the read word and the preached word. I guess we could do it as we walk out, but we want the communion to be our grand finale.

  35. In the early 90s, Ronald Enroth, an evangelical, wrote ‘Churches That Abuse’ and identified five marks to identify. I don’t agree with all that he says, but I think these are helpful:

    1. Authority and Power: abuse arises when leaders of a group arrogate to themselves power and authority that lacks the dynamics of open accountability and the capacity to question or challenge decisions made by leaders. The shift entails moving from general respect for an office bearer to one where members loyally submit without any right to dissent.

    2. Manipulation and Control: abusive groups are characterized by social dynamics where fear, guilt or threats are routinely used to produce unquestioning obedience, group conformity or stringent tests of loyalty. The leader-disciple relationship may become one in which the leader’s decisions control and usurp the disciple’s right or capacity to make choices.

    3. Elitism and Persecution: abusive groups depict themselves as unique and have a strong organizational tendency to be separate from other bodies and institutions. The social dynamism of the group involves being independent or separate, with diminishing possibilities for internal correction or reflection and exclude outside criticism.

    4. Life-style and Experience: abusive groups foster rigidity in behavior and belief that requires conformity to the group’s ideals.

    5. Dissent and Discipline: abusive groups tend to suppress any kind of internal challenge to decisions made by leaders.

  36. Duane

    My wife and I have been looking for a church for about a year.
    What we have run into particularly in the reformed baptist and presbyterian churches is a requirement to sign a very one-sided church covenant.

    I.E. you will agree to support with finances sacrificially ,you will submit to the leadership and church discipline.

    Do you think this is a form of abuse?

  37. Ok Duane #35 pretty much answers my question.

  38. Duane and MLD,

    I believe Duane’s paradigm is scriptural and correct. We don’t see the connection as clearly as in the OT and early church because our typical modern offering is money, but it buys the bread and wine. Without the offering there could be no Holy Communion. Then again, we are only returning to the Lord what He has blessed us with. So, in a different sense it all comes from Him.

  39. Jean,

    @38…I concur…well said.

  40. Jean,
    So are you offering God the bread and wine so that he has ‘clothes’ to come visit us?

    I am going to go back and read the words of institution to see if it says anyhing about what I am first giving to God so that he can give to me. I know I am getting older and the Mad Cow is affecting me more – but I do not think it is there.

    In the OT yes they did first offer up to God – and yes this was an entry fee. No turtle doves, no access to the Temple and the appropriate sacrifices. Jesus changed this – AND, do not make the Passover the same as Communion. Jesus made Communion after eating the Passover and he made something new.

  41. Stop accepting tithes and offerings and see how long Communion continues.

  42. “Do this” includes furnishing Bread and wine for consecration.

  43. Jesus will not come? Communion will end? The miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 is no longer? 😉

  44. One of these days I’m going to run nothing but conservative Lutheran articles with conservative Lutheran comments…and watch our contrarian in chief convert to the Baptist faith so he’ll have something to argue about… 🙂

  45. MLD

    The offertory is not an “entry fee” as you well know. The offering of the gifts dates from the first century, is part of the Byzantine rite, was used in the medieval and reformation period and continues as an explicit section of the liturgy in most liturgical (and in some non-liturgical) churches. It is an offering to God from the abundance which God has bestowed upon us… no need to be pedantic…

  46. Michael,
    Why am I contrarian if I argue against us first offering to God before he reacts to us?
    As I said – that’s Old Testament stuff – and I also think it is the majority opinion of the Pop American Church – which seems to be sucking more and more people into its sphere.

    Remember the movie The Blob – with Steve McQueen – he got larger and larger by sucking people in as he traveled along.

  47. Anyway – As I explained in my #25 the reason we as Lutherans called it the Divine Worship Service – is that God is serving us. If others go to their churches for other reasons that is fine with me. I happily spent 25 years in churches that I had my part to do and God had his – and although I intentionally left that I am OK with others who stay.

  48. Costco brought up the Levitical Priesthood as a justification of nepotism in the church. I may be wrong, but doesn’t it say in the Bible that the Levite Priesthood could not own property or marry? “The Lord said to Aaron, “You will have no inheritance in their land, nor will you have any share among them; I am your share and your inheritance among the Israelites.” – Numbers 18:20 I have heard that he Levites were the most priviliged of the Israelites : the priests who were closest to God and that while the Levites couldn’t own property, they would receive support from others in the form of tithes. “The priests, who are Levites – indeed the whole tribe of Levi are to have no inheritance in Israel. They shall live on the offerings made to the Lord by fire, for that is their inheritance. They shall have no inheritance among their brothers: for the Lord is their inheritance, as he promised them” -. Deuteronomy 18;12. I recall hearing that they could not marry or have children either, but how is this possible? I remember Hannah gave her son to Eli the priest for service in the Temple. Is this how all Levite priests came to be in the service of the Lord, or did the Levite priests marry and have their own children which in turn became Levite priests. Someone once told me that the Levite priests could neither own land or have children so that could not be corrupted by accumulating financial or power for themselves or their own heirs . I have always been confused about this, but understanding it would certainly help me understand God’ s heart concerning nepotism in the church today. Can anyone help me understand this?

  49. Dear Bride,

    I did not bring that up as justification for nepotism in the church.

    I simply pointed that it was in the Old Testament.

    Although it didn’t turn out so well for a couple of the sons of Aaron. 🙁

  50. It seems that you were suggesting this in comment number 25? I am sorry if I misunderstood. You brought up the Levitical priesthood and compared it to nepotism in the church rather, is that correct? I did a Bible study in Numbers in a Calvary Chapel Bible study group about two years ago right after our group studied Joshua. We spent a year on just the two books , and I remember that we spoke at length about why and how the Levites were set apart for God.

  51. Sorry – it was your comment number 20.

  52. I don’t think nepotism worked out too well for Eli’s sons either.

  53. @ Duane

    Can I ask about the concentric symbol? I have seen it associated with middle-age Irish Christians, or Celtic groups. What does it mean to you and why?

  54. Duane…I finally had a chance to read your thoughtful post. Concisely, you get to the root of the problem- the desire for control.

    May I add that the desire to control was at the foundation for all sin as relayed in Genesis 2 and 3?

    Perhaps it is our misunderstanding of sin that leads us into the problems we see in the church. If we grasp the depth and breadth of sin, then we can grasp the magnitude of what Jesus did and continues to do for us. Ongoing humility allows us to connect the abject poverty of our spirit with the God-provided blessing of a savior.

  55. #53

    Nathan, the graphic was chosen by our esteemed moderator, but yes, it is a standard sort of Celtic iconography most often found carved on early Celtic stone crosses. It is interesting that the Celts in Ireland had a particular attachment to the expression of Trinitarian ideas, as in St. Patrick’s Breastplate…

  56. MLD – I appreciate you answering my question.

    I asked because MLD has spoken consistently against the idea presented in that one sentence.

    Good Article, Duane. Good thoughts.

    That one tidbit just jumped out at me as anti-MLD. 🙂

  57. #56

    Many thanks. The offertory consists of diverse elements. As another writer has said:
    “The giving of our firstfruits, whether it is money or possessions, time or talents, is also a part of this sacrifice of thanksgiving. Our mouths cannot remain separated from the rest of our bodies. If the thanksgiving is flowing from our lips, then it will also find expression in the giving of our very selves for the sake of Christ and the neighbor.”

  58. Josh picked up on my objection in advance. Michael may wish to call me contrary but I will speak up anytime time I hear even a hint of ‘I must first do something to release the goodness of God in my life’ (the comment, we give ourselves first in the bread and wine).

    As I said, if so, then it is pure paganism, hence my example of tossing the virgins in the volcano.

    Now, as long as we can agree that our offering is directly tied to our thanksgiving and not something again that I do to charm God into action, then I am fine – because if I bring no offering I still retain, maintain and gain God’s good gifts.

    This is why infant baptism is so important – the child does nothing – doesn’t even transport himself and when God is done with him at the font, that baby has 100% of what I have from God… for free.

  59. “If anyone causes one of these little ones – those who believe in me – to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea.”

    When a pastor can ignore this scripture…

    My son has often brought this verse up to me in relation to our ex-pastor. He was stumbled to the point of rejecting God altogether at first, since he could not reconcile the idea that this man who stood in the pulpit preaching to us obviously didn’t believe what he was teaching. Must be fake, he, a teenager, concluded.

    The pretenders are not fooling the Lord. Much to answer for, indeed…

  60. #58

    I repeat the quote from #57…

  61. Duane,

    When I read your #60, and reread your #57, it got me thinking that our offerings also permit the Eucharist to be provided to our neighbors, including our poor neighbors, in the faith.

  62. #61
    Absolutely. If Xenia comes on to this thread, another aspect of this early Church practice is, I believe, retained in the EO antidoron – bread offered, but not consecrated, but merely blessed and distributed afterwards… I think it probably had its origin in the bread that would be distributed to the poor in the early centuries.

  63. #62, Yep. I have to go out for a bit but I will talk about this when I get home.

  64. Wow, I think we are just combining too many thoughts here. We have some bread on the altar that is consecrated and some that is just blessed?

    When we collect food for the South Orange County food bank, we bring the bag up to the chancel area and have a blessing over it – this includes the Cheerios and the cans of mixed vegetables — but we do not do it at the same time as the institution of the supper.

    Jean, are you saying take the leftover elements out into the community (“our poor neighbors, in the faith.”) and give them communion?

  65. We will bring 100 bags of food at a time up for blessings. We also bring our shoe boxes for Christmas – but not for consecration.

  66. MLD,
    Are you having a slow day at work? 🙂

  67. Jean,
    A little – but I have not heard of this 2 bread theory 😉

  68. MLD,

    Well kick back and in a couple hours when Xenia returns, she at #63 has agreed to explain how it works in the EO.

  69. Ok, here goes:

    Back in the very early days of the Church, it appears that there were two types of meals: The Eucharist, consisting of the Body and Blood of Christ, and something called the Agape Meal, which caused St. Paul to warn against being grabby. It is not easy to sort out these two meals as it seems they occurred at the same church service and sometimes seem like one meal, not two.*

    Eventually, they separated into two separate events: the Eucharist, and the Agape Meal which diversified into other expressions of people eating a meal together in love.

    One way the Agape meal lingers on to this day is in the Antidoron, a chunk of non-consecrated bread that is passed out after the Liturgy is over. It has been “blessed,” but not consecrated. Everyone can have a piece, even visitors. You might call it “friendship bread.” It is NOT the Body and Blood of Christ. It is not Communion.

    Another way the Agape meal lingers on is the pot luck (or coffee hour or [quaintly] the “Cup of Tea”) offered to everyone (visitors too, of course) served in the church hall. We are all quite hungry since we don’t eat breakfast if we are taking Communion and it is a chance to eat together.

    So on Sundays, we have all 3 types of “meals:: The Eucharist, the Antidoron, and the “Cup of Tea offered in the Church Hall by the Sisterhood.”

    Sadly, at the present time this does not involve a distribution of bread to the poor, unless they are part of the congregation or were visiting church that morning.

    *It is possible that in the very earliest days, a congregation sat down for a regular meal, which would be the Agape Meal aspect, and concluded it with the Eucharist, like the Lord did at the Last Supper. Who knows, it’s not real clear. Probably because of the abused St. Paul mentions, the two meals became separate events.

    How’s that?

  70. Thanks Xenia.

  71. A lot of physical objects get blessed in the Orthodox Church- water, oil, icons, people, etc. This just sets these things apart for special use.

    Blessed does not equal consecrated.

  72. You’re welcome, Jean.

  73. Thanks Xenia… I thought it would be better and clearer coming from you! I had experienced being offered the Antidoran here in the US (many Orthodox priest friends), but when I was in Odessa there was an ordination service and the Metropolitan asked me to accompany him behind the iconostasis with the other clergy. At the conclusion of the service he offered me the Antidoran, but it seemed a far more “formal” event than I had experienced before! Thankfully an Orthodox priest assured me that it was the same, simply a gift of friendship…

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

(required)

(required)

%d bloggers like this: