True Christianity is timeless and eternal because it has its source in the Eternal and Timeless God. The revelation of Christ Jesus does not come in and out of fashion. True, it may wane in popularity because it does not substantiate and justify every fleeting whim of humanity, most of all modernity. The issue is not that somehow the Truth of the Gospel is no longer relevant, indeed the concerted effort by secularists to fight against it proves its deep relevance; the issue is humanity does not like the message of the Gospel: humanity is accountable for its way of life before its Creator and God.
St. Paul states it simply, “In the last days there will come difficult times. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Tim. 3:1-4). The last phrase sums up the essential problem, humanity loves its own “pleasure” rather than God. When God challenges that pleasure, humanity squirms and revolts.
There exists in the nebula of “Orthodox” academia a toxic idea: somehow Orthodoxy must be updated to meet the challenges of the “modern” age. Orthodox Christian Studies at Fordham University (sic) exemplifies this sad disposition in numerous ways, together with its various cohorts. Rather than call the world to the standard of divine reality, it seeks to drag Orthodoxy (as if possible) down to the lowest common denominator under the guise of “engaging the modern world.” This is doublespeak for compromising and deconstructing Orthodox teaching to placate the modern world’s love of pleasure and self-indulgence.
A certain quote from an academic struck me as I was reading an article entitled “Fordham University’s Orthodox Center Receives Grant to Study LGBTQ Rights” (http://orthochristian.com/110131.html ), he states: “I see the project … to study the place of the pre-modern Eastern Orthodox Church in the modern West.” Such a disposition already betrays the mindset of such “Orthodox Studies:” the Church is behind the times – pre-modern – and needs to rethink its position on modern “issues.” Such “studies” have a stacked deck from the get-go; they are flush with “Orthodoxy needs to rethink and update its teachings” cards (in fact the whole deck may consist of such cards). Just so the reader knows, the Orthodox Studies at Fordham (sic) frequently and consciously goes against the clear teaching of the Orthodox Church. Really the folks there would do better in an Episcopal gathering since they have embrace counter-Christian ideology already to a great degree.
The Church is neither “pre-modern,” “modern,” “post-modern,” nor any other academic label that is contrived in the hothouse of academic self-stimulation. The Church according to the teaching of Christ the Lord is Eternal, as He Himself is. She is founded upon Christ and transcends the limits of all time and all our little labels. Her teachings do not grow irrelevant.
Archbp. Averky of blessed memory speaks authoritatively on this matter, “Since the TRUTH is given to us once and for all, our task is to assimilate rather than to discover it. We are commanded to conform ourselves and others in the Truth and thereby bring everyone to the true Faith, Orthodoxy.
Unfortunately, there have appeared in the very bosom of the Church, even among the hierarchy, opinions expressed by well-known individuals which are detrimental to Her. The desire to ‘march with the times’ makes them fear that they will not be recognized as ‘cultured’, ‘liberal’ and ‘progressive.’ These modern apostates to Orthodoxy are ‘ashamed’ to confess that our Orthodox church is precisely the Church which was founded by our Lord Jesus Christ, the Church to which appertains the great promise that ‘the gates of Hell will not prevail against Her,’ and to which He confided the plenum of divine Truth. By their deceit and false humility, by their blasphemy against the Lord, these false shepherds and those with them have been estranged from the true Church. They have given tacit expression to the idea that ‘the gates of Hell’ have ‘prevailed’ against the Church. In other words, these apostates say that our holy Orthodox Church is equally ‘at fault’ for the ‘division of the churches’ and ought now to ‘repent’ her sins and enter into union with other ‘Christian churches’ by means of certain concessions to them, the result being a new, indivisible church of Christ.”
The enemy of our salvation has a long track record of trying to distort the Truth from the inside out. On one hand, it is not surprising, he will do his job; that’s a fact. The tragedy is that there are people who go along with him, and these people claim to be working for the benefit of the Church. Christ the Lord warned, “Beware of false prophets that come to you in sheep’s clothing” (Mat. 10:17); St. Paul admonished, “I know that … fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert” (Acts. 20:29-31).
Not everything that labels itself Orthodox is truly so, as the old saying goes not everything that glistens is gold. But the false label can be confusing, not only for the faithful but for those outside of the Church. I would like to see hierarchs revoke support for groups that blatantly subvert Orthodox teaching. I think this is part of the role of a true hierarch.
In brotherly concern, we should remind those with their heads in an academic la-la land, that they are accountable to God. As the Lord warns us, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea” (Mark 9:42).
They would also do well to be reminded, “The sure path to perdition is indifference and the lack of principles which is euphemistically called ‘the larger view.’ In opposition to this ‘larger view’ we put the ‘rigor of ideas’ which, in modernity, it is fashionable to label ‘narrow’ and ‘fanatical.’ To be sure, if one adopts the ‘modern mentality,’ one must consider the holy martyrs—whose blood is ‘the cement of the Church’—and the Church Fathers—who struggled all their lives against heretics—as nothing less than ‘narrow’ and ‘fanatical.’ In truth, there is little difference between ‘the broad way’ against which the Lord warned and the modern ‘larger view.’ He condemned the ‘broad way’ as the way to ‘gehenna’” (Archbp. Averky).