Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Orthodox Faith, by John of Damascus (676-749AD)

The Orthodox Faith showed up on Librivox.org as one of their recordings.  I had known nothing about John of Damascus, but have since gotten a little education that makes me feel like I should have learned about him earlier.

Islam:  When the Muslim hordes began their conquests, there was little in the way of recording of their beliefs.  John of Damascus is the first to study them and write about them.  This was before the Islamic Golden Age of learning started, so something for my todo list is to look more at the writings of John of Damascus on Islam.  Of course our modernist era believes that religion is whatever you want it to be, so none of this is relevant to anything.  Unless you aren't a modernist.

Saints:  A long standing struggle in Christianity is what to do about saints.  According to much of Christian theology, they are alive and in heaven standing before God.  At one extreme, we have a view that we can pray to them and ask favors of them according to their status as heavenly beings.  The other extreme is that of directing all our prayers to God, and God the Father, alone.  John of Damascus tries to argue a middle course more to the first direction, where we can actual pray to the saints.  

Scholasticism:  What really surprised me about this work is that so much of the discussion is in the manner of the scholastics of three to four centuries later.  A key part of the US government education which is expected that all American children be taught is that Christianity had eliminated all learning from Western Europe, and learning was re-introduced from Islam.  Then there are the extremist idiots (e.g. me) who point out that the morally degenerate pagan culture of southern Europe was overrun by illiterate northern barbarians, and Christianity was the reason for the education of these northern barbarians.  Islam had nothing to do with it.  A few of the other early middle age writings I have reviewed emphasized the flow of learning between the Christian eastern, Greek speaking Byzantine Empire and the Latin West, which was much easier to accomplish than interacting with the Muslims.  

Odds and Ends:  A few ideas that are unfamiliar to me are in this work.  One is a belief that Mary did not experience any pain when Jesus was born.  Another is that olive oil should be included in the water of baptism to accomplish an anointing. A third is more about how things are expressed regarding baptism.  It is the idea that all baptisms are dual:  There is the washing of sin from the body that is done through the water.  There is also the washing of sin from the soul which is done by the Holy Spirit.  The final teaching that would separate me from the Orthodox Faith is that of transubstantiation.  This is the idea that during church communion, when we take a bit of bread and wine, that the bread and wine are transformed into the actual, literal, physical body of Christ as they are consumed.

2 comments:

Delirious said...

I have never been able to accept the idea that you should pray to saints, or to ancestors. That kind of goes against, "Thou shalt have no other Gods before me" in my opinion.

For me, baptism is symbolic. Our belief is that it is symbolic of the washing of our sins, and making us clean before God. Of course, that first "washing" lasts only as long as we don't sin. After we sin, we must repent in order to bring ourselves back to that clean state. At baptism we make a covenant with God that we will keep His commandments, and take upon us the name of Christ. God's part of the covenant is that He will send the Holy Ghost to guide us, that we will be members of the church, and that He will forgive us when we repent.

Taking the sacrament each week is a time to renew the covenants we made at baptism. It is also symbolic of the sacrifice of the body and blood of the Savior. But we don't believe in transubstantiation. Alot of those kinds of beliefs came about with the writing of the Nicene creed, which we don't follow in our religion.

Looney said...

Looks like your beliefs are fairly close to mine on these items. The circumstances of the Nicene creed is something I hope to read about in the original literature eventually.