The blood of Russians washed away their sins

So what is orthodox about this teaching from an Orthodox patriarch?

Church debate in Russia continues to simmer over the role of  dictator Josef Stalin, but Patriarch Kirill I of the Russian Orthodox Church has said in a Moscow sermon that the Second World War was redemptive for his country, while making  no mention of the former Soviet ruler's name in his address.

“The church does not look at the war as historians or politicians do,” said Kirill on 9 May at the Church of Christ the Saviour. “The church has a particular stance, a particular spiritual point of view.” The Patriarch said he believed the war had redeemed Russia from its sins.

“We know what took place among our people after the bloody events of the beginning of the 20th century,” said Kirill. “How many lies, how much evil and human suffering there was. But God washed away these lies and this evil with our blood, with the blood of our fathers, as has happened more than once in human history.”

“And that is why we must come to a special understanding of the redemptive meaning of the Great Patriotic War,” Kirill added.

The patriarch did not mention by name Stalin, who led the Soviet Union during the Second World War, but the church leader did take issue with historians who equate Nazi Germany with Stalin-era Russia.

“When some homegrown historians tell us that the evil here was no less than there, they are not seeing beyond their own noses, and fail to see the divine horizon beyond their extremely primitive and sinful analysis,” said Kirill. “The Great Patriotic War [as Russians call the Second World War] revealed to us God's truth about ourselves. It punished us for our sins but revealed to us the great glory and strength of our people.”

via Touchstone Magazine – Mere Comments: Russian Patriarch avoids ‘Stalin’ as dictator debate simmers.

You get that in Dostoevsky too, the notion that OUR sufferings are what redeem us.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Winston Smith

    “What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus” says the old hymn.

    It’s understandable that the Russians might want to find some transcendent meaning in their sufferings, of which they have had their fair share and more. As far as the Bible is concerned, however, no one is redeemed to God except through the once for all sacrifice of the spotless Lamb of God. See, e.g., Hebrews 9:28-10:14.

    That fact may be familiar to most of us, but it’s important enough to bear repeating.

  • Winston Smith

    “What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus” says the old hymn.

    It’s understandable that the Russians might want to find some transcendent meaning in their sufferings, of which they have had their fair share and more. As far as the Bible is concerned, however, no one is redeemed to God except through the once for all sacrifice of the spotless Lamb of God. See, e.g., Hebrews 9:28-10:14.

    That fact may be familiar to most of us, but it’s important enough to bear repeating.

  • trotk

    This is Russian nationalism (poorly) cloaked in Biblical terms.

  • trotk

    This is Russian nationalism (poorly) cloaked in Biblical terms.

  • Joe

    The Russian Orthodox Church is little better than Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association or the Three-Self Patriotic Movement. It is a state controlled “church.” It enjoys gov’t support, including gov’t crack downs on missionaries from other traditions/denominations, and in return it totes water from Mother Russia. Don’t expect to find much orthodox teaching from it.

  • Joe

    The Russian Orthodox Church is little better than Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association or the Three-Self Patriotic Movement. It is a state controlled “church.” It enjoys gov’t support, including gov’t crack downs on missionaries from other traditions/denominations, and in return it totes water from Mother Russia. Don’t expect to find much orthodox teaching from it.

  • Dennis Peskey

    I believe if God choose to wash away their sins, He could use lots of water – all the water in the world and this would not be enough. The flood did not justify a sinful world – it meted out the proper wages of sin – death. What God does do is use a little water and connect this with His Word – this does wash away sins. The belief that a few million lives suffice to cleanse any people from sin is to diminish the reality of sin and denigrate the holiness of God. Our blood, our works can not pay for our sins. If you seek redemption, turn to Jesus for He is the Christ and His blood has atoned for all your sins.

  • Dennis Peskey

    I believe if God choose to wash away their sins, He could use lots of water – all the water in the world and this would not be enough. The flood did not justify a sinful world – it meted out the proper wages of sin – death. What God does do is use a little water and connect this with His Word – this does wash away sins. The belief that a few million lives suffice to cleanse any people from sin is to diminish the reality of sin and denigrate the holiness of God. Our blood, our works can not pay for our sins. If you seek redemption, turn to Jesus for He is the Christ and His blood has atoned for all your sins.

  • Booklover

    Mormonism made the same error.

  • Booklover

    Mormonism made the same error.

  • Andy R.

    If he had meant that WW2 absovled Russians from all sin, like some of you appear to think he said, why does the Orthodox Church still insist on the sacrament of confession? It’s plain that’s not what he meant. He’s speaking collectively; Russia sinned greatly as a nation and was greatly judged by God. His judgments can be punitive, but also are purifying and corrective.
    You can lead a Mo synod Lutheran to the edge of the little box he lives in, but you can’t make him think outside it.

  • Andy R.

    If he had meant that WW2 absovled Russians from all sin, like some of you appear to think he said, why does the Orthodox Church still insist on the sacrament of confession? It’s plain that’s not what he meant. He’s speaking collectively; Russia sinned greatly as a nation and was greatly judged by God. His judgments can be punitive, but also are purifying and corrective.
    You can lead a Mo synod Lutheran to the edge of the little box he lives in, but you can’t make him think outside it.

  • fws

    andy r @6

    what he says…. and I am LCMS Lutheran, so andy, what you say should not be thought absolutely eh?

  • fws

    andy r @6

    what he says…. and I am LCMS Lutheran, so andy, what you say should not be thought absolutely eh?

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    I’m asking, Andy. I didn’t saying anything about absolution, which even us in-the-box Lutherans you are insulting believe happens in confession, where Christ’s redemptive suffering is applied to our sins. Maybe you gave me an answer, that he was speaking in some other sense in talking about paying for evil sin with our blood and the notion that WWII was redemptive. I said that one could still find this, applied in an individual rather than a collective way, in Dostoevsky. (See, for one example, CRIME AND PUNISHMENT.) But isn’t there in the Orthodox doctrine of theosis, of becoming God, a sense in which our sufferings become one with Christ’s? I’m just seeking to understand, Andy, not pick a fight, as you seem trying to do.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    I’m asking, Andy. I didn’t saying anything about absolution, which even us in-the-box Lutherans you are insulting believe happens in confession, where Christ’s redemptive suffering is applied to our sins. Maybe you gave me an answer, that he was speaking in some other sense in talking about paying for evil sin with our blood and the notion that WWII was redemptive. I said that one could still find this, applied in an individual rather than a collective way, in Dostoevsky. (See, for one example, CRIME AND PUNISHMENT.) But isn’t there in the Orthodox doctrine of theosis, of becoming God, a sense in which our sufferings become one with Christ’s? I’m just seeking to understand, Andy, not pick a fight, as you seem trying to do.

  • fws

    ok andy. what say you brother?

  • fws

    ok andy. what say you brother?

  • fws

    Dr veith could this all be meant in the figurative sense. as when I say that I am paying for my sins when I have to redo something I did wrong when remodeling my house?

  • fws

    Dr veith could this all be meant in the figurative sense. as when I say that I am paying for my sins when I have to redo something I did wrong when remodeling my house?

  • fws

    or when I say that american is still paying for the sins of the age of slavery?

  • fws

    or when I say that american is still paying for the sins of the age of slavery?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    FWS (@11), that such things (e.g. “America is still paying for the sins of the age of slavery”) are said does not mean that they are well said. Frankly, if you were to say something like that, I’d accuse you of speaking sloppily, since you know better.

    I also think that context that’s given in the article precludes us from reading Kirill’s words in a non-theological context: “The church does not look at the war as historians or politicians do. The church has a particular stance, a particular spiritual point of view.”

    He may not be referring to individual sins and individual absolution, but he does seem to have the notion, popular also among American evangelicals (looking your way, Pat Robertson) in which countries also can sin at a level above any individual, and which sin is punished not by Christ’s work on the Cross, but by various kinds of disasters, both natural and man-made.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    FWS (@11), that such things (e.g. “America is still paying for the sins of the age of slavery”) are said does not mean that they are well said. Frankly, if you were to say something like that, I’d accuse you of speaking sloppily, since you know better.

    I also think that context that’s given in the article precludes us from reading Kirill’s words in a non-theological context: “The church does not look at the war as historians or politicians do. The church has a particular stance, a particular spiritual point of view.”

    He may not be referring to individual sins and individual absolution, but he does seem to have the notion, popular also among American evangelicals (looking your way, Pat Robertson) in which countries also can sin at a level above any individual, and which sin is punished not by Christ’s work on the Cross, but by various kinds of disasters, both natural and man-made.

  • fws

    todd @ 12
    I meant to say that “sin” and “grace” and other words have taken on a secular meaning. as in …”that woman´s failure to accessorize properly is a SIN!” or “It was pure GRACE that I was born gay and so just KNOW how to accessorize as second nature!” :))

    But you are right, this is someone ordered to represent christ and his church, and as such, what they said is disturbing and our good Dr Veith is right to question it as such.

  • fws

    todd @ 12
    I meant to say that “sin” and “grace” and other words have taken on a secular meaning. as in …”that woman´s failure to accessorize properly is a SIN!” or “It was pure GRACE that I was born gay and so just KNOW how to accessorize as second nature!” :))

    But you are right, this is someone ordered to represent christ and his church, and as such, what they said is disturbing and our good Dr Veith is right to question it as such.

  • joel in ga

    The archbishop is a wise man. He sees that God uses evil and suffering to cleanse, even as stripes on the backs of fools eradicate folly, and that without calling into question the sufficiency of Christ’s once-for-all, incomparable and unrepeatable sufferings.

    Lutherans do well when they practice what Luther taught in the Small Catechism, viz., explain everything pertaining to our neighbor in the kindest possible way. How much more when they are not present to defend themselves.

  • joel in ga

    The archbishop is a wise man. He sees that God uses evil and suffering to cleanse, even as stripes on the backs of fools eradicate folly, and that without calling into question the sufficiency of Christ’s once-for-all, incomparable and unrepeatable sufferings.

    Lutherans do well when they practice what Luther taught in the Small Catechism, viz., explain everything pertaining to our neighbor in the kindest possible way. How much more when they are not present to defend themselves.

  • fws

    Joel in ga @ 14

    Lutherans do indeed have a similar idea. we call this “mortification of the flesh ” or “mortification of the old adam”. This is not about “washing sins” however Joel.

    It is about God´s fatherly work of forcing the sinful and selfish part of all of us to provide daily bread to our neighbor and to enjoy that daily bread in peace and happiness. And if we don´t do this providing and self-restraint that gives our neighbor´s peace, then he makes us do it. All this happens apart from faith or belief in God or even a god. There should be nothing at all religious about this actually.

    Are you saying that the Orthodox are saying only and simply this? Or is there yet another dimension to this? that somehow our suffering or penitence is about merit or satisfaction in some sort of religious and atoning way? I think that that is what we Lutherans are actually wanting to understand. You can give us just a little credit for being interested in the wider visible christian communion eh dear brother?

    Joel in Ga, before you too cross the line drawn in the small catechism here, I think from Dr Veith´s comment that it is clear he is seeking clarification and not jumping to a firm conclusion.

  • fws

    Joel in ga @ 14

    Lutherans do indeed have a similar idea. we call this “mortification of the flesh ” or “mortification of the old adam”. This is not about “washing sins” however Joel.

    It is about God´s fatherly work of forcing the sinful and selfish part of all of us to provide daily bread to our neighbor and to enjoy that daily bread in peace and happiness. And if we don´t do this providing and self-restraint that gives our neighbor´s peace, then he makes us do it. All this happens apart from faith or belief in God or even a god. There should be nothing at all religious about this actually.

    Are you saying that the Orthodox are saying only and simply this? Or is there yet another dimension to this? that somehow our suffering or penitence is about merit or satisfaction in some sort of religious and atoning way? I think that that is what we Lutherans are actually wanting to understand. You can give us just a little credit for being interested in the wider visible christian communion eh dear brother?

    Joel in Ga, before you too cross the line drawn in the small catechism here, I think from Dr Veith´s comment that it is clear he is seeking clarification and not jumping to a firm conclusion.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    I’m trying to be kind! I want to put the best construction on everything. I don’t know why some of you are so touchy about my questions. If some of you know Orthodox theology, are you saying that the correct teaching is that Christ’s suffering alone is what redeems us from our sins? Great. But isn’t it true that at least some Orthodox do believe that our own sufferings–if perhaps accepted in the right way–are redemptive? Isn’t this part of the doctrine of theosis, that Christians ultimately become one with Christ, so as to become God? This, as opposed to Western Christianity’s (both Lutheran and Catholic, and also Reformed and other Protestant) view of the atonement, that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us as an alien righteousness not our own?

    If I am getting it wrong, please explain it. Don’t insult or accuse me.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    I’m trying to be kind! I want to put the best construction on everything. I don’t know why some of you are so touchy about my questions. If some of you know Orthodox theology, are you saying that the correct teaching is that Christ’s suffering alone is what redeems us from our sins? Great. But isn’t it true that at least some Orthodox do believe that our own sufferings–if perhaps accepted in the right way–are redemptive? Isn’t this part of the doctrine of theosis, that Christians ultimately become one with Christ, so as to become God? This, as opposed to Western Christianity’s (both Lutheran and Catholic, and also Reformed and other Protestant) view of the atonement, that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us as an alien righteousness not our own?

    If I am getting it wrong, please explain it. Don’t insult or accuse me.

  • joel in ga

    What the Orthodox actually mean, that’s the important point, as fws and Dr. Veith stress. Language, including that of the Bible, is often elastic. For example, Paul fills up that which is lacking in the sufferings of Christ, yet Christ’s suffering are complete. Believing wives can save their unbelieving husbands, yet Christ alone is Savior. So too our own sufferings could be described as redemptive, after a fashion, without prejudice to our only Redeemer. Perhaps the archbishop’s comments should be understood along similar lines.

  • joel in ga

    What the Orthodox actually mean, that’s the important point, as fws and Dr. Veith stress. Language, including that of the Bible, is often elastic. For example, Paul fills up that which is lacking in the sufferings of Christ, yet Christ’s suffering are complete. Believing wives can save their unbelieving husbands, yet Christ alone is Savior. So too our own sufferings could be described as redemptive, after a fashion, without prejudice to our only Redeemer. Perhaps the archbishop’s comments should be understood along similar lines.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    From Orthodox sites: “Finally, countless saints throughout history have demonstrated the possibility of deification as a reality in their lives. They attained deification only after intense suffering. Their sufferings came through persecution and martyrdom, intense ascetic discipline and countless nightly prayer vigils wrestling with evil spirits to obtain victory in the spiritual life. Through suffering such blessed victory was won.” http://www.antiochian.org/node/16916

    There is no salvation without much suffering. In Orthodox Christianity, I have discovered many testimonies that included suffering rather than the pleasures of this world. The following quotation from Fr. Seraphim Rose is one example.

    “Father Seraphim’s was an ascetic Faith. He wanted a Christianity that emphasized not earthly consolation and beliefs, but rather heavenly redemption through suffering on this earth. No other kind rang true to him who had suffered much. Only a God Who allowed His children to be perfected for heaven through suffering, and Who Himself set the example by coming to a life of suffering–only such a God was capable of drawing the afflicted world to Himself and was worthy to be worshiped by the highest spiritual faculties of man. http://josephpatterson.wordpress.com/2007/05/10/christianity-and-suffering/

    Does suffering lead to salvation? Possibly, says Metropolitan Anthony Bloom of Britain’s Russian Orthodox Church. “In itself, suffering is not redemptive,” he explains. “Suffering is redemptive only if it’s connected with love.” In this 1973 Man Alive episode, host Roy Bonisteel interviews the religious leader about the link between suffering and redemption in Christianity. http://archives.cbc.ca/society/religion_spirituality/clips/14901/

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    From Orthodox sites: “Finally, countless saints throughout history have demonstrated the possibility of deification as a reality in their lives. They attained deification only after intense suffering. Their sufferings came through persecution and martyrdom, intense ascetic discipline and countless nightly prayer vigils wrestling with evil spirits to obtain victory in the spiritual life. Through suffering such blessed victory was won.” http://www.antiochian.org/node/16916

    There is no salvation without much suffering. In Orthodox Christianity, I have discovered many testimonies that included suffering rather than the pleasures of this world. The following quotation from Fr. Seraphim Rose is one example.

    “Father Seraphim’s was an ascetic Faith. He wanted a Christianity that emphasized not earthly consolation and beliefs, but rather heavenly redemption through suffering on this earth. No other kind rang true to him who had suffered much. Only a God Who allowed His children to be perfected for heaven through suffering, and Who Himself set the example by coming to a life of suffering–only such a God was capable of drawing the afflicted world to Himself and was worthy to be worshiped by the highest spiritual faculties of man. http://josephpatterson.wordpress.com/2007/05/10/christianity-and-suffering/

    Does suffering lead to salvation? Possibly, says Metropolitan Anthony Bloom of Britain’s Russian Orthodox Church. “In itself, suffering is not redemptive,” he explains. “Suffering is redemptive only if it’s connected with love.” In this 1973 Man Alive episode, host Roy Bonisteel interviews the religious leader about the link between suffering and redemption in Christianity. http://archives.cbc.ca/society/religion_spirituality/clips/14901/

  • fws

    Dr Veith @ 18

    Wow.

    I.am.so.glad to be Lutheran. Joel in Ga: here is your chance to break all this down for the rest of us!

  • fws

    Dr Veith @ 18

    Wow.

    I.am.so.glad to be Lutheran. Joel in Ga: here is your chance to break all this down for the rest of us!

  • Tom Hering

    Were Job’s sufferings redemptive? No, they were the work of the Devil. But God brought good out of evil. He used Job’s time of suffering to hit him hard with the Law – to break down this man who thought he was righteous because he fulfilled the Law as well as any other man, if not better than any other man. (40:14, “‘Then I will also confess to you, that your own right hand can save you.’”) When Job finally saw that he could never fulfill the whole Law – that it was all just too much for him – he turned, in trust, to the Grace of God alone. (42:3,5, “‘Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know … I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees You.’”) And God was pleased.

    So, suffering can play a part in redemption, but is not itself redemptive – any more than the Law is. Only the Gospel saves.

  • Tom Hering

    Were Job’s sufferings redemptive? No, they were the work of the Devil. But God brought good out of evil. He used Job’s time of suffering to hit him hard with the Law – to break down this man who thought he was righteous because he fulfilled the Law as well as any other man, if not better than any other man. (40:14, “‘Then I will also confess to you, that your own right hand can save you.’”) When Job finally saw that he could never fulfill the whole Law – that it was all just too much for him – he turned, in trust, to the Grace of God alone. (42:3,5, “‘Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know … I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees You.’”) And God was pleased.

    So, suffering can play a part in redemption, but is not itself redemptive – any more than the Law is. Only the Gospel saves.

  • fws

    Tom @20

    amen. God does not will suffering. Not even that of Christ. We demanded that. But Life passed through the void of death and suffering to fill that emptiness and make it empty no more. Death and suffering and sin are the absence of. They produce nothing. They have no meaning. they are sense-less.

    It is us who want the religious sacrifice that we think suffering is really all about . And it is us to frantically look for meaning. sept 11… what did that mean? judas betraying Jesus… what drama did that mean? Nothing. We hate that idea. Because it suggests that we mean nothing and thus our lives mean nothing. It whispers to us insistently that life = death and that it cannot be the life we frantically pin our hopes to by the name love.

    The only Meaning anywhere is Jesus. That capital L Love. Not the small l love that is Law and so our death. And now Love fills all things. Light fills darkness. Meaning Eternal gives meaning and life to death and nullity. Behold all things are new.

    Of course we would prefer to sacrifice someone else. And we often do. Cruelly so. “It is better than One should die for the good of the many.” We truly identify with that. How much of us feel the pain we should over a disgraced pastor broken by hidden sin made public? That we worry for his soul? Our impulse is to “purify and save” the church and it´s message from scandal. Take our jerimiac stand against moral sissiness. Man-up.How? By making human sacrifice. And so it is us vs them. Christ turns us and them into we.

    I would not be at all surprised if the idea of sacrifice as salvation is in the Eastern Orthodox. I would not be surprised at all because I know it is in me, and I know it is in my Lutheran Church as well. And we often do not seem to repent of this idolatry do we?

  • fws

    Tom @20

    amen. God does not will suffering. Not even that of Christ. We demanded that. But Life passed through the void of death and suffering to fill that emptiness and make it empty no more. Death and suffering and sin are the absence of. They produce nothing. They have no meaning. they are sense-less.

    It is us who want the religious sacrifice that we think suffering is really all about . And it is us to frantically look for meaning. sept 11… what did that mean? judas betraying Jesus… what drama did that mean? Nothing. We hate that idea. Because it suggests that we mean nothing and thus our lives mean nothing. It whispers to us insistently that life = death and that it cannot be the life we frantically pin our hopes to by the name love.

    The only Meaning anywhere is Jesus. That capital L Love. Not the small l love that is Law and so our death. And now Love fills all things. Light fills darkness. Meaning Eternal gives meaning and life to death and nullity. Behold all things are new.

    Of course we would prefer to sacrifice someone else. And we often do. Cruelly so. “It is better than One should die for the good of the many.” We truly identify with that. How much of us feel the pain we should over a disgraced pastor broken by hidden sin made public? That we worry for his soul? Our impulse is to “purify and save” the church and it´s message from scandal. Take our jerimiac stand against moral sissiness. Man-up.How? By making human sacrifice. And so it is us vs them. Christ turns us and them into we.

    I would not be at all surprised if the idea of sacrifice as salvation is in the Eastern Orthodox. I would not be surprised at all because I know it is in me, and I know it is in my Lutheran Church as well. And we often do not seem to repent of this idolatry do we?

  • Tom Hering

    By the way, when Job declared, “but now my eye sees You,” he saw forward, with the eyes of his heart, to Christ. “No one has seen God at any time” (John 1:18, 1st John 4:12) and “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened” (Ephesians 1:18) and “For with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness” (Romans 10:10).

  • Tom Hering

    By the way, when Job declared, “but now my eye sees You,” he saw forward, with the eyes of his heart, to Christ. “No one has seen God at any time” (John 1:18, 1st John 4:12) and “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened” (Ephesians 1:18) and “For with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness” (Romans 10:10).

  • Tom Hering

    “It is us who want the religious sacrifice that we think suffering is really all about.” – fws @ 21.

    I think you’ve nailed it. The idea that suffering is a form of cooperation in our salvation.

  • Tom Hering

    “It is us who want the religious sacrifice that we think suffering is really all about.” – fws @ 21.

    I think you’ve nailed it. The idea that suffering is a form of cooperation in our salvation.

  • George A. Marquart

    The marks of the Church of Christ, whether Lutheran, Western, or Eastern, remain the pure proclamation of the Gospel and the proper administration of the Sacraments. With regard to the proclamation of the Gospel, anyone who has studied the history of the Russian Orthodox church even slightly, has to come to the conclusion that for centuries before the Soviet era this was not high up on their agenda. The accumulation of power and wealth were on top of the list. Therefore it is reasonable to assume that the Soviet regime, with all of the horrors that accompanied it, was meant to destroy that church so that another could take its place that would proclaim the Gospel to its people. The Seven Letters to the churches in Revelation can lead one to believe that this is possible. But what happened? For many years I have suspected that the answer is in Revelation 13, “3 One of its heads seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled as they followed the beast. 4 And they worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?”

    About thirty years ago, I tried to explain this to an Anglican priest. He had just finished celebrating the liturgy at the old British embassy in Moscow, where we received the Body and Blood of our Lord while gazing at the Kremlin with its churches across the river. I could not help but remember the words of the Psalm, “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.” As I spoke to the priest, he was stunned with disbelief and started to back away from me slowly, his eyes darting from side to side, looking as if he was trying to save himself from a madman. After all, he knew I could not be right; the Russian Orthodox church, after all, had Apostolic Succession.

    As to the current Patriarch, aka “Tabak Kiryl”, for making millions for the church by importing duty free liquor and tobacco after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the authority of his office cannot change the authority of Scripture, which clearly teaches that only the suffering of our Lord was salvific. I am really stunned that people can question this axiom of the faith just because some exotically robed potentate, whom they cannot understand, says it.

    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  • George A. Marquart

    The marks of the Church of Christ, whether Lutheran, Western, or Eastern, remain the pure proclamation of the Gospel and the proper administration of the Sacraments. With regard to the proclamation of the Gospel, anyone who has studied the history of the Russian Orthodox church even slightly, has to come to the conclusion that for centuries before the Soviet era this was not high up on their agenda. The accumulation of power and wealth were on top of the list. Therefore it is reasonable to assume that the Soviet regime, with all of the horrors that accompanied it, was meant to destroy that church so that another could take its place that would proclaim the Gospel to its people. The Seven Letters to the churches in Revelation can lead one to believe that this is possible. But what happened? For many years I have suspected that the answer is in Revelation 13, “3 One of its heads seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled as they followed the beast. 4 And they worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?”

    About thirty years ago, I tried to explain this to an Anglican priest. He had just finished celebrating the liturgy at the old British embassy in Moscow, where we received the Body and Blood of our Lord while gazing at the Kremlin with its churches across the river. I could not help but remember the words of the Psalm, “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.” As I spoke to the priest, he was stunned with disbelief and started to back away from me slowly, his eyes darting from side to side, looking as if he was trying to save himself from a madman. After all, he knew I could not be right; the Russian Orthodox church, after all, had Apostolic Succession.

    As to the current Patriarch, aka “Tabak Kiryl”, for making millions for the church by importing duty free liquor and tobacco after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the authority of his office cannot change the authority of Scripture, which clearly teaches that only the suffering of our Lord was salvific. I am really stunned that people can question this axiom of the faith just because some exotically robed potentate, whom they cannot understand, says it.

    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  • Fr. Gregory Hogg

    Dr. Veith,

    You’ve raised a good question here, and one that deserves a careful response. (Would God I had more time on my hands to draft one!)

    In lieu of that response, let me ask you to meditate on St. Paul’s words in Colossians 1:18-27. Does he contradict in v. 24 what he asserted previously in v. 20?

    Consider, too, that Christ himself gives the precious term ‘cross’ to the sufferings of Christians, and says that no one who does not carry his own cross can enter the Kingdom of heaven. St. Paul also notes that “suffering with Christ” is a prerequisite to “being glorified with him” (Rom 8:17).

    Consider as well that the martyrdom of Stephen has him clearly conformed, in his suffering, to the image of Christ.

    May the Lord give you wisdom in pondering these things.

    The unworthy priest,

    Fr. Gregory Hogg

  • Fr. Gregory Hogg

    Dr. Veith,

    You’ve raised a good question here, and one that deserves a careful response. (Would God I had more time on my hands to draft one!)

    In lieu of that response, let me ask you to meditate on St. Paul’s words in Colossians 1:18-27. Does he contradict in v. 24 what he asserted previously in v. 20?

    Consider, too, that Christ himself gives the precious term ‘cross’ to the sufferings of Christians, and says that no one who does not carry his own cross can enter the Kingdom of heaven. St. Paul also notes that “suffering with Christ” is a prerequisite to “being glorified with him” (Rom 8:17).

    Consider as well that the martyrdom of Stephen has him clearly conformed, in his suffering, to the image of Christ.

    May the Lord give you wisdom in pondering these things.

    The unworthy priest,

    Fr. Gregory Hogg

  • joel in ga

    Part of the difficulty in understanding what the Orthodox mean by connecting suffering to redemption may be that Christians influenced by the Anselmic view of the atonement tend to see redemptive suffering only in terms of merit and satisfaction. For the Orthodox, the atonement does not work that way. A lucid breakdown is available here: http://www.frederica.com/writings/what-mel-missed.html

  • joel in ga

    Part of the difficulty in understanding what the Orthodox mean by connecting suffering to redemption may be that Christians influenced by the Anselmic view of the atonement tend to see redemptive suffering only in terms of merit and satisfaction. For the Orthodox, the atonement does not work that way. A lucid breakdown is available here: http://www.frederica.com/writings/what-mel-missed.html

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Thank you, Fr. Hogg, for helping us out here. I am well aware of the role of suffering in the Christian life. Luther, of course, was the great theologian of “The Theology of the Cross” vs. “The Theology of Glory.” It sounds like some of these sources that I quote are speaking of suffering as redemptive in itself, apart from the suffering of Christ and apart from His cross. For example, did you play the video of the priest being interviewed in which he suggests that suffering in itself can save a person? Is that in accord with Orthodox teaching?

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Thank you, Fr. Hogg, for helping us out here. I am well aware of the role of suffering in the Christian life. Luther, of course, was the great theologian of “The Theology of the Cross” vs. “The Theology of Glory.” It sounds like some of these sources that I quote are speaking of suffering as redemptive in itself, apart from the suffering of Christ and apart from His cross. For example, did you play the video of the priest being interviewed in which he suggests that suffering in itself can save a person? Is that in accord with Orthodox teaching?


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