A Copt responds, on their not being Monophysites

I recently posted about the Lutheran video tribute to the 21 Coptic Martyrs of Libya, going on to address the accusation that the Copts are monophysite heretics.  Reader Ori Pomerantz shared the post with Medhat Ghabrial, a Coptic Christian, who wrote a fascinating comment on Facebook that I had to share with you (with his permission).

You can read it after the jump, but basically he says that the heresy charge was a political maneuver by the Church of Rome against its rival, the Church of Alexandria.  (Recall the prominence of Alexandria in the Early Church.)  Mr. Ghabrial points out that Alexandria was the center of Nicene orthodoxy.  After all, St. Athanasius was the bishop of Alexandria!  And the Copts to this day recite and consider authoritative the Athanasian Creed!  The Coptic Church is emphatically not monophysite, as the Roman Church itself now admits.

I still hear that charge, though, among Protestants, so Mr. Ghabrial’s point needs to be better known.  He also acknowledges that Coptic Christology is much like that of the Lutherans, a subject that needs to be better known as well! [Read more…]

Greek soteriology?

I stumbled upon this post from 2012 on The Old Jamestown Church, a “Classical Anglican” blog, written by an ex-Orthodox, now Anglican, priest on the issues Westerners considering Orthodoxy would need to deal with.  I don’t want to stir anything up with my Orthodox friends and readers, but the author made an intriguing point–bolstered by a quotation from the distinguished church historian Alister McGrath–that I wanted to run past you for your thoughts.

He said that the Early Church worked out the important theological foundations of the Trinity and Christology.  But the next important question, soteriology–how we are saved–was not, at first, fully resolved in the same way.  St. Augustine did the heavy lifting, but the issue was still being worked out through the Middle Ages, culminating in the Reformation.  But the Greek churches were already going their own way, mostly rejecting Augustine’s work, and favoring a Hellenized take on the Hebrew Scriptures.  As a result, he says, Orthodox soteriology is very different from Western soteriology, whether Roman Catholic or Protestant.

Read the excerpt after the jump.  Can anyone speak to whether this analysis of church history is valid?  Are these differences exaggerated?  Is there a way any such differences can be reconciled, such as the effects of Baptism and Holy Communion?  Where does the “Finnish School” of Luther studies, which says that Luther advocated a kind of theosis consistent with Orthodoxy, fit into this debate? [Read more…]

Resenting Christian compassion

Ross Douthat has a rather brilliant essay in which he considers whether the church is facing a new pagan society, as in the first century.  He thinks not, but he notices that some of the hostility against Christianity is very similar to the resentment against the faith expressed by pagan Romans.  He cites a recent rant in Slate complaining that so many of the doctors battling Ebola are Christians and missionaries, and calling for a separation of religion and health care.  Douthat said  this is like Julian the Apostate’s frustration that “all men see that our people lack aid” from pagan sources, even as “the impious Galilaeans support not only their own poor but ours as well.” [Read more…]

1,500 year-old confession of faith

Scholars have discovered a 1,500-year-old papyrus from ancient Egypt that contains a remarkable Christian confession, including an early description of Holy Communion.  Reportedly, the writing was rolled up in an amulet, a Christian version of the amulets-with-protection-spells worn by pagan Egyptians.

The article on the find says that this is an example of Christian “magic,” but the text says nothing about protection or anything spell-like.  The ancient Hebrews of the Bible would also wear little cases that contained Bible verses (Deuteronomy 11:18).  The ignorance of the news story in saying that this is one of the “first” references to the Last Supper–the early Church Fathers, such as Irenaeus who died in 202 A.D., referred to it all the time–casts further doubt on the “magic” claim.  This instead sounds like an example of Christians following a cultural practice while giving it a new meaning.  Anyway, read the text after the jump. [Read more…]

The pulpit as the Empty Tomb

Thanks to Darren Jones for pointing me to this post on how the Early Church linked the pulpit to Christ’s empty tomb. [Read more…]

The Eighth Day

There is a Creation.  And there is also a New Creation. God created the universe in 6 days and on the 7th, He rested.  His other stupendous work was when the Second Person of the Trinity became incarnate and took the evils and sufferings of His creation into Himself, dying to atone for them, and rising again.  His resurrection took place on the day after the Sabbath, an 8th day.

The early Church made much of this symbolism.  Sunday was considered not the first day of the week but the 8th day.  Baptismal fonts were octagonal.  Now that Christ has risen from the dead, we live in the age of the New Creation, the 8th day.  After the jump, an excerpt from an essay by Dale Coulter on the Christian vs. the secular view of progress, drawing on the 8th day. [Read more…]