Friday, 20 September 2013

Debate (in short) with John Matusiak, priest of the Orthodox Church of America, on the Nature of Pagan Deities that were Supposedly Men, on Relative Reliability of Pagan Stories (except where contradicting the faith)

date : 20/09/13 à 14h20
objet : Are Krishna and Buddha Devils or Bad Men?
In Hindoo mythological theology or pseudotheology, the closest you come to the Devil showing himself as bad as he is to his worshippers would be the couple Shiva and Kali (Kali means Hell, btw). All three of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, but especially Shiva - as with Apollo (I think the tragedies where peoples' lives are ruined by his predictions or orders were preserved by the Church as a black book of accusations proving Paganism diabolic - and Apollyon is a genuine Pagan title of that "divinity" who is also called "lord of flies" and "lord of rats").

However, some deities which are the Devil insofar as wrongly worshipped, i e the worship given them is really given the Devil, are also other things. The Sun may be an angel or a piece of matter, but either way it is not the same person as who takes the worship of the Sun Worshippers.

And some Pagan Deities have had a life on earth.

I have heard of visions of Buddha and Muhammed in Hell, I was wondering if I might hear of Odin and Krishna in Hell too, seen by Asatrú and Hindoos converting. These had a carreer on Earth before going, supposedly, to Asgard or the Hindoo Heaven.

It seems some Hindoos have been upset by the words of one Archbishop Nikon about Krishna. I am not defending Hindooism, but I think Krishna might have been just a bad man before the flood (probably named "the black one" in Hebrew rather than Sanskrit, since Hebrew was the pre-Babel tongue) before Satan used the memory of him to seduce to idolatry. As with Caesar, Augustus, and a few other who were divinised.

Hans-Georg Lundahl
date : 20/09/13 à 14h34
Dear Hans-Georg,

Thank you for your enquiry.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is the perfect, final and complete revelation of God to mankind and in Whom we find the very Source of our salvation and eternal life as the only "Way, Truth, and Life" and the "Light of the world," reveals nothing concerning this, and there is nothing in the received Tradition that indicates anything of the sort concerning that about which you write.

At best, and without appearing to be flippant, we can say in this regard that that about which you write "may be, or may not be," but in any instance, it is of no consequence for those rooted in the Gospel and focused on Jesus Christ while anticipating the "life of the world to come" when He returns "to judge the living and the dead," at which time all will be revealed to us.

These matters are highly speculative; the Church does not deal in speculation but, rather, revelation alone.

In Christ,
Father John Matusiak, OCA Q&As
date : 20/09/13 à 14h43
The Church as such is one thing.

Theologians are another thing. St Augustine assumed without reserve the historicity of Pagan stories. [Or rather without reserve insofar as they are human testimony.]

Can I then assume I am under no suspicion of being a syncretist because I assume the historicity of Arjuna's charioteer or Gylfi's deceiver, in their capacities of humans?

Hans-Georg Lundahl
date : 20/09/13 à 14h49
Dear Hans-Georg,

The Church maintains the fullness of truth -- that is, it focuses on the received Tradition, which is that which the People of God have believed at all times, throughout its 2000 year history, and in all places.

Individual members of the Church, including Augustine, may hold their own speculative, personal theological opinions. But these are not a part of the received Tradition, nor do they represent that which has been revealed by Jesus Christ since they, by nature, are "personal" and "speculative." Ultimately, theologians "speak about God" in definitive terms as He has revealed Himself to us. As such, their "function," so to speak, is to share that which Christ has revealed to His Church, His People.

With regard to whether you are a syncretist, it is impossible for me to say. I can say that, while one may hold such a personal opinion, one must also acknowledge that it is not the teaching of the Church nor an aspect of the received Tradition.

In Christ,
Father John Matusiak, OCA Q&As
date : 20/09/13 à 15h29
I certainly do not blaim St Ansgar for heresy when/if he refused to acknowledge the historicity of Odin, unlike (if so) later St Olaf, who reckoned him a dead ancestor (Satan appeared to him in the shape of Odin one night, the next day he told his bishop: "Now I know Odin is dead, he is spooking").

Nor do I blame St Francis Xavier for reckoning there was no historic Buddha - the Japanese accounts he heard of him had added 9000 years of diverse incarnations before Siddharta.

While the historic existence of these cannot be even as dogmatic as the historic existence of an other idol, Caesar Augustus, who is in the Gospel, and a second one, Tiberius, who is also there, I nevertheless hold St Augustine was not merely expressing a personal opinion about the non-idolised Priam and Hecuba, and that other Church Father who called Hercules "not a god, but a strong mortal", I rather hold this was up to recent times (after Voltaire and Hume and Kant ruined European educations) the usual and most straightforward way to deal with Pagan lore - accepting as historic (in best probability, without dogmatic certainty) what was not in contradiction with the Faith.

Would you consider that syncretistic?
date : 20/09/13 à 15h38
date : 20/09/13 à 15h58
If so why?

Would you consider St Jerome syncretistic for believing there was a faun around when St Anthony visited St Paul the First Hermit? And possibly a Centaur too?
date : 20/09/13 à 16h04
Dear Hang-Georg,

The purpose of our Question and Answer service, as indicated on our web site, is to answer questions about Orthodox Christianity. As such, engaging in lengthy on-line dialogues is beyond our capacity.

I answered your question according to the Orthodox Christian perspective.

All I can add is the following:

If one attempts to incorporate his or her personal opinions into the received Tradition of the Church, as if one's personal opinions are on part with the received Tradition and divine Revelation, then indeed one engages in syncretism. Just because one or two or three saints or Holy Fathers holds a particular opinion, it does not mean that those opinions are reflected in the Church's official teachings.

Early on, I explained that that about which you enquired is not a part of divine Revelation, nor the received Tradition.

In Christ,
Father John Matusiak, OCA Q&As
date : 20/09/13 à 16h12
OK, I have heard a Bishop say that Evolution cannot be denied, that Creationists are bliding themselves to evidence.

He was seemingly speaking for his dioecese, of your jurisdictions.

Was he engaging in a merely personal opinion, or was he putting his merely personal opinion on par with Tradition and Official Doctrine of the Church and thereby engaging in Syncretism?

Hans-Georg Lundahl
What is at stake?
Of course, the answer he gave is correct insofar as the Church can never vouch for merely human histories - by Homer or by more recent writers - with the same assurance as for the Gospels. That the Church as such is not vouching for any particular story at all - except those that are part of the Church in its origin or in its historic detail.

It is also even to the point if it comes to "for him who is rooted in the Gospel" - but I have so much to do with people who are not. I am not trying to bolster my Faith against doubts of mine own, I am defending it against doubts brought up by non-believers.

My problem is when he seems to say that unless I have some kind of serious doubt of any dates in Greek history, I am thereby somehow incorporating it into the Depositum Fidei, which I am not. I have for that matter no serious doubt I was born in 1968 AD, but I am not incorporating that into the Depositum Fidei either. I have no serious doubt about either general reliability of collective memory - except when it is unrealiable for a reason than about the Pythagorean Theoreme, which I am not either doubting or putting on par with Divine Tradition either.

Time after time I have been asked or seen others asked things like "if you don't believe Greek Mythology or Hindoo Mythology or Roman or Nordic or Celtic Mythology or Egyptian or Babylonic Mythology, why do you think Hebrew Mythology in Genesis is any better?"

When it comes to contradictory accounts of same or correspoding events - Flood, Creation, Eternity of the One God or Births of Several Gods - one party in the quarrel must at least be wrong.

But no more than where he is contradicting what is right - not where he is actually confirming it (like reality of Flood being vouched for, apart from the Faith, by the multitude of Pagan flood myths beside the Hebrew one, which is not to be expected if the Hebrew story were merely an aberration of the Human mind). There he need not be wrong.

Now, the rest of this is less material to the faith, and as I explained, I do not consider St Francis Xavier a Heretic for denying the historical reality of Buddha as a human person, nor those as heretics who dispute Odin reigned at Upsala. And obviously not those who deny Arjuna had a charioteer named Krishna. But if it is not exactly indispensable to the Faith, it may still be relevant to the argument.

For once the Atheist enquirer asks how far I will take believing Pagans on the Flood, and other historic realities before the relevant writer lived, I will answer "pretty far." Without concessions to Pagan theologies. Ulysses came back to his wife, sure, no problem. He blinded a one-eyed giant on the way, ok, maybe so, it could be bragging, but I cannot deny the possibility on principle. It is when we get to the debate between Athena and her father Zeus that I say : hold it, those are not the guys who decide human destinies. That said, Homer at least is no Calvinist, he does not deny freewill nor refuse responsibility to sinners in that debate put into the mouths of things that are not, the mouths of deities originally imagined by vain men.

A similar debate did take place and somehow get known to men (probably either revealed to Moses or to the person directly concerned), about another man who could be called πολυτλας or "suffering much" - Job. Only, the debate between God and Satan was before his sufferings, not when God decided to end them.

And if Agamemnon once tried to pray that the Sun stop still in the sky until he had completely routed the Trojans, he might have gotten the idea of Joshua - even if Homer does not mention him and may not even have known him. But the prayer of Agamemnon could not have been heard, since he was vengeful for merely political reasons or nearly so (nominally the war could have been about the sanctity of marriage) and since he directed it to false gods whom the sun does not obey. Whereas Joshua - the name means Jesus and the Greek Bible actually calls him Jesus Nave - served the true Lord. Whom the Sun dutifully obeys, when shining on the good and on the wicked.

But this will not make me seriously doubt that Ulysses did come home, through Divine Providence, or that Agamemnon did try a prayer that failed him.

Still less will the failures of Pagan theology make me think the Holy Bible's stories similar to Pagan ones are just imagined stuff without factual reality or with a free and non-committing relation to it.

Now, the priest from OCA, John Matusiak, did call out against agreeing too heartily with what he considered just two or three Church Fathers (as if all the rest were supposed to be firmly opposed to all truth in any Pagan story), but Lazar Puhalo agrees with no Church Father at all when he calls Young Earth Creationism a model of reality that is blind to evidence. All Church Fathers who said anything about the subject were Young Earth Creationists.

Another thing that is at stake is this: I have defended the Gospels' reliability by the fact that the Church vouches for these being from Her own origin. But this brings up how communities know their origins. By tradition.

In this context - as far as God's truth allows - I will rather say Athenians recalled Cecrops with fairly correct descriptions than say it is exceptional for a community to know its origin. And though I neither believe Romulus and Remus were lifted to heaven after dying nor that they were born to a god named Mars, I will believe the rest of it pretty closely to how Livy tells it, except where as a Christian I have a particular reason to think the old Romans were mistaken.

Hans-Georg Lundahl
BpI, Georges Pompidou
Vigil of St Matthew
Ember Friday

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