Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Questions and Answers 8 - 13

The Miraculous Properties of the Holy Fire of Jerusalem

Question 8: I recently saw this video ( where it shows a man displaying the miraculous nature of the Holy Fire after he received it in Jerusalem this past Easter. The gentleman in the video is trying to show his friends and family that the fire does not burn like normal fire, even though he says it slightly burns. However, I have a friend who told me that after he received the Holy Fire in Jerusalem, it burned him, and since then he lost faith in it being a miracle. Can you tell me more about this, and if this truly shows it to be a miracle?

Answer: This really is an interesting video, and probably the best I've seen of the many video displays showing the Holy Fire does not burn like normal fire. From what I have read about the Holy Fire, in the first few minutes after the Patriarch emerges with the Holy Fire from the Holy Tomb, it does not burn. This is supposed to be one sign of its miraculous properties, and one of the reasons the Greeks do not refer to it as a "fire", but rather as the Holy Light. I think it is misleading to say that the Holy Fire does not burn, however, because that implies it gives off no heat, when we know this is not true, just by the fact that the fire is distributed from one wick to another. So when people say after watching these videos: "They should allow the fire to keep burning a hand or a beard without moving it," this should sound ridiculous, since if you can distribute the fire from one wick to another, then that means it does burn and is capable of consuming. However, the claim here is that in fact, just as the video shows, this fire does not burn like normal fire. For this reason, it is considered a miraculous display of its properties, showing that it is not a fire of destruction, but a gentle fire with a less destructive quality, at least initially. To make the claim that it does not burn at all, will only lead a reasonable person to be an unbeliever.

For a personal account of a miracle of the Holy Fire, read A Miracle of the Holy Light of Jerusalem in Athens.

Location of the Ark of the Covenant

Question 9: What does the Orthodox Church believe about the location of the Ark of the Covenant?

Answer: To put it short, the Orthodox Church has no position on the location of the Ark of the Covenant. However, I recently translated the Synaxarion of the Holy Prophet Jeremiah, from the tenth century Synaxarion of Constantinople. There we are told the old tradition of how the Prophet Jeremiah took the Ark of the Covenant from the Temple before the Babylonian Captivity, and hid it under a rock near Mount Nebo. You can read about this here. This is the closest to an official statement on the location of the Ark of the Covenant as we have. However, there are other theories. Personally I don't think there is much credibility to the stories of the Knights Templar recovering the Ark of the Covenant in Jerusalem during the Crusades. And though the theory that the Ark was brought to Ethiopia and is in possession there by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church is interesting and plausible, it also presents some difficulties that do not allow me to embrace the theory wholeheartedly. For me, it is a mystery that will probably not be revealed until the Second Coming of Christ. Since Scripture is silent about the subject, it may very well be that no one really knows what happened to it, and for all we know it may have been destroyed by invading armies.

The Plundering of the Philistine Foreskins

Question 10: How do you understand the plundering of the Philistine foreskins by King David in 1 Samuel 18?

Answer: It's interesting that you call it a "plundering", because this fits in line with how I read it. I read 1 Samuel 18 Christologically, and in light of the Resurrection of Christ. Saul is a type of Satan, David is a type of Christ, the battles against the Philistines represent both the enemies of Christ and death or hades, the foreskins are the spoils of hades which are the souls of the righteous. When Saul tries to destroy David by sending him out to battle against the Philistines and having to gather 100 of their foreskins, David emerges as victorious and brings back 200, thus earning the right to take the daughter of Saul as his bride. This is exactly what we believe about the Passion and Resurrection of Christ. Satan through Judas and the Jews tried to destroy Christ, Christ died physically on the Cross but His soul went to hades, where by His presence alone He destroyed death, and emerged from the tomb with the spoils of hades, namely the souls of the righteous, twice the amount because He also converted many to whom He and John the Baptist preached while in hades. Thus He became the Lord of both the living and the dead, which comprise His Church, namely His bride.

Ravi Zacharias

Question 11: What do you think of Ravi Zacharias?

Answer: I first heard of Ravi Zacharias when I was in high school around 1992, when I acquired some cassettes of his lectures on atheism, and I also read a book or two of his at the time. At the time I found them to be very beneficial to me. Obviously, with him being an Evangelical, we had theological differences, but I found him to be an interesting thinker and inspiring speaker. In 1998 I moved to Charlotte, North Carolina from Boston, and while there I took many courses at an Evangelical seminary that focused on Philosophy and Apologetics, and Ravi Zacharias was also a visiting professor there, since he was centered in Atlanta. I took two courses with him, one being Introduction to Apologetics, and the other was World Religions. It was interesting seeing him teach as an academic, and he had a lot of first-hand knowledge of the subjects which made them especially helpful and unique. Our school was also invited to some of his debates in Atlanta, which I also attended. That being said, as a teacher and lecturer, I find him to be among the best of the Evangelical world, despite the obvious theological differences. On a personal basis, I found him to be an authentic, humble and pleasant man, with a heart for Christ.


Question 12: Is the use of contraception sinful?

Answer: One of the ways you determine if something is sinful or not is when you examine the intent behind it, especially if it is something that has not been defined as a sin. Contraception can indeed be sinful, for example, if it causes an abortion after fertilization. But in the Orthodox Church, there are various schools of thought on the subject of birth control. Some believe that sex should only be done with the intention of having a child. This is something you may find in certain monastic communities, and it is something I have encountered many times, and it almost always leads to a breakdown of the marriage if the couple is not 100% on board with this mutually and together. Most Orthodox would say that a couple has the right to determine for themselves how many children they want to bear, and therefore pre-fertilization forms of birth control and contraception are acceptable. With this being said, there is basically no official position of the Church on this issue, and the Church usually does not address issues of the "marriage bed", unless the couple together and with one mind seeks guidance on this issue. Ideally, the Church wants a married couple to have as many children as possible, and most praises those couples who either totally abstain and live as brother and sister for the sake of Christ, or those couples that have as many children as they can. But not every couple can live up to these ideals, so there is a freedom to choose.

Books For Those Interested in Orthodoxy

Question 13: Which book would you give to someone who is interested in Orthodoxy? Most people I have asked tell me The Orthodox Church by Kallistos Ware. What do you think?

Answer: This is actually a very difficult question. In my experience, it is best to get to know someone and their personality before choosing which book should introduce them to Orthodoxy. In my encounters with such people, I don't think I have ever given the same book twice, and after they convert to Orthodoxy they usually tell me how the book I gave them was perfect and met their needs and answered their questions exactly how they needed. These same people also have told me that beforehand they may have been given The Orthodox Church by Kallistos Ware, but I don't believe it is a good initial book of introduction to Orthodoxy, mainly because it is filled with a bunch of boring and dry history and facts, that may be intellectually interesting, but it doesn't pull at the heart, which is what most people who are seriously interested in Orthodoxy are looking for, though history and facts are important, but to a lesser degree. Converts are not made by filling the head with information, but by fascinating them and giving them something they never could have imagined. It also helps to know their backgrounds. I have helped convert Protestants, Catholics, Nones and Atheists primarily, and all of them need to be approached very differently. By getting to know a person, you put yourself in their shoes, and based on your experience with the books you can better determine what is best for them to read. Determine what they are looking for, and present them with something that goes the extra mile in meeting their needs. Most don't even know what they are looking for. This is the best advice I can give.

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