Monthly Archives: March 2014

No More Rock Action

stooges_1stMy Facebook feed has just informed me that Stooges drummer Scott Asheton has passed away, following his brother Ron, the guitarist (and erstwhile bassist) in the band, who left us five years ago.  A sad thing, since in the history of rock and roll, there is no band that has ever rocked harder, or made such beautiful noise together.

The Stooges were never appreciated in the time they were originally together, but there was no band wilder.  Their debut, and their sophomore effort Funhouse, are pioneering works.  And while I’m a fan of both albums, the real genius of Scott Asheton and his pile-driving drumming style is most readily apparent on the second incarnation of the band, when James Williamson took over the guitar and Ron moved on to bass.  The drum attack on the Raw Power album is utterly relentless.  He makes opener Search and Destroy sound like the napalm attack hinted at by singer Iggy Pop’s lyrics.

stoogesoldFormed in the late ’60s, the Stooges crashed and burned violently in 1974, but in the meantime, Scott, with his brother Ron, Williamson and the irrepressible Iggy Pop had created punk music.  It was a privilege to see “Rock Action” as he was known, back in action in the last decade as the Stooges reformed and, on one famous occasion, played the Big Day Out festival in Auckland.  And now so sad to hear he is no longer with us.

Memory eternal, Scott Asheton.  May God grant you repose on your Death Trip!

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Orthodoxy Sunday

In the Orthodox Church, the first Sunday of Lent is celebrated as Orthodoxy Sunday.  That was yesterday.

Triumph of Orthodoxy 007Orthodoxy Sunday celebrates the day in 843AD when the Roman Empress Theodora ordered the restoration of all the icons to their proper place in the churches, after a century of controversy and iconoclasm.  As a former Protestant, I was fairly ignorant of the high-level debate around icons in this period of history.  I thought praying to icons was just some pointless, superstitious religious exercise that old Russian babushkas did.

But icons are a big deal, and iconoclasm a real threat to sound doctrine.  So much so that at the second Nicean Council of 787AD a Bishop declared:

“This heresy is the worst of all heresies. Woe to the iconoclasts! It is the worst of heresies, as it subverts the incarnation of our Savior!”

Really, what icons say is that people can be Holy, and objects can be Holy, and furthermore, they depict real, material people who were filled with the Spirit of God.  In the case of Christ, they testify that He came in the flesh, that He purified bodies, that He resurrected bodies (especially His own) and made them Holy.  They testify to what we see in Acts 19:11-12 – that if even the Apostle Paul’s discarded snot-rags can work miracles, how much more can the Holy images of Christ and the Saints?

Icons are your friends.  Honestly, I don’t know how I used to pray without them.  They’re not idols, but Holy windows to Heaven by which we can glorify Christ and Christ can bless us. They transform Christianity from an intellectual (gnostic) faith that seeks escape from the material world and its trappings, to a faith of both soul and body, that saves and restores both.

These are the ones I have at home:

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In the words of Nicea II:

“The Holy Synod cried out: So we all believe, we all are so minded, we all give our consent and have signed. This is the faith of the Apostles, this is the faith of the orthodox, this is the faith that has made firm the whole world. Believing in one God, to be celebrated in Trinity, we salute the honorable images! Those who do not so hold, let them be anathema. Those who do not thus think, let them be driven far away from the Church. For we follow the most ancient legislation of the Catholic Church. We keep the laws of the Fathers. We anathematize those who add anything to or take anything away from the Catholic Church. We anathematize the introduced novelty of the revilers of Christians. We salute the venerable images. We place under anathema those who do not do this. Anathema to them who presume to apply to the venerable images the things said in Holy Scripture about idols. Anathema to those who do not salute the holy and venerable images. Anathema to those who call the sacred images idols. Anathema to those who say that Christians resort to the sacred images as to gods. Anathema to those who say that any other delivered us from idols except Christ our God. Anathema to those who dare to say that at any time the Catholic Church received idols. Many years to the Emperor!”

Hell Continued… Forever…

In my last post I backgrounded the arguments around the eternality of the punishment of hell, and explained the Orthodox view of it.  Let me now explain why I, while not *absolutely* certain of the truth of the matter, favour the idea that hell torments the damned eternally.

Let me first state that the view that hell ends in annihilation is not necessarily unorthodox (or even unOrthodox).  It’s entirely possible and plausible.  An argument can be made that this is the case.  But in my view, the odds favour the opposite theology – that the damned suffer eternally.

Three-Holy-HierarchsI must at this point admit that I was prepared to be convinced of the Rethinking Hell arguments.  I attend an Orthodox church, so my approach is different to theirs, but I could see the logic there.  However, being Orthodox, one hits a major snag, and that is the Three Holy Hierarchs of the 4th Century, who wrote in support of ECT.  Now, just because a Saint has postulated a certain view does not mean that this view is infallible, or the view of the Church, or that the view is absolutely true simply by the testimony of those who put it forward.  But it does carry weight.  And there are few weightier Saints than John Chrysostom, who was adamant that the punishment of the damned was eternal.  See his sermons here and here.  Since there are fewer Christians in history more authoritative, his support for ECT institutes a high threshold by which the idea should be debunked.

What is this based on?  The Rethinking Hell folk would have you believe that the rhetoric of Holy Scripture is purely existential – that the Bible, in speaking of the “destruction” of the wicked, guarantees their non-existence.  In reality, this involves taking a bunch of Biblical passages and saying that they are completely literal – that when the Bible says “destroyed”, it means these people literally cease to exist.  Again, I could never discount this possibility.  But the reality is that there is too much Scripture that says the opposite.  There are several passages, and I am not going to waste time quoting all of them, because frankly, the RH people should know the Bible well enough to know where they are, even though they have compelling excuses for all of them.  But I will look at 1 Corinthians 15, because basically it makes the RH people look very foolish:

SignorelliOrvietoSBrizioResurrection1502Firstly, we examine 15:22.  Adam’s sin caused death in everyone, good and wicked.  But this verse tells us this situation will be reversed.  So if Christ resurrects the good, he must also resurrect the wicked.  This is expanded upon in 15: 35-44.  The passage explains that our physical bodies will be resurrected, not just our soul or our “essence”.  But more than that, it tells us that our perishable bodies shall be made imperishable.  No distinction is made between the saved and the damned, the good and the wicked, in this passage.  It is clear that all have the same eternal fate in this instance.  The clincher is 15:52:  “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”  It is clear that this passage does not just apply to the “righteous” but to everyone.  Everyone is going to be made incorruptible and immortal.

Basically, this passage puts the RH people in a tight spot.  Their only recourse is to say that the physical resurrected bodies of the damned are materially different, when resurrected, from the righteous, and therefore, their bodies are perishable, this being their judgment.  But nothing in 1 Cor 15 suggests anything other than a resurrection of both righteous and wicked with the same types of bodies:  The incorruptible kind.  Uh oh!

the_transfiguration_of_our_lord_by_starcross-d5e8lcqThe only conclusion that can be reached is that the damned get incorruptible bodies like the rest of us, then they experience the full force of the Divine Energies of God, and then, being incorruptible, they suffer eternally under the strain of God’s presence.

It’s not a nice position to be in.  And as I have said, there’s no real philosophical issue of God’s justice in this, since Hell is self-inflicted in this scenario.  But more than this, it says that human life is valuable.  To believe in annihilation is to believe that God does not value life, and that He does not want to restore humanity to its place of communion with God.  Ultimately if there is no real punishment, then there is no real restoration of communion.  A soul that can disappear is also one that can never truly be saved.

UPDATE:  Many of the Rethinking Hell people like to claim that, because of the words used in the Bible for hell, the way we think of hell as eternal torment is an innovation unknown to the Apostles and the early Church.  It is true that the Greek and Hebrew words used (“Sheol”, for example) could simply mean “the grave” or “the pit”.  It is further true that Hades – the place/situation in which disembodied souls find themselves – is not the same as hell, and is sometimes erroneously translated that way.  But that does not necessarily mean that the early Christians believed in annihilation (although the Rethinking Hell folk love to quote the Early Church Fathers out of context to back up this claim).  To the contrary, the book of Judith in the Deuterocanon, states:

“Woe to the nations that rise up against my kindred! the Lord Almighty will take vengeance of them in the day of judgment, in putting fire and worms in their flesh; and they shall feel them, and weep for ever.”(Judith 16:17)

It’s clear from this that the Jewish understanding at the time was one of eternal conscious torment.  And as for the early Church, we see in the Martyrdom of Polycarp, a disciple of the Apostle John, the following quip to his persecutors:

But again the proconsul said to him, I will cause you to be consumed by fire, seeing you despise the wild beasts, if you will not repent.

But Polycarp said, You threaten me with fire which burns for an hour, and after a little is extinguished, but are ignorant of the fire of the coming judgment and of eternal punishment, reserved for the ungodly. But why do you tarry? Bring forth what you will. (Martyrdom of Polycarp 11:2)

This retort shows that Polycarp fears the eternal fire, rather than a temporal one.  He knows the fire of this world will not hurt him for long, but that the Fire of God will eternally consume and punish those who choose to separate themselves from Him.  It shows that the doctrine of ECT was in no way innovative, but was there from the beginning of the faith.