The Three Levels of Apostasy

St. Arsenius the Great

St. Arsenius the Great

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.

THE THREE LEVELS OF APOSTASY
By Fr. Demascene Christensen, from "One Man in the Face of Apostasy" Orthodox Word Magazine, #130, Sept. - Oct. 1986

In studying Archbishop Averky's writings on the apostasy, one can discern three levels of which he spoke, these levels progressing from the most obvious to the most difficult to detect.

The First Level

At the first level is the loss of Christianity's "savour" by Christendom in general. The roots of this are found in the schism of East and West and in the medieval West's gradual formation of "a new Christianity," in which man's fallen reason--rather than divinely revealed tradition-became the criterion of truth. In essence, it was this change in perspective from the spiritual to the natural that led, through Renaissance and "Enlightenment," to the blatant materialism of our own times--a materialism that has blinded modern man. "There can be discerned," wrote Archbishop Averky, "some kind of rationally acting black hand which is working to bind people as tightly as possible to this temporary, earthly life by forcing them to forget the future life, the eternal life assuredly awaiting us all."

Materialism, Archbishop Averky understood, corrupts the faith of Christians without their even knowing it. Even their ostensible stand "against worldliness" or their talk of Heaven may be filled with worldly conceptions if they have lost the right understanding of the "world" that is opposed by basic Christianity. Moreover, that which would, from an Orthodox Christian viewpoint, be considered immoral, becomes permissible to a Christianity infected with worldliness. Wrote Archbishop Averky:

"Of what sort of genuine union of all Christians in the spirit of Christian love can we speak now when the Truth is denied by almost everyone, when deceit is in control almost everywhere, when a genuinely spiritual life among people who call themselves Christians has dried up and been replaced by a carnal life, an animal life which has nonetheless been placed on a pedestal and concealed by the idea of pretended charity which hypocritically justifies any sort of spiritual excess, any sort of moral anarchy. Indeed, it is from this that are derived all these numberless 'balls,' various kinds of 'games,' 'dances' and amusements, toward which, despite their immoral and anti-Christian nature, even many modern clergymen have a tolerant attitude, sometimes even organizing them themselves and participating in them."

In losing touch with the essence of its faith--which is, in a word, other worldliness--Christendom deprives believers of living contact with the grace of the Holy Spirit. Christians must therefore find substitutes for this grace by inducing, through self-persuasion, "spiritual experiences." At the same time they seek a substitute, in this world, for the other world that is no longer tangible to them. Of these "Neo-Christians," Archbishop Averky wrote:

"They want blessedness here in this world, burdened with its multitude of sins and iniquities; and they await this blessedness with impatience...In our times, when there are such strong doubts about even the existence of Truth, when every 'truth' is considered relative and it is considered legal for each person to hold to 'his own truth,' the struggle for the Truth acquires a particularly important meaning. And the person who does not sympathize with this struggle, who sees in it only a manifestation of 'pharisseism' and suggests 'humbling oneself' before falsehood by falling away from the Truth, should naturally be recognized as a betrayer of the Truth, whoever he might be, whatever he might call or consider himself."

Those who place all their hope in this world must of necessity either give into despair or blind themselves to the rising degeneracy in all forms of public life. Their relativistic and irresolute attitude only helps to unclean the forces of Satan in the last times. As Archbishop Averky pointed out:

"The 'ministers of Satan,' or, which is the same thing, the servants of the coming Antichrist, make use of this spiritual blindness of the majority of modern people and stubbornly and insistently do their work with genuinely satanic energy. With special efforts and with all available means, with the aid of all the resources under their control, they bind forcibly to themselves adepts who are wittingly or unwittingly, willing or unwillingly, cooperating with them in creating in the world circumstances and conditions appropriate for the very near appearance of the Antichrist as their ruler of the whole world and the master of all mankind."

In another place, Archbishop Averky wrote more on this same theme:

"The fundamental task of the servants of the coming Antichrist is to destroy the old world with all its former concepts and 'prejudices,' in order to build in its place a new world suitable for receiving its approaching 'new owner' who will take the place of Christ for people and give them on earth that which Christ did not give them...One must be completely blind spiritually, completely alien to True Christianity, not to understand all this!"

The Second Level

At the second level of the apostasy described by Archibishop Averky, the Orthodox churches--in "keeping in step with the times"--leave behind some of the Church's traditional forms and ecclesiological positions which they consider "outdated," and thus they too cut themselves off from the tradition that retains the "savour" of basic Christianity. This is one of the ways in which Orthodoxy cannot be transmitted when the very context of receiving it is all but gone.

Archbishop Averky explained why the Orthodox Church, as Saint Athanasius the Great once said, "must not serve the times: "The Church never conforms to the world. Indeed not, for the Lord said to His Disciples at the Mystical (Last) Supper, "You are not of this world." We must hold to these words if we are to remain faithful to True Christianity--the true Church of Christ has always been, is and will always be a stranger to this world. Separated from it, she is able to transmit the divine teachings of the Lord unchanged, because that separation has kept her unchanged, that is, "like the immutable God Himself"…

"Whenever the inherited spiritual link of grace going back to the Holy Apostles and their successors the Apostolic Men and Holy Fathers has been broken, wherever various innovations have been introduced in faith and morals with the aim of 'keeping in step with the times,' of 'progressing,' of not getting out-of-date and of adapting to the demands and fashions of this world lying in evil--there can be no talk of the True Church."

These "innovations" are sometimes introduced in order to make Orthodox life less of a struggle or to make it appear less "odd" in the eyes of the world. Archbishop Averky wrote that the very concept of doing this is heterodox, since "the Orthodox Christian Faith teaches "how to construct life according to the demands of Christian perfection," whereas heterodoxy takes from Christianity only those things which are, and to the degree to which they are, "compatible with the condition of contemporary cultural life." To lower Orthodoxy's standard of ascetical struggle is to deny Christians a means of self-purification, to deny them even the change of soul-saving repentance when they fall short of this standard--in spirit if not in letter. It is to weaken the very foundation of Orthodoxy, which, as Archbishop Averky stated, "is an ascetic faith that calls to ascetic labor in the name of the upcoming of sinful passions, and the implanting of Christian virtues."

In other cases, traditions are dissected and changed in order to feed the pride of contemporary "theologians" who, cut off from the direct, living transmission of tradition, strive to find "new ways of Orthodox theology," to intellectually "master history" and "restore" Orthodox practice to some kind of artificial purism. They clamor, Archbishop Averky wrote, "about how essential it is to 'renew the Orthodox Church,' about some sort of 'reforms in Orthodoxy,' which allegedly has become 'set in its ways' and 'moribund.' These new breeds of 'Orthodox' are really no more than modern 'scholastics.'" They "theologize" without the proper "feel" for the traditional church atmosphere in which saints have been raised...

The Third Level

Finally, the third level of the apostasy that Archbishop Averky warned about is reached when Orthodox churches even while preserving all the traditions of what they call "true Orthodoxy," also lose the precious savor of their faith and become infected with a worldly spirit disguised as spirituality. This occurs through:

(1)   The Loss of basic Christian love, without which all the traditions become condemning rather than grace-bearing and

(2)   The use of outward forms and supports of faith (which are intended to evoke remembrance of other world) for worldly ends.

Through these factors arises another form of "psuedo-Orthodoxy" this time more subtle because it may be cloaked in all the right externals.

(Source: Orthodox Heritage)

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MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU

The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

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Glory Be To GOD For All Things!

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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George