church bell from below

No Other Foundation

Reflections from Fr. Lawrence Farley

Ah, England.  I love it:  the home of Shakespeare, the Crown Jewels, London Bridge, Big Ben…and constant ecclesiastical weirdness.  It seems just yesterday that we were treated to the spectacle of two lesbian priestesses exulting over the Church of England’s decision to bless the union of gay and lesbian couples.  Now, hard on its ecclesiastical heels, comes the campaign of another priestess, the Ven. Miranda Threlfall-Holmes, Archdeacon of Liverpool, who returned home from a conference on “whiteness” and offered reflections about it on her personal blog.  She proclaimed there that “whiteness is to race as patriarchy is to gender”. 

The practical upshot?—“Let’s have anti-whiteness, & let’s smash the patriarchy.  That’s not anti-white, or anti-men, it’s anti-oppression”.  This comes as the Diocese of Birmingham where she works advertised for a 36,000 pound a year job for an “anti-racism” officer to “deconstruct whiteness” within its 11-person racial justice unit.  Some time earlier, the Diocese of York was seeking to find a part-time “racial justice enabler” who would implement a programme of diversity training to address “white fragility”. 

All this while fiddling while of Church of England continues to burn and dwindle in both numbers and influence.  My wife (always a source of wisdom) observed that it was not so much like re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic as it was like punching few more holes in its hull. 

I have never been one to underestimate the human capacity for stupidity and folly, but the current state of the C. of E. cries out for more explanation.  How could the Church of St. Cuthbert have come to this?  Then I remembered St. Paul.

In his Epistle to the Romans, St. Paul was reflecting on the state of Roman society and its spectacular sinfulness—a sinfulness epitomized by its unnatural sexual perversion wherein “women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another” (Romans 1: 26-27).  For Paul this was not the cause of God’s wrath, but a symptom of a prior disease—the disease of idolatry, of turning from God.

St. Paul taught that all people knew about God’s invisible nature and His eternal power and deity, since these were clearly perceived in the things that God had made in creation.  But despite this knowledge, mankind turned from this truth and from God, “and became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened…they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man or birds and animals or reptiles…Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity” (Romans 1:18f).

In other words, because mankind deliberately turned from the truth about God that they possessed, God judged them by abandoning them, and one of the results of this abandonment was their sinking into sin.  The sin was therefore not the cause of God’s wrath against mankind, but a symptom of a deeper sin—that of idolatry, of turning away from the truth that they once knew about God.

We see the same spiritual dynamic functioning in Paul’s words in 2 Thessalonians 2 about the coming Antichrist, the “man of sin”.  In that passage, Paul writes that the coming of the man of sin will be “in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not accept the love of the truth so as to be saved.  For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.”

Note well what Paul is saying:  “God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false.”  This delusion and blindness which will welcome the Antichrist will not be the fruit of merely human stupidity and error, but the judgment of God.  Those who rejected the truth about God and who delighted in wickedness will be punished by God sending a deluding influence so that they become deceived.

It scarcely matters whether what is rejected is the truth about God’s invisible nature and His eternal power and deity (as in Romans 1), or the wickedness of sin (as in 2 Thessalonians 2), or the authority of Scripture and apostolic Tradition (as in England).  When one deliberately rejects God’s truth, divine judgment eventually follows, consisting of blindness to truth.  What we are observing unfold before us in England is the divine sentence of judicial blindness upon a church which decisively rejected the saving Tradition they once accepted.

Why mention this here?  Because the Church of England is not unique.  Any ecclesiastical group which turns from and decisively rejects the divine truth they once welcomed is subject to such judgment—and this includes the Orthodox Church.

Some happy individuals imagine that Orthodoxy, because it is the true Church, is somehow exempt from all this, and that we Orthodox could never embrace heresy.  This is magical thinking—and forgetful thinking.  Do they not remember how large sections of the Orthodox Church once embraced the heresy of Arianism?  Do they forget the Great Schism?  Obviously a remnant will remain faithful until the end of the age, for the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church.  But denying that large sections of the Orthodox Church could embrace heretical error is nonsense.  Even now we see Orthodox bishops making pro-choice statements at pro-life rallies and rushing to baptize the children of homosexuals, and as we see other groups pushing for the ordination of women.  Do they imagine that this leaven will not leaven the whole lump if left alone?

The time to avoid the judgment of judicial blindness is now.  God has given His Church the fulness of truth, and it is our privilege and task to preserve it and pass it along unimpaired to the next generation.  We flirt with error and rejection of the apostolic Tradition at our peril.  Let us learn from Ms. Threlfall-Holmes, and cling resolutely to the truth, denouncing heretical error wherever we may find it.



Fr. Lawrence Farley

About Fr. Lawrence Farley

Fr. Lawrence serves as pastor of St. Herman's Orthodox Church in Langley, BC. He is also author of the Orthodox Bible Companion Series along with a number of other publications.