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||FIRST, THE NEWS:
THE RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH AND THE IMPACT OF BOLSHEVISM
from: The Moscow Times
(3 Nov.) It is common knowledge that the advent of Bolshevism in 1917 was devastating for devout believers in the former tsarist empire. Less well known is the fact that the October Revolution interrupted a reform movement that could have taken the Russian Orthodox Church in a new direction, and that it subsequently caused splintering from which the Church still has not recovered.
Under the tsars, the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) served as an important pillar of the autocratic system. Just how subservient the church was to the state remains a matter of debate. Some historians, such as Gregory Freeze and Scott Kenworthy, have pushed back against the perception of the ROC being a "handmaiden of the state." But it is safe to say the Church’s sphere of independent activity was limited, frustrating many lay believers and clergy alike. And the institutional Church’s association with the tsarist state was certainly a liability when the revolutionary year of 1917 arrived.
During the late tsarist era, authorities had blocked the Church’s reform efforts, putting off plans to convene a reformist All-Russian Church Council (known as a local council in Orthodox Christian terminology). It was the February [liberal democratic] Revolution that finally cleared the way for the local council to meet in August 1917. The local council quickly took steps to devolve decision-making authority to local levels, hoping to promote greater spiritual vitality, which Russia’s former autocrats, wary of any form of independent social activity, had hampered. [read more...]
"KREMLIN NEEDS A TOTAL RELIGIOUS WAR IN UKRAINE" - ARCHBISHOP OF THE UOC (KP)
from: Religious Information Service of Ukraine
(25 Oct.) "In a situation where the armed and informational aggression of the Kremlin against Ukraine has proved to be ineffective, Moscow has started playing in the religious sector, trying to bring discord and conflict into the relations between the religious communities of the country; an element of this technology was the announcement of a supposedly existing conflict in the west of Ukraine between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church." Chair of the Information Office of the Kyiv Patriarchate, Archbishop Yevstratiy (Zorya) made this statement to Obozrevatel.
Commenting on the "total religious war" in Ukraine forecast by propagandists, he remarked: "This is precisely what Moscow has been persistently striving for to succeed in its aggression in recent years. While in 2014 the main focus of the Kremlin was on armed and information aggression, now, realizing the insignificant success of their efforts in these areas in comparison with the objectives set, Moscow focused on fueling all possible controversies within our country," the archbishop believes.
According to him, certain linguistic, national, regional, social, political confrontation lines exist in any country, "they also exist in Ukraine." But, unfortunately for the aggressor, they "clearly do not reach the destructive level as they aspire." [read more...]
KAZAKHSTAN: UN CALL FOR PRISONER OF CONSCIENCE'S RELEASE
by Mushfig Bayram: Forum 18 News Service
(3 Nov.) On 31 October a Council of Churches Baptist, Yuri Bekker, was given a criminal conviction for refusal to pay a fine imposed in 2016 for handing out religious literature on the street. He was given a one-year suspended prison sentence, one year's restricted rights, and ordered to pay fines and a fee for a state "expert analysis" of his own Christian books. He also faces the theat of losing his home and of being jailed. Bekker told Forum 18 that he will not pay the fine as he was only exercising his constitutional rights and he did not ask the state to analyse his own books.
The decision seen by Forum 18, gives Bekker until the end of 2017 to pay the fine and a fee for state "expert analysis" of the Christian books confiscated from him. He is also under one year's restricted rights, under which he "is obliged not to change his place of permanent residence and work without notifying the appropriate state organ, not to attend public places of entertainment, cafes, bars, and restaurants." Bekker is also "obliged to appear before the state probation organ to be registered within 10 days of the court decision entering into force."
If Bekker does not comply, Judge Baktygulova's decision states that "the remaining part of the term will be replaced with deprivation of liberty (imprisonment) for the same period." Bekker told Forum 18 on 2 November that he did not pay the fines or the fee for state "expert analysis" as "I did not violate the law and I did not ask the state to carry out an ‘expert analysis' of my own Christian books."
Yuri Rudenko of the Council of Churches Baptists pointed out to Forum 18 on 2 November that all Bekker did "was to come to the courts and explain to them that he will not pay the fines or the state fee as he only peacefully exercised his faith, which right is guaranteed by the Constitution" [read more...]
MAJORITY OF RUSSIAN PROTESTANTS, UNLIKE WESTERN, STAND FOR TRADITIONAL MORALS - METROPOLITAN HILARION
(2 Nov.) Head of the Synodal Department for External Church Relations Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk pointed out to different attitude of Russian and Western Protestants to traditional moral values. "Several communities of the North and the West stand for liberalization of theological and moral teaching, they declared normal the things that the Holy Scripture describes as sin, under influence of secular ideology they introduced a ritual of 'blessing' unisexual unions and other novelties," he said at the reception dedicated to the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.
However, the metropolitan further said, most part of Protestants and absolute majority of Russian Protestants stand for traditional attitude to moral values. He expressed hope that this position would be steadfast. "If you follow the principle 'sola Scriptura' (the basic principle of the Reformation followers - IF), then it is better to follow it in everything, even in those questions, where this position differs from the opinion of the secular world," the hierarch of the Russian Church said. [read more...]
RUSSIA: CONSTRUCTING AND RETAINING PLACES OF WORSHIP OBSTRUCTED
by Victoria Arnold: Forum 18 News Service
(26 Oct.) Disputes over religious property - whether over acquisition, retention, or restitution - remain unresolved in many parts of Russia, Forum 18 notes. Problems caused by the authorities for communities attempting to build new places of worship can vary between repeated refusal to legalize claims to land, to the withdrawal of building permission while construction is underway.
This often leaves religious communities with no dedicated space in which to exercise their right to meet for collective worship. Attempts to acquire such a place of worship can also cost communities a great deal of money and effort, which many local religious organisations can ill afford.
Moscow city officials demolished a completed place of worship with no warning on the night of the 5/6 September 2012, when workers with mechanical diggers destroyed the Holy Trinity Pentecostal Church (see F18News 6 September 2012). The community then had to worship as three separate congregations in different locations. They later obtained another piece of land, and began building again in 2014. The new Holy Trinity Church was opened in November 2015. [read more...]
RUSSIA'S FALL FROM (GOD'S) GRACE THROUGH REVOLUTION
from: National Catholic Register
(3 Nov.) A century ago, on Oct. 25, the October Revolution brought the Bolsheviks — the Communists under Vladimir Lenin — to power in post-Czarist Russia. What followed was the first officially atheist state and one of the darkest eras in human history. Its name is taken from the events on Nov. 6 and 7, 1917 (or Oct. 24 and 25 on the Julian Calendar, which is why it is described as the "October Revolution"), when radical leftist forces led by the Bolsheviks staged a largely bloodless coup d’йtat against the debilitated provisional government of Russia that had been established after the fall of Czar Nicholas II from power earlier that year.
Once securing control of Russia, the Bolsheviks under Lenin and his henchmen — including his eventual successor, Josef Stalin (1879-1953) — transformed the country into a single-party, communist, atheist dictatorship with absolute central control over every aspect of economic, political and social life. All forms of resistance or contrary thought were ruthlessly exterminated, and one of the most aggressive campaigns was against religion. Under Stalin, more than 50 million people were executed or exiled to die in gulags or Siberian camps as enemies of the state.
The Soviet Union was the first state in history to declare itself atheist and to take as one if its central policies the eradication of religion from all life in the country. This had been forecast, of course, by Karl Marx, and it was given its most brutal expression in the 20th century in Russia, although communist China and the Soviet satellites also embraced similar policies. The Soviet regime persecuted all forms of religious belief, confiscated churches and places of worship and arrested and tortured priests, men and women religious and dedicated laypeople, and used the state-controlled schools to indoctrinate young people against all notion of faith. [read more...]
OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:
UZBEKISTAN: RELIGIOUS BOOK BANNING, CENSORSHIP, ILLEGAL FINES, REPRISALS
from Forum 18 News Service
OCCUPIERS PERSECUTE ALL CHURCHES IN DONBAS EXCEPT FOR THE UOC-MP
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine
LETTER WRITING CAMPAIGN ENCOURAGES PERSECUTED BELIEVERS FROM NORTH KOREA
from Mission Network News
PATRIARCH KIRILL CRITICIZES 'COLOR' REVOLUTIONS FOR USING QUASI-RELIGIOUS RHETORIC
RUSSIAN MEDIA ATTACK ON RELIGIONS WITH AMERICAN ORIGINS AS "AGENTS OF ESPIONAGE"
RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH AND EVANGELICAL CHURCH IN GERMANY HOLD JOINT CONFERENCE ON MARTYRDOM, CHRISTIAN WITNESS
from Russian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate
TIGRAN’S STORY: CHRISTMAS GIFT OF HOPE
from Mission Eurasia
PUTIN COUNSELS YOUTH TO REMEMBER GOD AMIDST TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCES (VIDEO)
from Orthodox Christianity
RUSSIAN ORTHODOXY LOSING OUT TO PROTESTANTISM IN NORTH CAUCASUS – OPED
from Eurasia Review
EVENTS INAUGURATE 85TH ANNIVERSARY OF UKRAINE'S HOLODOMOR
from The Ukrainian Weekly
NOW, OUR VIEWS:
This Sunday and next, 5 and 12 November, is International Day Of Prayer (IDOP) for the Persecuted Church. Pray especially for Christians in China, North Korea, Cuba, Vietnam, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Middle East and North Africa: "When one member of the body suffers, all suffer with it."
What began as the Bolshevik Revolution on 7 November, 1917 - 100 years ago this week - spread like a cancer to Central Europe, China, North Korea, Cuba, Vietnam, and Ethiopia. Central Europe and Ethiopia broke free from communism, but those other countries remain mired in a one-party dictatorship that strictly controls or forbids feedom of religious expression. Ever since I studied Russian language, majoring in Central and East European Studies in university starting almost 60 years ago, I've been an avid follower of and even involved in the fate of Christianity under state socialism.
You may wonder why I use the terms "Central Europe" and "state socialism" - it's because the former satellite countries of the USSR aren't "Eastern Europe" like many people call them. Eastern Europe consists of Ukraine and Russia up to the Ural Mountains, the border between Europe and Asia. So the countries just to the west of Eastern Europe are in Central Europe. And "state socialism" is a better description of Marxist theory, rather than calling it "communism." Marx defined socialism as the dictatorship of the proletariat, state control of all aspects of society including education, medicine and religion as well as production and consumption of goods and services. Pure communism would only be attained, according to Karl Marx, when all class conflict between capitalism and the proletariat is resolved. Then the state would wither away and everyone would enjoy prosperity and happiness now and ever and forever, amen. Sounds pseudo-religious, doesn't it?
But what state socialism actually produced and continues to produce is tyranny by the elite - the Communist Party, mass murder and genocide of one's own people on a scale far beyond that of National Socialist ("Nazi" was its abbreviation) Germany during World War Two. The genocides under Marxism began long before Nazi Germany's and has continued long after, even up to today in North Korea. Well over 100,000,000 (ONE HUNDRED MILLION!) people have been murdered under the false religion of Marxist state socialism. Hitler's National Socialism doesn't hold a candle to Bolshevism and its modern heir, cultural Marxism, all over the world including the U.S. where it continues to kill the unborn and the elderly and foment conflict between ethnic groups, male vs. female vs, LGBTQ, rich vs. poor, "greedy corporations" vs. the working class, etc. The monster isn't dead yet.
So please pay special attention in this issue of Hosken-News to our first news article THE RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH AND THE IMPACT OF BOLSHEVISM, our sixth news article RUSSIA'S FALL FROM (GOD'S) GRACE THROUGH REVOLUTION, and the video in A BLOODY 100TH BIRTHDAY FOR THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION in our "News and Views" mentioned in our last issue Hosken-News. The evil, poisonous fruit of Marxist ideology of revolution is far from dead. But in case you might be thinking all I do is bemoan the terrible state of affairs in the world, enjoy with me this beautiful and peaceful photo of our home in a corner of American suburbia: happy belated All Saints Day!
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Last week the world marked the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. The article below, "Protestantism is Not United, Not Catholic, and Not a Church," aptly describes the fruit of the Reformation: read it!
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Synergism: Interdependence and Responsibility
Before and just after a baby is born, he or she is completely dependent on the mother and father. Thus begins the cycle of synergism: first, the parents are responsible and the baby has little or no responsibility - only to breathe, eat and grow, which come with the package, naturally. With the passage of time, however, the child gains more independence and is given more and more responsibility. Finally, we reach the stage where roles are reversed: the adult child may become responsible for the elderly parents who are losing their independence. This illustrates the cycle of interdependence, or synergism.
State socialism, state control of all aspects of society, always and without exception leads to increasing control by the elite, the Party, and growing dependence of the rest of the population upon the crumbs thrown from the table of the elite who fare sumptuously, dress in the finest clothes and travel in limousines and private jets. So in practice it differs little from state capitalism, which more and more frequently borrows some of its practices from state socialism, and which makes the common people increasingly dependent upon the state by its army of social workers offering "free" social services: a modern form of serfdom.
In contrast, Synergism is based on the Christian principles of voluntary community and sharing of resources and responsibilities, creating true interdependence and equality of all members: "The multitude of those who believed were of one heart and soul. Not one of them claimed that anything of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had all things common. With great power, the apostles gave their testimony of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Great grace was on them all" (Acts 4:32-33). Synergism is best expressed in the words of St. Paul: "So then, my beloved, even as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who works in you both to will and to work, for His good pleasure" (Phil. 2:12-13).
This illustrates how God works in us when we work with Him. Of course, God is the senior partner and we are junior partners: without Him we can do nothing, but with Him we can do mighty things! This Scripture text immediately follows the passage that tells us to have the mind of Christ, Who emptied Himself and became a servant, even unto death on the Cross (verses 5-9). This is true servanthood: giving ourselves over to the will of God the Father.
James, a step-brother of the Lord Jesus, wrote the only Scripture text that mentions "faith alone" (sola fide), one of the hallmarks of the Protestant Reformation: "You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone" (James 2:24). To emphasize this, he wrote: "For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, even so faith apart from works is dead" (verse 26). Faith that does no good works is dead faith, not saving faith.
St. Paul again tells us how faith works out in practice: "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision amounts to anything, nor uncircumcision, but faith working through love" (Gal. 5:6). Real, saving faith must be a faith that works, not a merely mental, passive, dependent faith that waits for God and others to do the work. And a few verses later Paul wrote: "For you, brothers, were called to freedom. Only don't use your freedom as an excuse to gratify the flesh, but serve one another through love" (Gal. 5:13). Freedom or independence isn't a license to do whatever you want and can get away with; rather, it is the ability to give of oneself and serve one another in agape-love, divine self-giving love. Human freedom is limited by our finite human nature: if we try doing "stupid stuff" beyond the limits of our bodies and of society, we may end up crippled or diseased for the rest of our lives, in prison, or dead.
Ever since the beginning of Christianity and even before, people have struggled with the definition of God, Who is beyond all defining. This is the idea of a totally transcendent God Who is higher than the heavens and beyond the capacity of human minds to comprehend. In our Hosken-News of 24 September 2017 - "Dark" or Unseen Matter and Energy, we saw that 96% of the cosmos consists of matter and energy that our five senses and scientific instrumentation can't understand: we just know now that "it" is out there, very real but beyond our ability to comprehend.
This implies, however, that God and "spiritual" reality is not only transcendent but also is immanent - "God is everywhere present and fills all things" as one of the ancient saints said. This isn't pantheism, the notion that God = everything in the universe. God is a Person, both transcendent - above all things, and immanent - in all things. The Psalmist David wrote: "If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there" (Ps 139:8). God's love is everywhere, even in hell where those who reject it perceive it as a burning fire: "For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:38-39).
God is not only everywhere, He is also "everywhen" - God is above and beyond time, and yet He is within time: the divine Logos became flesh and lived among us. God sees and knows the future just as well as the past because He is not limited by time and space, the four dimensions of our material universe. St. Paul wrote: "We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers" (Rom. 8:28-29). God foreknows, He knows "in advance" because all events in our lives are always present to Him. For this reason, He is able to predestine our future because He is ultimately in control of the entire cosmos, both the seen and unseen universe.
And yet, we humans have limited free will, we can and must choose to respond to God's grace: "For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we must live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world; looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:11-13). God's grace is not just for a few elite or elect people, but rather it is available for all human beings. And His grace is not only a "free gift," it is also His transforming power to restore us to the image and glory of Christ, the second Adam, thus empowering us to do His will.
St. Paul also wrote: "...God our Savior, Who desires all people to be saved and come to full knowledge of the truth.For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, Who gave himself as a ransom for all; the testimony in its own time" (1 Tim. 2:3b-6). God desires that all humankind be saved, but we must receive His grace in order to be transformed: "He came to His own [the Jews], and those who were His own didn't receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the power to become God's children, to those who believe in His name" (John 1:11-12).
Augustine of Hippo (354–430) was a brilliant lawyer who had the gift of weaving a very convincing argument. He defined God as totally transcendent and sovereign over the universe, predestining humankind either to eternal bliss in heaven or eternal fire and damnation in hell, without any free choice by us. God loves the "elect" or the "elite" and has a wonderful plan for their lives - eternal bliss in heaven. But He hates the "damned" or the "deplorables" and has a horrible plan for their lives - burn in the fires of hell for all eternity. Thus the "elect" or the "elite" can do no real wrong because they are declared righteous by God, and they can rule over the "damned" or the "deplorables" who exist only to be exploited as expendable hardly-human resources.
But few people today realize that Augustine lived in the Greco-Roman Empire during the fourth century when the empire was ruled from Constantinople and the seat of Christianity was there. St. John Cassian (c. 360–435) was asked by the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople to refute the error in Augustine's teaching that after the fall, man was totally depraved, so corrupt that he could do nothing for his own salvation, by his own will he could not even believe ("the bondage of the will"), and that God simply predestined some men to salvation and others to damnation. In the thirteenth of his Conferences, with Abbot Chairemon, Cassian eloquently sets forth, at length and with many citations from the Holy Scriptures, the Eastern Orthodox teaching of Synergy, the balance between the grace of God on one hand, and man's efforts on the other, necessary for our salvation.
And few people today realize that at the end of his life, Augustine recanted of his earlier teaching on original sin, predestination and inherent human sinfulness, bringing it into harmony with the Eastern Church Fathers: at the beginning of his book The City of God, he wrote that Adam and Eve "merited this [death] by their disobedience; for by them so great a sin was committed, that by it the human nature was altered for the worse, and was transmitted also to their posterity, liable to sin and subject to death." Note that he does not state here that all mankind is totally depraved and inherits Adam's sin and guilt, only death; rather, mankind is only "liable (likely) to sin." This brings Augustine's later teaching into harmony with Eastern Christianity.
Sometimes I'm asked if I believe in predestination or free will. I often reply "Neither and both." A modern analogy is the question of whether light is matter or energy: if we test it for matter, it answers "I'm matter." But if we test it for energy, it answers "I'm energy." I believe that we can't accept God's predestination as the full description of our spiritual destiny, nor can we accept human free will as the total answer to our destiny. It's not "either-or" but rather "both-and." From God's timeless perspective of foreknowledge, He works all things together for the good of those who love Him. But from our time-bound, finite and human perspective, we have the ability and responsibility to choose to respond to God's loving and gracious offer of salvation to all mankind. It's Synergism!
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Please remember to pray for Christians in socialist countries, and for...
Bob & Cheryl
p.s. Taking a middle of the road position is dangerous. You can get knocked down by the traffic from both ways.