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The Apple of Salvation November 30, 2006

Posted by Seraphim in Tradition.
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Christ is in our midst!

I come to you all today with a simile that I hope will be worthy of your attention.

Let us suppose that I come across a divine apple, a heaven-sent fruit that is wondrously delicious, endowed with the power to give life, heal the sick, and dry the tears of the afflicted.

Because of the marvelous properties of this apple, I undertake to write a description of it, in order that future generations might recognize it and know it when they see it. I therefore write thus:

“The apple rests on a marble pillar, red all over its rounded surface.”

Some years later, I die, after commending the manuscript into a great library.

Years and years after my death, a great dispute arises between those who have read my description of the apple.

“His meaning is plain,” says one (let us call him Adam). “It is an apple of uncertain description resting upon a rounded red marble pillar. He wrote thus, so that we might know that when we find such a pillar, so shall we have found our apple.” And thereby, the Adamites scour the earth for pillars of red marble, neglecting any white pillars, no matter how divine or tempting the fruit thereupon might appear.

“You are taking his words entirely out of context,” says another (let us call him Barlaam). “Clearly he is talking about a round, red apple resting atop a marble pillar of uncertain description. Surely his meaning is to describe the apple, a rare treasure, rather than the (by comparison) crude construct upon which it rests.” Thus it comes to pass that the Barlaamites do search in all places for apples of purest red atop marble pillars, neglecting any that even hint at another colour.

Certainly, both the Adamites and Barlaamites are sincere in their attempt to interpret what is written. Certainly, they both use the same writing for their interpretation. Certainly, their interpretations are not implausible from the text given.

Certainly, they cannot both be right. I cannot have been describing both apple and pillar. Of course, each group believes itself to possess the whole and actual truth; but neither can really be assured that their interpretation is correct save by supposing their reasoning to be superior (which is really no assurance at all).

Now, let us suppose that I had in my time a disciple, Constantos. He wrote thusly, shortly before his own death:

“Now, in those days I was talking with my friend Seraphim, and he told me: ‘My brother Constantos, you know the apple of which I so often speak?’

“And I replied to him, ‘Yes, my friend, but I have not seen it with my eyes, nor has it entered into my imagination.’

“And so Seraphim said unto me: ‘Brother Constantos, I have written that the apple rests on a marble pillar, red all over its rounded surface. For in truth, it sits upon a white pillar that is thusly high, the apple itself being completely and utterly red, save for one side, which is flat, unrounded, and coloured a glorious, emerald green. By this writing, then, shall you know the apple when you see it.’ And I thanked my friend Seraphim for the great goodness he showed me in this teaching.”

It has been passed down that no guile was ever found in the lips of this Constans, and he lived a full and virtuous life, ever speaking truth.

There was also a fourth person, Donovan, who taught that I was metaphorical in my writing, and that the apple was actually blue, and the pillar purple.

Now, stop a moment and consider. Whom would you believe out of these four individuals, Adam, Barlaam, Constantos, and Donovan? If you had to search for the apple, would you search for an apple on a pure red pillar, as with the Adamites; a pure red apple on any sort of pillar, as the Barlaamites teach; a red-and-green apple on a white pillar, as the Constantines adjure; or a blue apple on a purple pillar, as the Donovians declare? Let us consider.

I believe any reasonable person, with a sincere interest in the truth of the matter, would reject the interpretation of the Donovians without question as a complete fabrication of a fanciful teaching.

Between the doctrines of the Adamites and the Barlaamites, I would be inclined to favour the latter, as the language of the writing seems to refer more to the apple than the pillar.

But how much more should we delight in the teaching of the Constantines! Here is the testimony of one who knew and loved the author, in the flesh, and to whom was presented the interpretation of the things written. As an eyewitness of the teaching, and a trustworthy man, it seems to me that his testimony should be trusted as truthful and accurate. The interpretations of the Adamites and Barlaamites are certainly not unreasonable insofar as they extend, but they lack the fulness of revelation possessed by the Constantines and are, therefore, very probably incorrect.

Now, let us finish the story.

Despite the preserved teachings of the Constantines, the Adamites, Barlaamites, and Donovians strenuously reject their tradition, saying that, as Constantos was not a personal witness to the apple, his testimony cannot be trusted as in any way authoritative. Some among the Barlaamites point to the words of Constanos as proof for their assertion that the apple is red, but (as the description of the pillar and the green segment of the apple go umentioned in the writing proper) reject the further teachings of the Constantines.

And so it happens that the four sects each tell a different tale about the apple, each search for a different apple, and each believe themselves to know better than the others what the apple looks like. Of course, only one of them is right; the other three are, like the proverbial blind man and the elephant, believing honest, but misguided doctrine, on account of incorrectly perceiving the foundation of their beliefs.

Which of the four would YOU believe is closest to the truth?

The interpretation, of course, should by now be fairly clear. The apple is the Truth of God; the author is an author of the Scriptures, and his writing is the Bible. The Adamites, Barlaamites, Constantines, and Donovians are all different segments of those who confess Christ.

The Donovians are those who, like the Gnostics, quite plainly and heretically distort the Gospel. The Adamites and Barlaamites are those who cling to what is written alone (sola scriptura) and attempt to interpret and arrive at their doctrines through the sole interpretative faculty of their human reason.

Finally, the Constantines are those who base their doctrine off of the whole and continuous experience of the Church, making sure to stay in harmony with both what was written and what was experienced in the day-to-day life of the Church, passed down from the beginning. In such a way is the modern Church the same today–in essence, doctrine, and practice–as the Church that was founded two thousand years ago at Pentecost: One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic.

If you would, in the simile, hold Constantos to be the best possessed of understanding as to the nature of the apple and its location, then you are nothing less than a hypocrite when you reject the teaching of the early Fathers of the Church. Harsh words, perhaps, but true.

Naturally, those who practice sola scriptura do not place any stock in Apostolic Tradition. In doing so, however, they cut themselves off from the life of the Church which has unchangingly passed down that which it received at the beginning. Adam and Barlaam display nothing less than pure hubris when they rely on their own contradictory rational extrapolations on what has been written, rejecting the teaching of one who actually lived what was being written.

In such a way do many Christians, sincerely, I confess, but erroneously attempt to interpret the Bible clinically, using their own powers of deduction, completely (and irrationally) rejecting those who lived within the very teachings they are attempting to understand.

The Bible is not a living or self-interpreting document; Paul says, “one faith,” but there is no one faith amongst those who reject Holy Tradition. A Calvinist believes in predestination; an Arminian believes in free will. A Lutheran believes in liturgy and infant baptism; a Quaker believes in spontaneous worship and no baptism whatsoever. They all use the exact same Scriptures; with the command to “go forth and baptize all nations,” one will say they must be immersed in water; another will say the command refers to their undergoing a religious, spiritual conversion experience with no sacramental administration involved in the slightest.

Thus we see that Scripture is not an all-sufficient guide to our faith, nor is human reason efficacious for the interpretation thereof. Sincerity and/or intellect are no guarantees of arriving at the Truth.

Let us suppose I approach one of these rejecters of Tradition and ask him what the Christian faith consists of. He will tell me, “the Christian faith is such and such.” Then I ask him how he knows this to be true. He replies that “The Bible says thus and so, interpreted in this and that way; therefore, what I believe is true.”

No sooner does he conclude his exposition, however, than another man comes up and tells me, “Nay, the Christian faith consists of A and B!” I, greatly perturbed, ask him how he has arrived at this dramatically different conclusion. And, with equal confidence, he tells me exactly the same thing as the other fellow: “The Bible says thus and so, interpreted in this and that way; therefore, what I believe is true.”

Then I, miserable creature that I am, stand torn between these two erudites, one of whom tells me that red is true, and blue false, and the other telling me blue is true, and red false; how, then, am I to choose between them? In the end, I have no option save to follow the teaching that seems best and most reasonable in my own eyes.

Not long after this, a man comes to be and says, “This is the truth of the Christian faith, that we hold X and Y to be meet and necessary.” Once again, I enquire as to by what authority he believes these things. He replies to me, very simply, “It is what we have believed from the beginning, as revealed in the Scriptures and in the practice and experience of the Church from the earliest times to the most modern.” Then he proceeds to show me how the earliest Christians believed thus, and how their lineage and faith, in harmony with the Scriptures, has continued unbroken to the present day.

How much in that day do I rejoice that I may at last surely know the Truth! How much do I exult that my belief is the divine and everlasting experience of the faithful, and not constrained to error by my own pride and flaws of mind! How much, at that time, do I pity those who are still imprisoned and chained by the bonds of relying on their own finite wisdom to understand how to follow the Infinite God!

Thus is the majesty of Holy Tradition apparent to all who wish to hold to the “one Lord, one faith, one baptism,” of the “faith delivered once for all unto the saints.”

In Joy,

Seraphim

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Comments»

1. Mjasnikov - January 11, 2009

Мне кажется или автор что-то недоговаривает


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