The Non-Orthodox: The Orthodox Teaching on Christians Outside the Church
Patrick Barnes, Regina Orthodox Press, Salisbury, MA, 1999, 173 pp.

    In this study of the possibility of the salvation of the non-Orthodox, Mr. Barnes states forthrightly that the Orthodox Church is the one true Church of Christ. The corollary of this statement is also taken seriously. He affirms that heresy, i.e. beliefs and practices differing from those of the Church, is important since it separates from the Church. To suggest anything else is false. He declares that anyone who should do so, either out of a desire not to offend, or from ecumenistic convictions, displays a lack of true love for the heretic by keeping him in ignorance. The Church is the sole ark and vessel of deifying grace; outside of her there can be no salvation.

    Pursuant to his topic, in Chapter Two he gives a concise explanation of grace leading to salvation. There is a grace of the Holy Spirit which calls all men to salvation, and then a grace which incorporates men into the Church making them sons of God. Of course, this is the simple iteration and application of the Church’s doctrine that God is simple in His essence but multiform in His operations. His divine operations (or energies) are both eternal and uncreated; yet they can have both a beginning and end in their effect, since that which is effected is created and temporal. The divine operations depend upon God’s will. God “will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (I Tim. 2:4-5).

    The Church is a definite, visible, and discernible historical Body, and its boundaries are formed by initiation into the Church, i.e., by Baptism; and on page five, Mr. Barnes states, “a consistent Orthodox position is definitely discernible if only one resorts to a careful examination of Holy Tradition, and specifically Sacred Scripture, the writings of the Church Fathers, and the Sacred Canons.” This is his stated method in demonstrating a truly Orthodox position concerning the non-Orthodox in order to alleviate the confusion upon the subject because of the inroads of the Ecumenists. 

His discussion of akribeia and oikonomia are clear and helpful to one unfamiliar with Orthodox terminology and practice. Oikonomia, leniency, never contradicts the truth that only the Church of Christ can baptize. A ceremony by any heretical assemblage, even if it should mimic the Orthodox Baptism to the letter, is void, for it does not join him who was baptized to the Body of Christ. Leniency may be shown because of a person’s weakness or the exigencies of the times, so that full baptism may not be required of a man who desires to attach himself to the Church if he has undergone a supposedly Orthodox ceremony such as described above. Nevertheless, leniency never implies that the heterodox ceremony is a true baptism, granting rebirth in the Holy Spirit. Rather, it is an empty ceremony, “a common bath,” as that courageous woman of Rome said*, void of the Holy Spirit’s grace.

    So far, Mr. Barnes has helpfully summarized the Church’s position. However, certain statements concerning the sacraments of the non-Orthodox seem to be fudging this position and backtracking. On page sixty-six, he considers it proper to say, “Heterodox rites have a certain ‘charismatic quality’.” This statement begs definition. Mr. Barnes had established that only in the Church, the ark of salvation, and only there, can true Baptism, true rebirth be found. Only in the Church is there true communion of the Bread of Life, Jesus Christ, the Eucharist. He also stated that the grace of God sustains the life of the world and calls all men to the true and eternal life in Christ, found only through the Church. Do the heterodox rites grant rebirth and divine communion? Previously, he had correctly stated no; but he now introduces an ambiguity, a third condition which while participating in Christ’s Church somehow, is yet not of it. Considering his stated principles, how could such a strange rebirth be described or what would be its real condition? A premature birth or a miscarriage? An in vitro Christian?

    We cannot see why Mr. Barnes should muddy his prior delineations which were clear and in harmony with the mind of the Church. God’s grace calls all men to Him, using any circumstance in their life to awaken them to consciousness of His call. Our Lord is a humble God and does not even disdain sin as a means to spark repentance. The earlier apologists claimed that some pagan practices were an anticipation of Christ and of the Christian Mysteries, e.g., those of Mithras. They considered them, however, to be mockeries of Christian doctrines or rites inspired by the devil in order to deceive men. The apologists admonished the pagans to leave off the shadows and come to the reality. Any “charismatic quality” these rites possessed was the recognition of their falseness and the consequent acknowledgement of Christianity.

    The Fathers have often referred to Saul as an example of how God can draw a man through humble means. Saul went seeking his father’s lost asses but instead found a kingdom. We have another example in the murder of the Egyptian by the great Prophet-seer and Lawgiver Moses. The Fathers often comment that this murder—acknowledged as being a grave transgression—became a cause of salvation to Moses, since by fleeing to the desert afterwards, he encountered God. We would have to acknowledge, therefore, that this murder had “a certain charismatic quality.” For Moses personally, it did, since God managed through this means to draw Moses by grace to salvation. Yet it was true only for Moses, since it is not possible to argue that murder must have some intrinsic grace, for we know that God does not abide with sin.

    Our Lord uses every spiritual and material means to awaken in a man’s soul the desire and longing for God so that man’s will might be engaged to seek after God. This intention incited in the soul by God is precious in His sight and is cultivated by means and events significant for that person so that it comes to fruition: the spiritual and material refashioning of that man through the rebirth found only in the Church.

    A participant in heterodox baptismal rites most likely has some intention for virtue or for knowing God springing from the operation of the natural, teleological impulse planted in our nature when God created us. A man may either fully accept and be satisfied with the deviant theology of his sect, or God’s grace might awaken questioning within him so that he seeks further since he remains unsatisfied. His disposition which sought God in the vain ceremonies of the heterodox will be rewarded when he encounters in the Church the reality of those mimicking shadows. 

The Church, then, also honors the intention and calling which the candidate for Baptism has demonstrated since in his search he has abandoned what is false. Therefore, if for various reasons—personal or the exigencies of the times—economy is judged necessary, the Church can accept a heterodox rite similar to the Church’s Baptism as fulfilling the material and bodily ceremonies of the Church’s laver so that when hands are imposed upon the candidate and he is sealed with the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit, he is regenerated, body and soul.

    Grace working upon the soul of a man to turn him to repentance is the essence of the matter. The externals that conduce to repentance—sickness, fear of death, a sermon, murder, a miracle, heterodox worship, enthusiasm, pagan ceremonies, all those many ways described in the history of the Church—are peripheral. Anything can be used by God to help open a man’s soul to the truth, and its value is determined by its success. All means are of equal value if they succeed, and all are equally valueless if they fail.

    The same is true for heterodox baptism: it has no intrinsic grace or value, but its value for the participant is determined by his perception of it and the future development of his disposition. Herein is found the grace which affects man’s soul. The ceremony itself is void; any attribution of “a certain charismatic quality” to it (grace by any other name) infringes upon the boundaries of the Church. 

This sudden departure from Mr. Barnes’ stated Orthodox principles was a shock which forced a keener assessment of his book. Further analysis indicates that his study of the problem is flawed in method. He has not addressed the “hard sayings” from the Sacred Canons, the Fathers, and the Scriptures which deal with the question; or, if any are mentioned, they are passed over dismissively or ignored in his conclusions. Whether this was done out of consideration for the heterodox so as not to offend them can be no excuse. Mr. Barnes himself insists that to keep one in ignorance is a false love. An honest inquiry into the topic demands, in his words, “a careful examination of Holy Tradition, and specifically Sacred Scripture, the writings of the Church Fathers, and the Sacred Canons.” He has not done it. His examination is skewed by not presenting the hard sayings of Scripture and the Fathers, or by presenting them very sketchily, so that there would be no significant counterweight to his a priori conclusion. An honest presentation with love for the Truth will not offend. Never should abuse or contumely be heaped upon ignorance; only  dishonesty deserves reproach. A skewed investigation is a disservice to both Orthodox and non-Orthodox. Two thousand years of unanimity of the entire Church upon this issue cannot be ignored A true assessment requires all facts to be presented and properly weighted.

    Here are some “hard sayings” which indicate the mind of the Church.

    And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant. (Gen. 17:14)

    Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. (John 4:22)

    Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me. (John 14:6)

    Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by Him doth this man stand before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. (Acts 4:10-12)

    How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him; (Heb 2:3)

    He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be condemned. (Mark 16:16)

    Amen, Amen, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice; and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers. This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which He spake unto them. Then said Jesus unto them again, Amen, Amen, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before Me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. (John 10:1-8)

    But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils. (1Cor. 10:20-21) 

Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. (James 2:19)

    Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. (Matt. 7:13-14)

    Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? and in Thy name have cast out devils? and in Thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity. (Matt. 7:19-23)

    One Lord, one faith, one baptism. (Eph. 4:5)

    For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people. (Acts 3:22-23)

    Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Amen I say unto you, I know you not. (Matt. 25:11-12)

When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know ye not whence ye are: Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. But he shall say, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. (Luke 13:25-27)

    The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. Butt he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more. (Luke 12:46-48)

    Jesus answered, Amen, Amen, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. (John 3:5)

    That whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. He that believeth on Him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (John 3:15, 18)

    Amen, Amen, I say unto you, He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of condemnation. (John 5:24, 28-29)

    Then Jesus said unto them, Amen, Amen, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you. (John 6:53)

    I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am He, ye shall die in your sins. (John 8:24)

    But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. (II Peter 2:1, 20-21)

    He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. (I John 5:12)

    “We ordain that a bishop or presbyter, who has admitted the baptism or sacrifice of heretics, be deposed. For what concord hath Christ with Belial, or what part hath a believer with an infidel?” (Apostolic Canon 46)

     “Let a bishop or presbyter who shall baptize again one who has rightly received baptism, or who shall not baptize one who has been polluted by the ungodly, be deposed, as despising the cross and death of the Lord, and not making a distinction between the true priests and the false” (Apostolic Canon 47)

    “Whatever [sacrament] is performed by them [i.e., the heretics] is reprobate, being as it is counterfeit and void. For nothing can be acceptable or desirable to God which is performed by them.” (Canon I of Council of Carthage)

    “The baptism of heretics does not heal, it pollutes” (St. Ambrose, De Myst. IV, 23)

    The above references should have been presented and not ignored by Mr. Barnes if he wanted a balanced presentation of his topic. They are the voice and mind of the Church, and they certainly do not permit any “charismatic quality” to be attributed to heterodox rites, rather the reverse. The ancient patristic maxim reiterated by St. John Chrysostom and by all after him — The blessings of heretics are curses — cannot be overlooked and discounted.

    On page 172, his disingenuous reply to whether Jehovah’s Witnesses could be saved completely ignores the voice of the Church. Perhaps he was moved by compassion, but nothing can excuse a distortion of the truth. The Church has pronounced many and frequent anathemas upon them who do not accept or who blaspheme the Holy Trinity — which the Jehovah’s Witnesses do. A faithful son of the Church cannot state that he does not know or that he will not commit himself on the question as Mr. Barnes does. The entire Synodicon of Orthodoxy explicates these matters and requires consent if one should wish to remain Orthodox. We might refrain from judging because the future change of any soul is possible until it is sealed in the grave. However, the question can Jehovah’s Witnesses be saved plainly implies that it concerns a man who is and remains a Jehovah’s Witness. The mouth of the Lord has spoken it and the witness of the Holy Spirit has confirmed it: if a man abide in error, he is condemned.

    In this instance Mr. Barnes has preferred moderns such as Florovsky and Telepneff, who, worthy though they may be, are not authoritative voices of the Church, especially when they voice an opinion contrary to the consensus of the Fathers. And it is a consensus, for even if one voice can be found to disagree with what our references say, all the others and all the greatest of the Fathers are in concord. All the more modern voices continue the same understanding of the Church to the present day, namely, Saints Paisius Velichkovsky, Seraphim of Sarov, Hilarion (Troitsky), and Justin Popovic. Rather, it is the opinions of Florovsky and Telepneff which must be considered aberrant and not representative of the mind of the Church.

    Perhaps Mr. Barnes did not wish to offend and drive away non-Orthodox readers, which is understandable. Yet his fine dogmatic explanations would have tempered any offence, especially when bolstered with quotations of Scripture and the oldest historical witness. Also, perhaps the weight of the witness would have kept him from falling into rationalism because of his compassion for the heterodox.

    Grace is God Himself multifariously guiding each man to salvation, working with man’s free will, to bring that man to the ark of salvation. There is no need to attribute any special grace or some intrinsic “charismatic quality” to any external means used by God in this work; otherwise we descend into magic: certain materials or certain words and ceremonies must have definite results. It is “God which worketh all in all” (1 Cor. 12:6); no other attribution is necessary. The mystery of redemption cannot be reduced to our terms and level of understanding. To do so results in rationalism. 

Matter is brought into physical union with the divine only in the Church, in the Body of the God-man, Jesus Christ. Christ is the only mediator between God and men (I Tim 2:5). The Incarnation of our Saviour is real and true in the physical sense, therefore no means of physical communion with the Body of Christ exists outside of the Church (which is amply proven by Mr. Barnes). The necessity of this communion is proven by the words: “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood, hath eternal life” (John 6:53-54). To believe that there is communion outside of the Church denies the necessity and reality of the Incarnation.

    We cannot make our own laws or doctrines, or mitigate with casuistry and quibbling those pronounced by the Church. We are bound to follow the words of our Lord in the Scriptures and the Fathers. God and they are far more compassionate than we. To ignore their words in order to appear more compassionate is a delusion and a disservice to the non-Orthodox — a fact which Mr. Barnes states and affirms, but renounces in practice.

    On page one hundred three, he states, “We know who is in the Church, we cannot be sure who will not be.” From one perspective, he is correct. We do not know the future, therefore we await and hope for the repentance of everyone until they die. The patristic commonplace “Call no man blessed before his death” sums up this view very well. Yet Mr. Barnes attempts in his maxim to extend improperly the eschatological significance of these words, so that they apply to the Church of the elect in blessedness after the Judgment, implying salvation for those outside the ark. We may know now at the present time who is in the Church, but we do not know who is saved or will be saved. That is for the winnowing of souls and the scales at the Last Judgment to determine. We only know, from many sayings of Scripture, that the wheat will be separated from the chaff, the goats from the sheep, the tares rooted out and burnt, and the wheat gathered into the barns. They who repented, were reborn in Holy Baptism, and brought forth fruits of repentance shall enter into the Bride-chamber while the others — unbelievers and unfruitful baptized members of the Church — will hear, “I know you not,” “Depart, evil servant, into the outer darkness.” Mr. Barnes’ saying, therefore, is true if we are speaking of the dispensation of this world, but we cannot apply it if we are speaking of who is saved. 

Our compassionate Saviour declares of the unworthy servant who knew God’s will and prepared not himself, the Lord “will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers” (Luke 12:46). The portion of the unbelievers can only be interpreted as a miserable condition; if not a punishment, certainly no salvation and divine sonship. All those who in word and deed deny Christ’s divinity and the Holy Trinity openly, openly proclaim themselves unbelievers. Do not the words of the Lord Himself declare that the Jehovah’s Witnesses and all other unbelievers like them are not in the kingdom? Yes, St. Paul says, “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Rom. 10:13); but he immediately appends, “How then shall they call on Him in Whom they have not believed?” (Rom. 10:14). This verse refutes any magical use of the name of Jesus; for simply to say it without believing in the Incarnate God — which is true for most of the heterodox, both in word and actual practice — the name of Jesus confers no benefit. The case when unbelieving Jews called upon the Name to expel the demons from a possessed man and he leapt up and drove them away saying, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?” (Acts 19:15) is further proof.

    St. Paul proceeds to make the knowledge of God more particular, enshrining it in the Church, “for faith cometh by hearing” (Rom. 10:17). It comes from the faithful remnant of Israel, from the preaching of the Apostles, “and how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?” (Rom. 10:14). Those who would be saved, must call upon Him in whom they believed, the Redeemer of our souls. They come to belief through hearing the Apostolic preaching, the doctrine delivered by Christ to His Apostles and then by them to the whole world. It must be the genuine and untainted Faith “once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3), not a faith corrupted by human reasonings and passions. That faith must be truly confessed in word and deed for a man to be saved, and not only kept in the heart; and that faith must be the same as the one preached by the Apostles. “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Rom. 10:10). They who do not actually believe Jesus to be true God and true man do not believe in Him whom the Apostles preached but rather in some phantom or idol of their own devising. They have not really heard of Him since they turned their ears away from the Apostolic preaching, therefore in their hearts they do not know His name and cannot call upon Him. These are the heterodox: they who are separated from the Church. “Their portion is with the unbelievers,” according to the most sure word of the Lord Jesus. Being separated from the Church, the heterodox are denying the incarnate Body of Christ, which is to deny that Christ has come in the flesh, as all the Church Fathers declare. “Every spirit that confesseth not that Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist” (I John 4:3). Since “the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (1 Cor. 1:21).

    Mr. Barnes pleads that virtue can save a man, and on pages sixty-seven and sixty-eight, he brings forward the example of Cornelius, and that Roman centurion mentioned by the Apostle Matthew (8:5) and also the Old Testament Saints as proof in our consideration of salvation for the non-Orthodox. They, however, were all admitted to the New Testament Church, for the righteous of the Old Testament were together with “Abraham [who] rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad” (John 8:56). Our Saviour opened the closed way to Heaven with His Incarnation, both for those who would come to believe in Him and those righteous before His Incarnation who had awaited His day. “And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after His Resurrection” (Matt. 27:52-53). 

Virtue, because it purifies the bodily and spiritual senses, gives opportunity for enlightenment. Saint Seraphim of Sarov says in his conversation with Motivilov that God will credit any virtue to us when we are baptized. But if we are not joined to the Church, it is of no eternal value and will not help us. “For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath” (Mark 4:25). Moreover Saints Matthew and Luke say the same twice in each of their Gospels (Matt. 13:12, 25:29; Luke 8:18, 19:26). If we allow that those outside the Church, who have not been grafted into the Incarnate Lord, can be saved through their virtue (pp. 73-80), we are admitting meritorious works, that one merits and is due salvation through his virtue instead of through the free gift of God’s love. The Church has forever rejected such a teaching of works.

    Works show our intention and the extent of our love for God, Who accepts them out of love and rewards us for them far above their any worth. “And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life” (Matt. 19:29). “And Jesus answered and said, Amen I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for My sake and the Gospels, but he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life” (Mark 10:29-30); but “all our righteousness is as a filthy rag” (Esaias 64:6). Our Saviour Himself proclaims, “When ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do” (Luke 17:10). Each man shall receive the recompense of his deeds (Matt. 16:27) for all shall be tried by fire. “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward” (I Cor. 3:11-14). But if a man be not built upon the foundation of Jesus Christ, his works will be to no avail, he will be beaten with more or fewer stripes according to his ignorance and responsibility. God will judge if because of his works or ignorance his sentence deserves mitigation (Luke 12:47-48). Only by believing in Christ and being planted in Him—through Baptism and the life of sanctification—will our works have any lasting value.

    The hard sayings of our Saviour, some of which were quoted above, as well as the writings of the Fathers which are expressed in the polity and practice of the Holy Church do not arise from a dead legalism or from a self-righteous cruelty or indifference. They rather arise from an overwhelming love of the Truth and of mankind and from an utter trust in the abyss of God’s mercy and compassion. The Fathers knew from experience that God would never utter a lie or be untrue to Himself and would never forget His love for mankind. Both His truth and love are beyond our human understanding and can never be expressed with our tongues. Our mind and reason can never grasp His infinite loving-kindness. Therefore, the Church does not seek to rationalize His truth and mercy but has profound trust in Him, belief and faith in Him, for we know that Jesus Christ is divine truth and love incarnate.

    Heresy, heterodoxy, is a separation from God since it is a false doctrine and worship and it is not true. It is not the doctrine delivered by Christ, but some human conception which distorts or parodies the Truth Incarnate, Christ, and the Holy Trinity, and which leads man away from God rather than uniting man to Him. Therefore, heresy and its rites—heterodox Christians and their pious rites—are not even neutral, let alone beneficial, for they are pretences and cheats. Instead of cleansing and illuminating, they darken with falsehood. Instead of imparting the Bread of Life, the antidote to death, the medicine of immortality, as they claim, they give them powerless imitations, thus duping a sincere seeker or pacifying their adherents. In spite of their promises of healing, the disease remains unhealed because they proffer placebo sacraments, which claim to be the medicine for sin and death but are fraudulent. For these reasons, the Fathers considered the rites of the heterodox to be evil and polluting because they deceive the seeker and hinder him from finding the true Mysteries of God. Therefore, Mr. Barnes’ statement on page 134: “To affirm the ‘Cyprianic-economic’ view of the Church and Her manner of relating to the heterodox does not entail disdain for the rites of pious heterodox Christians,” diverges widely from the mind of the Church as expressed in the Scriptures, the Canons, and the Holy Fathers.

    Concerning the responsibility and sincerity of heresiarchs, their followers, and their long-time descendants who have learnt heresy as a norm, which Mr. Barnes mentions and discusses briefly, much time would be required to delve into the subject, apt as it may be. There are two inspired articles by Fr. George Grabbe (later Bishop Gregory) printed as numbers twenty-eight and twenty-nine in St. Nectarios Educational Series, from St. Nectarios Press, Seattle, Washington. The titles are “Did St. Cyprian Change the Doctrine of the Church?” and “The Unity and Uniqueness of the Church.” In brief, these articles point out that the doctrine of the Church’s unity and its boundaries are very definite and plain in all the Holy Fathers. Also, more particularly, he delves into the problem of ignorant heterodox having a mitigated responsibility. His answer is that only in the Church is humility truly found and taught. In the Judgement, man’s pride, if it has not been humbled and corrected, will cause a man to become angry when he learns that he has been wrong all his life. His pride will not permit him to beg humble pardon and his anger will cause him to reject the Prince of Peace. He repeats the sin of first-fallen Lucifer.

    Professor John Erikson’s statement that if we follow the mind of the Church, “the Pope is no different than a witch doctor” causes Mr. Barnes to become defensive and, amid his sound reasoning, he begins to ignore the mind of the Church. Actually, if one uses the Church’s criteria, the Pope would be better off if he were a witch doctor. At least he would not be guilty of perverting the Christian doctrines and pretending that his mysteries are genuine; he would simply be an ignorant idolater. 

Indeed, the aforementioned writings of Bishop Gregory also introduce a consideration. On the Last Day, when all things are made clear, how will the Pope react when he learns that he is not the infallible vicar of Christ and that he is not even baptized? How many could bear such a global disillusionment? Do we not have in our present life many examples of people fleeing reality and burying themselves in the darkness of their delusions?

    Mr. Barnes has described well the boundaries of the Church and has demonstrated the danger of heresy with his usual cogent writing. Since he is writing also for a non-Orthodox audience, he would have been more convincing if he had demonstrated the Church’s position with Scriptural proofs and the historical witness. We have quoted above a few of the more obvious and well-known. These words are from the same true mouths which assure us of God’s inevitable, utter compassion, which Mr. Barnes invokes to justify his opinion. However, we cannot choose one and ignore the other. An honest assessment must take into account all the witness of the Holy Spirit in the mind of the Church, otherwise it will go astray. Although usually a careful writer, here Mr. Barnes’ unbalanced study has produced more confusion than clarification. True answers will not be found in matters of theology and doctrine unless we accept the entire witness so that with God’s help we might rise above our preconceptions and earthbound rationalism.


1st Ecumenical Council_CretanSchool