“To the Law and the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” Isaiah 8:20
A recent article in the 25 April edition of The Bulletin magazine by Dr Peter Carnley, Anglican Archbishop of Perth, caused quite a rumpus in the church. The article was all the more significant in that Dr Carnley was installed five days later as Anglican Primate of Australia, in St Andrew’s Cathedral in Sydney.
Dr Carnley’s article in The Bulletin was concerning the significance of Easter and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Let us quote the nub of his comments that caused such a rumpus:
“At Easter the victim does not just reappear. The resurrection is not just another nature miracle that demonstrates what God can do with matter; it is not just a ‘conjuring trick with bones’, as a former Bishop of Durham once so notoriously put it. Rather, Jesus reappears as the bearer of salvation, in the concrete form of acceptance and forgiveness, even for those who had wronged Him.
It is in making this point that St. Luke goes on to affirm, somewhat aggressively, that it is only through Jesus that salvation can come: ‘There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven, given among mortals, by which we must be saved’ (Acts 4:12). In other words, salvation came to those in Jerusalem only via their own victim, only through this Jesus of Nazareth whom they crucified.
In the history of the Christian church, this text has been used as the basis for making fiercely exclusive claims: only through Christ does salvation come, not through Buddhism, or eastern mysticism, not through Mohammed, or the Rajneesh, or any other form of religious adherence, whether ancient or new age.
Indeed, this text and others like it have triggered often hostile and self-righteously condemning Christian attitudes with respect to the adherents of what we refer to these days as ‘other religions’ or of ‘no religion’ for that matter. Christ may not have come to condemn the world, but His adherents have more than made up for this omission… But alas, when St Luke wrote that there is salvation in no one else, save Jesus Christ alone, he was not just comparing Jesus with other alternative religious leaders and rival religious systems. Indeed, if he had a vague idea of the existence of India at the fringes of his world, he probably had no idea of the existence of China at all, let alone of the teachings of Buddha or Confucious. Mohammed was, of course, yet unborn. The modern question of ‘other religions’ was for Luke miles away, centuries off.
Luke’s teaching is not just that salvation can come only through Jesus by contrast with other religious leaders and systems but, rather, that salvation came to those in Jerusalem only through Jesus, their victim.”
At best Dr Carnley’s teaching is that salvation, other than through the name of Christ, is possible, and at worst, his teaching is that Buddhism, Confucism, Mohammedism, “or any other form of religious adherence, whether ancient or new age”, can lead men and women to salvation.
And all this, from the Anglican Primate of Australia!!
The effect of his words upon other Anglican Bishops, particularly in Sydney where he was to be installed as Primate, was quite dramatic. Five leading Bishops decided to boycott the installation, and in a number of churches Dr Carnley was denounced from the pulpits. A Dr Woodhouse, Rector of Christ Church, St Ives, in Sydney, made his point very clear, as reported in The Sydney Morning Herald, 1 May, 2000:
“Dr Carnley did not speak for the majority of Anglicans and ‘false teaching’ was ‘the greatest threat to true faith’. He cited John’s gospel, which asserts that those who welcome dissenting teachers ‘share in his wicked work’.”
Dr Woodhouse urged his congregation to join with churchgoers across Sydney and Wollongong in signing a petition calling for church leaders to reaffirm “basic Christian truths” and reject “moral wrongs” such as homosexuality.
There is no doubt that the Anglican church world-wide is in a state of crisis, and the teachings of Dr Carnley are but symptomatic of the problems confronting the church. The Weekend Australian, 29–30 April, highlighted some other of Dr Carnley’s controversies, among which are:
Ordination of women: The first Australian archbishop to ordain women amid an outcry from conservative Anglicans.
Homosexuality: Well-known liberal on the issue of gays in the church.
Heroin: Supporter of church involvement in safe injecting rooms for drug addicts.
A recent report in the UK highlighted the fact that unless the church did something to stop the decline in attendances, every Anglican church would be empty of congregation within 40 years.
Rome must be rubbing its hands with glee. Whilst the Anglicans are in disarray, the Roman church, headed by the most political Pope ever, is going ahead in leaps and bounds.
The Pope has designated the year 2000 as a “Holy Year”. It was inaugurated on Christmas Eve by the opening of the “bronze Holy Door of St Peter’s Basilica”. This was followed by a “New Year Eve’s Mass” and an opening of a door at the basilica “St Mary Major”. Then on 18 January, which had been designated “The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity” there was a celebration of the opening of the “Holy Door at St Paul-Outside-the-Walls”. Pilgrims have to visit these three basilicas plus a fourth in Rome “as part of their itinerary to gain remittance from punishment for their sins”.
To mark the opening of this third and last door, the Pope invited representatives of all mainstream churches to attend. Amongst those in attendance was the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Carey, who, together with the spiritual head of the Orthodox Church, knelt with the Pope before the newly opened door.
So here was Dr Carey, the leader of one of the largest churches that broke away from Rome, kneeling with the Pope to commemorate the opening of a door through which attendees can gain remittance for their sins. It is the subject of indulgences all over again—the very issue that caused Martin Luther to protest nearly 500 years ago, and which led to the breakaway of the Lutheran Church. But the Protestants are now flocking back to Rome, “THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS”. She says, in her heart, “I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow” (Rev 18:7).
But there is no more light in Rome than there is in the Protestant movement. For most of their adherents, the teachings and principles of God’s Word have long since been relegated to a position of unimportance. Let us make sure that we value the absolute inspiration of God’s Word, and uphold the purity of its teaching.
“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Tim 4: 2–4).
Religion on the Way Up in Russia
Older readers of The Lampstand may remember hearing of the times when it was dangerous in Russia to be a member of the Orthodox Church. Lenin had described religion as “the opium of the people” and his successor, Stalin, almost destroyed the Church. In Russia, the official religion of Communism was Atheism, and to be a member of the Church in Stalin’s days meant that one stood on very dangerous ground. But how things have changed in the once most powerful Communist state on earth. The following article appeared in The Australian on 18 March, under the heading “Putin Puts His Faith In Close Links With The Orthodox Church”:
“When Boris Yeltsin transferred power to Vladimir Putin on New Year’s eve, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church attended the ceremony and it took on tones of a coronation. Putin then reportedly went one step further and specifically asked Patriarch Alexy II to bless him in his new role as acting President. Most post-Soviet leaders, including Yeltsin, have sought close ties with the church in a search for legitimacy in Russia’s still shaky democracy. But in his first months in office, Putin has shown a deeper personal faith. With Putin likely soon to become the elected President, many see his faith as a hopeful sign he will be a just leader. But others worry he will allow the Orthodox Church to play an even bigger role in state affairs and non- Orthodox Russians will be treated as second class citizens. That Putin, 47, appears to be a practising Christian is strange because he spent sixteen years in the officially atheist Soviet Union… Putin has often been shown attending Orthodox Services.”
An article written by one Valery Kitchin in one of Russia’s main newspapers Izvestia in January this year, entitled “Ordered to Believe”, included the following:
“Orthodoxy is unconditionally recognised as indisputable, and the concept is more and more identified with the concept of ‘Russian’. In place of a red card in your breast pocket you must carry a holy cross”. The article concluded with the statement “Even today’s Communist Party has stripped atheism from its charter and the party chief calls Jesus Christ the first real communist”.
The growth of religion in Eastern Europe and Russia over the past ten years or so has been phenomenal. The number of churches in Eastern Europe today is now around 15 000. The Russian Orthodox Church has unprecedented power in Russia due to the support provided by previous President Yeltsin.
The Orthodox churches celebrate Christmas on 7 January, and Yasser Arafat invited the Orthodox Church leaders and heads of state of Orthodox countries to celebrate Christmas 2000 in Bethlehem. Fifteen Orthodox patriarchs, including Alexy II, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, attended the ceremony. Boris Yeltsin, who was Russia’s first President, also attended. He was seen off from Moscow airport by Mr Putin himself, and other top Ministers and Intelligence chiefs. They had come to wish him a safe journey on the first visit to the holiest shrines of Christendom by any Russian leader – tsar or communist general secretary. Mr Yeltsin and six other Presidents from Orthodox countries attended a ceremony at the Greek Patriarchate in Old Jerusalem, where they were named “Knights of the Holy Sepulchre”, which is one of the highest honours in the Orthodox Church.
On Christmas Eve, before attending midnight mass, they dined as guests of Yasser Arafat and his wife Soha. (Substantial quotations from The Bible Magazine).
What is the significance of this dramatic rise in the power and prestige of the Orthodox Church in Russia? Earlier we made mention of Rome being “the mother of harlots” and “sitting as a queen in the earth”. If there is to be a combining of forces between Russia and Europe, as required by Ezekiel 38, then the Roman and Orthodox churches surely must play a role in the fusion of thought. Rome desperately wants closer ties with Orthodoxy, of which Russian Orthodoxy forms a part.
The speech given by Pope John Paul II when he visited the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Jerusalem on 25 March, shows what his mind is thinking on this very issue:
“Dear Brothers in Christ, it has been my intention to give a clearly ecumenical dimension to the Catholic Church’s celebration of the Jubilee Year 2000. The opening of the Holy Door at the Basilica of Saint Paul-Outside-the-Walls, at which so many Churches and Ecclesial Communities were represented, symbolized our passing together through the “door” which is Christ: ‘I am the door, if any one enters by me, he will be saved’ (John 10:9). Our ecumenical journey is precisely this: a journey in Christ and through Christ the Saviour to the faithful fulfilment of the Father’s plan. With God’s grace the Two Thousandth Anniversary of the Incarnation of the Word will be a ‘favourable time’, a year of grace for the ecumenical movement. In the spirit of the Old Testament Jubilees, this is a providential time for us to turn to the Lord in order to ask forgiveness for the wounds which the members of our Churches have inflicted upon one another down the years. This is the time to ask the Spirit of Truth to help our Churches and Communities to engage in an ever more fruitful theological dialogue, which will enable us to grow in the knowledge of the truth and come to fullness of communion in Christ’s Body. From the exchange of ideas our dialogue will then become an exchange of gifts: a more authentic sharing of the love which the Spirit unceasingly pours into our hearts.”
We have quoted Daniel 8:25 and Brother Thomas’ exposition in previous articles. In the light of the growing strength of Orthodoxy in Russia and the influence of the Papacy worldwide, it does us well to consider Brother Thomas’ words once again.
“The prophecy concerning ‘the King’ in the eighth chapter [of Daniel] is evidently descriptive of the Latino-Greek power in its pagan constitution, known in history as the destroyer of Jerusalem, and Judah “the people of the holy ones”, but with a hint also of its future ecclesiastical peculiarity, as appears from the testimony that “through his policy he shall cause falsehood to prosper by his power”. These few words are descriptive of the character, or nature of the power since Constantine the Great set up its throne in Constantinople to the present hour; and will be so pre-eminently, when its administra tion shall pass from the Sultan to the Autocrat of all the Russias. As the head of a confederacy of the adherents of the Greek and Latin catholic churches, it will be his policy to cause their priesthoods to be respected as useful co-operators in the subjection of Europe to his will.
This ecclesiastical policy of the Constantinopolitan Autocracy is enlarged upon in the description of it set forth in the eleventh chapter, where it is more particularly regarded in its catholic constitution without taking into the account the division of the Babylonian superstition into Greek and Latin churches. Whatever may be the individual prejudices existing between individuals of the two schisms matters not; their ecclesiastics, whose spiritual authority is death-stricken by infidelity, on the principle of self-preservation will have to place themselves under the shadow of the Autocrat, as Greeks and Latins have already done in the present dominions of the Czar” (Exposition of Daniel, pp58,59).
Surely we live in exciting times. Let us maintain our clear vision of the future—“for where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18).