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Psalm 3


 

O LORD, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God. But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the LORD, and he answered me from his holy hill. I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me. I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around. Arise, O LORD! Save me, O my God! For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked. Salvation belongs to the LORD; your blessing be on your people! (ESV)

Apostolic Footsteps

Friday of Epiphany 7

28 February 2014

Church politics can be quite brutal. Theology often becomes a surrogate for power politics. Theologians will use theological issues to batter those who are their political rivals, magnifying theological differences using rhetorical means. Distorting the position of opponents is one of the most effective means of destroying their credibility. The penchant for vilifying one's theological rivals was called "the rabies of the theologians," and quite rightly. A theologian passed over for a preferment will suddenly find that those who slighted him hold any number of theological heresies, even though they may have seemed to him perfectly orthodox previously.

 

The fourth and fifth centuries were rife with theological and church political debates. And sometimes it was difficult to distinguish between them. One casualty of those battles was Theodoret of Cyrus (c. 393 - c. 457), who was accused of Christological heresies; primarily that he believed that there were two sons of God. Theodoret had the good sense to desire to clearly condemn false teaching, but to decline to participate in the ruination of the reputation of condemned churchmen. He wanted to be truthful about what these men had taught that was not faithful, but he did not want to pile on by accusing them of false doctrines they would never have espoused. In the end, that made Theodoret suspect in the eyes of many and cost him dearly in both personal comfort and professional prestige. Only at the end of his career was his name rehabilitated, but in the meantime he suffered much.

 

Theodoret, who was a renowned interpreter of the Bible and was fully committed to its authority in the church, stepped between the extremes of squabbling sides, and confessed the biblical teaching that Jesus is God and man, two natures in one person. He sought this middle way, not because he wanted to "split the difference" and keep everyone happy, but because he knew that this was the way taught by the prophets and apostles and all who followed their testimony. There were no better footsteps in which to walk. And though he was despised on all sides, he was a majority of one, because he stood with those to whom the Lord's Word had been revealed.

 

Theodoret also exhibited profound humility when he confessed the apostolic truth in order to defend himself. He set his position forth before his brothers, and asked for correction if he had not faithfully taught the apostolic doctrine of Christ. But if such things were true, they were truly worth fighting for. If they were true they would also bring the balm of true peace to the church. For peace comes from Christ who is the truth incarnate. Not from our political machinations and schemes. The truth of Christ is the apostolic footsteps.

 

Theodoret of Cyrus

 

"I have been taught to believe in one only begotten, our Lord Jesus Christ, God the Word made man. But I know the distinction between flesh and godhead, and regard as impious all who divide our one Lord Jesus Christ into two sons, as well as those who, travelling in an opposite direction, call the godhead and manhood of the master Christ one nature. For these exaggerations stand opposed to one another, while between them lies the way of the doctrines of the gospel, beautified by the footprints of prophets and apostles, and of all who after them have been conspicuous for the gift of teaching. I was anxious to adduce their opinions, and to point out how they bear witness in favor of my own. But I want more words than a letter allows room for, therefore I have written a summary of what I have been taught about the incarnation of the only begotten. I send my statement to your godly Excellency [Eusebius].

 

I bear witness not with the object of teaching others, but of making my defense against the accusations brought against me, and of explaining my views to those who are ignorant of them. After your holiness has read what I have written, if you find it in conformity with the apostolic doctrines, I hope you will confirm my opinion by what you reply. If, on the contrary, anything that I have said jars with the divine teaching, I request to be told of it by your holiness. For, though I have spent much time in teaching, I still need one to teach me.  The divine Apostle says, 'We know in part' (1Co 13:9), and again he says, 'If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know' (1Co 8:2).  So I hope that I may hear the truth from your holiness, and that you may also give heed to the calm of the Church, and fight for the divine doctrines."

 

Theodoret of Cyrus, Letter to Eusebius, 109
 

Prayer

Lord Christ, you have beautified the truth of the personal union of Your two natures, by the footprints of the prophets and apostles, and of all who have been conspicuous for the gift of teaching following them. Help us to faithfully confess that union, falling to the wayside and defecting from the truth neither to the right nor to the left. Give us the courage to speak the truth without vilifying those who betray Your divine doctrine. Amen.

                        

For Vicar Chad Smith of Memorial Lutheran Church, that the Lord would bless His servant in his endeavors

 

For Cliff Scherer, Sr., that the Lord Jesus would watch over him as he recovers from surgery

 

For Hilary Murray, as she performs her Senior Recital at Concordia University Nebraska, that the gifts of God given to her would lead us to glorify our Father in heaven

 

For all those who struggle with alcoholism and drug addiction that they might be freed from the slavery of substance abuse

Art: MEMLING, Hans  Adoration of the Magi (c. 1470)

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