Thursday, April 11, 2013

Should one kill moles?

The blog Discerning Thoughts has a post of a paper entitled "Should one kill moles? Or, How to Avoid Falling Into Traps While Reading Contemporary Orthodox Literature" by Deacon George Maximov. I originally read it on a plane just a few months ago as it was republished in Jordanville's Orthodox Life journal. It's one of those articles you hold onto for many years.

Something happened that led me to write this work. Somehow, while correcting papers on one and the same theme, I noticed that five of them – in all else completely separate and independent of one another – used the very same quotation from Holy Scripture to demonstrate their point. At the same time, this quotation was in all five cropped in the same way – so that in the “cropped” version the original thought was lost and it became more appropriate for demonstrating the author’s point. I do not think that any one of them specially sought to crop the sacred text. No, this likely came about automatically – and this is the saddest part. Guilty here is the habit of looking at the Biblical text as material for the demonstration of one’s own ideas, and not as the Word of God, which we must humbly follow, renouncing all “our own ideas” that contradict it.

This is an illness afflicting the majority of us contemporary Orthodox raised in the traditions of Western culture. The name of this illness is modernism.

The formulation of one’s own opinion at the forefront – this is the distinguishing characteristic of the consciousness, and even of the religious consciousness, of one afflicted by this disease. Hence arise distrust of the patristic Tradition – from which only that which is useful for the demonstration of one’s own ideas is accepted – and the tendency to interpret Holy Scripture “from the wind in one’s head,” completely ignoring the patristic understanding thereof. Hence, finally, comes the desire to “update,” “improve,” and “modernize” the Church of Christ, an obsessive desire to introduce one’s own personal opinions, justifying and dogmatizing them.

It is common to associate modernism with a narrow circle of specific individuals, but in fact this phenomenon is much more widespread. Those entering the Church bring with them their pre-ecclesiastical lives. Rejection of authority and contempt for antiquity and tradition are common characteristics of the secular worldview that has been promulgated since the seventeenth century, but which has reached its apogee in our days. It is no surprise that the contagion of modernism has spread so widely precisely now. People are taught in this way in schools and popular culture, as well as in elite culture.

This phenomenon deserves a separate discussion. Here I would like to demonstrate the methods used – frequently unconsciously – by modernist authors to convince their readers that their personal opinions are the teaching of the Orthodox Church.

Inasmuch as every Orthodox Christian knows that the doctrine of the Orthodox Church derives from two sources – Holy Scripture and Tradition – the efforts of such authors are directed towards the manipulation of precisely them.

Let us consider how these techniques “work,” using as an example some incongruous idea: let us suppose that someone considers it essential to kill moles, thinking that this is a requirement for every Orthodox Christian, and that he wishes to convince his readers of this...

Complete post here.


  1. Nice article. Growing up Seventh-Day Adventist, I heard Ellen G. White used the same way. In arguments with other SDA's, once you reached a stalemate with logic and proof-texts, the first one to "quote" Sister White/The Spirit of Prophecy wins.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.