The following analysis of the demonic methodology at work in contemporary syncretistic ecumenism was distributed to participants in the summer online course “An Orthodox Survival Course 2020” which we offered through our Patreon page (and Crowdcast video platform) and is available to all of our patrons.
It is especially important for missionaries today that we refer to and comprehend the demonic method of adulteration. As Fr. Seraphim Rose once wrote, the difference between Orthodoxy and heterodoxy is most apparent in that the Orthodox Church (in Her Saints) is able to discern the spirits.
When the devil saw that his power was literally devastated by the Cross and Resurrection of Christ, he began to attack the Church with another, new method, with the method of adulteration. He does not claim that Christ is no one of significance. He comes, rather, to speak in the tongue of adulteration and to say, “Yes, certainly, I accept Jesus Christ, but simply as a man, not as the God-man, Theanthropos. He may indeed be a remarkable man, but he is nevertheless a man”. This is what western man has arrived at today. That is, Arianism dominates that western world today. Jesus is a remarkable man but He is not God.
For those who he cannot bring to deny Christ's divinity, he allures them with unbelief on the ecclesial plane. He has introduced a variety of theories, all of which, however, deny the Theanthropic Nature of the Body of Christ, the One Church. This denial may attack any of the four marks of the Church - that it is One, Holy, Catholic or Apostolic. One may hear, for example: “The Orthodox Church is significant and we value your icons, history and theology, but you are not the only Church of Christ”. Or, "the Orthodox Church is, indeed, the Body of Christ, but nevertheless not exclusively so, not absolutely so, since other Christian denominations are also "churches" in an ecclesial sense, even if incomplete."
Yet what is the difference between this and Arianism, the denial of the God-man, the lie of the devil? It is simply on the level of ecclesiology and not only Christology [as was Arianism]. For salvation is wrought in the Church, and if there is a denial of the Church there is a denial of the God-man. It is equal to saying that Christ is simply a man. For if the Church is not theanthropic, not a continuation of the Incarnation, then it differs little from the various confessions, associations, or organisations, which are are purely human creations. If the Orthodox Church identifies Herself with these then we have essentially Arianism in practice, on the level of ecclesiology, and the salvific missionary work of the Church is in vain. The devil seeks in every way to sway the Church from Her Theanthropic identity - and it matters not in what particular way (heresy) he achieves this. This is precisely what is happening today on the level of ecclesiology.
The devil passes through four stages in his assault on the Church: co-existence, dialogue, infiltration or penetration and finally subversion. He employs a methodology that has not changed from the time of Adam and Eve, whether on the personal or ecclesiastical plane. He passes through four stages in order to achieve his goal, which is the subversion of Orthodox Faith and the overturning of Her salvific mission.
The First Stage: Co-Existence
The first stage is co-existence. He comes in the guise of another form, as he once did in the garden as a snake, in order first of all to draw near to us, near to the Orthodox, near to the faithful. This co-existence is a necessary pre-requisite for him to go on to the next stage, which is dialogue. It is for this reason that in the Old Testament God is so strict with the people of God, that they not mingle with idolaters. He must be strict with His people on this point, for co-existence is the beginning of the fall. "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers," says the Apostle Paul, but "come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you."
However, today we do not live before the Incarnation, in the period of the Old Testament. We cannot come out of the world existentially. We are able, however, to depart from it spiritually, in the manner of our living. The faithful separate themselves from the world in the way in which they live. Then the boundaries were visible, now they are spiritual. And, yet, this does not mean that they are invisible or blurry. The Fathers of the Church laid down the boundaries of the Church in the holy canons and decisions of the Councils. Indeed, there are many canons of the Church which regulate our behavior in spiritual matters with regard to the heterodox.
We must respect these boundaries if we wish to stay far from temptation. If we abolish or disregard the canons, if we abolish or blur the boundaries, we will undoubtedly enter into temptation. And the temptation is to conform to this world, to become secularized not only in faith but also in methodology and ethos. Today, many remain Orthodox in dogma (at least initially) but become heterodox in methodology and in ethos. The Apostle Paul says: "And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." Keeping the canons of the Church, such as with regard to common prayer with the heterodox, is necessary in order not to enter into the temptation of co-existence with the heterodox in regard to our manner of living and ethos. For, as our Lord said, “if the salt lose its flavor, it is good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled under foot...”.
The Second Stage: Dialogue
The enemy, however, does not stop there. His aim is to bring us to the second stage, to dialogue. And here he has much experience and is stronger than us. For this reason humility alone saves him that will not fall into this snare. Christians are naïve and not cunning, and our weakness is precisely here, because we desire to believe that the other man is sincere. It is particularly dangerous when we have much pride and little progress in the spiritual life. They mollify us and tell us whatever we like to hear. The heterodox are very good at this. They praise us for our history, our icons, our "spirituality," etc. Pride and arrogance comes saying that we are something and we are doing something special. This does not mean, however, that there is any desire on behalf of the heterodox to become Orthodox. Most desire to acquire what we have, not become what we are. This is especially true of most followers of the Pope and apparent in the Vatican's “foreign policy.”
Now, to be sure, within the ecclesial sphere not all dialogue is cursed. There are two kinds of dialogue: one that is blessed and lawful, which was done by the saints and apostles, and another kind that is cursed, which serves the aims of the devil.
The first type of dialogue, the blessed kind, is for clarification. The apostles came to Christ many times for clarification. This dialogue is blessed. Someone comes with humility and a good disposition to learn from the Lord. When the heterodox come thus to the Church, we are on a good road. We can expect blessings. We shall have spiritual fruit.
The second type of ecclesial dialogue, which is conducive to demonic aims, is that which we'll characterize as investigative. When the heterodox or atheist comes to the Church for this kind of dialogue, not for clarification but for investigation or debate, then the spirit of cunning is manifest. Investigation or debate in this context indicates pride before Christ and His Church, as if to say: “I’m coming to converse. Let’s talk about it and find another, third way, another truth, not what you Orthodox preach necessarily, but together we shall find the historic truth, the truth of Christ, etc.” One comes not as a seeker of the truth, not as a disciple, but “on equal terms.” Indeed, this very phrase was used when the theological dialogue with the Vatican was begun fifty years ago: that the Vatican and the Orthodox are dialoguing “on equal terms.”
It is precisely within this context, this mentality, that we shall not find salvation. There will be no return of the heterodox for the simple reason that the very basis of their meeting with the Church has precluded it! Within this mentality there is no repentance and whatever is done is without cost, without sacrifice on their part. However, without sacrifice, without crucifixion of the old man and his worldly mind communion with the Resurrected Christ is impossible.
If we are moving within these four things - no search for truth, no spirit of discipleship, a lack of repentance and no sacrifice or cost, then this kind of dialogue is investigation, not clarification, and it is cunning and from the devil. It is precisely here that we shall fall, because we are simple and naïve and not accustomed to the ways of the worldly-wise and the heterodox. This type of dialogue does not lead to salvation but to the adulteration of Orthodoxy, to schism and to heresy.
The Third Stage: Infiltration
The third stage is infiltration (διείσδυση). After having sufficiently dialogued with the First-formed the enemy succeeded in planting a seed of doubt in the word of their Creator and trust in his sincerity and authority. He penetrated the sacred trust of man in God and infiltrated into their noetic realm, posed to subvert the castle of Orthodoxy from within.
The devil achieves infiltration through daily co-existence, endless dialogue with the heterodox, worldly friendships and friendship with the world, co-operation on common cause agendas, ethics and politics, which ignore dogmatic and ecclesiological presuppositions and are aimed at worldly success. We see this very clearly today among Orthodox clergy and theologians throughout the Church, but especially traditionally non-Orthodox lands. In various parts of the world we have arrived at the point where on many levels there is a corruption of the Orthodox phronema (mindset), precisely because there is not only co-existence and dialogue but also infiltration of the heterodox and his phronema(mindset) into the Orthodox Church. Examples of this include mixed marriages becoming the norm rather than the exception, common prayer (which is often justified on the basis of the mixed-marriage precedent), corruption of the Orthodox ethos among clergy and laity, including even the beginning of public support of deviant sexuality, the adoption of missionary methods of the heterodox, the perversion of the role of the bishop from an prophet and apostle to a diplomat and a politician, etc.
Sooner or later, infiltration leads to the fourth stage, subversion.
The Fourth Stage: Subversion
The enemy works incrementally and systematically, usually in the shadows, out of sight or disguised as something good, even virtuous, all in order that man doubt God, His commandments, Church dogma and canons. He’ll use whatever it takes, even the cover of “love” and “brotherhood” as long as we stretch out our hands and contravene His commandments. It was only after the First-Formed stretched forth their hands that they realized they had been subverted, separated from Life, cast our of paradise.
What exactly is subversion in the realm of mission and ecumenism? Subversion in this case means that it is no longer a matter of the return of the heterodox but that we the Orthodox ourselves identify with the heterodox, consider them within or a part of Mystery of the Church, or even commune with them, whether in prayer or the Eucharist. Unfortunately, this is already happening among some Orthodox, both in North America and Europe. We have first hand reports that Orthodox priests are communing heterodox, from among the Latins, and even more often among the monophysites/non-Chalcedonians, during, for example, mixed marriage ceremonies. Yet, even when there is but a theoretical "recognition" of a "valid" Baptism or even Eucharist among Latins or Monophysites, the subversion of the Orthodox Faith is no less real.
When Orthodoxy is identified with heterodoxy, the truth with delusion, the Church with heresy, then we have arrived at the fourth and final stage and there is subversion of the Orthodox Faith and phronema (mindset).
As faithful Orthodox Christians, we desire that the missionary work of the Church proceed and flourish. If we desire it truly, we shall take head to the machinations of the enemy and attend to the avoiding these four stages of demonic methodology, to avoid the snares of the devil.
Orthodox mission is the answer to the adulteration of the Faith. Only if the Orthodox Church continues Her mission to the heterodox in an Orthodox manner, only then is there hope of subversion, not of Orthodoxy (God-forbid) but of the pan-heresy of Ecumenism.