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Theology has become like a troll, which though wise is 'small and ugly, not risking itself to be seen in public.'
Ched Myers, Who Will Roll Away the Stone? p. xxii
The duty of a Theologian, however, is not to tickle the ear, but confirm the conscience, by teaching what is true, certain, and useful.
John Calvin, The Institutes, bk1, ch14
There is no real safety in being negative. As William James pointed out, a negative choice commits the chooser just as much as a positive one does.
Mary Midgley in Science as Salvation p.110
It is a law of the spiritual life that every act of trust makes the next act less difficult, until at length, if these acts are persisted in, trusting becomes, like breathing, the natural unconscious action of the redeemed soul.
Hannah Whitall Smith, The Christian's Secret of a Happy Life, p. 55
“Unless the church of the West begins to understand this (mission as a permanent and instrinsic dimension of the church’s life, “The church exists by mission, just as fire exists by burning.”), and unless we develop a missionary theology, not just a theology of mission, we will not achieve more than merely patch up the church. We are in need of a missiological agenda for theology, not just a theological agenda for mission; for theology, rightly understood, has no reason to exist other than critically to accompany the missio Dei.”
David Bosch, p.32
Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.
G.K. Chesterton
'...for when you speak of the Spirit you are dealing with him in whom there are no differences of scale.'
Taylor, The Go-Between God, p. 23
Marsden is rightly contemptuous of the fatuous idea that an infusion of 'values' separated from a comprehensive world view would make any difference in the present state of affairs.
Wilfred M. McClay in 'Why the Academy Needs Christians' May/June 1997 Books and Culture
...God, the Maker of the world, is manifested to us in Scripture, and his true character expounded, so as to save us from wandering up and down, as in a labyrinth, in search of some doubtful deity.
John Calvin, The Institutes, bk1, ch6
All written language calls for retransformation into its spoken form; it calls for its lost power.
Richard Palmer, Hermeneutics, p. 15
Other evils there are that may come; for Sauron is himself but a servant or emissary. Yet it is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years where we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule.
Gandalf, J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King
...there is nothing in the world sweeter for a man than having children and a wife provided he lives chastely.
John Chrysostom, from Golden Mouth, p.96
They sit before you as my people, and they hear what you say but they will not do it; for with their lips they show much love, but their heart is set on their gain.
Ezekiel 33:31
'The writer must face the fact that ordinary lives are what most people live most of the time, and that the novel as a narration of the fantastic and the adventurous is really an escapist plot; that aesthetically the ordinary, the banal, is what you must deal with.'

John Updike BBC.com, January 27, 2009
Incarnation is translation.
Andrew Walls, The Missionary Movement in Christian History, p. 27.

kiev-ukraine-city-views-13.

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.I.  Holy Russia

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Russia became increasingly important to the Mediterranean world.  The growth of Islamic power and the prevalence of sea raiding made Mediterranean unsafe for trade.  Russia’s great river systems were providing an alternative channel for trade between east and west.  The Prince of Kiev rose to be the most important ruler in region.  Grand Prince Vladimir was the dominant figure from 979 until his death in 1015.  He was of Viking descent.  His grandmother Olga had become a Christian while on a visit to Constantinople.

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Many in Russia were attracted to Christianity at this time.  The number of Christian families in Russia was growing.  At first Vladimir did not look with favor on this.  (hand out)  Most of Russia’s neighbors had aligned with one or another of world religion.  But Russia was still holding to the old primal religions.  Some countries were Muslim,  some Jewish (whole tribes Jewish by conversion), some were Latin Christians, some Greek Christians.  It was still the patristic era in Greek Christianity (they did not have a Middle Ages and you can’t have a reformation like Western Christianity without a Middle Ages)  Instead the patristic period for the Greek church extends right down to 15th century).  As the rising power while Constantinople and the Roman Empire were declining, the Russians looked to the liturgies and worship of the countries around them and the worship of patristic constantinople hugely impressed them.  Russia chose to follow Constantinople.

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Vladimir was also looking at the political implications of such a decision.  His relations with Constantinople were strained.  He was laying siege against them.  So, in their negotiations Vladimir agreed to become a Christian in Constantinople but demands a seal by marriage to the Princess (sister) of Constantinian leader.  Once this took place, the Russians destroyed all their cult objects and ridiculed them in the city streets.  It was a very public repudiation of the old gods.  He was then baptized in the church followed by all of the people who are baptized in the river.  This included young children in the arms of parents.  This spread across Russia.  Churches were to be build in every place where there had once been a pagan shrine.  They built wooden church immediately in these sights with a nicer one later because they did not want a waiting period between the old and the new faiths.

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Russia had entered Christendom.  This was a Christendom with a great deal in common with the Western one, even while warning its people about the “vicious tendencies” of the church in the West.  The liturgy was in Slavonic at that time, as this was vernacular of many.  Schools set up for the training of an indigenous priesthood.  And the new church began with built-in suspicion of the Western church.  This Christendom was parallel with Western one.

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The Church in Russia was part of nation’s social cement which tied the people together.  Thus, the church in Russia was essentially pastoral; focused on teaching, inspiring, comforting in sorrow, supporting in adversity.  The responsibility of the leadership was to maintain worship. to keep God before their eyes, and to lead people to heaven.  Mt 28:19ff, which we call The Great Commission, undergirds their responsibility to make disciples of the nation of Russia by baptizing its people in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Only when the nation expands and incorporates non-Christians will any other dimension of Mt 28:19 come to mind. At that time, the national duty is to make its non-Christian people Christian.  Making them Christian is part of making them Russians.  Until they become Christian they aren’t really Russians.

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Eastern and Western Christendom realized their own deficiencies in trying to be a people of God.  In both forms of Christianity, the sense of sin and failure build.  Anxious, burdened souls who desire to be true disciples of Christ seek refuge in the monastic life. In the Eastern monastic tradition, they sought not only to imitate Christ as in Western monasteries, but to identify with Christ by being taken up into divine reality.  There was intense concentration on the relation between divine and human.  Christ became what we are in order that we might become what he is.  The goal of the Christian life is to  become partakers of divine nature.  The worship of the church is meant to bring you into a position so that the worshipper doesn’t know if they are in earth or in heaven.  It is to take people up into what the angels are doing all the time.  The divine service is a reflection of that heavenly adoration of God and the lamb.

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Vladimir took Christianity seriously after his conversion.  He fed the poor from his own table.  And his two youngest sons showed their devotion, after death of Vladimir.  When they heard that their elder brother was going to attack them in order to seal his succession to the throne, one of them, Boris, refused to allow his army to fight.  He said he had the right to defend the country against outside attack, but that it was not right to kill over rivalry with own brother.  As a result, both brothers were murdered, submitting to death rather than break law of God.  Don’t know of any in the story of European royalty who behaved like this.

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II.  Muslims and Mongols

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Over time, the Eastern Roman Empire lost the provinces which were least Greek  (Coptic and Syriac provinces went to Arabs, for example).  What was left was most Greek parts of the Empire.  As a result, the Greek language and culture became more of a part of the Eastern Roman Empire.  The church became more homogeneous.

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Meanwhile, Arabs from North Africa went into Spain and France.  They were only turned back in central France in 732.  The prospect of a Muslim Europe was a very real possibility at this time.  Even after retreat from Tour, most of Spain remained in Muslim hands.  Gradually, Christian leaders took it back though Andalucia was held by Muslims until 1492.  (Columbus saw surrender of Muslim king before leaving on his journey).

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Muslim population remained in these areas once they were retaken by Christians.  They existed side by side with Christians and with a large Jewish population.

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The Greek Roman Empire continued to feel Muslim pressure.  The Arabs gradually took over territories, getting nearer and nearer to Constantinople and the gateway to Europe.

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The growth of Muslim-Christian relations must be seen in terms of the contest for land.  At this point in history they were not about Crusades.  They were not about Jihad.  The war of expansion and the defense of your land occurred on both sides.  Battles were fought over ownership of territories.

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The Crusades began in 1066 following the preaching of Pope Urban VI.  His stated purpose was two-fold.  1)  To reclaim holy places of Bible  2) to make it safe for those who were on pilgrimage to those places.  There was a huge response.  The motives were quite mixed.  Military adventurers and elites (as with Clovis and Edwin) are looking to carve out territory for themselves.  There is an expectation of worldly reward.  In time some succeeded in gaining territory.

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But the gains are short term.  The main casualty of the Crusades was really the Eastern empire.  It was destroyed by the Crusades.  The  Christian kingdom of Nubia was also a casualty of the Crusades.  Each gain by Westerners weakened Eastern empire and made resistance to Muslims weaker.

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Initially, there was a desire to heal break between East and West.  This was pursued in the hopes of strengthening the East.  They said they would forget 1054, that they would be Christians together, that they would unite in common interest.  But as they met with each other they found little fellowship.  Western Christians found it difficult to recognize the Eastern faith as being theirs.  When they took territory in the Crusades, they slaughtered Christians as well as Muslims.  They could hardly ever resist lure of taking territory, even if belonged to the Christian empire.

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One of most shameful episode of Christian history is in the 4th Crusade.  This Crusade was diverted from attacking a Muslim army to attacking the city of Constantinople.  Western fighters entered on Good Friday in 1204 and in 3 days of murder, destruction, rape and looting laid the city to waste and all its glories.  In the Hagia Sophia, a prostitute sang bawdy songs from the chancel while soldier hacked the high alter to pieces.  This was a blow from which Constantinople never recovered.

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In the 12th century we find the unannounced arrival of new nation.  The Mongols had been a dispersed and divided people.  But they were brought together under a great genius…In Central Asia in 1206, close to the date of the sack of Constantinople, he was elected great Khan, or Emperor of the nation he had brought into being.  He took the name of Ghengis Khan.  Between 1211 and 1215 his armies took command of the Chinese Empire.  He then moved with his huge mounted army westward and occupied all of Central Asia; including Afghanistan, Iran and the Caucuses.  He, too, had religious inspiration.  Khan had Shamanistic visions in which he was called by the Supreme God of the Eternal Blue Sky to establish universal peace.  He was able to incorporate Shamanists, Buddhists, Muslims and Christians under this Supreme God.  The Mongols  made peace by making a desert.  No city could resist them.  They destroyed like locusts wherever they went.  They broke military rules of the day.    His massive army had two horses for every rider.  The riders developed the ability to sleep in the saddle.  No army had moved so quickly.

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There are many accounts of their devastation.  The Papal ambassador to the Mongols wrote of going through the Russian plains which had once been densely populated and seeing no population except for the bleached bones of the dead.

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The Khan died suddenly.  His successors continued to work by bursting into Russia, the Middle East, Syria, Iraq and Palestine.  They even moved into Europe and were threatening the city of Venice.  Europe was stunned by them.  Who were they?  Where did they come from?  In Russia the success of the Mongols was seen as God’s punishment for the sins of his people.

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Western Christians were uncertain how to respond to the Mongols.  They were over running Muslim territory.  Should they make an alliance with them or were they a greater threat than the Muslims themselves?  The Crusading armies were also confused.  The Pope tried to reason with the great Khan but he could not understand his argument.  As far as the Khan was concerned, the Great God gave him victory and would continue to do so.  It was best for the Pope and the Western Christians to submit to him and pay tribute.

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The Mongol armies reached Hungry and the Adriatic in 1242.  There was nothing to interfere with their total conquest of Europe.  In 8th century Europe might have become Muslim.  In the 13th Europe might have become Mongol.  But the death of the Great Khan brought about the withdrawal of the Mongol armies to Central Asia so they could be present for the election of the next Great Khan.  As things turned out, there was no second opportunity to invade.  Europe was saved.  But Russian remained under Mongol rule.

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They did not greatly interfere with the Russians.  The Mongols protected the Russian church as worshippers of the God of heaven.  They allowed bishops to travel freely as well.   So church and nation in Russia recovered from great wounds of first invasion.  Under Mongol rule the center of the church became Moscow.  In 1380 the Prince of Moscow inflicted the first significant defeat on a Muslim army.  This was the sign of future of Mongol rule as well.

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The Mongols gave the Eastern Roman Empire and the Eastern Church a respite from Muslim pressure on Constantinople.  But in Central Asia the church suffered terribly.  This was the sphere of the old Nestorian church.  Here Christianity had become at home among the nomadic peoples of Asia (the Uigers and the Turkic people’s for example).  This church had brought the gospel to China in 7th century.  The great but terrible Mongol ruler, Tamarlane, destroyed the greater part of this church before his death in 1405.  Meanwhile, other Turkic people were making their way Westward from central Asia.  The Ottoman Turks will displace the Arabs as Islamic leaders.  They will carry on a revival of Islamic endeavors toward Constantinople after the Mongol threat was removed.  They brought about fall of Constantinople in 1453.  With this the Eastern Roman Empire comes to an end.  Constantine’s second rule moves into eclipse.  The Hagia Sophia, wrecked by the Crusaders 250 years earlier, had been repaired.  But now it became a Mosque.  This was the end of the dominating Christian power in the east.

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And so, we have seen the serial nature of the Christian faith.  In the West a center of the Christian faith had fallen only to rise again among the Barbarians.  In the East the once vibrant center has fallen but a third Rome will rise to take its place.  The third Rome is Holy Russia with Moscow as its capital.

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