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Endorsement from Fr. Seraphim Holland for "On the Reception of the Heterodox"

Fr. Seraphim Holland of St. Nicholas Orthodox Church


I have recently read the book “On the Reception of the Heterodox Into the Orthodox Church”, cover to cover, because it is a critical book for our time. We live in an anti-dogmatic age, where many people, including clergy, don't seem to know the dogmas or understand the value and importance of them. Related to this indifference or ignorance is also indifference or ignorance regarding the actual physical rites of reception into the church, with almost any kind of baptism and even chrismation acceptable, whether it is performed within the Orthodox Church or without. So much of what we do in life is based upon feeling since the secular society is training us with its relentless onslaught to make critical decisions only based on feeling or on what other people the masses say.

This book is complicated and sometimes very difficult to read, but it is very important. I highly recommend the book; therefore I will start with a criticism. Some of the chapters are quite difficult to read and although the relevant canons are referred to in their entirety at least once, it’s very hard to keep track when the canons are referred to by number, and there is no index of the exact text of those canons. This can be corrected by an online addendum. I think that also there are so many quotes from so many church fathers and modern-day elders that it would be very useful to have a kind of chart of quotes that are for and against the reception of all converts by baptism. Perhaps this is because I process things better when I have everything in front of me.

I am afraid that most of those who need to read this very well-thought-out and argued book, won't read it, because it contradicts their agendas. There is an agenda in the world of Ecumenism, a pan-heresy that is afflicting even people who consider themselves to be pious Orthodox Christians. The great tragedy of this heresy is that those who would swear that they are completely against ecumenism are abiding by many of its dogmatic and liturgical perversities. Especially in the area of conversion to the church, people are being given stones instead of bread, and a serpent instead of a fish. This affects their entire lives. They are not taught how to come into the church spiritually and how to live spiritually. I myself know many examples of people who were refused baptism, even though they begged for it when they came into the church, and some were never made catechumens nor had the exorcism prayers said, nor had any significant catechesis. I’m aware of incidents in which converts were chrismated only on the forehead or even if they were baptized, were not baptized according to the Apostolic formula of 3 full immersions in water in the name of the Holy Trinity, but by some way which is more acceptable in the West, such as pouring or even sprinkling. All of these things are a result of the corruption of our liturgical practice and theological understanding, and in general, the intensity of living the Christian life. The ecumenical “get along with everyone” agenda is not new. There has been ecumenism during all of the history of the Church, but it has become more powerful in our political age. Nonetheless, for Orthodox Christians, the most important thing that we want is the salvation of the soul. The absolute truth which has always been proclaimed by the Church, is that it is not possible to be saved outside of the Church and it is not possible to enter the church except by baptism. In our age, this truth is being denigrated by the rhetoric and practice of many, including those who wear bishop’s robes. Any exceptions to the former are only by the grace of God (Who, in His sovereign will, does not consult our opinions). Exceptions to the latter, that is defacto reception by baptism are because of specific circumstances where economia is employed, because of love for truth and love of the person coming to the pillar and ground of the truth, that is, the Church. Unfortunately, those exceptions are not rare anymore, and they are often taught as the rule because of ecumenism, dogmatic ignorance, and in general a lower standard for spirituality and the following of the commandments throughout the Orthodox world. This book will help with some of that dogmatic ignorance and liturgical laxity, but only for those who are willing to read it and sometimes scratch their head a little bit and struggle to get through some of the difficult parts. I found that the book can be divided into two unofficial sections. These are: 1) the era from the Apostles till: 2) the more modern era starting when the Ottomans enslaved a large portion of the church. Until the Second era, the church’s rule of reception was strictly triple immersion baptism with some rare exceptions. The key to understanding this book is to understand that the modern era is significantly different from the ancient era because of the incursion of heretical beliefs. Also according to human nature, we tend to emphasize that which is newer. An ancient exponent of the narrow way was St. Cyril of Jerusalem, who famously preached in his first catechetical homily: “We may not receive baptism twice or thrice; else it might be said, though I have failed once, I shall set it right a second time: whereas if thou fail once, the thing cannot be set right; for there is one Lord, and one faith, and one baptism: for only the heretics are re-baptized, because the former was no baptism.” An even more ancient authority is the one canon issued from the Council in Carthage, 258 AD, under St Cyprian of Carthage. The book explains that this canon is clearly authoritative and has never been rescinded, even though there are those that have opposed it in the more modern era. Here is a short and relevant quote from this important canon: “… We declare that no one can be baptized outside of the catholic Church, there being but one baptism, and this being existent only in the Catholic Church... For this reason anyone joining the Church ought to become renewed [by baptism], in order that within, through the holy elements, he becomes sanctified... For to sympathize with persons who have been baptized by heretics is tantamount to approving the baptism administered by heretics. Or one cannot conquer in part or vanquish anyone partially. If he was able to baptize, he succeeded also in imparting the Holy Spirit. If he was unable, because being outside, he had no Holy Spirit, he cannot baptize the next person. There being but one baptism, and there being but one Holy Spirit, there is also but one Church, founded by Christ our Lord.” Now we live in an age of delusion in which people quote St Cyril’s words (or even the words in the Symbol of Faith – “ I believe in one baptism for the remission of sins”!) with complete misunderstanding, and use them to forbid(!) the baptism of anyone who had *any* form of baptism from almost any heretical group. The church was rigorous about the proper form of baptism, which is three immersions in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. This book points out that in our modern era, the only ones who follow the strict form of baptism are the Orthodox Church, the Copts, and the Ethiopians, and perhaps a few more. There were arguments and occasional exceptions made because of the economia, but the strict method of receiving converts via baptism basically held sway until the Latins influenced the theology of the Orthodox so terribly when the church was under the thrall of the Muslim conquerors. Because of their captivity, clergy were not educated and sometimes could not even read and write, and the education they did receive was from foreigners, and Protestants, and Latinizers. And they took on some of those Latin theologies, which is unfortunate. By the way, I really appreciate the charity of this book when discussing modern-day fathers who absorbed Latinizing and Protestant theology and taught it. We do not reject the saint and we venerate him for his holiness, but also we do not accept the deviations from the apostolic norms. Everyone can make serious errors including the holy; that is why a book such as this is necessary because it presents us with a consensus that the church has believed even though holy members within her sometimes deviated from the norm. For over a millennium, the church held that we should baptize those who come into the church from outside of her. The long and short of this entire book is that the church taught for a thousand years that we should have all converts coming into the church by baptism with very few exceptions. The exceptions were carefully delineated. The church was very concerned that we always had the proper form of baptism with three immersions in the name of the Trinity. And, unfortunately, within the Orthodox Church today that form is breaking down. There are churches, such as in Bulgaria, where the vast majority of people are received by standing in a big bucket and having water poured over their heads. This is tragic because this bad practice will corrupt into bad theology. This corruption has already begun and is accelerating. Eventually, the theology of baptism will be completely indistinguishable from the mishmash that is in Latin theology and that of ecumenists and those who know little or nothing about the church. Eventually that bad theology will also cause bad morality. This is a cycle of a snake, eating its own tail. Bad liturgical practices will lead to bad theology and bad theology will lead to bad morality and bad morality leads to bad liturgical practices and bad theology. And it repeats. This cycle is happening at an accelerated rate in our world today. This book tries to stem the tide a little bit. For those who have ears to hear, they will hear, for those who do not have ears to hear, they will not listen and their liturgical forms and theology will continue to corrode and morality will plummet. We should not pretend that Orthodox Christians are immune to the immorality of our age. Statistics about the opinions of Orthodox Christians about things, such as abortion or the LGBTQ morass show that Orthodox Christians do not differ significantly from the world regarding their opinions. The way the church receives converts and understands baptism must go back to the Apostolic and ancient mode, or else the church will continue to degrade. And eventually, there will be people in Orthodoxy that are not really Orthodox at all. Eventually, we'll have a schism. Some people that are hearing me or reading me might say: he's just crazy and some sort of conspiracy theorist. A person is free to go ahead and believe this, but if they read the lives of the saints with openness of mind they will see that these kinds of “conspiracy theories“ have played out in fact many times in our history. It's a common occurrence for false beliefs and practices to be propagated because of power, prestige, coercion, money, or because of the government and other such things. We can see power and coercion being exhibited in our day. So we must with God's help, keep ourselves pure in the way we receive converts and keep to the proper form of baptism. There is no excuse, unless perhaps bombs are falling or someone is on their deathbed, to not use the proper form for baptism. This is a scandal before the angels and before men and before God, and we should not allow it. Priest Seraphim Holland


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Thank you this, Father Seraphim.

This helped a great deal for many reasons, not only those pertaining to the book.


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