ARIANISM WAS EASIER TO DEFEAT IN THE 4TH CENTURY THAN LIBERALISM/PROGRESSIVISM IS PROVING TO BE IN THE 21ST CENTURY

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Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman

{ Over the years I have, from time to time, posted here on Abyssum.org posts in which I remind my readers of the fact that in the Fourth Century, according to Blessed John Henry Newman, the Church was saved from a particularly deadly spiritual virus, Arianism, which denied the divinity of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. According to Blessed John Henry Newman, there was a moment in the Fourth Century when the majority of bishops in the Church and many priests were either Arian or Semi-Arian in their faith; the Church was saved by the laity of the Church who refused to accept the propagation of that deadly virus by priests and bishops. Saint Anthony of the Desert, for example, is reported to have stood up in the church in Alexandria and shouted “NO” when Arius preached that Jesus was simply a good man chosen by God to preach his Gospel. The Pope with the help of Saint Athanasius was able to call the First Ecumenical Council, the Council of Nicea, which gave us the clear teaching about the divinity of Jesus Christ that we proclaim in our own churches every time we participate in the celebration of the Sacrifice of the Mass. In my posts I have urged the laity to make known the “sensus fidelium” in opposition to heterodox or outright heretical statements made by priests and bishops. Most recently, I repeated this in my interview with Michael Voris that was shown on the Church Militant website. I have received many messages from people who have told me of instances where they have spoken up in the face of what was being taught by liberal/progressive priests and bishops.

Now, I have received an email from a reader of Abyssum.org that “made my day.” The writer is Asoka N.I.Ekanayaka, a Professor Emeritus of a Sri Lanka university, educated in London, who is an Anglo Catholic. He sent me a copy of a letter that he has just sent to the Cardinal Archbishop of Colombo, Sri Lanka. I have his permission to publish his letter below.

I call your attention to the courteous, respectful tone of Professor Ekanayaka’s letter. It is not offensive as Saint Anthony’s shouted “No” must have seemed to the shocked members of that congregation in the church in Alexandria. I publish Professor Ekanayaka’s letter here on Abyssum.org in the hope that others will take up pen and paper and write a courteous, respectful letter to any priest, bishop or cardinal who in the writer’s opinion has given voice to heterodoxy (or even worse, heresy) and to point out to the offending priest, bishop or cardinal the basis for their opinion.

– +RHG

Here is Professor Ekanayaka’s letter:

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91, Epitamulla Road,
Pita Kotte,
Kotte
August 10, 2016

His Eminence Cardinal Malcolm Ranjit,
Archbishops House,
Colombo 8

Your Eminence,

“ How Long Will You go Limping Between Two Different Opinions ? If the Lord is God Follow Him, but if Baal then Follow him” ( Elijah’s Challenge to Israel : 1 Kgs 18:)

Discerning Christians with a passion for the Biblical Gospel ought to be troubled by your pluralist outburst at a recent religious ceremony to honour the Mahanayake of the Asgiri Chapter. On this occasion ( according to the media ) you are reported to have said that the teaching of Buddhism brings us relief whenever we are confronted with mental pain and discomfort , that the ‘prominence of the country relies on Buddhism’ and there should not be any decision to change its due place secured by the constitution as we all live in a country nourished by Buddhism, and that you were willing “to cooperate with the Maha Sanga to enhance the spiritual improvement of the people”. It would appear that some such sentiments were expressed in the context of your views on constitutional reform in Sri Lanka where in opposing a secular constitution it was your opinion that the controversial clauses pertaining to the right status and respect reserved for Buddhism in the present constitution should remain intact.

In response I observe that a large number of Roman Catholics have issued a statement criticizing your politics in opposing the concept of a secular State as well as your outrageous remarks disparaging human rights as a “ western idea imposed on us that can destroy our cultural heritage”. While being in sympathy with their criticisms, my own concerns are not primarily about your politics. Far more serious are the tone, letter and spirit of your remarks about Buddhism and the false theology of religious pluralism underlying such sentiments, which are a travesty of Biblical Christianity and at variance with the fundamental doctrines and Apostolic tradition of the Church whether Roman Catholic or Reformed.

Obviously Buddhists being ‘unbelievers’ will always canvass the need to give that religion a due place in the constitution – and to do so is their right and prerogative. But how can you being a Cardinal of the Church canvass the importance of Buddhism when it totally denies the sovereignty of the God of the Bible and ascribes a zero value to the death and passion of the Lord Jesus Christ our one and only sin-bearer and redeemer ? How can you a Cardinal of the Church glibly acknowledge Buddhism as a panacea for mental pain and discomfort when Jesus the Son of God said categorically “ I am the bread of life . . . . . . . I am the way. I am the truth. I am the life. No one comes to the Father except through me . . . Come to me all who labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yolk upon you and learn from me . . . . . . . . Truly,truly I say to you unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood you have no life in you . . . . Peace I leave with you,my peace I give to you ” (Jn 6:35, Jn 14:6, Mt 11:28, Jn 6:53, Jn 14: 27). Are you insinuating that faced with mental pain and suffering there are alternatives to Christ ? Moreover it is one thing to cooperate with the Maha sangha to improve the “material conditions” of people. But your intention to cooperate with those who totally deny the divinity of Christ in order to “enhance the spiritual improvement of people” sounds ludicrous in the face of the apostle Peter’s unequivocal assertion “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Buddhism may have a noble moral ethic which if fallen mankind had the will to follow, the world might be a slightly better place. I have wonderful Buddhist friends for whom I have an abiding affection. There are millions of “nice and decent” people in the world who belong to other faiths. Nevertheless the terrible reality is that those who have not been saved by grace and become regenerate in Christ through repentance and faith are as yet ( as Paul brilliantly summarizes in Ephesians 2 ) spiritually dead in their trespasses, children of wrath like the rest of mankind “separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenant of promise, having no hope and without God in the world”(Eph 2:12). To conscientiously slither away from this tragic reality with fair words of religious pluralism ( like your reference to being nourished by Buddhism) in order to cultivate people of other faiths does them a great disservice, lacks intellectual authenticity and is basically dishonest.

Christianity is not one amongst other great religions, or even the greatest amongst them. On the contrary if Christianity is true all other religions lose their validity because they all deny the sovereignty of the God of the Bible who created heaven and earth. Neither do they place any value whatsoever on God’s historic offensive against human sin including the wondrous birth, precious death, mighty resurrection and glorious ascension of our Lord. There is no scriptural warrant for the romantic delusion that we all (whatever our religion) are climbing up the same mountain from different sides and shall in different ways with luck and good behaviour all meet at the top one day !

You may react to these criticisms with the usual dull platitudes about the need for tolerance, inclusivity, goodwill, understanding, love and harmony between people of different faiths in a plural society. It is even possible that you may consider me a ‘fundamentalist’ – a much abused epithet loosely thrown about by those who subscribe to a Christianity of their own imagination such as the world approves, as against the uncompromising Christianity of the Bible. My answer compels me to conclude on a personal note, even boast reluctantly in order to make the point.

In my 41 years as a Christian University teacher (1969 – 2010 ) in the University of Peradeniya nearly all those I have served, from the highest ranking to the humblest both academic and non-academic staff, including hundreds of students now professionals many among them specialists – nearly all of them have been non-Christians. By the grace of God I seem to have left an exceptionally good name behind me which you can confirm by talking to anyone in my time at Peradeniya who might have known me. Indeed the esteem in which I am held by non – Christians high and low whom I have served and the grateful adulation of many has been humbling to the point of embarrassment.

In 1996 on completing my tenure as Dean the minutes of the 220th meeting of the University Council states that “ . . the Vice Chancellor wished to record his appreciation on the ethical and moral stand taken by Prof.Ekanayaka in arriving at decisions whenever there was a crisis in the University . .”. Sometime later in the election of a Senate representative to the Council as I recall my name was proposed and seconded by the Professor of Buddhist Philosophy and the wife of a stalwart of the extreme Buddhist SUCCESS organisation in Kandy ! And in 2010 when I retired the written testimony of students (mostly Buddhist) whom I had befriended in the struggle against “ragging” was that “you showed and taught us the value of life, which others did not”. And that is not all.

I mention the above not in vanity, but because we Christians who have spent a lifetime in secular roles predominantly serving non-Christians know what it takes to win their respect and affection more than nervous bishops and cardinals who while predominantly servicing those in the Church feel the need to bend over backwards in order to ingratiate themselves with those who are outside it. But I can tell you that Buddhists do not need garrulous Christians to extol the virtues of Buddhism. They have enough people of their own to do that. Neither do they expect us to pretend that we who live under the authority of Gods spoken word in scripture share the same world view with those who live by the Buddhist dhamma. Nor do they expect us to dishonour the Gospel and lie to our conscience by diplomatically glossing over the irreconcilable differences in our belief systems. Indeed they might be hurt if they only knew how with flattering words and the worldly diplomacy of theological compromise pluralist clergy seek religious amity at any price by pretending to common ground between Christianity and other faiths when in fact there is none, because Christianity is unique.

No, Buddhist society does not need Christians to make the case for Buddhism as you do. I have never felt the need to do so. On the contrary what Buddhists expect from us Christians is no more than hard work and sacrificial service with integrity, humility and justice in all our dealings. As living servants of God we are called to honour all men whatever their religions because all men are created in the image of God. But that does not mean that we honour and esteem their idolatrous religions which do not acknowledge Christ as Lord and so deprive people of eternal life. Failure to make this critical distinction is both intellectually dishonest and a form of theological suicide.

As a Cardinal of the Church I cannot see how you can proclaim the immeasurable riches of Christ to Christian congregations at the Eucharist while extolling the importance of Buddhism ( which leaves out Christ altogether ) amongst congregations of Buddhist monks. The Bible does not allow for double-speak. No man can serve two masters. That is why I began by quoting Elijah’s famous challenge on Mount Carmel for your prayerful reflection. May God grant that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

Yours sincerely

Prof. Asoka N.I.Ekanayaka, Ph.D (Lond.), DDPH.RCS(Eng.), BDS
Emeritus Professor ( Faculty of Dental Science, University of Peradeniya )

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I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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