I have been searching for references from the first 1000 years of church history where either the great Fathers or councils of either local or ecumenical authority refer to the church as "the Orthodox Church". Catholic it is called, but I have yet to see it called the Orthodox Church. I have asked numerous Priests, even writing to Holy Cross Seminary but with zero results.
I know you must be busy but if you can assist me in my search I would be most grateful.
In the earliest history, you will find that the followers of Christ referred to themselves as "The Way," not as a "Church." In fact, the same word that was used for Church /(ekklesia)/ simply referred to any congregation, including the meeting of the citizens of a city for some common purpose. So / ekklesia / , "Church" really means a "gathering for a common purpose."
The name Catholic did not apply actually to the Church in the way we commonly use it today. Most often we think of it as meaning "universal" in the sense of spreading out over the whole world. In Ancient times, the "Catholic Church" referred to the faith itself rather than to a centralised administration which certified the whole organisation. In fact, this term "catholic" helped to define those Christians who followed the apostolic tradition as opposed to the many Gnostic Christian sects that abounded in the first centuries. You will likely have noted that St. Ignatios the God-bearer mentions that "the whole fullness of the Catholic Church is there were one bishop is gathered with his flock for the Eucharist." This means that the word Catholic in actual Christian usage meant something quite different than it came to mean by default in later centuries. There was no need to add the word "Orthodox" to this in the first centuries, because everything that was / not / orthodox was simply acknowledged to be "outside the catholicity of the Church." The word "orthodox" referred to the / confession of faith / , not to the Church / per se / . This is why you do not find it used as a name or title of the Church in ancient times. One had an Orthodox confession of faith (as opposed to, for example, an Arian confession of faith) and therefore, one belonged to the Catholic Church. Since Arians also claimed the concept of "Catholic," It became necessary to define which confession was "orthodox," that is, which one was consistent with the apostolic tradition. Thus, the use of Orthodox or Orthodox Catholic as a definition of the confession of faith itself, not of the Church itself.
It is more proper to understand the Greek word Catholic as "that which is gathered in one mind and spirit" rather than universal. Look at the Slavonic equivalent, for example "sobornaya." It come from soberat'h (to gather together). It was not until the second schism (often called The Great Schism) that the word Orthodox began to be applied to the body of the Church itself in the way we use it today. You may find it interesting to note that at that time, Roman Catholic would have applied only to the Orthodox Church, because the Eastern Empire was all that was left of the Roman Empire. The Patriarchate of Jerusalem was called Roman Orthodox up until the occupation of Palestine by the British following the war. The British administration actually forced the Patriarchate to change the name to Greek Orthodox Patriarchate. Even today, in Syria, Orthodox Christians are referred to as Roman Orthodox (Rum Ortodox). The schismatic Western body centred in the old city of Rome was then referred to as the Latin Church or Latin Catholic Church. They early on began to refer to themselves as Roman Catholic, because the were centred in Rome (although the capital of the Roman Empire was in Constantinople). Because there were then two major bodies which both claimed both the name Catholic and Roman, the term Orthodox began to be applied to the Orthodox Catholic Church (as opposed to the Roman or Latin Catholic Church).
The direct answer to your question is this: the term Orthodox referred to the confession of faith, not to the Church body. Thus, it was not deemed necessary to apply the name to the Church until there were two competing bodies claiming to be the Catholic Church. At that point, the one that still maintained orthodoxy of faith and an orthodox confession became known collectively as the Orthodox Church or The Orthodox Catholic (as opposed to the heterodox Catholic Church. This took place only after the 1400s. Thus you will find mentioned "orthodox faith" but not "Orthodox Church" in the most ancient writings about the history of the Church. I hope this will at least help to answer your question.
There is an incident in the Old Testament that bothers me and I actually get upset whenever it comes to mind. In judges, chapter 11, we read about Jephthah who vowed that if he won a certain battle, he would make a burnt offering to God of whatever he met first as he approached the door of his house. His only daughter came rushing out to meet him when he came home and, according to scripture, he offered her as a sacrifice. How could that be? God did not allow human sacrifices. Surely, Jephthah would have been stoned by other Jews if he had tried to offer his daughter as a sacrifice. This seems so horrible, yet from the Scripture, it almost seems as if God accepted a human burnt offering. Please answer this, as it is causing me a great deal of confusion.
REPLY:Perhaps the first thing to do in order to understand this story better is to read Romans 12:1: "...offer yourselves as living sacrifices, holy and well-pleasing, to God; this is your 'reasonable service". There are some very definite and clear statements in the narrative about Jephthah's daughter that let us know what actually happened. First of all, when the daughter heard of her father's vow, and realized that it was her who must be offered, she asked to be allowed to lament for two months because she would never be married: not because she would be killed, but that she would never marry. Secondly, at Judges 11:39, we read, "And he did to her as he had vowed. AND SHE REMAINED A VIRGIN" It is quite clear then, that she was not literally offered as a burnt sacrifice, but was offered to the temple as a consecrated virgin (what we now call "nuns") to serve in the House of God. We know from many references that virgins served in the temple. It is not at all possible that Jephthah offered his daughter as a slain sacrifice, because God had already absolutely forbidden such a thing and established the strictest punishment for anyone who should attempt to offer a human sacrifice (see, for example, Lev.18:21; 20:2-5; Deut.12:31; 18:10)-especially one of his sons or daughters (Deut.l8:10-12) -but to have offered her to the service of God in the temple was not an uncommon practice. However, in this case, since she was his only child, it was a great sacrifice, for it meant that his family line would die with him, since she would have to remain ever-virgin.
I feel just terrible. I am confused and upset, and I need an answer.
Two years ago, I went through a very unpleasant divorce. Since I am a believing Orthodox Christian, I didn't accept the breakup of my marriage easily, but it was one of those situations where real brutality was involved and the marriage was destroying me and my four year old daughter. I have met a wonderful man, and we have been seeing each other for a year. We want to get married. He has been coming to church with me for several months and is now a catechumen. We want to get married soon after Pascha, and while we were discussing it with our priest, he asked if I had a "Church divorce" from my former marriage. I was very upset. I didn't know anything about a "Church divorce". I thought that was Roman Catholic. Now I have to make a petition to the bishop for a Church divorce. Is this right? And if so, why?
Christ told the Apostles, as the bishops of His Church, "Whatever you bind on earth is bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth is loosed in heaven." (Mt.18:18)
Since you were married in the Orthodox Church, your marriage was "bound on earth and in heaven." If this bond is to be loosed, it must be loosed "on earth and in heaven" by those to whom Christ gave this authority.
If you will pause to contemplate this in a spiritual manner, you will see the clear logic of it. Nevertheless, it
is not the whole answer. When someone requests a canonical divorce, it is the duty of the priest to try his best to work with the couple to try to reconcile them and save their marriage. Divorce is a very serious matter. Let us look at the meaning of marriage in simple form:
1. Marriage is a type of Christ and the Church, in whichthe husband is like Christ and the wife is like the
2. Marriage is a union (binding) of two people together so they can work out their salvation as one.
3. Marriage makes a man and woman "one flesh". This means that in the eyes of God, they are as one person instead of two.
l. Breaks this image of Christ and the Church;
2. Destroys this "salvation partnership";
3. Rips apart the bond which was made by God's Grace, which united the two people into "one flesh".
Why is divorce permitted at all, and why does the Church permit a person to be married up to three times? The Orthodox Church does not approve of divorce and remarriage at all. However, the Church does understand human problems and the human condition. Sometimes, a marriage simply cannot work out. Sometimes, the children and either the husband or wife are being completely destroyed mentally, emotion ally, even physically, in a marriage. In many cases, nothing the bishop or priest can do or say will save a marriage. When there is a civil divorce, the husband and wife are living apart. They still have their human passions and needs, and it is asking too much to insist that they live out the rest of their lives in perfect chastity.
Not everyone is strong enough or called to monasticism. Therefore, out of love and compassion and understanding, the Orthodox Church hears the words of Apostle Paul, "It is better for them to marry than to burn" and permits a sanctified re-marriage. However, the Divine Service for a re-marriage is nothing like the
crowning of the original marriage. It should be evident, however, that the Church cannot "re-marry" you unless it has dissolved the marriage which it previously bound you in. If the Orthodox 'Church did not insist that you obtain a canonical divorce before it allowed you to re-marry, this would mean that the Church did not even take marriage seriously.
Why are so many Orthodox Christians still opposed to pews in church.
REPLY:Pews make liturgical integrity impossible. They change the character of worship and further exclude the people from actual participation in worship. As examples, imagine the faithful being able to participate in the prostrations during the Prayer of Saint Ephraim the Syrian in the church filled with pews. I have been in churches that have pews and noticed that people no longer light candles in the forepart of the nave; that the priest can no longer cense the church properly and, in some cases, the pews make it impossible to make the "Great Entrance" with the Holy Gifts. Sometimes there is not even room to place a coffin properly in the church or to celebrate the Crowning of a marriage properly. These changes in the character of the Liturgics also diminish or distort the understanding of the Divine Liturgy and other liturgical services and can actually help degrade the understanding of the faith. Many Orthodox Christians understand all this instinctively, and refuse to have pews in their churches.
QUESTION:How often should one receive Holy Communion.
REPLY:If we search the canons which the Holy Spirit has given us through the Holy Church, and the teachings of our Holy and God-bearing fathers, then we will find that with one accord and as if with a single voice, they direct us to partake of the Holy Mystery not merely more frequently, but constantly.
The practice of infrequent Communion, whatever its precise origin, became concrete in some of the local churches as a result of Latin influence (primarily, of course, through the Uniate occupation of Western Russia and the Ukraine -- prior to this century, Latins were deprived of frequent communion and were taught to commune only four times a year).
Many of the legalistic arguments of the Latins have been employed by some of our own people in trying to maintain the non-Orthodox practice of infrequent Communion. No one, however, has been able to justify it by Orthodox Christian means. "O, the power of custom and prejudice," laments St John Chrysostom.
The canons of Gods Church answer our question in this manner:
The Holy Apostles have decreed that, "All those faithful who enter and listen to the Scripture, but do not remain for prayer and [partaking of] the Holy Mysteries must be excommunicated...." (c.9 of the Apostles).
According to the explication of the canon in the Rudder , this means that all who are not penitents and who thus remain for the prayers, not departing when the proclamation "Depart!" is heard, must without fail receive Holy Communion. Our Holy and God-bearing fathers gathered in the Holy Spirit at Antioch directed us:
"And those persons who enter the church and listen to the sacred Scriptures, but shun the participation in the Eucharist,...we decree that these people be outcasts from the Church until they confess and exhibit the fruits of repentance." (c.2 of Antioch).
The explication of the canon explains that this refers precisely to people who excuse themselves for abstaining from Holy Communion "on account of humility or reverence." Such humility would be feigned since it is contradictory to obedience and such reverence would be false since the greatest act of reverence to the Eucharist is partaking of it.
Again, our Holy and God-bearing father Timothy of Alexandria (ca 370) expresses the universal consensus of the Holy Church when he is asked:
"If anyone who is a believer be possessed of a demon, ought he to partake of the Holy Mysteries or not?"
"If he does not repudiate the Mystery, nor otherwise in anyway blaspheme, let him commune, but not every day in the week; for it is sufficient for him on the Lords Day only."
In other words, even a person possessed of a demon is to partake of the Holy Mystery every Sunday, while, it is quite clear, the rest of the faithful are to partake every day, where possible.
St John Chrysostom seems to synthesize the thoughts of the fathers and give expression to the concept of the Church conscience on partaking of the Holy Mysteries, in his Homily 3 on Ephesians . Here, he instructs both those who would take communion too lightly and without preparation and those who fail to take Communion at each Divine Liturgy:
"I observe how many partake of Christ's Body lightly and just as it happens, and rather from custom and form than from consideration and understanding.."
The Saint makes this charge not against those who commune regularly, but against those who commune only on a few feast days. He continues:
"When, says one, the holy season of Lent sets in, whatever a man may be, he partakes of the Mysteries, or when the day of the Lord's Theophany comes. And yet it is not the Theophany nor is it Lent that makes a fit time for approaching, but it is sincerity and purity of soul. With this, approach at all times; without it, never. 'For as often, he [Paul] says, 'as you do this, you proclaim the Lord's death,' that is, `you make remembrance of the salvation that has been wrought for you, and the benefits which I have bestowed.' ....And do you, when you draw nigh to a sacrifice at which the very angels tremble, do you measure the matter by the revolution of season? Observe the vast inconsistency of the thing. At the other times, you do not come...; but at Pascha, no matter how flagrant an act you may have committed, you come. Oh, the power of custom and prejudice! In vain is the daily Sacrifice [offered), in vain do we stand before the altar! There is no one to partake. I am not saying these things to induce you to partake under any circumstances, but that you should render yourselves worthy to partake. Are you not worthy of the Sacrifice nor of the participation [in Communion]? If so, then neither are you [worthy] of the prayer. You hear the herald say,`Depart!' As many as do not partake are in penitence. If you are one of those you ought not to partake;...Why then does he say depart you that are not qualified to pray, while you have the effrontery to stand still? You are not of the number of those who are qualified to partake and yet you are indifferent about it and regard the matter as nothing."
And here is the point. It is not those who partake constantly of the Holy Mysteries who take them for granted, but it is those who do not partake who count it as insignificant, for, if they did not take the Holy Mystery merely for granted, then they would either prepare themselves to partake, or else depart weeping that they were unworthy to do so, when the deacon proclaims, "Depart!" Those who partake constantly, on the other hand, do not take the Eucharist for granted, but rather count it as the greatest necessity for their lives.
"Look, I entreat you," Chrysostom continues: "A royal table is set before you, angels minister at the table, the King Himself is there, and do you stand gaping? Are your garments defiled and yet you take no account of it? Or are they clean? Then partake.... For everyone that does not partake of the Mysteries is standing here in shameless effrontery. It is for this reason that they which are in sins are first of all sent out....You [who are not partaking] are no more allowed to be here than the catechumen is.
"One might go on to other points, and those more awful still; but in order not to burden your understanding, these will suffice. They who are not brought to their senses with these certainly will not be with more. That I may not then be the means of increasing your condemnation, I entreat you not to forbear coming to church, but to render yourselves worthy of being present and of approaching [for Communion]."
Finally, our Holy and God-bearing fathers of the Sixth Ecumenical Council, calling upon us to come forth for Holy Communion have taught us:
"The divine Apostle loudly proclaims that man created in the image of God is to be a body of Christ and a temple. Standing, therefore, far above all sensible creation and having attained to a heavenly dignity by virtue of the saving Passion, by eating and drinking Christ as a source of life, he readjusts both his eternal soul and his body and by partaking of the divine Grace he is continually sanctified " (c.101 of 6;. cf 1Cor.l2:27; 2Cor.6:16).
QUESTION:Must confession and Communion always be tied together?
No. There is no canonical or patristic justification for tying the two together. Some people believe that you can only have confession if you are preparing for Holy Communion. Sadly, this attitude tends to make confession a mechanical act, often void of any deep, heartfelt repentance. One should have confession regularly, whether or not he is going to receive Holy Communion. Confession is a medicine for the soul and mind, a cleansing and healing process which must be accompanied by contemplation and heartfelt repentance. We do not confess "as part of preparation for Holy Communion," but to unburden our souls and spirits and seek prayerful help in resolving of spiritual problems. Many priests will confirm that such a confession made as a required act before comunion is often mechanical and meaningless. Frequently, such a mechanically required confession might consist in a rote, "I don't really have any sins to confess" or "Just all my daily sins."
Confession is not prescribed in preparation for Holy Communion by any canon of the Church, and I am not personally aware of any patristic injunction making it so. Requiring confession before every Holy Communion presupposes that you will be communing infrequently -- perhaps no more than four times a year. It must be seen as a custom where it is locally required. Fasting, on the other hand, is clearly required before Holy Communion, and this is something deeply ingrained in the conscience and Tradition of the Church.
Ultimately, though, you will have to observe the requirements set by your own local bishops.
Should Orthodox Christians tithe?
REPLY:If you believe God's word, then tithing is something that should be natural to you. Tithing is an acknowledgment of God's love and care for you. It acknowledges the blessings and help you have received from Him by returning ten percent of the "firstfruits" of your income to His service so that others may be called to share in His blessings. It is also a confession of your faith in Him. It is more than this, however. Your parish cannot exist without the active support of all. Tithing is, therefore, an act of love and sharing with your brothers and sisters in the parish community.
Many times, people ask what they can do to evangelize the Orthodox faith and proclaim the Gospel. Tithing is one of the most important ways to do this. It helps maintain God's house and make the Divine Services possible so that others can come to the truth. It also helps make your own spiritual life possible.
God has clearly instructed us to tithe ten percent of our gross income to His Church, and if you believe in Him and acknowledge His lordship, it is hard to see why you would willing disobey him.
QUESTION:Is it really important to have our churches facing East?
REPLY:Yes, it is important. Having the altar of the church to the East is part of the integrated revelation of the meaning of creation, the meaning and path of redemption, our relationship with God, the heavenly kingdom and the destiny of the faithful.
The altar of our churches, like the holy of holies in the Old Testament temple, is a "type" (a particular kind of revelation) of paradise. The altar faces East because Scripture describes paradise as being "in the East," and also tells us that Jesus Christ will appear "from the East at His second coming." We cannot enter into a complete theological discussion of this matter here, but let us take an all too brief look at some of the main points.
1. Man lost paradise and "closed its gates" against himself through an act of wilful disobedience. He thus separated himself from God.
2. God gave man the temple (beginning with the tabernacle in the wilderness) as a revelation about his condition of separation, and of the path back to paradise. That "holy of holies" was an image of Paradise. In the Orthodox Church temple, we call it the "altar."
3. God made His presence real in the "holy of holies," as He had done for man in paradise. In the Old Testament temple, this presence was connected with the ark of the covenant. In the New Testament temple (each Orthodox Church) His presence is manifested in the Holy Communion. All this is but a shadow of the fellowship with God which the faithful will enjoy when they return to paradise, to the heavenly kingdom.
All this and more is revealed to us in the structure of the Orthodox temple. This entire revelation and instruction is focused on the altar which is an image of that paradise which was "for the lost." Moreover, Scripture tells us that "the sign of the Son of Man will flash forth from the East," and we understand that Christ will be seen by all coming forth from the East in His second coming.
God has given us these clear revelations and teachings in the Orthodox temple because man cannot be sustained by only abstract ideas. Because of our nature, we need concrete, visible forms, types, images and actions which lead us into a form of participation. In the Orthodox temple and worship service, we participate in the life of the heavenly kingdom and assimilate it into our hearts. Why would we want to minimalize and be casual with such revelations from God? It matters very much that we have our temples facing East.
QUESTION:Should we be using "inclusive language" in church?
The use of "inclusive language" is really a fetish and has been carried to such extremes that it has actually become ludicrous. Even to those who demanded it, it has become counterproductive to their cause because of the silly extravagances that they carried it to. We should simply use the regular gender terms and word endings common to whatever language we are speaking. For a further and more in depth discussion, see The Mystery and Meaning of Gender and Human Sexuality , (Synaxis Press, 2000).
There is no doubt that both the IV drug users and the sexually hyper-active element of the homosexual community "harvested the recompense of their error," and that they would not have suffered so had they followed the principles of life revealed by God. Nevertheless, the suggestion that God created the pandemic in order to have His vengeance on them is slanderous and demonstrates a spirit utterly alien to that if/am Christ These two groups suffered the most rapidly in America and other Western countries because they presented an excellent ecology for the virus, not because God is a malicious mass-murderer. In other countries, the poor and uneducated presented the best ecology for the same epidemic The former would have avoided the illness had they followed the principles of life which the Gospel has set before us, the latter could only have avoided it if they had been more educated and more wealthy, and thus more aware of the dangers, and the women more able to avoid having to resort to prostitution for the sake if bare survival.
It is certainly notable in this regard that the American House of Representatives recently voted to severly curtail support for the arts, and eventually to faze it out, but at the same time, voted to continue the heavy subsidies which the American people pay to the tobacco industry. This, again, was the work of the ultra rightwing representatives from the 'Bible belt' of the United States.
I have read some of your writing against Gnosticism. I think you are right that this old heresy is posing a new threat in the Church. Can you offer some simple guidelines that might help us recognize Gnostic teachings without reading all the books you reference in the bibliography of Tale of Elder Basil the New?
I would strongly recommend the Introduction of Hans von Balthasar's The Scandal of The Incarnation: Irenaeus [of Lyons] Against the Heresies (Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1990). I am going to present some extracts from that Introduction here, with a few explanatory notes, for those who might not have access to the book.
St Irenaeus was perhaps the foremost ancient expert on the Gnostic threat and dedicated much of his writing to exposing it. It may come as a surprise to some, but he actually did refute the Gnostic "aerial toll house" teaching.
Much of the current threat from this ancient system of heresy comes from an organized attempt to infiltrate it into the Orthodox Church. There is a general lack of careful study of the theological history of the Church. The great 9th-10th century struggle with the Bogomil and Paulician Gnostic movements is actually unknown even to many seminary graduates. A substantial number of the clergy of all ranks are unaware of that great struggle, or have heard of it only in some passing references. Nevertheless, the New Age Movement is replete with profoundly Gnostic ideas and a group which has infiltrated every jurisdiction of the Orthodox Church has been steadily introducing new Gnostic ideas into the Orthodox Church while at the same time resurrecting and reinforcing residual Bogomil/Manichaean doctrines which have lingered in the Church in a shadowy manner since the time when this heresy dominated the Balkans. One can truthfully use the words of Tsar Peter of Bulgaria in his desperate letter to Ecumenical Patriarch Theophylact in the 900s: we are faced with "an ancient heresy newly reappeared." Here are some tips extracted from the Introduction section of von Balthasar's book.
Balthasar begins by pointing out that even the great persecutions by the Romans posed less of a threat to the Church than did Gnosticism. This very fact explains why I have been so adamant in my own opposition to the neo-Gnosticism of subversive entities within the Orthodox Church today. The fact that many of those who rather unwittingly support this neo-Gnosticism are unwilling to look at the way in which it contradicts the teachings of the holy fathers on several subjects, and the doctrines of the faith, is in itself a sin against the Orthodox Faith.
Gnosticism predates Christianity. Balthasar likens it to a "parasite" which took hold of Christianity and used it.
What made it so insidious was the fact that the Gnostics very often did not want to leave the Church. Instead, they claimed to be offering a superior and more authentic exposition of Holy Scripture, though this was only for the 'superior souls' (the spiritual, the pneumatic'); the common folk (`the psychic') were left to get on with their crude practices. It is not hard to see how this kind of compartmentalizing of the Church's members indeed of mankind as a whole, inevitably encouraged not only an excited craving for higher initiation, but also an almost unbounded arrogance in those who had moved from mere `faith' to real, enlightened `knowledge'.(p;1)
Gnostics outwardly profess the teachings of the Church but deviously strive to subvert them to their "secret" or "higher" knowledge. Here then is your first clue that some group or teacher is Gnostic.
Clue 1: They introduce a "higher knowledge" that is accessible to "the more spiritual." In our own era, this "higher gnosis" is expressed as "ascetic theology." While our new Gnostics are careful not to put it into actual words, for them this higher "ascetic theology" overrides the "theological theology" of the Church. The elite "special knowledge" (in this case a special "ascetic theology") is a lens through which the Gnostic reinterprets the doctrines of the Church and distorts them in order to subtly introduce their own concepts and understandings.
Balthasar points out:
Always in the background was the fundamental dogma of Gnosticism
the belief that the lower, material sphere, the `flesh', the world of the `psychic', was contemptible, something to be vanquished, while the higher spiritual world was all that was excellent, the only thing worth cultivating. (p.1)
Clue 2: The introduction of an "invisible world" which is separate from and/or opposed to the "visible world."
Only those with an elitist "secret knowledge," those illuminati of the "invisible world," know its secrets. Among the delusions of this Gnostic elite, one finds fanciful, sometimes quite carnal descriptions of the Garden of Eden. They assert that Eden exists in an invisible realm, filled with fruit that does not rot or decay, and other sensual/mystical ideas. This notion of opposing visible (material) and invisible (spiritual) worlds is a form of "dualism." Gnostics are essentially dualists whose fundamental concept arose from the ancient Persian religion of Zoroaster. All Gnostics are dualists.
Clue 3: Dualism. Gnostics create dualisms in every realm.
While those who infiltrate the Orthodox Church do not openly teach a dualistic idea of God (a good deity and a bad deity), they do elevate the authority of Satan and demons to the level of demi-gods which have authority to judge human souls, even to override God's mercy, the indwelling Holy Spirit and Christ's work on the cross. They can "drag souls down to hell" even before Christ has had an opportunity to judge them, and even before the Second Coming and the Last Judgment, even though this is a notion condemned by the holy fathers (See for example, St. Mark of Ephesus, Ten Discourses Against Purgatory).
Clue 4: Dangerous journey of the soul after death.
Balthasar observes of the Gnostics, "What mattered most was the knowledge that ensured spiritual power: the timetable for all the soul's journeys in the hereafter, the ground plan and genealogy of all the cosmic spheres, the key to the riddles of nature, the knowledge of all the powers holding sway between earth and heaven..."
In the "aerial tollhouse" myth, the demigod demons have authority to judge and condemn souls and keep them from even approaching Christ for His judgment. They have the power to usurp Christ's authority, even though scripture clearly says that "all power in heaven and earth has been given to Him". The idea that the soul can be judged, rewarded or punished without the body is a doctrine refuted and condemned by a whole host of the holy fathers.
While the most complete astral plane/aerial toll house teaching was developed in Mesopotamia by the Mandaean Gnostics, the Bogomils, Paulicians and all varieties of Manichaeans taught a developed system of demonic judgement stations
aerial tollhouses. It was primarily through the Bogomils, who had a huge following even in Constantinople in the 8th - 9th centuries, that the aerial tollhouse heresy spread into the Orthodox world. (see for example, the Tale of Basil the New; Study of a Gnostic Document, Synaxis Press, 1999).
The bibliography and appendices in The Tale of Basil the New and The Soul, the Body and Death (Synaxis Press, 1995) will provide the patristic references necessary to follow up these matters. Balthasar deals only with St. Irenaeus of Lyons, but provides a powerful compendium against Gnosticism in his volume.