The Greatest Challenge (I Think)

A little while ago I posed the question:

“In the next 20 years, what do you think will be the greatest challenge faced by the Coptic Orthodox Church?”

Your comments have been most interesting, as have your votes on the poll (still open at:

http://www.stbishoy.org.au/modules/xoopspoll/pollresults.php?poll_id=3 )

Well, here’s my 2 cents’ worth…

I have little doubt that each of those issues I mentioned in the blog will pose a challenge that will need to be met by the Church in coming decades. Some will be more dangerous than others, but the most serious one to my mind; the one that threatens to destroy the very fabric and meaning of the Church is the challenge of Atheism.

For the last 1,700 years, the Christian Church of Alexandria has lived in a society that believed in God in some form or other. From the Edict of Milan in 313AD, when the Emperor Constantine declared Christianity legal and brought an end to the persecution of Christians by pagans; through the post-Chalcedonian period (451-642AD) when Chalcedonian Christians ruled Egypt; and into the Islamic period where the Muslim rulers and eventually the majority Muslim population still worshipped the Muslim Allah, we have always lived in a society that has taken deity for granted.

At the dawn of the 21st century, however, we face a situation that presents unique challenges. What is new is that the whole mindset of Western society is changing. I have written before on WHY atheism is irrational, but here I would like to focus on the subtle effects that the spread of atheism is beginning to have on the society around us.

Firstly, there is no fear of God, nor love of God to impose limits to human behaviour. If there is no objective moral law, no Lawgiver to obey, then life becomes a free-for-all. Societies without faith will obey the law of the land, but only through self-interest; so long as it is good for them or for those close to them. But what stops the rogue individual from “playing the system”? Why not cheat or steal for personal gain, even if it means that others lose? It makes perfect logical sense in an atheistic society to steal $10 from a 100,000 people. Each of the victims suffers little harm but I become a millionaire! Of course, if everybody thought like that society would collapse, but there is no MORAL reason not to do it. The question only becomes “can I get away with it?” not “Is this right?”

Selfishness is attractive. Even today we continue to fight against materialism among our Church flock. And yet deep down, I think most Christians acknowledge that the Christian faith is, in the words of its Founder, “not of this world”. Thus do we fast and keep vigil and give away our hard earned money to those less fortunate than we are. Thus do we share our blessings with one another and contribute to the community both within and without Church. But then you always have that little devil whispering in your ear … enjoy yourself … forget about anyone else … you are not responsible … The day that selfishness infiltrates the Church it will become a terminal case, for love is the heart of the Church, but selfishness is love’s cardiac arrest.

Where there is no God, selfishness becomes the rule. Those who adhere to an atheistic evolutionary origin of humanity state this clearly. “Survival of the Fittest” is guiding principle of evolutionary theory. Each individual lives in order to survive and reproduce copies of itself – that is the driving force behind life. An interesting scientific concept, but what if it becomes a philosophy of moral life? Although some have questioned it, it seems to me that this was very much the philosophy underlying the greatest human catastrophes of modern history.

Adolf Hitler’s genocide of the Jews was publicly backed by the propaganda of the superior Aryan race: the fittest deserve to survive, the unfit should die. Today, rational western minds fight for the right to kill the disabled foetus (abortion) and the sick adult (euthanasia). These are a burden on society, so why should they drag the species down and consume resources that fitter individuals must give up? Why should we waste our time on them? We seem to be heading for what the Catholic Pope John Paul II aptly called the “Culture of Death”.

Can you see how different this mindset is to that of Christ? For the Christian, life is not about survival, it is about sacrifice; not selfishness, but selflessness; not utility, but love. Can Christians maintain the Christian mindset while engaging in a secular society that is moving farther and farther away from that way of thinking?

For the moment, the gap is not so great, for western societies like Australia were founded on deeply ingrained Christian ideals. Today’s critics of Christianity usually fail to acknowledge this debt. But that is slowly changing. If Christian faith is thrown out, how long will Christian ideals and values hold on without the faith to sustain them?

Having said all of that, if history has taught us anything it is that tomorrow is always full of surprises. Who would have predicted the incredible changes that computers have wrought in our lives a hundred years ago? Perhaps there is some other challenge lying undetected and waiting to jump out and change the rules.

And so, with even our best efforts to be prepared, we find that in the end, we have no other course but to continue to throw ourselves upon the mercy and care of our loving Lord from day to day.

Fr Ant

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7 Replies to “The Greatest Challenge (I Think)”

  1. Dear father and alll….great and in real depth thoughts…. forgive me father just let us look at the big picture of Christianity in our world today …let us put all the above mentioned facts of current Christians and Christianity in one side of the coin and let us look at the other side of the coin in that big picture !! in the other side of the coin which i believe it is factual as well that a lot of people with different believes they come to Jesus every day … today heaps of people enter Christianity on daily basis ..so the bottom line in that big picture that those who are those who are already inside the green paddocks of God are struggling to last to the end and inherit eternal life while those who are coming from other believes into the green paddocks of the Lord on daily basis are determined to last long till the end to inherit eternal life , they found the real meaningful God …truly as our lord said in his great news the bible that FIRST WILL BE LAST AND LAST WILL BE FIRST … WHO LAST TO THE END INHERIT ETERNAL LIFE …THE NEED ONLY FOR ONE AND ONLY ONE !!!! anyhow in our church in this part of the world , atheism might be one of those underlined causes , might be our identity ” cultural war ” with consequences of lack of love , lack of trust , lack of acceptance , lack of interest etc. but i believe at the end of the day ,it comes under the big umbrella of ATTITUDE AND OUR WAY OF LIFE AS CHRISTIAN PEOPLE WITH CHRISTIAN MEANINGFUL VALUES …may the holy spirit guide us all and strengthen us to last to the end and inherit eternal life amen …

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  2. Pray for me Abouna,

    I thought you might like the following quotes 🙂

    On the selfishness of materialism,

    “We are survival machines- robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes. Our genes made us. We animals exist for their preservation and are nothing more than throwaway survival machines. The world of the selfish gene is one of savage competition, ruthless exploitation, and deceit.”- River Out of Eden: a Darwanian View of Life. Richard Darwkins.

    “It would be very difficult to explain why the universe should have begun in just this way, except as the act of a God who intended to create beings like us. ” (Stephen Hawkings, A Brief History of Time)

    “The best data we have are exactly what I would have predicted, had I nothing to go on but the five books of Moses, the Psalms, the Bible as a whole.” (Arno Penzias, Nobel Prize Winner, proved Big Bang Theory by discovering background radiation- “a fossil of the past”)

    “The mathematical probability of God’s existence is just over 62%. So says a German science magazine. P.M. (Peter Mooseleitner’s Magazin) tried to settle the issue by using mathematical formulae devised to determine the plausibility and probability. Researchers started with the hypothesis ‘God exists’ then tried to analyse the evidence in favour or agaisnt the hypothesis in five areas: creation, evolution, good, evil and religious experiences. The scientists applied the formulae to calculate how statistically probable different answers were to questions such as ‘How probable is it that the evolution of life took place without God?’ and ‘How probable is it that God created the Universe?’ Their conclusion will be cheering to many, although not, perhaps, Richard Darwkins.”

    (All quotes were found in The Dawkins Letters- David Robertson; a book I highly recommend. It is a faith-affirming book that is quite well written by a Presbyterian, wide-read, science-literate, English pastor- in my opinion.)

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  3. I read in our current church site about an initiated course for newly married couples to be run in our church …i believe now we started to face the great challenges facing our church and our Australian Coptic Community in this part of the world ..i believe a big revolution in its way in our attitude and way of doing the right thing ……it is great to do the right thing through the right people and right channels ..i believe if our priests as front line spiritual leaders from the whole parish attend as well the benefit will be maximized …..please spread the word so couples intended to marry from other churches to attend and benefit will be maximized …prevention is better than cure …may the holy spirit guide us all to be positive and constructive TO LOOK AFTER THE OTHER AREAS so we do the right thing as Christians focusing all the time on our lord and God Jesus Christ and our great christian values and Christian meaningful way of life ,amen ..

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  4. One of the important ares of church challenge in this part of the world is the awareness and education of COMMUNICATION among the whole community vertically from the top to bottom and horizontally across all partnership members of this community …oh pal communication problems causes a lot of problems such loss of interest , loss of motivation , lack of self esteem , lack of trust , lack of acceptance , and you name it it can pull down not only families but big organizations …. the cycle of our communication in our church among parents , children , confession or spiritual guiding fathers , bishop and the clergies and all these among themselves …oh God a lot of players and if anything goes wrong even misunderstanding with good faith it can cause big disaster ??!!! let us start with our ritual confession procedure , it is Advice “decision “verses Guideness “options “??!! our priests advice people what to do which has got big negative impact on our youth as our adults …the decision which made for them by our confession father they do not have any control on it , no responsibility and no accountability at the end of the day ..besides if something goes wrong the blaming game starts , oh mate the priest or the bishop told me to do so and so ….i believe it is time we need to look at those things seriously to build a healthy community ..we have to make sure that the options which the confession father guide the confessor not to be in conflict with the options of the relevant confessor parents specially in non spiritual aspects ??!! a lot of scenarios in our real life ???!! parents have got enough problems in language gap or age gap or might be education gap etc. so we do not want more to be added to them from somewhere else …may our lord Jesus Christ guide us all to help and support one another and above all love one another , amen … please when a despert member from a community looking for a priest please make yourself available …please also if you are following a topic for any person please as a matter of courtesy feed back to them …we must practice what we preach !!!???

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  5. The other day i came across one of those real honest people of our church , one of those who do a lot of good work to our community church behind the scenes , he mentioned something very important and urgent i believe our community in need for it under education and awareness program and that he suggested that as far as the church started a compulsory course for new marriage couples why not to be a compulsory medical check as well for them to go parallel with it ???!! he said if we look at the statistics of our failed marriages due to medical backgrounds “physical and mental ” is scary…from here i would say it is a wise approach if we could implement this medical program in this part of the world specially it will cost nothing so no additional financial burden for this check to be done by the couples , so at the end of the day we work all of us in the strategy of “PREVENTION BETTER THAN TREATMENT AND HIT THE SIN AND NOT THE SINNER “, may our lord give all our church community members with our priests and our bishop the wisdom to approach all our issues of concerns , we encourage every honest person who loves God from all own heart and love thy neighbor as thyself to work positively and constructively to praise the name of our lord all the time by our life … oh mate , little things with care and love are great in front of the eyes of God , you do not need to do big things …

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  6. most of our aging people in our community had a high expectation of a nursing home to be build up by our Coptic community in this part of the world …that dream was dreamed with our late father Mina Nematalla “God bless his soul ” and planned in Archangel Church , where do we stand from all this ???!! elderly Coptes understand that the church under pressure of some debits but they believe it could pay itself by itself by the federal government subsidy ???!!on the other hand these days the Coptic community heard about decisions already made without any consultation with the broad community and out of the blue moon about a house will be built up by our church Coptic community for the consecrated ladies ???!! already i believe few of them around and we believe serving and visiting the sick , look after the distressed , preach the bible , visit the widows as they do in Egypt , great spiritual job needed by our community ??!! however ,nobody heard about those houses before for those consecrated brothers or consecrated ladies as they do serve their Coptic community in Egypt while they are staying at their own homes and no community or church took commitment of their accommodations ???!! if one day our lord wants us to build a monastery for the sisters who we do not have any currently , let” HIS WILL BE “, it would be great , we never know our children might do that in this part of the world >>>>

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  7. It was introduced recently in our Coptic church in Sydney in the west “not sure if uniform in all churches ” a great compulsory program of a course for those couples who are intending to merry under our awareness and education programs which we have seen them activated a lot of such programs recently in the western areas of Sydney such bible studies etc. thanks to all those honest people who are working behind the scenes , great stuff all over the place …back to our issue that couple of days course of “prevention better than cure ” for those who are intending to get married , just it had been mentioned in a couple of announcements so far after Sunday,s regular announcements and i believe most of those who wants to take the step forward to do it are not sure of what is what ??? some they work on Saturdays as well ???!! we wonder if our church discussed the advantages and disadvantages of this course , its long term benefits, checked the concerns of those who want to tie the knot of this great Church sacrament ??? nothing as usual in our local media Spring of love and Elmanara as usual, they are busy with news of our mother church of Egypt and politics which everybody is getting in CTV and Agapy tv channels, pls have mercy on us and do not waste our resources and time, make use of these media for the benefit of our church in this part of the world ??!! we wonder if that issue of our proposed course discussed in our local youth meetings to encourage the participation in this great beneficial course which will equip them initially with a lot of skills in their coming holy joined event ????!! we learned in life that usualy in school and college we learn lessons and then we go and face the exams but in our big school “LIFE ” we face the exams and then we learn the lessons , so pals do not learn the lessons the hard way, prevention better than treatment and go and register in the course and learn more skills …may our lord guide us all and give us the wisdom to do the right thing …

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