Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Review: The Judas Syndrome by Thomas Colyandro

Since finishing this book last week I have mulled over this review for quite a while. There isn't much for me to say but I'd like to cover a few things I liked about it and a few things I didn't. There are also two points in the book I found to be, at best, ambiguous.

The idea behind the Judas Syndrome is that old heresies have once again reared their ugly heads to attack the Church again. That is absolutely true. It is called the "Judas Syndrome" by the author because its perpetrators have exchanged the truth for something else. (In Judas' case, it was money.)

Thomas Colyandro has covered the bases here by talking about:

  • Gnosticism/Docetism (Scientologists)
  • Arianism (Jehovah's Witnesses, Unitarians)
  • Pelagianism (American individualistic society)
  • Iconoclasm (society taking down Christmas displays, churches that don't look like churches)
  • Macedonianism (New Age Movement)
  • Origenism (Modern secularism)
  • Messalianism (Buddhists, Quakers, Pentecostals)

When I opened the book I expected to read a lot about these new incarnations of old heresies. I wanted to know the ins and outs of Jehovah's Witnesses and their Arianism. I wanted to read examples of modernist iconoclasts. But what I got was page after page of review material about the original errors, their founders, and Church teaching against them. Near the end of each chapter there is a page or two about the new version of the heresy. But the brunt of the text deals with the Church teaching against the original heresy. I struggled to get through the book because the application of the premise frustrated me.

But its not a bad book. It just wasn't for me. If someone out there has perchance heard of these heresies but doesn't know anything about them then it provides a great overview of seven major problem areas in the early Church. The information is good and thorough but not heady at all which means the average layman can pick up the book with ease. The language used is very plain spoken and conversational in style. I also like the idea of expounding on Church teaching by pointing out the errors of her wayward children.

Scripture verses and Church Father commentary are provided throughout. I skipped a lot (almost all) of the Scripture references completely because they were very familiar to me. For the beginner, especially a lay Catholic who doesn't know the Bible very well at all, having them along with the text is a plus. Let's face it, many Catholics simply do not know the Bible well no matter how many times we're told the 3 year Lectionary cycle at Mass is infinitely superior to the traditional one. Being a bit more knowledgeable, I would have been much happier with just simple footnotes. A good compromise would be an appendix with the verses written out.

There were two sections in this book which gave me pause. Here is the first:

"When the believer faithfully follows Jesus Christ, the fearful experience of evil and sin is transformed into acts of love and obedience. In this way, the believer may look forward to death. In addition however, we believe that our prayers for the dead are effective in God's eternity. Even though we do not believe people can willingly change after death, we do believe our prayers assist sinners before the judgment seat of Christ. In this way, we believers have the confidence that even unbelievers will have hope in death."

Page 111 - Chapter 7: Origenism Ignoring the Last Judgment

We do? I read that last sentence when I was in the adoration chapel. I read it several times but I could not square it with Catholic doctrine. There is nowhere in Church doctrine which I know of that says we can pray non-believers into heaven after they have died. If an unbeliever dies without the state of grace they cannot possibly have hope in death. Also there is no "hope" in heaven since there is no need and there is no "hope" in hell because those there know they aren't getting out. The only place after death that hope may be possible is in purgatory (and I'm not sure how to put that theologically). Our prayers for those souls go to repay their debt not put them in a state of grace - which they are already in.

Perhaps though there is an orthodox reading of the text. I cannot imagine this author, who seems otherwise orthodox, meant to put an error in his book about heresy. If by "hope in death" he means that our prayers can lessen their punishments or torments in hell then I think its possible. The reason I mention this is that just below his paragraph, Mr. Colyandro quotes St. John Crysostom who does not say we can save the sinner (rather that we weep for him) but that maybe our prayers can do a little good for them.

The other line that made me wince was right at the end. In the chapter Liturgy - The Antidote to the Judas Syndrome, Mr. Colyandro writes that the "ancient Eucharistic Churches have maintained the true faith since the time of Christ." Its just not true. The heresies he just wrote about were almost all Eastern and sometimes, if not often, were led by their Patriarchs. We in fact as Catholics do not believe the Orthodox even today to have the "true faith". Otherwise we would be in communion.

Other than these two very small parts of the book I think it is a good introduction to the old heresies which have indeed returned and always will. I would be interested to see what else the author has in store in the future.

1 comment:

Adeodatus49 said...

Let's face it, many Catholics simply do not know the Bible well no matter how many times we're told the 3 year Lectionary cycle at Mass is infinitely superior to the traditional one.

A Continuing Anglican bishop friend of mine once referred to the 3 yr. Lectionary, not unreasonably, as "three times the amount of Sacred Scripture; one-third the understanding."

"The whole truth is generally the ally of virtue; a half-truth is always the ally of some vice." - G.K. Chesterton