The Christian nationalism behind Putin’s war

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In October 2015, Russia’s newly launched military intervention in defense of embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad received a clerical blessing. Patriarch Kirill, the powerful leader of the Russian Orthodox Church and a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, declared the operation “a responsible decision to use military forces to protect the Syrian people from the woes brought on by the tyranny of terrorists.”

The main spokesman for Kirill’s church went even further: “The fight with terrorism is a holy battle and today our country is perhaps the most active force in the world fighting it,” said the head of the church’s public affairs department, Vsevolod Chaplin, in a quote reported by Interfax news agency.

Seven years later, Kirill and his loyal clergy now deliver sermons about their country’s role in another righteous, holy battle. It doesn’t matter that many Ukrainians weathering the brunt of the Russian war machine are Kirill’s co-congregants — there are some 12,000 parishes in Ukraine subject to the church in Moscow. As Russia embarks on a new large-scale offensive in the east of the country, Kirill has articulated little concern about the millions of Ukrainian lives hanging in the balance. Read More …

Opinion: The Great Schism. On July 16, 1054, Patriarch of Constantinople Michael Cerularius was excommunicated, starting the “Great Schism” that created the two largest denominations in Christianity—the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox.

There are approx. 90 million Russian Orthodox members that are a branch of Eastern Orthodoxy which has 220 million baptized believers in eastern Europe, Greece, and the Caucasus.

In many ways the Russian branch is similar to the Catholic Church:

  • God revealed Himself in Jesus Christ, and a belief in the incarnation of Christ, His crucifixion and resurrection
  • Devotion to Mary is considered an important element of Christian spirituality
  • Affirms the real presence in consecrated bread and wine, which they believe to be the actual body and blood of Jesus
  • The Trinity is made up of three distinct Persons

The differences:

  •  Opposed to the Roman Catholic doctrine of papal supremacy
  • The Orthodox Church does not believe in purgatory
  • The vast majority of Orthodox parish clergy are married men
  •  Like Roman Catholics and some mainline Protestants, the Eastern Orthodox view the Rapture as heretical teaching of the Christian faith
  • Like Roman Catholicism, and many main-line Protestant denominations, Eastern Orthodox has a disturbing level of anti-Semitism source

In Chapter 3 of Bible Prophecy 101 (here) we defined three main divisions in Christian theology:

Replacement Theology: God replaced the blessings to Abraham Isaac and Jacob with the church

Amillennialism: The Church doesn’t replace Israel; the Church is Israel and Israel is the Church (Galatians 6:16). All people who exercise the same faith as Abraham are part of the covenant people of God (Galatians 3:25-29).

Dispensationalism: here is a theological difference between Israel and the Church. Scripture is to be interpreted by the literal method unless the text itself mentions a figurative or symbolic interpretation. The underlying purpose of God in this world is His glory.

While there are many sub-divisions in each category, Russian Orthodoxy, of which Vladimir Putin is known to be a member, fits in with a combination of Replacement Theology and Covenant Theology.

What is interesting about Vladimir Putin, however, is that he is known to be sympathetic to Jews and the nation of Israel, which, if Putin is the prophesied Gog of Ezekiel 38-39, gives us an understanding as to the meaning of Ezekiel 38:3-4 NIV:

“This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against you, Gog, chief prince of[b] Meshek and Tubal. I will turn you around, put hooks in your jaws and bring you out with your whole army—your horses, your horsemen fully armed, and a great horde with large and small shields, all of them brandishing their swords.”