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This is a journal intended to inspire reformation among the Slavic diaspora in the English-speaking world. As such, it is consciously worldview-oriented and dedicated towards building a better future upon the solid ground of orthodox [proper] Christian faith and practice. We believe that truly sustainable reforms in the greater society begin through personal conviction, re-establishing family cohesion and a vibrant Church around which faithful communities develop. May you be blessed by the truths conveyed herein. Amen

Reformation, Revolution, & Relocation

November 1, 2017
by George

To self-aware Protestants, today is known as Reformation Day. But by now, I will assume that most professing Christians (even those indoctrinated in godless State schools like I myself once was) in the Divided States of America have at least heard that today is the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

It began on Oct. 31, with Martin Luther’s 95 thesis against indulgences practiced by Roman Catholics (which was the sale of salvation, in effect). He went on to translate the Scriptures into the common German language so that people could read and understand for themselves how the Papists had twisted the Word.

Hence Sola Scriptura – Scripture alone, was regarded as the sole authority that had the ultimate power to bind the conscience. From which came the 5 Solas of the Reformation.

Although intending to reform the Roman church initially, the result was a formation of a new church (now known as Lutheran) due to Rome’s refusal to repent. Other reformers followed suit, leading to the founding of other Protestant denominations, among them Anglican, Presbyterian, etc., and on to the Puritan congregations of New England – would-be America.

Which is where I find myself today, a naturalized citizen of the States of America, coming as a refugee with my family escaping the USSR after it’s collapse in 1989. With a bunch of other immigrants from Soviet lands who settled across the Protestant world in the America’s and Europe.

We chose America because we thought it was still Christian, specifically Protestant, at that time. But I guess you can say we were a bit shortsighted. Neither we nor most Americans knew what it truly meant to even be Protestant anymore – justification by faith alone, the priesthood of all believers, and other great Reformed ideas had all but been forgotten.

Despite the indisputable fact that these and other Reformed principles led to limitations on State power (Lex Rex as opposed to Rex Lex), separation of Powers, and modern forms of representative government (Constitutional Republics) which allow for religious toleration (within Christendom). This was not unlimited, for any sane person should be able to realize that a common worldview has to be present to keep a nation united – religious orthodoxy being the most foundational issue was considered self-evident.

Martin Luther before the corrupt Papal State establishment upholding God’s Law

We are prone to memory lapse. So much for the common Biblical admonition to REMEMBER. It was constantly repeated throughout the Old Testament, aided by memorials and historical markers.

But this is also a casualty of Scriptural illiteracy (a vice that united the Reformation with the pursuit of Biblical translations into common languages). Now we have Bibles’ more accessible than Kleenex, and for the same reason it seems – to blow our noses with in case it’s necessary.

But scarcely a Christian knows what’s in it – the Protestant has become the Roman Catholic of the pre-Reformation era. For a different reason, perhaps. It’s no longer due to its archaic Latin which only the Papists’ knew. Now it’s the busy pace of life in pursuit of the American Dream, funded by the almighty dollar (debt) – never mind that the Bible compares debt to slavery.

It’s quite impossible to love the Jesus you don’t know (because you have never read the Word become flesh). Reformers considered it idolatrous to trust in a man-defined God (in that time of the Roman flavor). Today the State religion (secular humanism) has it’s own version – He is subservient to autonomous man, working through the State, which determines everything from the beginning of life to the end. Marriage, gender, education, taxation, & everything else falls somewhere in between.

This is what we call Statist idolatry. We have replaced the Roman tyranny which forbade non-Latin Bibles with an American version – D.C., where idols to the FED are worshipped by the faithful the saints were in Rome. Traded the Holy Roman Empire for the patriotic American one, which sells salvation by democracy instead of indulgences. Not to mention abortion and pornography.

 

One State under God – if only it still was.

There has been a steady decline in Reformed theology in America since the Puritans, especially outside of the Bible belt, or South roughly. Most Christians have accepted a not-so-new form of idolatry once again – worshipping the State as God and therefore, the agent of social change.

But as Jonathan Harris notes, “social change through government action was not mandated by God. Only the application of divine justice according to the boundaries set in Scripture.” Getting this wrong puts us in the same camp as the Soviet Communists, regardless of our intentions.

If Biblical religion does not unite us, then anything else will do. John C. Calhoun observed in 1850 that “the cords that bind the States . . . are [in large part] spiritual or ecclesiastical.” As was the case ever since the Reformation and beforehand, in regards to Nation-States as well.

Lenin depicted as a Socialist Savior instituting Man’s Law

An example of one familiar to those of the Slavic diaspora is Russia and other Slavic nations which were officially of the Eastern Orthodox faith before the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. Just like Roman Catholic Western Europe (pre-Reformation) and the Protestant States of America, Eastern Europe was united by the ecclesiastical bonds of Orthodoxy.

Until the Bolshevik Revolution, known to Slavic historians as Октябрьская (October), by the month. This year should also be an important anniversary for us in this regard, though not to be celebrated like the Reformation, but mourned. An ideology that killed up to 100 million people. Yet it was the inevitable result of failure to reform according to God’s Word.

There were small-scale attempts at change in the Orthodox world as well, but knowledge of Scripture was low and biblical illiteracy widespread. This led to a colossal tragedy from which the East hasn’t quite recovered still. Which is why I, like many of my Slavic expatriates, made our abode in the States, where Protestantism was given lip service at least.

If we would just remember our history as Protestants, and not forget the Bolshevik one either, we could take some much needed lessons for today. A day in which the very identity of image-bearers is being bombarded by the new establishment directly through child sacrifice (abortion) and sexual anarchy (HomoLesBiTry). The kids in State schools don’t even know their gender anymore, if that’s not a clue.

If there are Slavic Protestants who are willing to continue the Reformation, even while in ‘exile,’ i suggest we take these aspects of modern reality into account, and consider the following:

First of all, Remember the courage of the Reformers, who took the steps of faith – over troubled water for sure, but upon a solid bridge (Christ’s Word). Besieged, perhaps, but still unshakeable.

Learn the doctrine of the lesser magistrate, developed in the Reformation era when the faithful at Magdeburg, Germany refused to back down to the ‘Holy Roman Empire,’ appealing to their just cause through the right of lesser magistrates to resist a tyrannical greater – in their case Charles V.

This leads to a necessary renunciation of radical pacifist beliefs – that we can never oppose civil magistrates with force. The Reformation would not have survived if that was their view.

Misapplying “And ye shall know the truth, and truth shall set ye free.”

Return education to its proper jurisdiction – the family. Parents are responsible for training their children, first of all in biblical literacy and development of a thoroughly Christian worldview. Economics and other knowledge is a part of that, not the other way around. Martin Luther himself expressed his biblically reasoned disapproval of delegating this power unworthily – “I am afraid that the schools will prove the very gates of hell, unless they diligently labor in explaining the Holy Scriptures and engraving them in the heart of the youth.”

The path before us is seen quite starkly when we consider these two anniversaries that so radically changed the world we know – the Protestant Reformation of 1517 and Bolshevik Revolution of 1917.

~ Author: Yuriy Popko, born in the USSR (modern-day Ukraine), is a naturalized Slavic immigrant to the States since 1991. After residing in California for over 20 years, he and his family moved to the Republic of Texas, where they currently live, appreciating the greater affordability & opportunities available. 

Pastor Matthew Trewhella. The Reformation was Almost Crushed 470 Years Ago. Retrieved from: https://lessermagistrate.com/01/Magdeburg500.pdf

The Antebellum South in the Reformation Tradition. By Jonathan Harris on Oct 30, 2017. Retrieved from:

The Antebellum South in the Reformation Tradition

When Church [Trans]plants Wither

November 23, 2016
tags:
by George

Every Christian must have a mental picture of the ideal local Church – a gathering place of the ‘called-out ones’ (ecclesia).

Old, white country church

Old, white country church with stained-glass windows

Mine would likely resemble something similar to this picture. A bit of old world charm and simplicity mixed with an escape from the harsh, cold reality of the post-modern western society we live in.

But I would be quick to point out the flaws in my own reasoning concerning this. For God has not called us out of the world to escape it, but rather the opposite – to reform it. We are to be in the world, though not of it.

Meaning not operating by the principles of fallen mankind, but by the ones revealed in the Scriptures. Yet we ourselves are recovering idolaters – coming from a background of State supremacy as Slavic immigrants from the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), and our children are besieged by humanist propaganda all around them – and within.

And that is the fundamental reality we ought to come to realize so as to not return to the gulag.

I love history. It portrays the consistent backdrop of human depravity on display for all to witness. If it even remotely states the facts, then it is practically impossible to miss the message of our need for a Savior.

Of course, He has already come. And His Kingdom with Him. It begins within all who receive Him and is visible among His followers, the Church. Eventually it will be made manifest to all.

But even sincere Christians often hinder the revelation of Christ’s present enthronement by not developing a consistent worldview and growing in knowledge of His will. When I first read the entire Bible (initially out of obedience) I had some faulty interpretations based upon my personal upbringing being projected on the Word. I didn’t question the doctrines of my childhood faith because I saw the sincerity of belief and the good works of many holding to this denominational viewpoint (Pentecostal).

The more times I read the Holy Bible, however, and became acquainted with Church history and thought, the more I started seeing that there were more consistent and justifiable interpretations of some passages and verses I had accepted as a baby Christian. I realized traditions can be good, but also need to be examined in the light of Scripture. This was before I studied the Protestant Reformation more thouroughly. Eventually I realized I was breaking tradition with some of the traditions that I had been raised in.

I remember hearing as a younger child who spent much time in church services, how we (the evangelical Slavic refugees who had overcome Soviet persecution) must have been sent here to the west to revive its faith. There was a recognition of the fact that the Christian character of the United States of America had been waning for awhile. And I was filled with awe and purpose by the works of God.

Twenty year later, I look back and see that there is not much the Slavic immigration wave of the 1990’s has saved here. On the contrary, it is more likely to hear among them now that, whereas their children were preserved despite the Soviet propaganda, they have been defecting the churches in significant proportions lately.

Instead of being like another Plymouth plantation, the church transplant has seemingly withered in a prosperous land. Don’t get me wrong – the Slavic evangelical community has become quite prosperous. The land of opportunity has not been a disappointment in this regard. But the character of the people has suffered, I find. What could be the reason for this?

I have an idea: instead of growing in faith, the knowledge of God, and developing a more consistently

The Church must know what it believes & confess it

The Church must know what it believes & confess it

Christian worldview (continuing biblical reformation) we have become complacent. Like other Christians who sought refuge in the land of the pilgrims’ pride. The local churches may increase in number, but decrease in quality. Everyone searches for his own ideal escape.

But few are willing to change themselves and build the Church by continuing in the reformation tradition. We are largely comfortable where we are at, even though the culture around us is deteriorating and our society may collapse into relativistic chaos. Because many churches are themselves unaware of God’s systematic truth and remain pietist, so how can it be otherwise?

Granted, some people are getting out of their comfort zones. Slavic evangelicals are moving away from the west coast mainly due to the inconveniences of socialism (which they ironically didn’t resist). Reasons include impracticably high cost of living, restrictions on parental rights, moral decay, etc. But if our churches don’t address the poor theology that leads to this, moving won’t help much other than perhaps buy some time.

Unfortunately, I don’t know of any Slavic churches willing to examine the foundational issues (first within themeselves) and if necessary, then relocate for the advancement of the gospel, as the pilgrims.

Not just to live a bit more comfortably in a less threatening socialist state, but to confront its sinfulness and call it to repentance. And show by example that living biblically is better than stealing from your neighbor and redistributing the wealth. Consider the value of the Protestant work ethic, which was not about luxury or salvation but the godly task of taking dominion over the earth and doing everything for the glory of God.

Being drawn to my idea of the church building (pictured above) is isolationist and selfish. It takes hard work to reform and be reformed according to the Scriptures. But otherwise our churches will continue to wither in the midst of abundance and plenty, after withstanding the fiery storm and drought of the anti-Christian Soviet experiment. And the abundance won’t last here either if we continue to abandon its godly source.

So I am ready to say farewell to my comfortable white church with stained glass windows, and join other believers for the sake of a church transplant that doesn’t seek to escape society or conform to it, but rather intends to be transformed by the Word and in turn reform the culture as a light in its midst.

Christian reformers are welcome to join my family in this worthwhile endeavor.

Ukraine: How should Sacramento’s Christian Diaspora react?

September 6, 2014
by George

Most people who live in Sacramento, California know that there is a significant Slavic diaspora here. By some estimations, it numbers approximately 50,000, of which the plurality is Ukrainian, with Russian immigrants a close second. Both groups and likely other Slavic minorities in the State’s capital region emigrated here as religious refugees. I know, because my family was one of them. We came in 1991, soon after a wave of immigration began following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989.

25 year anniversary

25 year anniversary of Slavic immigration to Sacramento, California – Yuriy Popko

Regardless of which part of the USSR we or our parents came from, we hold a common bond, and I’m not referring to ethnicity. That’s obvious. We often all get lumped together and labeled “Russian” because we look alike in many ways, and Russia is the largest Slavic country. I was often addressed this way, especially throughout the school years, and I didn’t mind it so much, although many of my Ukrainian friends objected (I’m sure you can guess why now). But there’s something else that should bind us even closer together than our familial blood – and that is a common faith. Read more…

Here’s a Way to Support Ukraine:

March 16, 2014
by George

Recently, while considering how to help Ukraine in it’s struggle for independence, I was inspired with a unique idea: I designed this cloth patch in the form of a badge which can be sewn onto just about anything, such as clothing, backpacks, etc., and worn or displayed as a symbol of reliance upon the Supreme Ruler of the World for the preservation of Ukraine. It depicts the Ukrainian coat of arms symbol, the Trident, which developed over the course of the nation’s thousand year history of Christian influence. The two mirrored letters ‘B’ forming the outside designate Christ as King of kings, the central cross (from Kherson in Crimea) within the Holy Trinity. In a fascinating way the letters could also spell out ‘воля’ which means will, freedom or liberty. If you would like to make a donation of at least $5 to support efforts to promote a Christian reformation and bring hope to the Ukrainian people in the midst of the unpredictable events happening in their country, I will gladly send you this as a souvenir for your contribution. Thank you for supporting freedom around the world!

The Ukrainian coat of arms with inscription: God save (Ukrainian liberty)

The Ukrainian coat of arms with inscription: God save (Ukrainian faith and liberty) – Yuriy Popko

A Response to Slavic Protestant Silence on the Crisis in Ukraine

March 3, 2014
by George

The Real Olympic Games

       I have to make a confession: sometimes I act like a complacent American citizen. Although I was born in Ukraine (before it’s independence from the Soviet Union in 1991) I haven’t followed its politics much. In fact, I have to admit that I was watching some of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, while half-way across the globe in my former country a revolution was taking place. To be sure, it was still nonviolent for most of the duration of the Olympic Games. It’s when people started dying in the streets of Kiev that my attention was sharply diverted to my birth country. Trying to put together the facts from both sides of the story, hoping to reconcile them, I watched Russia Today and searched for online news. It was then I realized Russia hasn’t changed much despite the collapse of the USSR. References to thousands of protesters as right-wing extremists and nationalists were obscured as I looked upon young and old faces of different social classes, ordinary men and women out praying together, providing medical aid for the injured, feeding the hungry, and helping each other in the midst of the chaos unleashed upon the Maidan. It reminded me of The Soviet Story, a documentary (2008) about Europe’s most brutal regime, which exterminated 20 million people by some approximations. Russia is the heir of the USSR, and Vladimir Putin, a former KGB agent himself, isn’t just interested in any games. He knows how to wage a public relations campaign, many noting this years Olympic Games as an attempt to showcase the new, modern Russia. But even the extravagance of the Olympics couldn’t absolve him of the past. It’s not that easy to forget tyranny, especially for Ukraine.

Read more…