A Note from Archbishop Lazar:

[Editorial Note: "A Note From Archbishop Lazar" is posted so that no one can deny that we try to balance our understandings with oppossing views such as Archbishop Lazar's.  Archbishop Lazar was never one who appreciated Father Seraphim Rose to begin with and understandably, he has taken up the cross to crucify him as many have done not only with Father Rose, but most especially Saint John Maximovitch (Wonderworker).  Lest they forget, that what he and they claim as a  "tollhouse doctrine" was never truly promulgated as a 'doctrine' but an an allegorical understanding which even Father Rose pointed out via Father C., the author of the book on Father Rose "Not of this World".  Even I, the editor, having known Father Rose briefly in life, having heard from Father Rose's own lips this allegory, was told that it was not a doctrine of the church and that he, himself, could only use picturesque ideas to emphasize what happens to the soul on its way toward heaven.  It was then, as it is now, my understanding that Father Rose was indeed attempting to use an allegory or parable as a means for us in this life to maintain a more circumspect attitude and habit in both prayer and activity so that we would not fall into the trap of the Evil One, especially in these present times of heretical actions by many jurisdictions, the "Correctness Disease" and the present or modern day heresy of that which is synchrestic ecumenism.  While we should 'fear' the wrath of God for our sins, we should also fear the Evil One who is a deciever and will use every means possible to make us stumble both in this life and heavenward when our time comes when our sins will be made manifest by the accuser, the great deceiver. June 12, 2003] 

The heresy at the root of the tollhouse myth is Platonism. The Platonistic view that the human soul is the "person" of man is also shared by most Gnostic sects and has been refuted by the great Fathers of the Church. While I clearly demonstrated this fact in my book The Soul, the Body and Death, it is clear that this heresy is very widespread in the Orthodox Church, and that it is not only the official doctrine of the ROCOR, as witnessed in their official "protocol," but it is also endorsed by Archbishop Chrysostom of Etna. It is astonishing that a man who believes himself to be the only truly "scholarly" thinker in the Orthodox Church does not know that this teaching is a heresy condemned by a host of holy fathers. In response to every writing which disagrees with him Archbishop Chrysostom of Etna rages, "unscholarly! unscholarly!" as if he was the only writer in the Orthodox world who is "scholarly." For him, Fr John Romanides is "unscholarly," Fr Michael Azkoul is "unscholarly," indeed, anyone who disagrees with his pontifications is "unscholarly" [sic]. In his own words, he "Chrysostomises" those who disagree with him, by which he means to justify his Billingsgate style polemic.

That the tollhouse doctrine depends on a clearly heretical doctrine of the nature of man and the relationship between the soul and the body is unquestionable. The fact that the tollhouse heresy also teaches a doctrine of supererogatory merits and contradicts the teachings of fathers such as St Antony the Great, who says:

We ought not to fear the demons or even Satan himself, for he is a liar and speaks not a word of truth...and with him are placed the demons his fellows, like serpents and scorpions to be trodden underfoot by us Christians.

And again:

But if the demons had power not even against the swine, much less have they any over men formed in the image of God. So then we ought t fear God only, and despise the demons, and be in no fear of them.1

Despite the words of St Antony, both the ROCOR and the Archbishop of Etna teach us that we should be in terror of demons. It is well known to me from discussions with the late Bishop Gregory Grabbe that he did not actually believe in the aerial tollhouses, but that he considered fear to be absolutely necessary for salvation and considered the tollhouse tale useful in generating fear. Unfortunately, he accepted the principle of fear of demons rather than the fear of God, because in all our discussions about the subject, he mentioned only the fear of demons and did not mention the fear of God once. I am sure he believed in the fear of God, but it was never clear to me why he believed that the fear of demons was somehow salutory when St Antony the Great says just the opposite. He never did answer me when I posed that question. Nevertheless, in three long conversations with Bishop Gregory about the matter, he never voiced a serious question about the contents of my book, but only said that I should reword some passages since that could lead to a misunderstanding, whereas there was actually nothing wrong with what I was saying.

How widespread the heresy about the nature of man is was brought home to me a few years ago when I was visiting a hierarch in Serbia whom I have known for many years. In the course of a conversation, he remarked that they had translated Dr Alexandre Kalomiros' outstanding work The River of Fire into Serbian. "It is an excellent writing, but we had to omit one thing in the translation. Kalomiros has a strange teaching about the relationship of the soul and body. Where did such an excellent theologian get his heresy about the soul?" I replied, "Perhaps Kalomiros has not read Plato's Phaedros." The reference was lost on the hierarch. He did not understand that I was telling him that Kalomiros was completely correct and Orthodox in his statement, while my Serbian friend was pitting Plato against the Holy Fathers without even realizing it. If the hierarch had read St Gregory Palamas, he might have wondered, "St Gregory is such a good theologian; where then did he get his heresy about the relationship of the soul and the body."

One must accord such errors to the condition of the seminaries in the Orthodox world during the last two or three centuries. I am aware that St Justin Popovic mentions the tollhouses in his work and I am also aware that St Innocent of Alaska accepted, believed and taught the merit doctrine of redemption in his Indication of the Way into the Heavenly Kingdom.2

While presenting direct refutations of the tollhouse doctrine, we must also address the root cause of the heresy, the heretical understanding of the nature of man - a heresy which, according to Bishop Gregory's report, is officially espoused by the ROCOR, and which is evidently among the heresies espoused by the Archbishop of Etna. Incidentally, we cannot help but notice that those who espouse the heretical, Gnostic "tollhouse" doctrine also teach the mentioned heresy against the nature of man and advocate a Gnostic doctrine about marriage and marital relations. It will be noted, as Fr John Romanides points out, that advocates of such Gnostic heresies are almost inevitably fanatical advocates of Augustine of Hippo. We will begin that task here with a superb article by Rev Dr George Papademetriou on Orthodox anthropology.

Incidentally, we are aware that the reference to demons as publicans (toll-collectors) occurs in patristic writings with reference to our struggle with them in this life. Fr Michael Azkoul has discussed this in a rebuttal that occurs earlier on our Website and in a preceding article in the forthcoming book A Continuing Question: the Tollhouse Debate, which contains all this material.

+Archbishop Lazar

(Coming Soon: THE HUMAN BODY ACCORDING TO SAINT GREGORY PALAMAS, by Rev. Dr. George Papademetriou).


1. Both quotations are from The Life of St Antony by Athanasios the Great.

2. It has become customary for translators to edit this heretical doctrine out of the works of St Innocent, although I believe the edition published in ROCOR leaves it in, perhaps innocently, because they did not realize that something was wrong with the teaching.