Essay. Eastern Orthodoxy, part 1

According to one estimate, the Eastern Orthodox Church in America has over six million members, making it the fourth largest religious body in the country. Historically, most Orthodox Americans have been immigrants from eastern European countries (Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, Russia, Ukraine). While this is still the case, the last twenty five years have witnessed a number of high-profile conversions to Orthodoxy. Surprisingly, many of these converts have come from evangelical roots.

Peter Gillquist and other former Campus Crusade for Christ staff members led a group of people into Orthodoxy during the 70’s and 80’s.1 Charles Bell led most of his Vineyard Christian Fellowship congregation into the Eastern church in 1993.2 Perhaps the most high-profile conversion was that of Franky Schaeffer, son of the late Francis Schaeffer, who converted to Eastern Orthodoxy in 1990.3 The trend East hit home in 1995 when a minister of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, the denomination of Machen, Van Til, Murray and Bahnsen, demitted the ministry and converted to Eastern Orthodoxy. Even the thought of such apostasy would not have occurred twenty-five years ago.

Though I do not want to overstate this movement toward the East (it is more of trickle than a flood), it is nevertheless disconcerting to see such a movement emerge. Although it is the provenance of the sociologist to explain the reasons for this trend, one gathers from the testimonial literature of recent converts that prominent is the desire for an older Christian tradition and greater unity of faith. Many, for example, reason that there must be something wrong with Protestantism since it has proliferated to some 23,000 denominations. But perhaps the most cited reason is disgust over the growth-oriented, pop theology that goes on in the name of evangelicalism.4 This shallowness, in turn, results in a feeling of spiritual frustration, leading many to ask themselves, “Isn’t Christianity something more than this?” The question is a good one and their disgust is appreciated. It is their answer that disappoints.

The question is ultimately not one of heritage or personal fulfillment. Neither is it one of how the church influences culture. The Byzantine5 polemic often points to the materialism of the west as a direct result of its overly intellectual theology. Protestants, in turn, can point out that the emphasis on the mystical and other-worldliness in Byzantine theology has retarded technological advances in countries it dominates and has also paved the way for oppressive political rule. While I believe the latter is true, debate cannot remain at this level. Though ideas have consequences, ideas cannot ultimately be judged by consequences. Some people (and even cultures) are better than the ideas they espouse. Some are worse. The truth of an idea must be judged on its own merits. The real question is “Is Byzantine theology true?” Before answering this question, though, it is first necessary to give a brief historical and theological introduction to Orthodoxy since most Protestants know little about it.

Historical Background

Orthodoxy’s history goes back to the patristic period and it considers these ancient credentials proof that it is the one true apostolic church. Of course its selection of church fathers is selective and favors, obviously enough, Greek theologians over their Latin counterparts. Augustine, for example, is seen as the source of much aberrant dogma.

Its most revered theologians include Clement of Alexandria, Origen, the three Cappadocian Fathers, Gregory of Nazianzus (c. 329-c. 390), Basil the Great (c. 330-379) and his younger brother, Gregory of Nyssa (c. 330-395), the pseudo-Dionysius (c. 500), Maximus the Confessor (c. 580-662), John of Damascus, (c. 675-c. 749), Photius (c. 810-c. 895), Symeon The New Theologian (949-1022), and Gregory of Palamas (1296-1359). All were influenced to various degrees by Platonism in one of its many forms. The most obvious example of this tendency is the pseudo-Dionysius who attempted to reconcile Christianity and Neoplatonism much like Thomas Aquinas tried to bring together Christianity and Aristotelianism.

The most decisive event in Byzantine history occurred when the emperor Constantine, a convert to Christianity, determined in 324 to move the imperial capital from Rome to Byzantium, changing its name to Constantinople. This move marked the beginnings of a rift between the Greek east and the Latin west which eventually culminated in an official separation in 1054. The history of the Eastern Orthodox Church was integrally tied to the eastern empire for over one thousand years.

There were several reasons for the gradual separation including the different languages spoken, cultural differences and an often unstable political environment which made communication between east and west difficult. The major cause of the rift, however, were two theological issues. The first was over the authority of the bishop of Rome, the pope and the second over the doctrine of the Trinity.

During the period in question, the pope’s prestige and influence grew. From the time of the Council of Nicaea (325) the bishop of Rome was given the place of honor among the other bishops since Peter was believed to be the first bishop of Rome and because it was the capital of the empire. As time wore on and the Roman government in the west weakened, the pope become increasingly involved in matters of state and eventually came to dominate both sacred and secular affairs. To go along with this power, popes began to make grandiose claims about their supremacy culminating with the declaration that the Bishop of Rome was the head of all the church (east and west) and spoke with absolute authority.

While eastern churches recognized the bishop of Rome as holding a preeminent place among the other bishops, they viewed him as possessing no more authority than any of the other patriarchs. It is important to understand the precise nature of the east’s quarrel with Rome at this point. The eastern churches did not dispute Rome’s prerogative to exercise absolute power in the west, they merely contended that its authority did not extend beyond the border. There other another bishop exercised absolute authority.

The second issue was of the so-called Filioque controversy. This controversy had to do with an interpolation in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. The original version reads “[I believe] in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceedeth from the Father…” The interpolated version adds, “and the Son” (Latin, Filioque) after ‘Father.’6 The difference over the procession of the Spirit did not become an issue until the Photian Schism in the 9th century when Photius, Patriarch of Constantinople, declared the doctrine that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son to be heretical. The church of Rome, at first indifferent, eventually elevated it to a test of orthodoxy. From this point on, reconciliation was never seriously attempted.

An official split between east and west occurred in 1054 when a papal legate nailed a Bull of Excommunication against the Ecumenical Patriarch on the altar of the Hagia Sophia. The Patriarch returned the favor and excommunicated the legate. Any hope that the rift between Rome and Byzantium would eventually be healed was dashed in 1204 when western crusaders, originally bound for Egypt, became embroiled in the local politics of Constantinople and ended up sacking the city and the Hagia Sophia. Byzantium has never forgotten this act of treachery.

Two other events are crucial in understanding the history of Byzantium. First, the rise of Islam in the 6th and 7th centuries. Muslim militancy spread the religion of the crescent moon over vast regions ranging from Persia, through Arabia and over north Africa. In the 680’s the Muslims began their relentless attack on Constantinople. The capital of the eastern empire held out for hundreds of years, but eventually fell to the Turks in 1453. Many practitioners of Orthodoxy have since been under the political yoke of Muslims.

The other event that proceeded the Islamic military conquest of Constantinople was the conversion of the Slavic peoples beginning in the 9th century. Soon thereafter most of the Slavs, including those in Russia, became Orthodox. With the fall of Constantinople, Moscow became the main seat of Orthodoxy and was dubbed by some as the third (and last) Rome. It remained so until the Communist Revolution in 1917 when the victorious Bolsheviks implemented an officially atheist regime. After this, Moscow could no longer claim this appellation with any credibility, at least until 1991.

With the collapse of Communism, the Eastern Orthodox Church is once again flourishing in Eastern Europe. It is not, however, restricted to that part of the world. Almost every country claims at least some adherents to Orthodoxy. Indeed Orthodoxy claims around 185 million adherents worldwide and, as mentioned, six million in the United States alone.7

Doctrinal Distinctives

Evangelicals often confuse Eastern Orthodoxy with Roman Catholicism. Because of their similar practices and rituals this is understandable. Byzantine theologians, however, take umbrage at this, viewing Rome as radically different from itself. Indeed, Orthodox theologians go so far as to say that Protestantism is actually closer to Rome than the Orthodox Church.8While this claim can be demonstrated to be false, Rome and Byzantium do differ in many respects and so rather than entering into the debate over who is closer to whom, I will proceed to outline the doctrinal distinctives of Orthodoxy.

Perhaps the best place to begin is with Byzantium’s view of the church. The eastern Church is governed by an oligarchy of Patriarchs. There are five Patriarchates including, in order of importance, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. The head of the Patriarchate of Constantinople is called the Ecumenical Patriarch, in recognition of his prominence. Rome is the fifth and highest, but since it and the east are not in communion, its primacy is effectively negated.

Besides the four Patriarchates there are several “autocephalous” (lit. ‘self-head’) churches which are administratively independent. These include Russia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Georgia, Cyprus, Greece, Poland and Albania. The heads of these different churches are called Patriarch, Metropolitan or Archbishop depending upon the region. The Eastern Orthodox Church in America is trying to become self-governing, but has not been recognized by a majority of Churches.

Unlike Rome, there is no single person who is the head of the Byzantine Church, nor is there a central government. And while the Ecumenical Patriarch has a special place of honor among the other heads (the fundamental way of determining whether a church is Orthodox is whether it is in communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople), he does not rule the churches outside his Patriarchate. However, within his jurisdiction, a Patriarch’s rule is absolute.

Orthodox worship is quite different than Protestant worship. Candles and icons are pervasive, pews are often absent (Orthodox stand while worshipping), repetitive prayers are sung without instrumental accompaniment, incense is burned and the sign of the cross is made. Like Rome, the Eucharist constitutes the center of Orthodox worship.

Orthodoxy recognizes seven sacraments or “mysteries” (Baptism, Chrismation, the Eucharist, Repentance, Holy Orders, Marriage and Anointing of the Sick). It differs slightly with Rome in its understanding of the Eucharist. Where Rome teaches transubstantiation (the bread and wine becomes the actual body and blood of Christ), Byzantium is reticent to say exactly what occurs, preferring instead to view it as a mystery.

Mary is venerated as the Theotokos or Mother of God, but her immaculate conception has not been dogmatized. Orthodoxy believes in the use and veneration of icons, particularly those that represent Christ, Mary and the saints. It, like Rome, draws a distinction between veneration and worship. This theological nicety is duly ignored by the Orthodox faithful.

Theologically it adheres to Tradition which includes both Scripture and revelation passed on orally, the Nicene Creed, the declarations of the seven Ecumenical Councils (presumably councils which are attended by bishops from all regions, Rome counts twenty-one), patristic writings, service books and even icons. The pronouncements of the Ecumenical Councils hold a special place in Orthodox theology and are considered to be infallible.9

Orthodoxy considers God to be unknowable in his essence. Theology therefore must be negative (apophatic) in character, stating what God is not rather than what he is. Knowledge of what God is not is viewed as preparatory for knowing what God is. This knowledge comes through direct experience of the Divine Light, the same light that the disciples experienced when Jesus was transfigured. This mystical knowledge is not knowledge of God’s essence, but of his energies. These energies are “God Himself in His action and revelation to the world.”10

As mentioned above, Orthodoxy rejects the interpolation of ‘Filioque’ in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, believing that the Spirit proceeds from the Father alone. It teaches that God is Creator, but is not totally sovereign, deeming this to be incompatible with human freedom.

Orthodox anthropology teaches that man is made up of three parts, body, soul and spirit.11 This doctrine has serious implications for Orthodox soteriology as will be seen in my critique below. Adam was created in the image of God possessing free will and reason, but needed to attain to, by his own effort, God’s likeness. This likeness is an assimilation to God through virtue. “To acquire the likeness,” writes Bishop Timothy Ware, “is to be deified, it is to become a ‘second god’, a ‘god by grace’.”12 I will return to the idea of deification presently, but note here the implication that Adam was created only potentially perfect. He was not created virtuous or upright as the Reformed symbols teach.

Adam’s fall was not total and his guilt not passed on to his progeny. Sin is viewed as an impediment to participation in God’s likeness rather than a state that renders man guilty before God. Indeed, the notion of forensic guilt and forensic justification are neglected if not wholly rejected by Orthodox theologians.

The Incarnation is viewed as making deification possible (“God became man so man can become God”). Merely possible because Christ’s work alone is not enough. Rather, man cooperating with God’s grace is the recipe for salvation. This salvation, moreover, is viewed primarily in metaphysical not moral categories. Man is pulled down by sin, but is lifted up to deity through Christ’s Incarnation and Resurrection. It is a higher level of being rather than the state a perfect holiness that is the goal. To be sure, holiness (virtue) is necessary in order to attain this higher state of being, but it is not the end itself.

Pervading Orthodox theology is the notion of mystery. It views western Christianity as being overly rational and takes the Medieval scholastics to be the primary example of this tendency. Though the accuracy of this charge depends upon what is meant by ‘rational’ and what western tradition is under consideration, it does underscore the Orthodox attitude regarding truth and knowledge. At every crucial point in its theology, mystery is not only appealed to, but is celebrated. How can the wine be Christ’s blood? How are we assured that the Church speaks for Christ? What is the nature of deified man? These are all mysteries. Precisely at the points where Orthodoxy gets most controversial and its claims become most vague or in need of demonstration, it falls back to mystery. If the west has a tendency to be overly rational, the east with even greater warrant can be judged to be irrational or at best, a-rational.

With its emphasis on mystery it is little wonder there are no detailed systematic theologies written in the eastern tradition.13 Truth ultimately is experienced, particularly in the sacrament of Communion. In this regard it has a good of affinity with contemporary existential theologians.

This is not to deny the place of mystery in theology. Reformed theology has its mysteries too – predestination and freewill, God is all-glorious yet God receives glory from his creation. The difference is that Reformed theology prefers to place the mysteries where Scripture places them. Where it does not, it strives for detail and precision. Mystery yes, mysticism, no.

Before turning to critically review Orthodox theology I will, heeding the advice of Johnny Mercer, first accentuate the positive.

Commendations

Three commendations of Orthodoxy come immediately to mind. First, Byzantium has not succumbed to liberalism nearly to the extend that Rome or Protestantism has. Whereas Rome and perhaps most Protestant denominations fail to suppress heretics (Presbyterians need only to think of the liberal takeover during the modernist controversy) Byzantium has vigorously, effectively and persistently flushed heretics from out of its midst. The statement by John of Damascus epitomizes Byzantium’s conservatism, “we do not change the everlasting boundaries which our fathers have set, but we keep the traditions just as we received them.” We can learn a lesson from this.

Second, Byzantium stands opposed to much of the political agenda of secularist ideologues. Particularly its resistance to the feminist movement and strong stand against abortion is to be commended.

Finally, it resists the unity-at-any-price mentality of the modern-day ecumenical movement.

Byzantium is not coy about its claims that it is the true church. Bishop Ware’s candor is typical of Orthodox writers: “Orthodoxy, believing that the Church on earth has remained and must remain visibly one, naturally also believes itself to be that one visible Church… Orthodox are in all humility convinced that they have received a precious and unique gift from God; and if they pretended to others that they did not possess this gift, they would be guilty of an act of betrayal in the sight of heaven… Orthodoxy also teaches that outside the Church there is no salvation.14

If their theological position is correct, other positions that differ from it are wrong. In an age of compromise, relativism and confusion, a bold statement such as Byzantium makes should be appreciated.

Of course theological conservatism is only a relative good. The ultimate question is not one of conservatism versus liberalism, but rather the status of the view that is being conserved. One can be a conservative Marxist or a conservative Darwinian, but that is hardly a commendation of those who espouse such views.

In future articles I shall take up the less pleasant task of showing where Orthodoxy departs from biblical Christianity.

To be continued.

Notes

1. Peter E. Gillquist, Becoming Orthodox (Ben Lomond, California: Conciliar Press, 1989).

2. Charles Bell, Discovering the Rich Heritage of Orthodoxy (Minneapolis: Light and Life Publishing Co., 1994).

3. Frank Schaeffer, Dancing Alone: The Quest for Orthodox Faith in the Age of False Religion (Brookline, Mass.: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1994). Despite his Reformed upbringing, Schaeffer repeatedly misstates, distorts and maligns Reformed theology. At one point, after a particularly egregious exposition of the five points of Calvinism, Schaeffer comments: “With God portrayed as a fatalistic, cruel force of nature, with the Incarnation reduced to nothing more than play acting, since “The Elect” were already chosen before Christ came to earth, with Christ’s death reduced to a sacrifice to an angry, vengeful “God,” with man reduced to a creature without free will, Calvinist Reformed theology logically, if unintentionally, opened the door to the Enlightenment’s demotion of humanity and religion” (88-9). At the beginning of the book Schaeffer warns his readers, “I am not a scholar.” This warning should be taken seriously.

4. Some evangelicals have recently attempted to rouse their fellow evangelicals out of their collective cultural, intellectual and theological slumber. Note especially recent jeremiads by David F. Wells, No Place for Truth: or, Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology? (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993) and Mark A. Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994).

5. Loosely following the usage of John Meyendorff, I use ‘Byzantine theology,’ ‘Byzantium’ or simply ‘Orthodoxy’ as synonyms for ‘Eastern Orthodoxy.’ Meyendorff, Byzantine Theology: Historical Trends and Doctrinal Themes, 2nd ed. (New York: Fordham University Press, 1983).

6. It is unknown when the Filioque first appeared, but the first known use of it was at the third Council of Toledo in 589.

7. Daniel B. Clendenin, Eastern Orthodox Christianity: A Western Perspective (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1994), 17. These numbers are probably exaggerated since Orthodoxy counts all baptized by the church and not active members.

8. According to Timothy Ware, Roman Catholicism and Protestantism are “two sides of the same coin.” Ware, The Orthodox Church, new edition (New York: Penguin Books, 1993), 2.

9. The seven Ecumenical Councils were Nicaea 325 (rejection of Arianism), Constantinople I 381 (Holy Spirit decreed to be God, equal with Father and Son, proceeds from Father), Ephesus 431 (condemned Nestorian heresy), Chalcedon 451 (condemned Monophysite heresy and establishment of “pentarchy,” or five archates [Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem]), Constantinople II 553 (elaboration on views of Ephesus and Chalcedon), Constantinople III 680-1 (condemned Monothelites who claimed that since Christ had two natures in one person he must also of had only one will), Nicaea II 787 (Iconoclast controversy; iconodule position upheld).

10. Ware, 68.

11. This view, often called trichotomy, is definitively refuted by John Murray, “Trichotomy,” in Collected Writings of John Murray, vol. 2 (Carlisle Penn: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1977), 23-33.

12. Ware, 219.

13. Russian Orthodox theologian Vladimir Lossky appropriately titled his book on doctrine, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church.

14. Ware, 246-47.

44 thoughts on “Essay. Eastern Orthodoxy, part 1

  1. Dear in Christ Mike,

    Thank you for this quick overview of Orthodoxy. I believe the more one is acquainted with Orthodoxy, the more one is convinced of its authenticity as the True Faith revealed by Christ to the Apostles. We have to understand that there is no salvation without the True Faith and rebirth in Christ from water and the Spirit (Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God – John 3:5). Truth is not guaranted by a majority, or legal council of bishops, or patriarchal see, or any human criterion. Truth is perceived in the Holy Spirit and is always consistent with itself, from what the Apostles taught in the Scriptures, through the Fathers, and all the way to the present. That is why the inner teachings of Orthodoxy do not change. Only some outward manifestations of this faith do slightly change with the centuries.

    As an Orthodox Christian I want to elaborate on 3 points which may have been misunderstood:

    1- Orthodoxy does not change: St. Paul asserts in the Holy Spirit that Jesus Christ is “the same yesterday, and today, and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8). Divine revealed truth, i.e. theology, is always true and does not change with the culture or era. Orthodoxy maintains the same truths unchanged as asserted by all the Church Fathers since the beginning, as examplified by St. John of Damascus. The fundamental error of Papism and Protestantism is that they have accomodated the trends of their times and have drifted away from the repository of the Faith. “Ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 1:3).

    2- Salvation is a cooperation between the free will of man, which is the image of God in man, and the grace of God given by the Holy Spirit through the redemptive act of the Incarnation, Crucifixtion, and Resurrection of our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ. Salvation is not effected against man’s will. Christ has accomplished salvation for all men, but it is up to each individual person to accept it and make it his, in order to be saved. Since God is prescient, He predestines the life of every man in an optimal way in order to have all men saved (Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth – 1 Tim. 2:4), without violating their free will. For God seeks sons who submit their will to Him freely, and not predestined robots. Without volontarily taking the cross, suffering for truth, and running the race to the end (which necessitates our effort), there is no salvation. “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.” (1 Tim. 4:16)

    3- According to Orthodox Theology, man is made of two parts, body and soul, the spirit being the higher part of the soul, like the brain is the higher part of the body. The Church Fathers teach, based on Scripture and the prophecy of the saints in the Church, that the soul has the exact shape as the body, and is made of a created and very etheral substance akin to the substance that angels are created from. (Who maketh his angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire- Ps 104:4)

    In Christ Yahweh Who unites us,

    Jerjis

  2. Jerjis–

    “Salvation is not effected against man’s will” neglects the key point: man’s will after the Fall is at enmity to God and must be quickened; without that quickening, it is impossible to believe because God is not desired; the quickening replaces the heart of stone with a heart of flesh which then reaches out to God. In its new state, this “reaching out” is not “against man’s will,” but it is not of man’s will either.

    Eph. 2:1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.

    Ezekiel 36:26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.

    Jn.6:44 No man can comes to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.

    Jn. 17:9 I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.

    Mt. 11:25 At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.

    Jn. 1:13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

  3. Yes Tim, what you said is true.
    It is God who transforms the person so that the person can accept God’s salvation in Christ.
    However, man still has to say “yes” and accept God’s gift, otherwise, if salvation is forced on the person, he becomes a robot with no free will. Isn’t this the image and likeness of God in man?

    Jerjis

  4. Jerjis, I used to hold to that position of “the Spirit enables to choose but we still choose”, but ultimately it doesn’t solve anything. This position simply does not comport with election. All that the Father gives to Christ WILL receive Christ. Its not a matter of whether they choose.

    “So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.” (Romans (9:16)

    You may think we are robots or puppets, but these are just derogatory terms that distract us from the real issue. Ron DiGiacomo has written persuasively that there is nothing comforting about “free will”—it only leads to arbitrariness and destroys the foundation of moral accountability.

  5. Jerjis– to #3, a question. Do you grant then that man’s will was so corrupted by the fall that he would not desire fellowship with God apart from an unmerited (thus gracious) and miraculous (thus not merely providential) transformation? If not, then I’m going to ask exactly what you mean by “it is God who transforms the person.”

  6. Dear in Christ Keith and Tim,
    The topic of election, free will, and predestination is very complex. It is very difficult to understand within the framework of created time. God works outside of time, and therefore it is a mystery to exactly understand how He works.
    Conversion, repentence, and sanctification are a life-long process. Man’s free will is fallen and darkened, and does not want God. It is God who call the specific person to Him through different events in the individual’s life. He does that to ALL men through his providential work in the details of their life. However, some respond to Him and say “yes”, like the holy Mother of God did, and some reject His call because of attachment to sin and the passions. Christ’s Final Judgement of each soul and resurrected body will not be whimsical. It will be the ultimate justice that weighs and examines the heart and reins of each person, and measures the extent they have sought Him.
    The classical Calvinistic error of pre-election/pre-destination is very dangerous because it disparages good works, and gives a false sense of security, giving the illusion that the “saved” person is very special. It borders on racism. Christ is no respector of persons. He judges all according to what they have been given and what they have done. There is no eternal security. We have to strive and struggle for our salvation, benefitting from God’s grace, energy, and providence, till our last breath. This is the traditional and orthodox teaching of all the Church Fathers, going all the way back to St. Ignatius of Antioch. Salvation is effected through the SYNERGY of God’s miraculous and mysterious grace in our lives, and our acceptance of His gift, by multiplying the talents He gave us, and working out our salvation in fear and trembling, becoming more like Christ, through ascetism, fasting, prayer, alms giving, and works of mercy.
    There is nothing new under the sun. This is the Gospel od salvation delivered once and for all to the saints.

    In Christ Yahweh,
    Jerjis

  7. Jerjis– quick question. Do you count Augustine as a Father? Also: what about the Apostle Paul?

    From before: you seem to be saying that mere providential circumstances are sufficient to entice man to embrace God, i.e. that a miraculous regeneration is not necessary. Is that right?

  8. Tim – Of course St. Paul is the greatest of the apostles, and he has to be understood in the light of the Gospel of his Master, Jesus Christ. The New Testament has to be interpreted in its entirety, as a whole, and not in isolated fragmented or reductionist manner.

    Yes, St. Augustine is a Father of the Church, in only as much as he remained within the Holy Tradition and Concensus Patrum (the same applies as well to all other fathers of the Church). His more speculative and controversial opinions are just his own personal opinions and not the Faith of the Church. He himself did retract much of his personal speculations towards the end of his life. The Bishop Aurelius, Metropolitan of Carthage, had summoned him to examine his writings before the Synod, but the hour was late and the Vandals were already at the doors. The error of Roman Catholicism and Protestantism is that they ascribe too much authority to the writings of St. Augustine, to the exclusion of all the other Fathers. This has resulted in an inevitable slide away from a balanced understanding of the Holy Scriptures and detracted from their orthodoxy.

    The road into the Kingdom of Heaven was made by the Lord Jesus Christ, and He was the first one who travelled it. The Bible teaches that only he who follows Jesus can reach His Kingdom. But how can one follow Him? Hear what our Savior says about this: “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Mark 8:34).

    The words “whoever desires” mean that Christ does not compel anyone to follow Him. He has no need of the unwilling ones, but He desires that each person FREELY follow Him. Consequently, only those who willingly choose the Savior’s path reach the Kingdom of Heaven.

    To answer your question “is a miraculous regeneration necessary?” The orthodox answer is absolutely YES. God works miraculously in the heart of man to convert him, and the person is miraculously regenrated and born again from above through water and the Spirit. This is the holy mystery (the RCs call it sacrament) of Baptism.

    In Christ Yahweh, our Lord, God, and Savior,
    Jerjis

  9. Jerjis– If you’re going to say “no miracle needed before baptism” that implies that the new convert seeks God, repents, can make himself ready and present himself just from his own unregenerate nature. This is a downplaying of the effect of the fall. See Jn. 6:44, and Rom. 3:10ff: “As it is written, there is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”

    Now the other issue, of authority, is perhaps the more foundational one at this point. You’ve admitted that the Fathers are not infallible, that some sort of sifting process has to take place when referencing the fathers. Think about it: how do you know you are sifting the right way? You can’t appeal to the church unless you confine yourself to ecumenical creeds– in which case, why use the Fathers at all? So you see, the need to think, sift, reflect, in terms of your private lights and conscience, is an inescapable condition. So you should drop this as a criticism of Protestantism. We all do it and must do so.

    Therefore, you should confine your self-attesting authority to the word of God only. Use the fathers to help you understand; when you get there, you can “kick the ladder out from under you” to quote Wittgenstein.

    Here’s an analogy. If reading Isaac Newton helps you understand the physical laws of mechanics, then read him; if reading a modern textbook is more helpful, read it. Neither Newton nor the modern textbook establishes the laws.

    The laws are like Scripture. Use whatever aids help you understand; but don’t confuse their help as if they actually carried authority.

  10. Tim,
    The Orthodox Church agrees with the fact that every conversion to the Faith is a miracle, done by the Holy Spirit in heart of man.

    You are correct in that the issue of authority about dogma is central. I will try to explain. Each person has to rely on his mind and understanding to find the Truth, which is Christ, and thus be saved. The established doctrines, dogmas, and teachings that are in the Scriptures, and are explained and articulated by the Seven Ecumenical Councils, Concensus Patrum, and the Liturgical Prayers of the Orthodox Church are immovable and infallible. The way we pray is the way we believe (lex orandi lex credendi). The Orthodox Liturgical Services, established by the Holy Spirit according to the promise of Christ, explain the Faith. For example if you read in the Festal Menaion the services for the Feast of the Transfiguration you will understand many different passages from the Old and New Testaments, you will understand that Chirst is One Person with 2 natures, divine and human, etc…. A believer has to realign his own personal and fallen opinions with those of the established Truth of the Church using his mind and soul. St.paul says that the Church is the pillar and bullwork of the Truth. There cannot be any one teaching in our present belief and practice of the Faith that contradicts the established Truth of the Early Church before us. We are forbidden of reinventing the wheel. Nothing is new under the sun. The Faith has been delivered once and for all to the saints, otherwise, if we are still in the process of making new doctrines contrary to the older ones, we are admitting that Christ failed in His work. Please also understand that, within the boundaries of the established orthodox dogmas, there is a lattitude of opinions expressed by different Fathers. For example the protestant teachings that the church is invisible, that the eucharist is not the real Body and Blood, that the saints do not intercede for us on earth, that there are only 2 sacraments (baptism and communion), etc… are contradictory to the dogmas established by the Church in the first millennium. As you said, the way you get to the truth is secondary. What is important is to aquire the Mind of Christ, which was expressed through the Holy Spirit by the Seven Ecumenical Councils, Concensus Patrum, and the Liturgical Prayers and life of the Orthodox Church, etc…

    Jerjis, a sinner.

  11. Jerjis– before I answer in full, could you possibly eliminate the “etc.” and give a complete and exhaustive list of what can be appealed to by you as an authority?

  12. Tim,
    The authoritative sources of the Faith in the Orthodox Church are the Holy Scriptures, the Seven Ecumenical Councils including the Nicene Creed, the Holy Canons, the Liturgical Prayers, the writings of the Fathers compatible with the Concensus Patrum, and the traditional iconography, hymnody, and lives of the saints.

  13. very good job Mike, a lot of people from Biola and my church have converted to Eastern Orthodoxy recently and we need this type of work done on this pernicious heretical movement.

  14. Jerjis– This question is not a polemic: it is just to find the exact point to debate. I’m still not clear what your final authority reference point is.

    You list nine categories, but how do you know it is those nine? I’m not aware that “the church in ecumenical council” ever listed them. Scripture itself does not. I don’t think any of the fathers did, but even if one did, how do we know that particular assertion was consistent with the Concensus Patrum?

    In short: how do you come to know these nine? Intuition? Leap of faith? Your priest said so and it seems good to you?

  15. Ed,
    For the sake of objectivity and truth, do not discount outright this “pernicious heretical movement” which can be traced back to the Apostles, lest you be counted against Christ, with the pharisees and their spiritual descendents. The credentials of the Orthodox Church far exceed those of any Protestant or Roman church. Please follow the advice of Gamalael in Acts 5, and do not fight them, lest you be found kicking against the pricks.

  16. Tim,
    The authority in the Church lies in following Holy Tradition, which is the teaching of Christ and the Apostles based on the Holy Tradition of Old Israel, nurtured by the Holy Spirit in the bosom of the New Israel. This is guaranteed to the Chosen People of God, according to Christ’s promise when He said: “But when the Comforter is come, Whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, Who proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of Me”.(John 15:26) We also have here the proof text against the Filioque, because Christ sends the Spirit Who proceeds from the Father and rests in the Son and on His people. In addition, Christ promised to be with the Church and guide her till His Second Coming. Christ affirmed that the Holy Spirit will guide the Church: “Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth.” (John 16:13) We see this fact in Acts 15, when the Apostles, James the brother of the Lord and first bishop of Jerusalem, and some of the Seventy met in council to resolve the issue of constraining the gentiles with Moses’ Law. They were guided by the Holy Spirit when they declared “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things” (Acts 15:28). Once this decision was taken by the Holy Spirit through a concil of the Church it became authoritative and binding on all christians, like Holy Tradition and the Holy Scriptures. The same applies to the Seven Ecumenical Councils which confirmed which books are to be considered Holy Scriptures and which books to reject, reaffirmed the 85 Apostolic Canons, formulated the Christian Creed and other Canons, and condemned the heretical doctrines fighting against the Church. The pronouncments of the Holy Spirit through the Church are binding on all christians.

    Therefore, Tim, to answer your original question, how do I know that the Holy Scriptures, Seven Ecumenical Councils, Nicene Creed, Holy Canons, Liturgical Prayers, writings of the Fathers compatible with the Concensus Patrum, traditional iconography, hymnody, and lives of the saints, which all constitute the Holy Tradition of the Church, how do I know that these are authoritative? The simple answer is that it will be revealed to the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Please let me ask you in reverese, how do you know that the Holy Scriptures are authoritative? I believe your answer will be the same. Please remember also that the Early Church did not have the complete New Testament in one locality, but only parts of it, and relied mostly on Holy Tradition and the Septuagint (which the Qumran Dead Sea Scrolls have proven to be the accurate original Old Testament, against the variants of the Masoritic text of the pharisees). Which brings me to another fundamental question: by what authority did the Protestants discard the so-called Apocrypha of the Septuagint?? Why do they follow the Masoritic text which was fixed in the 10th century by the enemies of the Gospel, after the latter had purged it of several so-called apocryphal books in the anti-christian council of Yavneh in 90 AD?? Why don’t the Protestants follow the Septuagint (which is the Old Testament of St. Paul, the Apostles, and the Orthodox Church), which was translated in the 3rd century BC by 70 jewish scholars in Alexandria, which is the text quoted from in the New testament, and which has been proven by the Qumran scrolls to be the authentic untampered Scriptures??

    I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to share with you some of my experience and exchange some thoughts on your profitable forum. For the record, I also am a convert to Orthodoxy, after a long journey in search of the Truth.

  17. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My Words will never pass away.”

    (Matthew 24:35)

    Hi Jerjis,

    Thank You for your comments about the Eastern Orthodox Church being the true apostolic Church.

    Time after time over the years in dealing with this Old World, Byzantine ecclesiastical tradition, I have heard adherents of Eastern Orthodoxy say without any shred of Biblical and exegetical evidence that the Eastern Orthodox Church is the “true church” since it was the original church founded by the Apostles. Earnest adherents of Eastern Orthodoxy often get worked up in making this point that since in their own minds, Eastern Orthodoxy has existed the longest and has directly descended from Christ and His Apostles

    Ultimately this is a Chronological Fallacy in that you postulate that since your church has existed the longest (a point that I would argue against) this, then necessarily makes it the true church. This is reverse chronological snobbery in that you are arguing that any ecclesiastical entity of a more recent vintage is somehow inherently inferior to your romanticized understanding of the pristine origins of Eastern Orthodoxy.

    Roman Catholics and Mormons, it must be noted, make this same appeal to historical authenticity and succession in that Roman Catholicism and Mormonism both argue that they are the true church since they descend from Apostolic times (Romans Catholics say there has been unbroken apostolic authority vested in Papal succession and Mormons say they are the restored Church of Christ that fell away, but whose divinely mandated practices were those practiced by Christ and His Apostles). The point being, innumerable groups, sects and cults have made this same claim to apostolic succession and being the original church of Christ with dubious Biblical authenticity.

    Mormons, Catholics and many other religious groups argue that they are the true and original church of Christ, adhering to the traditions of the Apostles. Yet mere antiquity of an organization and mere assertion does not necessitate the Biblical legitimacy and authenticity of ones religious truth claims.

    The claims of Apostolic authority and unbroken succession made by Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox breaks down for example, in the case of Honorius I (died October 12, 638) was pope from 625 to 638.

    Honorius in his lifetime favoured the formula on the nature of Christ proposed by the emperor Heraclius with the design of bringing about a reconciliation between the Monophysites and the Catholics, which bore that Christ had accomplished His work of redemption by one manifestation of his will as the God-man. For this he was, more than forty years after his death, anathematized by name along with the Monothelite heretics by the Council of Constantinople (First Trullan) in 680. The anathema read, after mentioning the Monothelites, “and with them Honorius, who was Prelate of Rome, as having followed them in all things”. This condemnation was subsequently confirmed by Leo II (a fact disputed by such persons as Baronius and Bellarmine, but which has since become commonly accepted) in the form, “and also Honorius, who did not attempt to sanctify this Apostolic Church with the teaching of Apostolic tradition, but by profane treachery permitted its purity to be polluted” (quotations from the Catholic Encyclopedia).

    Pope Honorious’ Apostasy demonstrates that there was not an unbroken succession of truth in the Catholic Church of which the Eastern Orthodox existed in until 1054. How can I trust a church that had an apostate leader? Did apostolic succession stop with Honorious?

    What matters is if ones claims to apostolic succession and overall ecclesiastical veracity can be proven from an infallible and unchanging authoritative source, namely the Bible which is the inspired and inerrant Word of God (2 Timothy 3:15-17).

    Following the line of argumentation made by Calvin, Luther and the other magisterial Reformers, the ultimate authority of a believer in Christ is not vested in the often contradictory teachings of ecclesiastical tradition and the writings of the Ante Nicene and Post Nicene Patristic Fathers, but rather in the self authenticating nature and perspicuity of Holy Scripture. Ultimately a Christian’s authority comes from the Bible and the illuminating light of the Holy Spirit in understanding Scripture accurately and not in the fallible counsel of contradictory ecclesiastical tradition, irrespective of antiquity of these traditions.

    I am well aware that the Eastern Orthodox Church argues for the seven ecumenical counsels and some canons of Church tradition as being on the same authoritative level as the Bible, yet it can be conclusively demonstrated that Church tradition and the Patristic Fathers often contradict each other and are by no means a sure source of legitimate apostolic authority and Eastern Orthodoxy’s claim of historical antiquity and apostolic succession does not preclude the possibility that the Orthodoxy has absorbed over the passage of time, unbiblical teachings and traditions that are in diametrical opposition to Biblical teaching.

    Ultimately it comes down to this, Eastern Orthodoxy argues for the authorative nature of extra Biblical Church tradtion and Protestants believe that God has vested His authority in the Bible alone and has given us the ability to understand the Scriptures in the way He intended with the promise of the Holy Spirit (John 14:26, 15:26 and 1 Corinthians 2).

    While it is true that there are many different Protestant Churches with differing theological perspectives, this does not preclude them from agreeing on the essentials of the Christian faith, namely the Trinity and Justification by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.

    Eastern Orthodoxy is old, this is a given, but I want to go back to an even older and sure guide of Biblical authority, namely the Bible itself, therein rests the Authority of Jesus Christ and His Apostles.

    “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of God endures forever” (Isaiah 40:8).

    Sincerely in Christ,

    Ed Enochs

  18. Jerjis: Here, I will list a few criticisms of your view of authority, which you give to be, in addition to Scripture, “Seven Ecumenical Councils, Nicene Creed, Holy Canons, Liturgical Prayers, writings of the Fathers compatible with the Concensus Patrum, traditional iconography, hymnody, and lives of the saints.” Moreover, you affirm that you know these to be authoritative in that it is “revealed to the pure in heart, for they shall see God,” which you think is the same reason given by Protestants for how we know that the Holy Scriptures are authoritative.

    1. First, it would be a great benefit if the Eastern church would publish all the things you listed into a five-volume set and announce to the world, “this is the word of God that we stand on.” But I don’t think she will. In reality, she wants the freedom to continue her authoritative pronouncements; she doesn’t want to be bound by any fixed standard, I suggest. I would like all groups (e.g. also popery and Talmudism) to call my bluff here.

    2. By qualifying the authority of the fathers as when “compatible with the Concensus Patrum,” there is question-begging. How do you know when they are compatible? Is it majority vote? Is there no growth in understanding of doctrine? But then the later fathers will say things the earlier ones did not. Indeed, how do you even know who should be included in the “pool” of fathers? If one of the ecumenical councils had published a list, that would have been helpful, but I don’t think they did.

    3. Claiming that the list of authorities is simply revealed by God ends the apologetic. I then answer, “no, God has revealed to my heart that only Scripture is authoritative.”

    Instead, we argue on the impossibility of the contrary for the word of God to be the only possible ultimate authority. We then unpack this in concreto, looking at the areas of ethics, science, and human experience. I don’t think you could repeat this for your list of authorities.

    One mark of a revelation of God is that it is heard by the people of God. Therefore, since all the people of God do not recognize the things in your list as from God, that should give pause to your view.

  19. Dear in Christ Ed Enochs,
    How can you say that the Bible is older than the Church? Isn’t Israel older that the Pentateuch? Don’t the Hebrews antedate Moses by some 450 years? Isn’t the New Israel, the Church, older than the New Testament?
    Who decided what books make up the Bible?
    Wasn’t the biblical canon finalized until the 5th century?
    Who gave the authority to the protestants to later throw away the so-called apocrypha, which were actually part of the 1611 King James Version???
    Eastern Orthodoxy was not part of the Roman church untill 1054. This is a papist understanding of the Church. The Orthodox Church is not centralized like the Roman church. Every bishop with his flock make up the local church, which is like a cell in the whole body of the Church. Some cells die and fall away (through apostasy), and others thrive and grow and multiply. When pope Honorius fell into heresy, the apostolic succession was not interrupted, because there were other orthodox bishops who assured its continuity. I agree that antiquity is no guarantee of truth. However all contemporary christianity can trace its roots to Nicene Christianity. Those that are contradictory to Nicene Christianity have obviously deviated from the Faith.
    Is water baptism important? How is it to be done? Can this central issue of the faith be resolved without the appeal to the authority of antiquity?
    In Christ Yahweh,
    Jerjis

  20. Dear in Christ Tim,
    1. All the authoritative sources of the Faith are printed and published by the Orthodox Church. All the bishops are bound by these canons. Those who deviate will be disciplined. If a major part of the Church falls away, like Rome did in the 11th century, then these heretical bishops take a course of their own and are outside the Church.
    2. The core teachings of the Fathers are all identical with the ecumenical Councils. In addition, the Fathers have opinions, which are not dogmatically binding. As history unfolds and new questions and attacks are raised against the Faith, a new articulation of a certain issue has been pronounced by the Church in defense of the Faith, within the bounds of the dogmas of the Faith.
    3. My statement “God has revealed to my heart” that Holy Tradition is true, was rhetorical, because it is akin to a protestant ahistorical mentality. The Orthodox Faith is historical and is founded on facts and a great cloud of witnesses. If any teaching be found contrary to the established Faith of the Early Church, it should logically be counted a heresy and deviation, don’t you think?
    You said “One mark of a revelation of God is that it is heard by the people of God.” My question to you is: who are the people of God? The Samaritans followed the Pentateuch and had their own sacrifices done outside of Jerusalem, but Christ dis not consider them part of Israel. He told the Samaritan woman that you worship the God you do not know, and that salvation if of the Jews. Is any church which claims to follow the New Testament, part of the New Israel of the Church? Are the Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses part of the New Israel of the Church? Of course not. St. Paul teaches that we have one Lord, One Faith, one baptism in his letter to the Ephesians. The People of God are defined as those who have this one Lord, One Faith, one baptism, in organic continutiy with the Apostles. They have to belong to the same Faith. Who is then the Israel of God? Why not the True Orthodox christians?
    In Christ Yahweh,
    Jerjis

  21. A good book on this subject that is very clear about what is and ISN’T authoritative in the Orthodox Church is The Orthodox Church by Timothy Ware.

    The Holy Scriptures is the pre-eminent authority. There is a difference between Tradition and traditions. The Orthodox Church regards capital T Tradition as the 7 ecumenical councils and the Holy Scriptures. The canons and other such things are a part of the lower case traditions. No tradition is true tradition if it is in contrast with the teachings of the pre-eminent tradition, i.e. the Holy Bible. If you check out Timothy Ware book in more detail you will find he makes very clear this issue, as well as the infamous quote that Protestants (especially Reformed people) like to harp on about there being ‘no salvation outside the Church.’ If you check your sources, this comes out of the mouths of the early church fathers. The early understandings of this is different than how most would take it today. BTW, just because the early church fathers say does not make it capital T Tradition so to say they contradicted each other on some things is no suprise and no disruption to the Eastern Orthodox faith. This is why a distinction is made between Tradition and traditions. I could go on but I think this sums it up for now.

  22. Jen–

    Our confession says (WCF 25.2) “The visible church, which is also catholic or universal under the gospel (not confined to one nation, as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion; and of their children: and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation” (emphasis added by me).

    Perhaps most of the people you know that call themselves “reformed” are of the so-called “Reformed Baptist” communions — but that’s an expression that we consider oxymoronic.

  23. Sorry. I didn’t realize there was three parts. I’ve found the other two now. It seems these ‘conversations’ never have an ending. What is the saddest is the fact that Christendom is so divided! It makes me sad that Christians view other Christians in this way—referring to the ‘reformed’ Christians I’ve often encountered and from the discussions have also been found here. The MOST annoying this, as well, is to hear an outsider who has probably never experienced an Orthodox liturgy put them as the likes of Mormonism. This couldn’t be farther from the truth of the matter. I think what all parties need here is a good dose of humility. Your Christianity came from the eastern Church that you are in fact condemning. Your forefather Luther would not have stood for this. In fact, I am quite convinced that Luther’s understanding of Christianity was much closer to that of the East than the modern idea today. Ok, so I’ll get down from my soap box now. Have fun josting with words. I’m going to go find something better to do with my time.

  24. Erroneous in several aspects:

    1. “This theological nicety is duly ignored by the Orthodox faithful.” Nobody likes a wise ass. We know the difference between veneration and worship, even if you don’t.

    2. “Where Rome teaches transubstantiation (the bread and wine becomes the actual body and blood of Christ), Byzantium is reticent to say exactly what occurs, preferring instead to view it as a mystery.” Wrong again. We consider the bread and wine to be changed into the very Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, just as He said in John 6 that you Protties so neatly misinterpret. Transubstantiation is just the West’s way of stating this truth, which they had to do because they were being inundated with heretics who were denying this Truth. We call it “the mysteries” because it is mysterious, just as the Incarnation is a mystery.

    3. “Adam’s fall was not total and his guilt not passed on to his progeny. Sin is viewed as an impediment to participation in God’s likeness rather than a state that renders man guilty before God. Indeed, the notion of forensic guilt and forensic justification are neglected if not wholly rejected by Orthodox theologians.”

    And with very good reason. It is very poor soteriology, a “theological novum” which was made up by Luther and Calvin. The Holy Scriptures analogously teach the kingdom of God as a covenantal family, not a Roman courtroom. When you finally learn this, you, too, will convert from your errors.

    4. “The Incarnation is viewed as making deification possible (”God became man so man can become God”).” Could we have a little honesty here? Man is not to become “God” (note the capital “G”) This infers that we, as mere creations of God, will in some way become one in essence with Him, which is blasphemous. In all that St. Athanasius stated, it is obvious that he was teaching that we become “gods” (note the small “g”) or that we become, as St. Peter said, “partakers of the divine nature”.

    5. “In future articles I shall take up the less pleasant task of showing where Orthodoxy departs from biblical Christianity.” You could spend your time better showing how Protestantism, especially Calvinism, has departed from the Faith which was given to the Apostles.

    Brother Ed

  25. “Eastern Orthodoxy is old, this is a given, but I want to go back to an even older and sure guide of Biblical authority, namely the Bible itself, therein rests the Authority of Jesus Christ and His Apostles.”

    Show me where the Bible says that it alone is the sole source of Truth and authority. This is a rd herring. The Bible can be interpretted in a thousand different ways, and the proliferation of Protestant cults, sects, isms, and denominations, all claiming the Bible as their sole source of Truth, is mute and eloquent testimony to this fact.

    The Church is the “pillar and ground” of Truth according to the scriptures, and the Church interpretted the Bible correctly 1500 years before Calvin was even a gleam in his daddy’s eye.

    If you want to properly understand the scriptures, you need to listen to the Orthodox instead of criticizing them.

    Brother Ed

  26. Ed,

    You call yourself “Brother Ed.” Can I take it for granted that you are a lay member of a church affiliated with the Ecumenical Patriarch?

    -Turretinfan

  27. Not exactly. I am Eastern Orthodox in communion with Rome. The head of the Church is the one who holds the office first given to St. Peter.

    Brother Ed

  28. Ed,

    Thanks for the clarification. I take it then that you would consider yourself an “Eastern Rite” Roman Catholic?

    But, in any event, you are a lay member, not an ordained priest, archpriest, bishop, archbishop, or the like, correct?

    -Turretinfan

  29. Thanks for the clarification. I take it then that you would consider yourself an “Eastern Rite” Roman Catholic?

    But, in any event, you are a lay member, not an ordained priest, archpriest, bishop, archbishop, or the like, correct?

    Allow me to make a slight correction in your thinking. There is no such thing as an “Eastern Rite Roman Catholic” The Catholic Faith consists of 23 different cultural varients. The Roman Church just happens to be one of many, and where the headship of the Church is. I am part of the Reuthenian Church, which involves the Rus peoples of Slavic Europe. There are also Coptics, Maronites (Arabic), Melkites, and a host of others. Each one is culturally distinct from the others, but each believes and shares in the exact some doctrines. That is why the Church is called “Catholic” — because the beliefs are the same from culture to culture.

    Yes, I am a lay person at this time. I am, however, in the midst of discernint a call to the vocation of the monastic life.

    And…just to clarify further, I am 58 years old, a lifelong Protestant, and converted to the Faith in 2001 after considerable study and research.

    Brother Ed

  30. Dear Ed,

    (A)You wrote:

    Yes, I am a lay person at this time. I am, however, in the midst of discernint a call to the vocation of the monastic life.

    By what authority then do you teach us and interpret Scripture? What’s your source of authority to engage in that activity here on First Word?

    If you will say that it is by virtue of your membership in the “Reuthenian Church” then please identify the council at which the “Reuthenian Church” decided to reverse the prior prohibition against lay didactics?

    (B)Do the Coptics now acknowledge primacy of Rome? That would certainly be news to me. Can you direct me to the relevant statemtn from a council of the Coptic church or from the Metropolitan of Alexandria?

    -Turretinfan

  31. I see. Where do you find that there is a prohibition against lay people engaging in discourse regarding the Faith? Might I have a reference, please, so that I can do some further investigation of this.

    Thank you.

    As for the Coptics, I believe there are Orthodox and Catholic Copts, but I could be wrong. Again, a little investigation is needed.

    Brother Ed

  32. Ed,

    Rather than me doing your research for you, why don’t you just tell tell me by what authority you teach (or discourse, as you call it), and how you were invested with that authority.

    In exchange, I will do the same (explainy the authority by which I teach/discourse) if you like.

    After all, you are presenting interpretations of Scripture on this site, most notably an interpretation of Matthew 16:18, and you have made some rather bold claims about the Reformers and their teachings and actions. It’s only fair for me to ask “says who?”

    -Turretinfan

  33. Be back with an answer in a bit….thanks for the interesting question.

    Brother Ed

  34. I agree it is fair for you to say “says who”.

    I find nothing that states that I, as a layperson, cannot defend the Catholic Faith. My attempts, weak and feeble at best, are merely to defend the Faith and state what the Church is, what She teaches, and why She is correct. This understanding comes from my personal study of Church history, Holy Scripture, a very small smattering of Greek, and the covenant of God as the linchpin for it all.

    I furthermore see nothing in the Catholic Catechism which prohibits a layperson from sharing and defending the Faith. Indeed, from the perspective of our Lord’s words in Matthew 28, I really ought to be compelled to do so, wouldn’t you agree?

    Brother Ed

  35. OH HO!

    Friends have helped me out!

    “The body of the faithful is strictly speaking the Ecclesia docta (the Church taught), in contrast with the Ecclesia docens (the teaching Church), which consists of the pope and the bishops. When there is question, therefore, of the official teaching of religious doctrine, the laity is neither competent nor authorized to speak in the name of God and the Church (cap. xii et sq., lib. V, tit. vii, “de haereticis”). Consequently they are not allowed to preach in church, or to undertake to defend the Catholic doctrine in public discussions with heretics.”

    I suppose this is what you are referring to.

    HOWEVER —

    “But in their private capacity, they may most lawfully defend and teach their religion by word and writing, while submitting themselves to the control and guidance of ecclesiastical authority. Moreover, they may be appointed to give doctrinal instruction more or less officially, or may even become the defenders of Catholic truth. Thus they give excellent help to the clergy in teaching catechism, the lay masters in our schools give religious instruction, and some laymen have received a missio canonica, or due ecclesiastical authorization, to teach the religious sciences in universities and seminaries; the important point in this, as in other matters, is for them to be submissive to the legitimate teaching authority”

    Since I am acting in a private capacity on this board, and neither presenting myself as one who is teaching officially, nor speaking in the name of God or the Church, I am violating no law of the Church.

    As I said before, I am only attempting to state what the Church teaches in my own words. Most all the apologia I have done online has been verified by other more competent Catholic people.

    Brother Ed

  36. The rude and almost rabid comments on this topic, stemmed from two erroneous things that were stated in the article which began this post, and which are fallacious as can be.

    First, there is not any ‘so-called heresy of the Filioque’ – it is biblically, historically, canonically, and temperally aberrant. It IS a heresy, no if’s ands or buts, as the witness of Christ’s Church makes clear.

    Bishop Photios Farrell made it even clearer to American Audiences in his massive tome, “God, History, and Dialectic.” IF you EVER find a copy, pay whatever you can for it!

    The Second flows from the first: ALL discussion of faith, the Scriptures, the Church, EVERYTHING falls by the wayside, and NO understanding is even POSSIBLE, if one holds to the filioque!!! For in adopting the filioque, the WEST- as an organic whole – Rome and her illegitimate bastard children, the Protestants (as Ed Enochs proves himself to be- anathema sit!)- ALL partake of a FOUNDATIONAL ERROR, that cannot be resolved, and EVERY philosophical/theological movment from St. Alcuin of York and Aquinas, on down to Hegel,Marx, and Boas, arises from it.

    This is the ‘great sticking point’ which NO ONE in the WEST ‘gets’ – even the Protestants, who maintain the ‘filioque’ (and the assumptions of the papal caesaropaganism that flowed from its’ adoption!) in their recitation of the creed!

    Until and unless Prots (and heretical Uniates like ‘brother ed’) drop the filioque, and acknowledge the fact that all culture from the rise of the medieval papacy (which, coincidentally, did not occur until AFTER the era of the Schism [1053] and 1066- the latter, the date of the Normal [papal] Conquest) is psychically (incarnated as the ‘soul’ of the ‘second’ or ‘rationalist’ Europe of the West) ill, and in delirium, from which it has suffered for over a thousand years…..

  37. Dear Ed,

    That appears to be a quotation from here:

    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08748a.htm

    And the New Advent “Catholic Encyclopedia” neither cites authority for the proposition you quoted, nor does it possess intrinsic authority to confer permission to engage in public comment-box debates with Reformed Christians on the Internet.

    To put in another way, while the encyclopedia may be a useful reference guide, it is not an oracle of the church.

    In contrast, I have clear authority to teach (whether or not I am ordained as an elder or deacon), which authority is found in the Bible. And that authority does not limit me to private discourses, but permits me to teach publicly on the Internet.

    Let’s leave the issue of authority to teach in general aside for a moment, though, in order to make the issue of authority more specific.

    With regard to Matthew 16:18, you claim to be presenting “what the Church teaches.” In contrast, though, in my own studies of what your church teaches, I have found only one ecumenical council that has addressed the verse, and the interpretation provided in that council was NOT that the rock was Peter.

    From what Ecumenical Council or other infallible source of authority does your interpretation come?

    In other words, why is your interpretation any better than say, John Calvin’s, John Doe’s, or Augustine’s?

    After all John Calvin is undoubtedly a greater scholar than you are, and he was ordained to teach. Augustine is undoubtedly more esteemed as a teacher even within the Roman Catholic Church. Finally, John Doe has all the same credentials that you have.

    And then, of course, if the answer is that there is no reason that your interpretation is better, then why should we listen to what you have to say?

    In order to save a little time, let’s suppose that instead of being “brother Ed” a lay member of a church in communion with Rome, you are the Ben16, the head honcho of the whole operation.

    Why should we even listen to what Ben16’s interpretation of Scripture is, unless he is speaking “ex cathedra”? Why is His fallible interpretation better than Calvin’s, Augustine’s, the authors’ of First Word, or mine?

    To bring this back down to earth, leaving aside those issues on which an Ecumenical Council has spoken (and those elusive ex cathedra papal decrees), why is the teaching of the RCC any better than that of any protestant church, such as the Protestant Reformed Church?

    -Turretinfan

  38. Ed,

    I could just throw “Fr. John+” into the mix for good measure. He appears to be an ordained teacher of the EOC. I doubt (though perhaps I am wrong) that he would share your interpretation of Matthew 16:18. Why should we accept your interpretation over his.

    John,

    I have much the same question for you. Who decided that the filioque is heresy? The twice-deposed Photius? The “Orthodox” are not bound to accept Photius’ teaching on the subject, and neither are Western Christians.

    What Orthodox Father ever objected in the days when Tertullian, Ambrose of Milan, and Augustine were teaching the doctrine?

    And both Ambrose of Milan and Augustine are considered Saints of the Orthodox Church.

    http://ocafs.oca.org/FeastSaintsViewer.asp?FSID=103485

    http://ocafs.oca.org/FeastSaintsViewer.asp?FSID=101736

    So, please clarify why we should take Photius’ word over that of Ambrose and Augustine, and charge the latter two bishops with heresy at the accusation of the former?

    Of course, the most expedient solution would be to appeal to Scripture for the answer (both for John and Ed) but both have given up that ability in their ecclesiology.

    -Turretinfan

  39. Actually, Fr. John, it may interest you to know that we do not recite the “filioque” as part of the Nicene Creed.

    Might I ask you, good Fr., which is more important:

    Charity

    or

    Doctrinal Correctness?

    I have a reason for asking.

    Brother Ed

  40. I am unqualified to discuss the filioque.

    I am, however, able to defend the Catholic Faith from the Holy Scriptures. I have not given up that ability because of my eklessiology.

    Brother Ed

  41. Bro Ed — your last statement shows that the notion “Scripture is unclear” is untenable. I think that was one of the points of TurretinFan’s questions earlier in this thread. The point wasn’t to get you to shut up, but rather to realize that certain alleged teachings of the RCC cannot even be carried out consistently.

  42. I was bothered by the last sentence in this excerpt: “Orthodoxy believes in the use and veneration of icons…It, like Rome, draws a distinction between veneration and worship. This theological nicety is duly ignored by the Orthodox faithful.” I am Orthodox, and I do not confuse veneration and worship. Worship is reserved for the Holy Trinity alone.

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