Possibilities of the Reunion of East and West.

In the past half-century, relations between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church have been growing ever closer and oriented ever more toward possible reunion. Perhaps the greatest hope of the late Holy Father John Paul II, of happy memory, was the reunion of these two oldest Churches of Christendom. In his many efforts to bridge the doctrinal and cultural divides which separate the Churches, he was successful in fostering much greater mutual respect, if not any actual reunification. Understandably, the steps taken by the Holy Father’s predecessor have excited much hope for reunion. However, it is my belief that the steps taken, on each side, toward the noble goal of rebuilding the single pre-schism Church, truly amount to little more than window-dressing, with no substantial gains made.

Not to be a party-pooper, but there is a huge list of very important things that need to be cleared up before reunion can be effected.

In compiling this list, I have provided a brief summary of each point. In order to shorten this article to a readable length, I have eliminated source citations. If you would like a citation on a particular point, please let me know in the comments section or via e-mail.

I invite your commentary.

1. The Canon of the Saints.

The canonization of a saint is held by both Churches to be a dogmatic statement of the eternal beatitude of a particular person. While coming to an agreement on the number of saints before the Great Schism is problematic enough, sorting out exactly who is a saint after the schism is even worse. Certain of those revered as saints in each Church are undoubtedly not palatable to the other Church: take, for example, Mark of Ephesus, an Eastern saint. Mark of Ephesus was the sole Eastern bishop who dissented from the decisions of the reunion Council of Florence in 1439, eventually sinking the Council’s chance of succeeding in the East. According to Western thought, Mark of Ephesus is not only not a saint, but a man who scuttled the Council worked for so hard by the fifteenth-century Latins, including among them several saints. Since the Orthodox Church believes Mark of Ephesus infallibly canonized, it would have to admit that it does not have the authority to infallibly canonize. The same story goes for those Western saints inimical to the East: the Catholic Church would have to retract its post-1054 canonizations, admitting that it hasn’t the infallible authority it claims. A compromise position, in which each Church retracts the canonizations unpalatable to the other, would force each Church to acknowledge that it has no infallible authority, which raises the question, are the Protestants right that infallibility is not divinely invested in any ecclesial body?/

It seems that, on this issue, there can be no agreement without one or the other Church admitting that it is not what it has claimed to be for the last thousand years.

2. The Canon of Scripture.

While not a deal-breaking matter, the Churches do not agree on a canon of Scripture; the Orthodox typically include in the canon Psalm CLI, I Esdras, III-IV Maccabees, Odes, and the Letter of Jeremiah, while the Western Church is dogmatically bound to reject the status of these books as Holy Scripture. Since, however, the Orthodox have never promulgated a dogmatic canon of Scripture, and do not hold these books in the same regard as the mutually accepted books, the issue is not insoluble, though not necessarily a simple matter, either.

3. The Councils.

The Orthodox Church accepts as ecumenical the first seven Councils — I Nicaea (325), I Constantinople (381), Ephesus (431), Chalcedon (451), II-III Constantinople (553, 681-681), and II Nicaea (787), and holds that other Councils are local in nature, and not dogmatically binding.* The Eastern Church accepts the Council in Trullo of 692 (the so-called "Quinisext Council [literally, "fifth-sixth]," as a legitimate part of the fifth and sixth Ecumenical Councils, because it promulgated the disciplinary canons absent in the previous councils two councils. The canons of Trullo are notoriously anti-Latin, attempting to impose Byzantine liturgical praxis upon the Western Church. Except for S. John VIII, the Popes never received the canons of Trullo, and he only received "all those canons which did not contradict the true faith, good morals, and the decrees of Rome."

Of course, the Roman Church holds that there have been twenty-one Ecumenical Councils, up to II Vatican inclusive. There are several possibilities for reconciliation. The Orthodox Church can affirm these Councils as ecumenical, despite the fact that most of these councils promulgated canons that the Orthodox consider heretical, and even though none of their bishops were present at most of them, clearly indicating that the Eastern Church had not been part of the una sancta since the schism of 1054. Secondly, the Catholic Church could acknowledge that these councils are not ecumenical until they are received and ratified by the bishops of the Eastern Church. The problem with this approach is that the Latin Church would be forced to acknowledge that it had not been part of the una sancta since the Great Schism. The third approach would be for the Catholic Church to submit fully to the view of the Orthodox, namely that the decrees of the Western councils have been in error, an acknowledgement of the West’s lack of divine authority.

*Some Orthodox argue that the Eighth Council, IV Constantinople (870) is ecumenical, and this presents its own problems. There were, in reality, two councils to call themselves IV Constantinople, the other being held in 869 against the schismatic Patriarch of Constantinople, Photius, who had unjustly excommunicated the Latins. The Latin Church has, since the eleventh century, held that the 869 council is ecumenical, while the Greek Church has never recognized the 869 council as legitimate, accepting instead the council of 870.

4. Praxis.

a. Appointment of Eastern Bishops.

Currently, all episcopal appointments within the Catholic Church are overseen by the Holy See. In the Eastern Patriarchates, episcopal candidates are named by the Patriarch of the autocephalous church, which then sends the names to Rome, where the Pope approves the candidates. In the Orthodox Church, however, the Holy Synod of each autocephalous church maintains the right to episcopal appointment. In the period before the schism, each Patriarchate held the right of appointment of bishops of the suffragan sees. The only realistic option here is for the Holy See to turn appointment rights over to the respective Patriarchs of the eastern churches, something that, I’m afraid, the Popes would rather not allow.

b. The Novus Ordo Missae.

Stated plainly, the Orthodox are flabbergasted at the promulgation by Pope Paul VI of an entirely new liturgy for the Roman Patriarchate, and one that dispenses with the previous universal practice of eastward orientation of the priest, at that. While the Orthodox have maintained the same liturgies with little change since the Patristic period, the West has abandoned its corresponding liturgy in favor of one composed in the 1960s. The East is more than a little put off by the notion that the Pope feels no qualms about taking tradition in his hands and trimming it as he pleases. Such an attitude is utterly foreign to the Orthodox Church, where tradition, both doctrinal and disciplinary, is regarded as the ultimate authority in matters of faith and praxis.

5. Dogmatic sticking points.

a. Procession of the third Person of the Trinity.

The filioque clause ("…and from the Son…") added to the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Symbol of Faith promotes a view of the Trinity nearly absent in Eastern theology: double procession of the Holy Spirit. The East views this Western addition to the Creed, which appeared in post-Arian Hispania in the sixth century, and was officially added to the Roman liturgy in the eleventh century, as an unbelievable act of hubris on the part of the Papacy. While the notion of double procession is said by many Orthodox theologians to be theolegumenon, acceptable belief, though not official doctrine, many do not hesitate to call double procession a heresy.

Even if Orthodoxy were to accept the doctrine of double procession, it is unlikely that they would accept the actual filioque clause, due to the fact that it was a late addition to the Creed, and not given acceptance by an Ecumenical Council. Such an allowance would be tacit admission of Papal authority in matters of dogma — something inimical to Eastern belief. If the West were to suddenly drop the filioque, the obvious admission is that the Pope had overstepped his bounds in adding to the Symbol, although the Catholic Church has dogmatically acknowledged Papal authority many times over.

b. Metropolitical Authority.

In the Eastern Church, the dominant theology of today holds that all bishops hold equal authority, and that the primacy enjoyed by Metropolitans and Patriarchs is one of honor only. Papal authority aside, Catholic theology generally holds that Archbishops and Patriarchs hold a measure of doctrinal and canonical authority above that of simple bishops, though this article of belief has never (to my knowledge, anyway) been canonized.

c. Transubstantiation.

While it is true that the two Churches have little actual material difference of belief on the matter of divine Eucharistic presence — both firmly assert that Christ is made manifest in more than a merely spiritual way — the Orthodox are more than a bit hesitant to affirm the Roman doctrine of transubstantiation, which was developed in response to the eleventh-century heresy of Berengarius. The Orthodox objection to the doctrine of transubstantiation has not to do with its truth value, but to its use of a pagan Greek, particularly Aristotelian, metaphysic. Aristotle’s metaphysics are used heavily in medieval Scholastic philosophy, and particularly in S. Thomas, albeit through a Western theological lens. Relevant to the debate on transubstantiation is the Scholastic use of the Aristotelian notion of substance. In Scholastic thought, substance is the metaphysical material which gives a particular object its identity, making it that which it is (haecceity, literally its "thisness"). Substance is in opposition to accidents, the outward, sensible appearances of an object. Transubstantiation is the substantial change of one object into an ontologically different one, without a necessary accompanying accidental change. Orthodox insist that the usage of metaphysical categories such as these (and others, such as form, essence, etc.) serve only to demystify and humanize realities of being and process which may only be known imperfectly anyway.

Dogmatically, the Catholic Church is irrevocably bound to transubstantiation as its primary definition of the Eucharistic transmutation. The Orthodox Church has, to my knowledge, no definitive definition regarding Christ’s presence in the Eucharist.

d. Predestination.

Catholicism is dogmatically attached to single predestination — the notion that a particular elect are predestined to eternal beatitude.

The Catholic conception of predestination is not to be confused with Calvin’s Double Predestination (also known as predestinarianism). In Catholic belief, God has determined that some specific persons shall be received into eternal beatitude. The theological arguments put forward in this debate are diverse, but well beyond the scope of this article. It suffices to say that most Catholic theological schools hold that God, having a foreknowledge of each man’s response to grace, chooses to bestow upon the men who will respond favorably the first grace, which in turn assures the merit necessary for the reception of subsequent graces. By holding to this position while still rejecting strong monergism, Catholicism is able to neatly avoid problems of determinism.

The Orthodox Church finds the debate on predestination pointless, and believes that attempts to explain such a mystery in human terms merely leads to fatalistic philosophical traps, determinism, and an overly mechanistic view of grace and salvation, which Orthodox theologians typically do not attempt to tackle.

e. Purgatory.

It is well-known that Catholicism holds to the existence of a place of purifying fire for those who die with venial sin, or with the scars of many past, now-forgiven, sins. The doctrine of Purgatory is repulsive to the Greeks because they perceive a conflict between the existence of Purgatory and the eastern doctrine of theosis, divinization (which, as we shall see later, is, for its own part, rooted in theologies inimical to the Latin fathers). In the eastern conception of theosis, sufficient holiness for the entrance of a believer into bliss is channeled to the repentant sinner on Earth by the sacraments, charitable works, and prayer; in western theology, temporal punishment is cited as the primary means by which the grace of spiritual restoration is channelled to the repentant sinner. If the condition of his soul is enough to win salvation, yet not fit to enter Heaven directly, the flames of Purgatory await. The difference can be traced to the Churches’ differing ideas regarding sin. Orthodoxy has little conception of the idea of the permanent spiritual damage caused by sin, the damage that, even though the sin may be forgiven, Latins claim, temporal punishment (i.e. Purgatory) repairs. The Orthodox ultimately confuse the Catholic doctrine of the repair of the spiritual damage remaining from sins since forgiven with the notion of conversion. Latins and Greeks agree that fervent prayer, charitable works, and reception of the sacraments are the key to repentance, and ultimately salvation, but the East, having no idea paralleling the Latin conception of the spirital scars left by sin, ultimately finds the notion of a place of purification before Heaven extraneous.

f. Divine Simplicity/Essence and Energies of God.

In the High Middle Ages, theology underwent a revival in sorts, in both East and West. In the West, the friar-schoolmen of the great mendicant orders wrote long treatises systematizing the doctrines of the Church; in the East, Constantinopolitan monks attacked and defended new, and supposedly heretical, doctrines and spiritualities. Naturally, having few real contacts, Latin and Greek theologies diverged. In the West, the doctrine of Divine Simplicity was expounded more clearly than it had been before, though it is a traditional conception in Christianity and Judaism; its rising doctrinal prominence in the High Middle Ages, culminating in its dogmatic definition at IV Lateran (1215) can be explained by the fact that it dovetails so well with the Scholastic notion of God as first cause, and the renaissance of the Aristotelian conception of God as unmoved mover. In the medieval conception of Divine Simplicity, God is conceived of as absolutely simple — having no components, physical or metaphysical, or intrinsic properties. In the Orthodox East, however, this conception was rejected for a few reasons: importantly, the contradiction between absolute simplicity and the seemingly intrinsic qualities of God (mercy, justice, inter alia). If, indeed, God has no parts, then all things are identical to His essence. His existence, justice, mercy, will to create, and all other possible attributes are identical to His existence. And because God exists necessarily, His will to create also exists necessarily, which is clearly heretical. Also, the Orthodox object on the grounds that, in the Eastern theology, both essence and energies can be predicated to God. Theosis is dependent upon God’s possessing energies distinct from His essence. Obviously, the contradictions between Latin and Greek theologies on these points are not resolvable without one or the other Church capitulating to the other.

h. Immaculate Conception.

Catholicism holds that the Mother of God was conceived without Original Sin or the other effects of the Fall, including concupiscence, meaning that she remained sinless. The Eastern Church, while not having a dogmatic position on the matter, does not hold to the same Augustinian conceptions of Original Sin and concupiscence, and renounces the Roman conception of the Mother of God’s sinlessness, though it does not deny her perpetual sanctity.

i. Ecclesiology.

The Greek Church believes itself to be the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. While the West believes the same of itself, the Second Vatican Council introduced the notion that the Church of Christ "subsists" in the Catholic Church, rather than simply that the two bodies were one and the same. It is still very much under debate within the Western Church as to how, exactly, the notion of subsistence meshes with the dogmatic definitions of the Catholic Church as the Church of Christ. Until a particular understanding takes hold, it is impossible to know how the Western teachings will fare in ecumenical matters with the East.

l. The Fall of Adam.

Since the time of S. Augustine, Doctor of Grace, the Latin West has held to a fairly specific view of Original Sin and the other consequences of the Fall, while the Greek Church has never adopted a detailed view of the spiritual consequences of the Fall, holding only to the idea that the Fall has resulted in material consequences for man — namely the need of man to provide for himself, the existence of physical pain, and, most importantly, death. While the Catholic Church has no problems with these ideas, it has a fairly complex view of the spiritual conseuqences of the Fall — Original Sin, concupiscence, and a darkened intellect (all of which are de fide). The Eastern Church has never accepted, formally or informally, these views, and typically considers the doctrines of Blessed Augustine heterodox.

m. Conceptions of Authority.

The Western Church teaches that apostolic ecclesiastical authority was invested in three authorities: Scripture, Tradition, and Magisterium. The Orthodox see no problem with Scripture or Tradition, although they typically consider Scripture a part of Tradition. Magisterium, however, the Orthodox do not accept. The role of bishops in the East is seen as primarily one of teaching, shepherding, and the guarding of Tradition. There is no binding authority invested in the individual bishop, unless he is acting in his role as teacher of traditional beliefs. The duty of creating new teachings in response to heresies is believed to be the job of the ecumenical council alone, whereas, in the West, each bishop’s teaching is considered binding (though not dogmatically) upon his flock.

6. Canonical Issues.

a. Patriarchates.

The Orthodox Church is a communion of autocephalous patriarchal churches bound together by the common Orthodox faith. The communion of the Church has its efficient cause Eucharistic communion between the Patriarchal churches, which is why the East never has intercommunion with other Churches. The Latin Church, however, has always conceived of its Patriarch — the Pope — as the head of the whole Church, possessing authority over the other local churches. Therefore, in the West, the title of Patriarch has always been one of honor bestowed upon heads of ritual churches, with no real accompanying canonical authority. In this way, the Catholic Church is able to have multiple Patriarchs of certain sees, while the Orthodox consider such a notion confusing (and, rightly, not historic).

It will be quite a challenge for the Churches to work out exactly who lays claim to each Patriarchate. It would be historically sensible for the West to allow the East to appoint Patriarchs to each of the Eastern sees, although it is not clear exactly how Patriarchates such as Antioch would work out, as the Catholic Church has three Patriarchs there (for the Maronites, the Melkites, and the Chaldeans), and the Orthodox one (of the Antiochian Orthodox church). The Melkites and the Antiochian Orthodox being ritually identical churches, it would only be sensible for the two Patriarchates to be merged. But that would leave the Catholic Maronite and Chaldean Patriarchs co-existing with the Byzantine-rite Patriarch (call him Melkite or Antiochian Orthodox, since they would hypothetically be one and the same). I have no idea how one could work out this mess in such a way as to return to the ancient, still-maintained-in-the-East practice of one Patriarch per see.

b. Papal Elections.

Since the Pope is fundamentally the bishop (and Patriarch) of Rome, the East never voted in the elections for that chair. Prior to the Great Schism, each Patriarch was appointed by the bishops of each autocephalous church. The Orthodox still maintain this practice, while, in the West, the Pope has usurped the right to appoint each bishop, western or eastern. The Orthodox would, most likely, not submit to Papal appointment of each of its bishops. While the Catholic Church would probably cede to the Orthodox the right to elect its own Patriarchs, the West may not allow the East to have a say in the election of the Pope, whether or not the East accepts Papal authority. Creativity will probably play a role in the solution of this problem, if one comes.

Comments 48

  1. John wrote:

    Well has there been any serious talk of reunification? For that matter, does the term REunification make historical sense? Was there a point in the past where there was a unified Church independent of Roman authority?

    It would seem that a push towards friendship would be more reasonable than a push towards a single Church.

    Posted 27 Jun 2006 at 3:05 pm
  2. Tom Smith wrote:

    “Well has there been any serious talk of reunification?”

    Yes. At the Second Council of Lyons, 1274, and the Council of Florence, 1439, reunion accords were signed, although, on both occasions, the Eastern bishops returned home and repudiated the union. After Lyons, the Byzantine Imperial court pressured the Eastern Church into repudiating the accords, while after Florence, the bishops were made by the Emperor to sign the accords in order to gain Western military support against the Ottomans. After the Byzantine Empire fell in 1453, the Greek bishops once again repudiated the decrees of union.

    More recently, in 1965, the Pope and the Patriarch of Constantinople lifted the mutual decrees of anathema declared in 1054, and delivered a mutual blessing. Pope John Paul II released an encyclical, Orientale Lumen, praising the traditions of the Eastern Church, and affirming that the West could stand to learn from the East. Within the past year, Cardinal Schoenborn, Archbishop of Vienna, has joined with Bishop Hilarion of the Russian Orthodox Church in a joint effort against secularism in Austria.

    “For that matter, does the term REunification make historical sense? Was there a point in the past where there was a unified Church independent of Roman authority?”

    Speaking with a Catholic bias, the answer is no, the East would merely have to accept that which its forefathers until the schism did. The Orthodox answer would be yes, there was a time before the Roman see usurped the authority it claims.

    Posted 27 Jun 2006 at 4:16 pm
  3. dlw wrote:

    Wouldn’t a concilar Catholic Church be more amenable to reunification?

    I’d also be worried practically about problems with the Russian Orthodox Church that has zip autonomy from the increasingly undemocratic Russian Nationalist gov’t.

    dlw

    Posted 27 Jun 2006 at 10:46 pm
  4. edey wrote:

    tom
    First of all, one impediment to any substantial dialogue is that the Orthodox can’t seem to have a unified front about anything. It’s part of the nature of the East it seems. So much seems to be dependent upon your Spiritual Father. So who would come to the negotiating table so to say? The Patriarch of Constantinople? Maybe. However, there isn’t anything saying the Patriarch of Moscow has to listen to him. 😉

    Also, what is to say that a situation similar to that of the Eastern Catholics couldn’t be arranged? Although, even with Eastern Catholics, it seems that how much they needed to accept is dependent upon when they came into union. How much are they required to accept as a bare minimum? I know I’ve been to a Byzantine Catholic parish where they omitted the filioque in the Creed. (I know it was a Catholic church because they prayed for our holy ecumenical Pontiff, Benedict, the Pope of Rome…) That could have been a liturgical abuse, though. Who knows?

    Posted 28 Jun 2006 at 12:41 am
  5. Tom Smith wrote:

    Regarding Byzantine-rite Catholic churches, all are required to fully accept the Catholic faith — all of the disputed dogma must be accepted. Which is obvious, as the Church does not have authority to bind dogmas “kinda,” or on only a portion of the faithful.

    As to elements of praxis, none of the Byzantine churches are required to recite the Creed with the filioque. None of the accords of union required even the slightest change to liturgical praxis. All Byzantine churches that recite the filioque do so because, under the pressure of the governments of Poland-Lithuania, Austria-Hungary, etc., they were required to do so.

    Posted 28 Jun 2006 at 7:34 am
  6. edey wrote:

    the thing is i heard that how much they had to accept was dependent upon “who was at the negotiating table”. what i heard could be complete b.s., though. maybe i misunderstood what whoever told me was saying, though.

    if they accept the filioque dogma, why wouldn’t they recite the creed that way?

    also, in some of the points you make, you say the East doesn’t have a defined position. what’s stopping the Orthodox from just accepting the Catholic one? the way i understood it, the Orthodox didn’t have a defined position because there was no heresy on the issue in their territory. commonly, the Church defines things when they are disputed.

    Posted 28 Jun 2006 at 9:34 am
  7. Jezz wrote:

    I thought that that was a very balanced and realistic article. Too many people are willing to sacrifice truth on the altar of so-called ecumenism – overlooking differences which are important. And then accuse those who wish to point out the importance of the differences as being “party poopers”…

    “Was there a point in the past where there was a unified Church independent of Roman authority?”

    In AD 33, the Church was independent of Roman authority, and it was unified.

    In ~1500 BC, at the foot of Sinai, the Church was even independent of the authority of Jerusalem.

    Posted 28 Jun 2006 at 9:47 am
  8. Tom Smith wrote:

    “if they accept the filioque dogma, why wouldn’t they recite the creed that way?”

    Why would they? The filioque is a late addition to the Creed anyway. By that standard, we’d have to add everything we believed to the Creed, and it would take two hours to recite.

    “also, in some of the points you make, you say the East doesn’t have a defined position. what’s stopping the Orthodox from just accepting the Catholic one?”

    The Catholic dogmas that the East doesn’t accept are, almost entirely, inimical to Orthodox non-dogmatic tradition.

    Posted 28 Jun 2006 at 1:17 pm
  9. edey wrote:

    “In AD 33, the Church was independent of Roman authority, and it was unified.”

    in AD 33, the Church was under Petrine authority, which is the precursor to Roman authority.

    Posted 28 Jun 2006 at 1:25 pm
  10. edey wrote:

    so why can’t the Orthodox do the same thing (agree with the dogma but not adopt the praxis.) with the filioque clause?

    btw, i think the article is very well written.

    Posted 28 Jun 2006 at 1:41 pm
  11. edey wrote:

    maybe we need to focus more on evangelization rather than ecumenism. it’s not as if the Truth changes, so where would there be even room for compromise?

    Posted 29 Jun 2006 at 12:42 am
  12. Anthrakeus wrote:

    Here I go, again.

    According to the Points:

    1. Technically, I’m not sure that the Church (Catholic, that is) claims infalliblity for its canonizations, although this would make sense. Nobody that I know of (except Tom Moloney) every objected to the idea. There was a time when people didn’t need a seal of De Fide approval attached to something so that they’d believe it (if you think you don’t, read the Syllbus of Pius IX or Humani Generis of Pius XII, and see if you swallow everything they say).

    Interesting tidbit: St. Stephen I of Hungary is the only saint independantly canonized by the Catholic and Orthodox Church separately. We did it in the 1100’s; the Orthodox did it as a present to the Hungarians on the 1000th anniversary of statehood in 2000.

    We may even have problems with pre-schism saints. The East was a heck of a lot more forgiving of heresy in its canonizations. Also, Constantine the Great is highly revered by the Byzantines (he’s an “equal to the Apostles”).

    Am I wrong in thinking the Russians are about the only Orthodox much interested in new canonizations these day?

    2. We might be able to argue that some of these texts are actually just part of the books ennumerated by Trent (cf. Appendix A of the Bible).

    3. We accept Vatican II? Hey, I hold III Constantinople to be a heretical modernist council!

    4. It should be noted that the Roman Mass was never as archaic as the Orientals. The Byzantine Divine Liturgy of 500 is the same as that of today from the “Little Entrance” onward. Prior to that, are a few Antiphons (psalm texts) which probably formed part of the priest’s private prayers before being attaced to the Liturgy. They are analogous to the “Prayers at the Foot of the Altar” in the Roman Mass. Best I can tell, the Syriacs, Copts, et al. are even less innovative.

    Also the Russians don’t like that Rome hasn’t had an epiclesis since the 500’s (oh, and the stuff in the New Mass hasn’t helped. They like their epicleseis after the words of Christ).

    5a. I get the impression that the Orthodox complain about the filioque because they’ve been doing so for 1000 years. I doubt even most Trinitarian theologians can cogently explain the difference between Eastern and Western Trinitarian theologies using the same terms for both.

    b. I get the impression that you’ve got that backwards, Tom. The West hasn’t given anything more that honorary authority to Archbishops in a long time (Cardinals, yes; Archbishops, no). Today the West is all about the equality of Bishops. Metropolitans (more or less the same as Archbishops) have historically held a lot of sway in the East. Lately, it’s the heads of the autocephalous churches with the power among the Orthodox, but that’s a development which has paralleled the growth of papal authority.

    d. Do you know where we defined single-predestination? Not that I’m arguing for double-predestination (although, at times…), but that’s not our principal problem with Calvinism.

    While way beyond the scope of this article, your account of Catholic predestination (while rarely contested today) would be rejected by significant portions of the theological community of years past on multiple points.

    What’s monergism?

    e. Temporal punishment is distinct from Purgatory, and quite distinct from grace. It is the penalty God requires in atonement for our sins, and may be remitted by prayer and good works on earth. Also, not all grace is merited, and heaven is never earned (only merited- in the way that a kid who gets all A’s merits an ice-cream cone, but doesn’t exactly earn it).

    f. You should write a post solely on this topic, as it is one I have never fully understood, but have some ideas about. Also, I command it, and as we all know, the world revolves around me.

    i. There is some reason to believe that most of the Fathers wanted “subsist” to be used as an emphatic “to be” (cf. the related ex(s)ist).

    m. Oh boy am I glad I’ve traded in Bp. Trautman for Archbp. Basil!

    6. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times: to reunify with the East, first we have to reunify the East.

    Actually, Patriarch does have some canonical effect (esp. today), being nearly synonymous (at least in a square/rectangle way) with “Major Archbishop”, which has a whole host of canonical effects.

    Alexandria has two Catholic patriarchs, as well: Melkite and Coptic. I think there is also at least one Orthodox and one “Oriental Orthodox” Patriarch (the latter is in union with no one).

    Comments to the Comments:
    1. John, if by “Roman” you mean Imperial, then yes. Admittedly, however, between the sack of Rome and the Eastern Schism there weren’t many tangible effects of the unification.

    3. dlw, it’s not clear who’s in charge of whom in Russia. Sometimes the Orthodox force the government to do things (like restrict religious freedoms).

    4. edey, if it’s the Patriarch of Constantinople bargaining, don’t expect much to come of it. No one listens to the “His All-Holiness, the Ecumenical Patriarch” these days. Also, the Eastern Catholics don’t have to say the “filioque” (the Ruthenian Byzantine Major Archmetropolitan Cathedral doesn’t). I don’t like it, but Rome allows it.

    5. Tom, I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure that there were liturgical changes ordered by the union of Uzhorod for the Ruthenians. The epiclesis is silent, unlike in other Byzantine Churches. I thought it was by order of the Pope.

    6. edey, actually not reciting the “filioque” is a proper translation of the Greek liturgical books, which do not contain the phrase. It was only ever inserted in the vernacular (if you call thousand year old Slavonic “vernacular”). As to why they don’t agree with us, a. the East doesn’t like to define things, and b. they don’t like us.

    8. Tom, I’m okay with a two-hour creed.

    10. edey, to accept our dogmas they would have to first accept our ideas of theology, which are the very problem. It’s no that the Orthodox think that the Immaculate Conception, or the filioque are evil in and of themselves. It’s the very idea of defining them, and doing so with philosophy, that gets them. They dislike dogma, and don’t accept philosophy (esp. Aristotelian philosophy).

    See what happens when I quite reading for a week ;)>

    Posted 29 Jun 2006 at 1:52 am
  13. Tom Smith wrote:

    Anthrakeus,

    “b. I get the impression that you’ve got that backwards, Tom. The West hasn’t given anything more that honorary authority to Archbishops in a long time (Cardinals, yes; Archbishops, no). Today the West is all about the equality of Bishops. Metropolitans (more or less the same as Archbishops) have historically held a lot of sway in the East. Lately, it’s the heads of the autocephalous churches with the power among the Orthodox, but that’s a development which has paralleled the growth of papal authority.”

    True enough, but modern Orthodox theological writers stress the equality of all bishops more now than at any time in the history of the Greek Church. While I believe it’s pure sophistry to read back into the Fathers that which isn’t there (the equality of, say, the Patriarch of Constantinople with the auxiliary bishop of some rinky-dink see in Siberia), that’s what they’re doing.

    “d. Do you know where we defined single-predestination?”

    There may not be a particular in which it is stated that single predestination is the truth. However, it’s still considered by Denzinger, Ott, etc. de fide. It was assumed as a proposition by I Orange, Quiercy, Valence, and, most importantly, Trent. In various documents, the Popes have also taken single predestination as assumed. The Fathers and Doctors seem to be almost universally in favor of single predestination, although I can’t say that I’ve reviewed every last jot and tittle of each. The only pure definitional statements one has are those which slam the door on semi-Pelagian rejection of predestination at Orange, Valence, etc., and double predestination at Trent. Obviously, this leaves only single predestination as proper Catholic belief. (Although, a tiny crack such as this is enough for a sophist such as yourself to drive a truck through. Sophist.)

    “While way beyond the scope of this article, your account of Catholic predestination (while rarely contested today) would be rejected by significant portions of the theological community of years past on multiple points.”

    Really? I thought I stuck pretty close to Ludwig Ott on the matter. Unfortunately, most of the reading I’ve done on predestination uses Calvin-speak rather than Catholic language, and that may be coloring my explanation.

    “What’s monergism?”

    Monergism is the idea that God alone saves, and does so independently of all human efforts and actions, while synergism is the notion that human action plays a part in salvation. (Whether that part is large or small is not important: synergism encompasses everything from Catholicism to semi-Pelagianism.) One of the ongoing debates between Catholics, Jansenists, Calvinists, and Lutherans has to do with S. Augustine on the question: Lutherans and Catholics hold that he was a weak synergist, while Jansenists and Calvinists hold that he was a monergist. Monergism seems to lead to determinism, and the Church has generally rejected it. Unfortunately, the Church has generally also rejected any simple definition of synergism as smacking of semi-Pelagianism, preferring instead to straddle the fence. It seems to me, however, that monergism is an absolute, while synergism is flexible, and that any vacillation on the question indicates that synergism is one’s belief.

    “f. You should write a post solely on this topic, as it is one I have never fully understood, but have some ideas about.”

    Honestly, I don’t think that anybody really understands essence and energies. Which may be why the Orthodox like them: they’re vague enough not to sound like philosophy.

    “They dislike dogma, and don’t accept philosophy (esp. Aristotelian philosophy).”

    So they say, but it’s a load of crap. They didn’t have a problem with the philosophy which brought about the notion of the homoousion. They don’t mind Palamas’ philosophy. The Orthodox don’t seem to mind metaphysics, as long as it didn’t come from anyone whose name starts with an “A.” (Aristotle, Augustine, Anselm, and Aquinas are all disliked in the East. Coincidence? I think not. They hate the letter “A.”)

    Posted 29 Jun 2006 at 10:26 am
  14. Anthrakeus wrote:

    “So they say, but it’s a load of crap.”

    That seems to be a good response to most statements about Orthodox claims.

    Posted 29 Jun 2006 at 11:39 am
  15. Jezz wrote:

    “Honestly, I don’t think that anybody really understands essence and energies.”

    It’s simple.

    essence – what something is.
    energies – what something does. Latin equivalent of “energy” = “operatio” (ie, operations).

    What St Gregory Palamas was saying is that we cannot experience God’s essence directly – it is wholly transcendent, and to experience it we’d have to be “of one essence” with Him (just as Christ is “of one essence” with Him). We can (and do), however, experience God by what He does – eternally and everywhere.

    “Which may be why the Orthodox like them: they’re vague enough not to sound like philosophy.”

    You’re fond of these little backhanders, it seems.

    “”They dislike dogma, and don’t accept philosophy (esp. Aristotelian philosophy).”

    So they say, but it’s a load of crap.”

    So *who* says?

    If the Orthodox didn’t accept philosophy, why would we venerate Justin the Philosopher as a Saint? Why would St Gregory the Theologian speak approvingly of St Basil as being “a philosopher among philosophers” in his funeral oration? And as you quite rightly point out, it was a philosophical term that eventually won Orthodox approval as a defense against Arianism. So of course we accept philosophy. We use philosophy as a means of explaining and more precisely delineating the Faith, as it has been handed down to us, and only when necessary (ie, when a new heresy has arisen). As St Gregory said, like a bee we fly from flower to flower, taking that which is good in philosophy and leaving the rest.

    Our criticism of the Roman church (especially since the time of the scholastics) is not that they use philosophy and create dogma, but that they use philosophy as a means to its own end, and that they create dogma for the sake of creating dogma. It is the endless (and pointless) philosophical speculations which end up being dogmatised for no apparent purpose which the Orthodox disagree with. We don’t make dogmatic pronouncements just for the sake of it – only to defend against an imminent heresy.

    Posted 04 Jul 2006 at 11:41 am
  16. Tom Smith wrote:

    “essence – what something is.
    energies – what something does. Latin equivalent of “energy” = “operatio” (ie, operations).”

    Is this all that he means? These definitions of essence seems a but simplified, although I acknowledge that, being a philosophy student in a department with very little in the way of non-Greek, pre-Enlightenment content, and a Catholic, I know little of medieval Byzantine philosophy. But if these are the only things that Palamas means, there is really nothing standing in the way of Western acceptance of Palamite theology, which is why I hesitate to acknowledge that these are the only meanings Palamas uses, given all the theological battles waged over essence and energies. Even in the Greek Church, as I’m sure you know, hierarchs were divided over the acceptance of these notions.

    “What St Gregory Palamas was saying is that we cannot experience God’s essence directly – it is wholly transcendent, and to experience it we’d have to be ‘of one essence’ with Him (just as Christ is ‘of one essence’ with Him). We can (and do), however, experience God by what He does – eternally and everywhere.”

    With that I cannot disagree outright, although I will say that I don’t understand why it is needed to put energies on the same plane as essence — essence, as the sole determinant of ontological reality, exists independently of any energies exhibited by that object. Since energies are accidental characteristics, even by your definition above, why speak of “essence and energies” together, as though they’re inseparable, rather than grouping energies in with other accidental features? Perhaps this is a nitpicky thing, but I think it belies the fact that energies, in Palamas, are more than mere actions taken by God.

    “‘Which may be why the Orthodox like them: they’re vague enough not to sound like philosophy.’

    You’re fond of these little backhanders, it seems.”

    Oh, without a doubt. I mean nothing by it.

    “”They dislike dogma, and don’t accept philosophy (esp. Aristotelian philosophy).’

    So they say, but it’s a load of crap.’

    So *who* says?”

    Almost every Orthodox writer I have read (which is, without a doubt, a small number indeed) takes time, in dealing with Orthodoxy’s battles with the West, to knock Scholasticism as far too philosophical for Christian doctrine. His Grace +Bp. Kallistos makes plain that philosophy is not suited to the faith of the Orthodox Church.

    “If the Orthodox didn’t accept philosophy, why would we venerate Justin the Philosopher as a Saint? Why would St Gregory the Theologian speak approvingly of St Basil as being “a philosopher among philosophers” in his funeral oration?”

    You’re only illustrating my point — when the Fathers use philosophy, it’s okay. But when some crazy Italian friars use it, it becomes fashionable to bash on it.

    The reason I oh-so-subtlely describe the position of the likes of Kallistos Ware as “a load of crap” is because the Schoolmen of the West were doing *exactly* what the Greek Fathers of the fourth century were doing — utilizing the best in the philosophical, metaphysical thought of the day to clarify the truths of the faith.

    “Our criticism of the Roman church (especially since the time of the scholastics) is not that they use philosophy and create dogma, but that they use philosophy as a means to its own end, and that they create dogma for the sake of creating dogma. It is the endless (and pointless) philosophical speculations which end up being dogmatised for no apparent purpose which the Orthodox disagree with.”

    “As St Gregory said, like a bee we fly from flower to flower, taking that which is good in philosophy and leaving the rest.”

    I take it that you contend that the West regularly does, and has done, otherwise.

    What is a dogma that is pointless? Transubstantiation? The West first utilized it as a catechetic against the Eucharistic heresies of Berengarius, and it was canonized in response to the Eucharistic heresies of the likes of Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli. Predestination? It was developed in response to the heresies of Pelagius, and canonized in response to the heresies of Calvin. Papal infallibility? It was canonized in response to the heresies of the conciliarists, Gallicans, and modernity.

    What is an example of a truly pointless Western dogma?

    “…they use philosophy as a means to its own end…”

    What do you mean? Who does? Can you cite an example?

    Posted 04 Jul 2006 at 12:42 pm
  17. Anthrakeus wrote:

    I will agree that some of the scholastics (generally the lesser ones, whose work was of no importance anyway) did use philosophy and more broadly disputation simply “for fun”. As a self-styled Sophist I can scarcely condemn them for it. Nonetheless, what I would like to see is not examples of Western theologians overusing philosophy (which might well turn out too numerous to answer), but an Eastern theologian who in the past… oh… let’s say 1000 years has come up with some “new” definition, theory, anything. There certainly have been heresies in the past millenium, and most could not be answered without some new thinking. Not that this thinking should be anything truly new. Just rewordings and extensions of traditional dogma.

    The issue with Palamas becomes that within a Western understanding of simplicity (based deeply on very old principles; Palamas is the innovator here, not that such things are instantly bad). A scholastic would agree that God cannot be known perfectly by finite beings, nor in this life can He be known immediately. However, Palamas can seem to be saying that there are two parts of God, His essence and His energies. Such would be heresy. Now, I don’t think that’s what Palamas is saying. Nonetheless, when his theories are extended beyond the nice little boxes they were designed for (mostly mystical theology), problems can arise. Furthermore, it seems clear that we can know *about* God’s essence, for example His simplicity. It’s unclear (at least to me) if Palamas would agree.

    Posted 06 Jul 2006 at 1:37 am
  18. Anthrakeus wrote:

    “The issue with Palamas becomes that within a Western understanding of simplicity”

    Make that “A problem arises between Palamas and a Western understanding of simplicity”

    I changed my thought mid-sentence.

    Posted 06 Jul 2006 at 1:47 am
  19. Jezz wrote:

    ““essence – what something is.
    energies – what something does. Latin equivalent of “energy” = “operatio” (ie, operations).”

    Is this all that he means? These definitions of essence seems a but simplified,

    I’m sorry, I wasn’t under the impression that theological definitions are meant to be complicated.

    Actually, your surprise at the simplicity here is actually symptomatic of the very problem that Orthodoxy has with Scholasticism in general – ie, the tendency to over-complicate things and to go into unnecessary detail.

    although I acknowledge that, being a philosophy student in a department with very little in the way of non-Greek, pre-Enlightenment content, and a Catholic, I know little of medieval Byzantine philosophy.

    So as a Catholic you don’t know much about medieval “Byzantine” philosophy – fine, I can understand that. What about Catholic philosophy? Do you know something about that? :)

    The terminology of “essence” and “energies” is the same terminology as coined and used by Catholic theologians such as St Basil the Great and St Gregory the Theologian when they were defending the Orthodoxy of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church against the Arians, in between the First and Second Ecumenical Synods. (The concept itself is much earlier, and can be clearly seen in the likes of Theophilus of Antioch, in Ante-Nicene Fathers, volume 2).

    His Grace Bishop Kallistos Ware, whom you claim to have read, actually points this out in The Orthodox Church when he discusses the hesychast controversy. If you are interested, the relevant epistles of St Basil are CCXXXIV and XXXVIII. The latter especially is important in coming to understand the meaning of the words “hypostasis” and “ousia” as used at the 2nd and later Ecumenical Councils.

    The essence/energies distinction is closely related to the apophatic theology of the Cappadocians. When describing the essence (which is held to be unknowable), the descriptions used are always in the negative – undescribable, ineffable, uncircumscribable, unknowable, infinite, eternal (ie, not-circumscribed by time), etc. Positive terms like Judge, King, Lord, Master, God, Just, Loving, etc are said to describe His energies.

    But if these are the only things that Palamas means, there is really nothing standing in the way of Western acceptance of Palamite theology, which is why I hesitate to acknowledge that these are the only meanings Palamas uses, given all the theological battles waged over essence and energies. Even in the Greek Church, as I’m sure you know, hierarchs were divided over the acceptance of these notions.

    Well, you appear to be labouring under the misconception that the Palamas-Barlaam controversy was over the distinction between energies and essence. It was not. The disagreement was over whether or not the energies are created or uncreated. Barlaam held that the energies are a created phenomenon. The Orthodox (represented by St Gregory Palamas) held that the energies were uncreated. The difference is that Western theology (following Barlaam) leaves us with the fact that we can only experience God through created intermediaries, whereas the Orthodox belief is that we experience God directly. This is what prevents the West from accepting Orthodox theology (as espoused by St Gregory Palamas).

    “What St Gregory Palamas was saying is that we cannot experience God’s essence directly – it is wholly transcendent, and to experience it we’d have to be ‘of one essence’ with Him (just as Christ is ‘of one essence’ with Him). We can (and do), however, experience God by what He does – eternally and everywhere.”

    With that I cannot disagree outright, although I will say that I don’t understand why it is needed to put energies on the same plane as essence — essence, as the sole determinant of ontological reality, exists independently of any energies exhibited by that object. Since energies are accidental characteristics, even by your definition above, why speak of “essence and energies” together, as though they’re inseparable, rather than grouping energies in with other accidental features? Perhaps this is a nitpicky thing, but I think it belies the fact that energies, in Palamas, are more than mere actions taken by God.

    Near as I can tell, “accidental features” and “energies” are virtual synonyms – which makes your statement “other accidental features” a bit empty.

    The reason they are grouped together is as I explained above – both are uncreated.

    You’re fond of these little backhanders, it seems.”

    Oh, without a doubt. I mean nothing by it.

    So you are fond of saying meaningless things, it seems. I’m not sure which is less flattering…

    So *who* says?”

    Almost every Orthodox writer I have read (which is, without a doubt, a small number indeed) takes time, in dealing with Orthodoxy’s battles with the West, to knock Scholasticism as far too philosophical for Christian doctrine.

    Have you not read St Justin? St Basil? St Gregory of Nyssa? St Athanasius? Origen? Clement of Alexandria? Or even St Augustine? They were all Orthodox writers, and none of them refused to accept philosophy. So either your claim “almost every Orthodox writer I have read” is false, or you haven’t read the Fathers…

    I think also you had better read Fr Thomas Hopko’s popular exposition on the faith.

    His Grace +Bp. Kallistos makes plain that philosophy is not suited to the faith of the Orthodox Church.

    I think perhaps you need to re-read what His Grace Kallistos Ware had to say about philosophy and theology. I’ve never read anything he wrote that says this.

    “If the Orthodox didn’t accept philosophy, why would we venerate Justin the Philosopher as a Saint? Why would St Gregory the Theologian speak approvingly of St Basil as being “a philosopher among philosophers” in his funeral oration?”

    You’re only illustrating my point — when the Fathers use philosophy, it’s okay. But when some crazy Italian friars use it, it becomes fashionable to bash on it.

    And you are missing my point. Ss Justin, Gregory and Basil were Orthodox writers. In light of this observation, you need to reevaluate your statement “almost every Orthodox writer I have read”.

    The reason I oh-so-subtlely describe the position of the likes of Kallistos Ware as “a load of crap” is because the Schoolmen of the West were doing *exactly* what the Greek Fathers of the fourth century were doing — utilizing the best in the philosophical, metaphysical thought of the day to clarify the truths of the faith.

    And this is where we disagree. If the scholastics had restrained themselves to use philosophy to explain or clarify the truths of the faith, we would have no problem with them. But our criticism of them is that the scholastics went far beyond merely trying to explain truths of the faith – they began using philosophy to speculate on hitherto unknown truths, which subsequently became dogma.

    I know it’s fashionable among papal apologists to dismiss this using the cliched “anti-Western hatred” stereotype (which is what your “crazy Italian friars” comment was undoubtedly insinuating). But we are completely consistent in this regard – we do not reserve this sort of criticism for “crazy Italian friars”, or even for Westerners. For example, Origen and (to a lesser extent) Clement of Alexandria were neither Italian nor Western, and yet they come in for exactly the same sort of criticism from us as the scholastics do. Our criticism of the scholastics has very little to do with the fact that they are Italian, and a great deal to do with the fact that they were guilty of the same sort of philosophical speculation that Origen was guilty of.

    And of course, we were not the first to point out this tendency in the schoolmen. The philosophical excesses of the schoolmen featured prominently in many of the battles at the time of the Reformation.

    “Our criticism of the Roman church (especially since the time of the scholastics) is not that they use philosophy and create dogma, but that they use philosophy as a means to its own end, and that they create dogma for the sake of creating dogma. It is the endless (and pointless) philosophical speculations which end up being dogmatised for no apparent purpose which the Orthodox disagree with.”

    “As St Gregory said, like a bee we fly from flower to flower, taking that which is good in philosophy and leaving the rest.”

    I take it that you contend that the West regularly does, and has done, otherwise.
    Yes.

    What is a dogma that is pointless? Transubstantiation? The West first utilized it as a catechetic against the Eucharistic heresies of Berengarius, and it was canonized in response to the Eucharistic heresies of the likes of Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli. Predestination? It was developed in response to the heresies of Pelagius, and canonized in response to the heresies of Calvin. Papal infallibility? It was canonized in response to the heresies of the conciliarists, Gallicans, and modernity.

    What is an example of a truly pointless Western dogma?

    The enumeration of the sacraments. The enumeration of the sins. The legalistic classification of sins into “mortal” and “venial”. The system of merit that underlies the dogmatic explanation of the workings of the Atonement, along with its related spin-offs (superrerogatory works, etc). The Immaculate Conception. Having the earth declared at the centre of the universe and unmoving (ok, perhaps this wasn’t declared dogma, but it was certainly an opinion held seriously enough to land Galileo in trouble). Etc.

    “…they use philosophy as a means to its own end…”

    What do you mean? Who does? Can you cite an example?

    What I mean is, when faced with a question like “how does the atonement work” or “how many sacraments are there”, the appropriate response is “I don’t know”. This is humility and simple realism – we can know nothing apart from revelation, and there are some things that God hasn’t revealed to us (nor would we understand them if He had). However, the phrase “I don’t know” barely seems to be in the Schoolmen’s vocabulary. [Begin infomercial voice] Want to know how many sacraments there are? Concerned that the sacraments have never been Traditionally enumerated, or that God hasn’t revealed the exact number to us? Have no fear! Our Schoolmen will fill in the gaps in God’s revelation using their special philosophical powers! Where God has abandoned you to ignorance, they will rescue you! [End infomercial voice] This sort of pointless speculation is what we criticised Origen for. And it’s what we criticise the schoolmen for.

    Posted 07 Jul 2006 at 11:20 am
  20. Anthrakeus wrote:

    Jezz,

    I’ll go into more detail later, but for starters:

    The difficulty Catholics (and Orthodox theologians like Barlaam, who however “relapsed” into Catholocism) have is that it seems the essence/energies distinction creates a real distinction in God (that is, a distinction in being, as opposed to a distinction only in thought). Unless I am quite mistaken, Palamas does not see the energies as merely convenience of speech (like distinguishing between mercy and justice, both of which are truly the same thing in God). The energies are real, uncreated entities (not independant of God but distinct from His essence). Catholics admit only one kind of distinction within the Divinity: distinction of Person. So, “the Father is not the Son” is fine, but “God’s justice is not God” is heresy. The justice of God is identical with God.

    Also it should be noted that Catholics believe that we will experience God immediately (in His essence) in Heaven, just not completely (as He is infinite and we are finite). Only on earth must creatures mediate our experience of God (the bible and the Church fall under the category of creatures).

    Posted 07 Jul 2006 at 2:47 pm
  21. Tom Smith wrote:

    “I’m sorry, I wasn’t under the impression that theological definitions are meant to be complicated.”

    Backhander?

    “Actually, your surprise at the simplicity here is actually symptomatic of the very problem that Orthodoxy has with Scholasticism in general – ie, the tendency to over-complicate things and to go into unnecessary detail.”

    What *exactly* is wrong with creating a detailed exposition of the Faith? What *exactly* is consitutive of “unnecessary detail?” Do you have a problem with religious philosophy in general, or only when religious philosophy leads to the promulgation of dogma?

    These questions, I think, will prove a permanent sticking point between you and I.

    “So as a Catholic you don’t know much about medieval ‘Byzantine’ philosophy – fine, I can understand that. What about Catholic philosophy? Do you know something about that?”

    A little, perhaps. I don’t pretend to be a scholar. I was talking about Palamas, however, and not the Fathers. You’re talking about how the Fathers = Catholic philosophy. While I can agree to that statement, you’re ultimately equating S. Gregory Palamas with Catholic philosophy, which, I think, is erroneous, although, as you can see, I know very little of Palamas.

    “The terminology of “essence” and “energies” is the same terminology as coined and used by Catholic theologians such as St Basil the Great and St Gregory the Theologian when they were defending the Orthodoxy of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church against the Arians, in between the First and Second Ecumenical Synods.”

    “Essence,” I can agree with. Obviously, with all the discussion of the Incarnation dealing with “ousia,” and culminating in the definition of Christ as “homoousion” (not sure about the spelling), “essence” has a firm grounding in Patristic writings. Dropping the Palamite lens through which contemporary Orthodox writers see, where do “energies” come into play, though? (I’m not setting you up; I genuinely have no idea.)

    “His Grace Bishop Kallistos Ware, whom you claim to have read, actually points this out in The Orthodox Church when he discusses the hesychast controversy.”

    I don’t doubt it. When I return to Pittsburgh in a few weeks, I will look up the relevant passages in The Orthodox Church.

    “Positive terms like Judge, King, Lord, Master, God, Just, Loving, etc are said to describe His energies.”

    You claim that God’s energies are accidental characteristics. So are his qualities as Judge, King, etc. accidental? That seems like quite a commitment you’re making here. It seems to me that, when one describes Him as “God,” one is referring to an essential characteristic. Isn’t God essentially and necessarily God? Is God only God accidentally? That doesn’t seem to make sense. Either Palamas is stating that God’s Divinity can be predicated to Him only accidentally, which seems to me nonsensical, or Palamas is not paralleling the Cappadocian Fathers’ apophatic theology.

    “The Orthodox (represented by St Gregory Palamas) held that the energies were uncreated. The difference is that Western theology (following Barlaam)…”

    Tiny nitpicky detail here: it’s incorrect to speak of the West *following* Barlaam, as most of the influential Scholastic thinkers were hammering out their doctrines in the thirteenth century, while the controversy over the Holy Hesychasts was in the fourteenth.

    “…leaves us with the fact that we can only experience God through created intermediaries, whereas the Orthodox belief is that we experience God directly. This is what prevents the West from accepting Orthodox theology (as espoused by St Gregory Palamas).”

    Thank you for giving me a bit of education in Palamas. With what you’ve told me, though, I disagree. The main disagreement here comes from the notion that God’s actions are uncreated, not from the various explananations as to how God is experienced (directly or indirectly). Since God has no components, and is therefore simple, and because all that is uncreated is God, the only uncreated thing is God’s essence.

    “Ss Justin, Gregory and Basil were Orthodox writers. In light of this observation, you need to reevaluate your statement ‘almost every Orthodox writer I have read’.”

    When I was talking about “Orthodox writers,” I meant to exclude the Fathers. In referring to “Orthodox writers,” I meant “modern Orthodox writers,” as in, “those moderns in the Eastern Orthodox Church.” Also, both Orthodox and Catholics typically think of the Fathers as belonging to the Church to which they belong. This comes out in my writing — I think of the Fathers as Catholics, although I would not deny that, as one of the two Churches resulting from the Great Schism, the Fathers belong equally to the Orthodox Church.

    “But our criticism of them is that the scholastics went far beyond merely trying to explain truths of the faith – they began using philosophy to speculate on hitherto unknown truths, which subsequently became dogma.”

    By “hitherto unknown truths,” you imply that all truths of the faith were known at all times, going back to the Apostolic period. That seems, to me anyway, incorrect.

    “And of course, we were not the first to point out this tendency in the schoolmen. The philosophical excesses of the schoolmen featured prominently in many of the battles at the time of the Reformation.”

    A few Reformers did, indeed, dislike this aspect of the Scholastic philosophy. Many, however, used the Scholastic method against Catholicism.

    Also, I think you’re on to something here. You said that “we were not the first” to take issue with Scholasticism. I agree — because Orthodoxy has not, by and large, come to condemn Scholasticism until very recently. It seems to me strange that the Orthodox would dislike Scholasticism so strongly today, when just a few hundred years ago, Russian schools were teaching Aquinas in Latin, and had no problem talking about transubstantiation.

    “The enumeration of the sacraments.”

    . . . was dogmatically defined in response to the Protestant Reformers who claimed that there were only two.

    “The enumeration of the sins.”

    I take it that you mean the seven deadly sins? We get our theology on the seven deadly sins primarily from St. John Cassian and many of the Desert Fathers.

    “The legalistic classification of sins into ‘mortal’ and ‘venial’.”

    In the Liturgy books in the pews of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Pittsburgh, there are guidelines for the reception of Communion, and among them, is that one must go to confession if one is conscious of serious sins. They use the word “mortal” parenthetically. When I am back in Pittsburgh in a few weeks, I can get you an exact citation if you wish.

    “The system of merit that underlies the dogmatic explanation of the workings of the Atonement, along with its related spin-offs (superrerogatory works, etc).”

    Once again, these were defined at Trent against the Protestant heresies.

    “The Immaculate Conception.”

    This was a necessary definition in light of the dogmatic teachings on Original Sin defined in light of the Pelagian heresy.

    “Having the earth declared at the centre of the universe and unmoving (ok, perhaps this wasn’t declared dogma, but it was certainly an opinion held seriously enough to land Galileo in trouble).”

    Where was this “declared?”

    “…we can know nothing apart from revelation…”

    This strikes me as a particularly Protestant view. Is it the case that all dogmatic truths are revealed? Is the Trinity a revealed truth? The dual natures of Christ? Although Scripture hints at things like this, it’s never smack-you-in-the-face obvious.

    “This sort of pointless speculation is what we criticised Origen for.”

    II Constantinople called him a “heretic,” not “one who uses philosophy too much.”

    Posted 07 Jul 2006 at 4:04 pm
  22. Funky Dung wrote:

    “I take it that you mean the seven deadly sins? We get our theology on the seven deadly sins primarily from St. John Cassian and many of the Desert Fathers.”

    Last I checked the number was never dogmatically defined, nor are they likely to ever be. IIRC, St. John of the Ladder referred to eight and I don’t think that’s ever stopped a Catholic from gaining great insight from The Divine Ladder. BTW, isn’t John an Eastern saint as well? Weren’t most of the early proponents of numbering the capital sins?

    Posted 07 Jul 2006 at 6:37 pm
  23. edey wrote:

    a side note: when were the Orthodox no longer banned from receiving Communion in Catholic churches? was that the 1983 code or 1917? Members of the Orthodox Churches , the Assyrian Church of the East, and the Polish National Catholic Church are urged to respect the discipline of their own churches. According to Roman Catholic discipline, the Code of Canon Law does not object to the reception of communion by Christians of these Churches (canon 844 § 3). Would that be a significant gesture or just window dressing?

    Posted 08 Jul 2006 at 12:04 am
  24. Anthrakeus wrote:

    edey, best I can tell (not being a canon lawyer) the 1917 code doesn’t speak to the matter. In canon 853 (which is verbatim reproduced as canon 912 of the present code) allows anyone who is baptized to receive communion. The following canons (which also seem to be reproduced verbatim) restrict communion to those who have reached the age of reason and who are not under any canonical penalty. Now excommunication would have such a penalty. What canon 844 (which seems to be all new) does is to remove the supposition of excommunication due to schism and heresy from members of certain nearly catholic churches and ecclesial communities (the Orthodox, the other schismatic Eastern Churches, etc.). While this is somewhat a break from tradition, it is not really a reversal of law.

    Also, this isn’t an empty gesture. We have intercommunion in effect with the Assyrian Church of the East, and the ball is in the Orthodox court on this one. That’s not to say that we *should* have intercommunion with the Orthodox. As an Eastern Catholic it might make my life easier, but that’s hardly the point. The Divine Sacrifice is also a symbol of the unity of the Church. To actively participate in the worship of a group not in union with one’s own does undermine that.

    Posted 08 Jul 2006 at 1:53 am
  25. Tom Smith wrote:

    “Last I checked the number was never dogmatically defined…”

    Right — they are not defined. They aren’t exactly the matter of religious dogma anyway.

    “…nor are they likely to ever be. IIRC, St. John of the Ladder referred to eight and I don’t think that’s ever stopped a Catholic from gaining great insight from The Divine Ladder. BTW, isn’t John an Eastern saint as well? Weren’t most of the early proponents of numbering the capital sins?”

    I take it that you are referring to S. John Climacus and the Ladder of Divine Ascent. I have never read it, although I am not surprised to find that he created a list of capital sins. Many Eastern spiritual writers did — S. John Cassian, whom I mentioned earlier, though sometimes nicknamed “John the Roman,” is considered primarily an Eastern writer. Also, the Desert Fathers, being mainly Copts, were Eastern writers.

    Posted 08 Jul 2006 at 8:50 am
  26. Tom Smith wrote:

    “Also, this isn’t an empty gesture. We have intercommunion in effect with the Assyrian Church of the East, and the ball is in the Orthodox court on this one.”

    Indeed it is. But I, for one, would probably guess that the Orthodox are more put off by the fact that we’re willing to establish intercommunion than a refusal to do so. It simply isn’t a particularly traditional thing, to engage in Eucharistic communion with those outside the Church.

    “That’s not to say that we *should* have intercommunion with the Orthodox. As an Eastern Catholic it might make my life easier, but that’s hardly the point. The Divine Sacrifice is also a symbol of the unity of the Church. To actively participate in the worship of a group not in union with one’s own does undermine that.”

    Word up. Honestly, I can’t grasp the wisdom in such a move as allowing intercommunion — if such a move is motivated by ecumenical concerns, it’s simply wrong. The sacraments should not be used as pawns in interchurch politicking. If, however, intercommunion is established in order to provide a measure of spiritual aid those outside the Church, which seems weird, its goal may be worthy, although I still can’t say as I am a huge fan of intercommunion, even if the second is the primary objective.

    Posted 08 Jul 2006 at 9:04 am
  27. Anthrakeus wrote:

    The principle reason to allow intercommunion is that whether we allow it or not the same people will still be receiving Our Lord, just with more difficulty. In the case of the Assyrian Church of the East there is intercommunion with the Chaldean Catholic Church (I’m not sure that you or I could go to an Assyrian Church, nor could an Assyrian come to your or my parish, but I’d have to re-read the document; certainly the above quoted text from almost any missalette in the pews gives the impression it’s open). Now, both of these Churches operate principally in places like Iraq, which aren’t the most stable, and both have experienced a loss of clergy and laity in their homelands to emigration. So, we’ve decided to let Catholics go to the local Assyrian Church and vice versa because otherwise they would be deprived of the Sacraments.

    With the Assyrians, there aren’t too many theological disputes left. At one time they were heretics (monophysite, I think), but either it was all a bit of a misunderstanding (as sometimes these things were) or they have recanted. So there isn’t much in the line of theological disagreement (I think full reunification is mainly held back by no one in the Vatican having it on the agend).

    In the end, we have extended intercommunion to anywhere there is actually the real presence. It should be noted, however, that this sort of intercommunion is not to become the norm for any community. If a place can support a Catholic church it should have one. If non-Catholics are going to hang around our parishes we expect them to actually convert.

    Posted 08 Jul 2006 at 1:49 pm
  28. Tom Smith wrote:

    “With the Assyrians, there aren’t too many theological disputes left. At one time they were heretics (monophysite, I think), but either it was all a bit of a misunderstanding (as sometimes these things were) or they have recanted.”

    The Assyrians were, and still are, Nestorians, not Monophysites.

    The Churches which claim that they were merely misunderstood are the Monophysite Churches of the Patriarchates of Antioch and Alexandria — the Syrian Orthodox Church, the Coptic Orthodox Church, the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (which recently gave birth to the Eritrean Orthodox Church, whom Pope Shenouda recently granted a Patriarch to), and perhaps one more Church which I’m forgetting. There is something to the claim that these Churches were merely misunderstood as promoting the Monophysite heresy, although some factions still refuse to acknowledge the Council of Chalcedon as orthodox; hence we refer to these Churches as “non-Chalcedonian.”

    Anyway, more relevant, the Assyrian Church of the East reveres the heresiarch Nestorius as a saint, and still clings to his doctrines in opposition to the Council of Ephesus, hence we refer to the Assyrian Church as “non-Ephesian.”

    Posted 08 Jul 2006 at 2:29 pm
  29. Anthrakeus wrote:

    Actually, at least according to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assyrian_Church_of_the_East) the A.C.E. was never truly Nestorian. Theodore of Mopsuestia, Nestorius’ teacher, was held in reverence as a theologian, but not Nestorius (at least not to a degree that anyone accepted his teachings). Now the Persian kings who backed the A.C.E. also gave protection to the Nestorians (mostly for political reasons). The schism occured definitively with the depositon and execution of Babaeus, Catholicos of Edessa, and his replacement with Bar Sauma of Nisibis (whose episcopate in that see was, I think, licit). However, within 150 years this whole business had left the Assyrians rather weak and Babai the Great finally reorganized the church, giving a Christology in response to Monophysitism which is essentially orthodox (two essences in one person). It is this Christology which at present seems to be official, not Nestorius or even Theodore.

    Of course none of this healed the schism. As to the canonization of Nestorius, it isn’t unheard of in the East to canonize heretics (especially among the Syriacs). Look to St. Constantine the Great, not the best Christian in the world, and I think he was baptized by an Arian. Technically, saints can commit heresy (St. Thomas Aquinas famously doubted the Immaculate Conception). What is most important is their holiness of life. Nestorius may well be in heaven, and perhaps being like him (minus the heresy) would get you there too.

    In any event, the A.C.E. is scarcely in the position to have much of a theology right now. Their ever dwindling numbers in less than friendly countries don’t do much theologizing.

    Posted 08 Jul 2006 at 4:46 pm
  30. edey wrote:

    now, i’m not a fan of intercommunion either although i understand and appreciate the reasons for it that were mentioned.

    “If non-Catholics are going to hang around our parishes we expect them to actually convert.”

    i agree. they should. it is awkward, though, when people keep going back and forth. i know my friend carrie’s parish was Orthodox then Catholic then Orthodox. then entire parish went from one to another. I think another person i know’s family went from Catholic to Orthodox to Catholic. so carrie, whose parish is Orthodox at this point feels just as comfortable in an Eastern Catholic parish as an Orthodox one. when she moves somewhere she doesn’t necessarily look for an Orthodox parish, just an Eastern one.

    granted, i agree with anthrakeus’s sentiment. it’s just awkward for people when their entire parish converts. do you leave your parish then? i guess so….until it converts back. 😉

    carrie’s situation is actually what made me bring this up. she was attending a Byzantine Catholic church for a while and receiving Communion and thinking nothing of it. she’s actually technically permitted (by our rules) to do so. it’s not necessarily in the spirit of the rule, but the letter as far as i can tell. (whether i think it’s a good idea or not is irrelevant.)

    so if all this stuff is window dressing and there are some major theological differences, what can we do to help heal the schism of 1054? besides pray, obvoiusly. 😉

    Posted 08 Jul 2006 at 10:37 pm
  31. Anthrakeus wrote:

    “so if all this stuff is window dressing and there are some major theological differences, what can we do to help heal the schism of 1054?”

    I recommend brainwashing the hierarchy (pick whichever you’d like, Catholic or Orthodox; I’d pick both). Once brain-washed they can be told simply to agree with whatever you think is right ;).

    Now, seriously folks. I’m afraid the only thing that can be done to “heal the schism” is to start converting the other side (although, I fear that the Orthodox would have an easier time convincing the average Roman that their church isn’t worth a pile of beans). Short of this one of us (or both) is going to have to admit that we were wrong for a thousand years, which is unlikely, to say the least.

    However, understanding the things that divide us (or, more to the point, really don’t) is the first step. So, let’s get back to some of those debates Jezz brought up (Jezz, I’m afraid as the only Orthodox person here the spotlight’s on you, although [shameless self-promotion alert] if you convince other Orthodox to join in that spotlight will at least be shared).

    Posted 09 Jul 2006 at 1:49 am
  32. Tom Smith wrote:

    “what can we do to help heal the schism of 1054?”

    In order for a gigantic corporate reunion, one of the two parties would have to concede that it was outside the One Holy Catholic Apostolic Church for nearly one thousand years. Unfortunately, I think a “no-fault” reunion is just what people like H.E. Cardinal Kasper are pushing for. Unfortunately, someone has to be at fault; neither Catholic nor Orthodox ecclesiology allow for the existence of multiple true Churches, the very first mark of the Church being that it is One. Since there can only be one Church of Christ, either East or West has to be wrong about itself. Any reunion which does not include an admission of the incorrectness of one Church or the other indicates that each Church has ceased thinking of itself as the true Church — and, according to several theological writers (including Newman, if I’m not mistaken), when a Church stops claiming the title of the Church of Christ, it admits that it definitively is not. As I alluded to above, if it becomes apparent that neither Church is the true Church, what is the point of a reunion? The upshot is that the true Church must be either one of the Oriental Orthodox Churches or. . . (drum roll). . . the Church of the Latter-Day Saints. (Unless, of course, a Church can be the true Church without knowing that it is, which would allow the Protestant churches into consideration. . . but it seems goofy that an ecclesial body could be God’s ordinary agent of salvation on Earth without knowing it.)

    Since a corporate reunion isn’t going to happen for the reasons stated above, the Churches would have more luck pilfering sees here and there, in a process of uniatism. Since the Balamand Agreement strongly condemned uniatism (wisely or unwisely, depending on how you feel on the matter), that won’t happen either.

    So the only remaing option, it seems to me, is to simply convert individual Catholics to the East, or individual Orthodox to the West. Though this is neither easy nor particularly palatable, I can’t imagine any other means of uniting the two Churches.

    Posted 09 Jul 2006 at 8:21 am
  33. Jezz wrote:

    Tom Smith wrote:

    In order for a gigantic corporate reunion, one of the two parties would have to concede that it was outside the One Holy Catholic Apostolic Church for nearly one thousand years. Unfortunately, I think a “no-fault” reunion is just what people like H.E. Cardinal Kasper are pushing for. Unfortunately, someone has to be at fault; neither Catholic nor Orthodox ecclesiology allow for the existence of multiple true Churches, the very first mark of the Church being that it is One. Since there can only be one Church of Christ, either East or West has to be wrong about itself. Any reunion which does not include an admission of the incorrectness of one Church or the other indicates that each Church has ceased thinking of itself as the true Church — and, according to several theological writers (including Newman, if I’m not mistaken), when a Church stops claiming the title of the Church of Christ, it admits that it definitively is not.

    I agree with this wholeheartedly, and in fact said pretty much the same thing on the Theology Web forums, in a commentary on this blog. There are only three possibilities:

    1. Orthodox right, papacy wrong => reunion must come about by papal submission to Orthodox demands.
    2. RCC right, Orthodox wrong => reunion must come about by Orthodox submission to the papacy.
    3. Both wrong, which means that the Protestants were right about Ecclessiology after all.

    A minor nit: while modern Protestant ecclesiology holds to the idea of a spiritualised church, the Lutherans (at least in the beginning, and according to their confessions) do not. They hold that the true church can only exist within the visible church, and by “visible church” they mean all those that agree to the Augsburg Confession. Not many Lutherans still hold to this belief, though.

    Posted 09 Jul 2006 at 11:00 am
  34. Jezz wrote:

    Anthrakeus:

    Firstly, please forgive me for “ignoring” you in this exchange – it’s not because I don’t think you’re making points worthy of addressing, but because 1. as you’ve noted I’m the only Orthodox participant here and it’s hard to maintain more than one conversation (especially as I participate heavily in other forums) and 2. I hope that while not addressing your points directly, they might be covered in my responses to Tom Smith.

    Now, onto my main reason for replying to you… about the Assyrians and Nestorianism:

    I should point out that in all the online literature that I’ve seen on the Assyrians, it would seem that they are invariably treated as if they were a single church. However, I know from first-hand experience that they are not. There is the Assyrian Church of the East, and there are also Orthodox Assyrians under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Antioch. I know this because my godfather is Assyrian, and he is Orthodox (“Roman Orthodox”, as he says in Arabic). So it is misleading to refer to “the Assyrians” as if they were of a single religion.

    As for whether the Assyrian Church of the East is Nestorian… well, I think there is little doubt that they are. Yes, they venerate Nestorius as a saint. You claim that Orthodox sometimes venerate heretics as saints – well, this is not quite true… it would be more correct to say that we sometimes venerate as saints people who held heretical ideas. Holding heretical ideas alone does not make one a heretic (and I believe that the RCC shares this view) – only if they prove impervious to correction are they considered heretics. Nestorius, of course, falls into this category – he was given ample opportunity to correct his heretical beliefs and conform to the Orthodox faith, but persistently refused.

    Posted 09 Jul 2006 at 11:48 am
  35. Tom Smith wrote:

    “1. Orthodox right, papacy wrong => reunion must come about by papal submission to Orthodox demands.
    2. RCC right, Orthodox wrong => reunion must come about by Orthodox submission to the papacy.
    3. Both wrong, which means that the Protestants were right about Ecclessiology after all.”

    It’s good to hear some others agreeing that there can be no reunion without one side or the other giving in. Believe it or not, a lot of the people I’ve talked to get all hot under the collar when told that a reunion can’t happen until one side drops its false teachings. It seems self-evident to me.

    “A minor nit: while modern Protestant ecclesiology holds to the idea of a spiritualised church, the Lutherans (at least in the beginning, and according to their confessions) do not. They hold that the true church can only exist within the visible church, and by ‘visible church’ they mean all those that agree to the Augsburg Confession.”

    How do they explain that this is a “visible church?” It seems to me that unity of confession alone doesn’t guarantee a unified visible church.

    “Not many Lutherans still hold to this belief, though.”

    That doesn’t surprise me. It seems that few modern Lutherans hold to the doctrines of Luther — the Wisconsin Synod follows Melanchthon’s doctrines almost exclusively over Luther’s, as a result of the Orthodoxist movement in seventeenth-century Scandinavia. The Missouri Synod seems to be a big tent for any conservative Lutheran, from the inheritors of the Orthodoxists to conservative Evangelicals to those high-churchers who call themselves “Reformed Catholics,” and reserve the Eucharist in tabernacles. Nowhere, it seems, is the real doctrine of Luther fully preserved, however. Then again, not being a Lutheran, nor a scholar, my opinion doesn’t mean much.

    Posted 09 Jul 2006 at 4:29 pm
  36. Tom Smith wrote:

    “So it is misleading to refer to ‘the Assyrians’ as if they were of a single religion.”

    While I shan’t be presumptuous enough as to speak for Anthrakeus, I can tell you that, when I speak of “the Assyrians,” I’m referring to the Assyrian Church of the East. The Chaldean Catholic Church is Assyrian in liturgy and faith, although obviously not Nestorian. The Chaldeans have their own Patriarchate (the titular see is Babylon). The current Patriarch of Babylon is Mar Emmanuel III.

    Posted 09 Jul 2006 at 5:16 pm
  37. Anthrakeus wrote:

    It should be noted that the Assyrian Church of the East (it didn’t occur to me that some Assyrians had come into union with the Orthodox; those in union with Rome are called Chaldean, for reasons which escape me) doesn’t seem to still hold to Nestorianism. As part of the dialogue prior to intercommunion with the Catholic Church (principally the Chaldean nor the Roman) the ACE signed a joint declaration on Christology with Pope John Paul II. Now, sometimes ecumenical stuff in the Vatican can be a little fluffy, but I don’t think that they’d have bothered with a joint declaration unless it was to show that the Assyrians don’t [still] hold to Nestorianism.

    As to the heretical saints stuff. If I were pope and the ACE wanted reunion, I’d make them purge Nestorius from the liturgy. We Byzantine Catholics don’t celebrate Gregory Palamas. I swear that I’ve heard that there are heretics on our calendar (maybe they were only schismatics). However, none come to mind, and I’m not sure where I would have come up with such an idea (true or not, I’m not a big fan of this, so I doubt I’d just “make it up” and forget).

    Jezz, don’t worry about ignoring me, I didn’t think you were. I just feared that we’d scared you away (what with the jabs at the Orthodox, and all).

    Posted 10 Jul 2006 at 12:08 am
  38. edey wrote:

    “It’s good to hear some others agreeing that there can be no reunion without one side or the other giving in. Believe it or not, a lot of the people I’ve talked to get all hot under the collar when told that a reunion can’t happen until one side drops its false teachings. It seems self-evident to me.”

    While I understand the logic and know deep down this is the only possibility of true unity, I was looking for something more…feasible???…in my lifetime. Heck, I was looking for something *I* could do. The chances of the Catholics converting the Orthodox (or the Orthodox converting the Catholics for that matter) in my lifetime are…nill. The chances of me being instrumental in that given numbers is nonexistent. I have a soft spot in my heart for the Orthodox and would like to see the schism healed. I guess it’s a lot longer a process than I expected.

    Anyways, I think Tom is right about converting individual Orthodox/Catholics (depending on which side you are on) because, if I am informed correctly, the Pope and the Patriarch of Constantinople reunified several times in the past (don’t ask me how) but the people revolted. That’s what I heard anyhow.

    That’s all from me for a while.

    Posted 10 Jul 2006 at 6:59 am
  39. edey wrote:

    One last thing:
    “I fear that the Orthodox would have an easier time convincing the average Roman that their church isn’t worth a pile of beans”

    I disagree. Given that the majority of the *average* Roman’s faith experience is weekly Mass, liturgy will be what matters. Could you imagine the average Roman going from Novus Ordo to Divine Liturgy???? It would be “too long, strange, not participatory enough, too hard to follow, etc” They would make the same complaints about the DL as they do about the TLM.

    Posted 10 Jul 2006 at 8:00 am
  40. Funky Dung wrote:

    Patriarch Alexy II positive about Russian Orthodox-Roman Catholic relations

    Posted 10 Jul 2006 at 12:02 pm
  41. Tom Smith wrote:

    “It should be noted that the Assyrian Church of the East. . . doesn’t seem to still hold to Nestorianism.”

    I found a well-researched essay online that attempts to answer this question of the supposed Nestorianism of the Church of the East.

    http://www.nestorian.org/is_the_theology_of_the_church_.html

    “Anyways, I think Tom is right about converting individual Orthodox/Catholics because, if I am informed correctly, the Pope and the Patriarch of Constantinople reunified several times in the past (don’t ask me how) but the people revolted.”

    Twice, that I know of; at the Council of Lyons, 1274, and the Council of Florence (1439). The first reunion was promoted by the bishops and scuttled by the Emperor, and the second provoked by the Emperor and scuttled by the laity and the bishops sympathetic to the laity.

    These two reunion councils provide much fodder for the oft-repeated claim of the supposed caesaropapism of the Byzantine Emperors.

    “‘I fear that the Orthodox would have an easier time convincing the average Roman that their church isn’t worth a pile of beans.’

    ‘I disagree. Given that the majority of the *average* Roman’s faith experience is weekly Mass, liturgy will be what matters. Could you imagine the average Roman going from Novus Ordo to Divine Liturgy???? It would be ‘too long, strange, not participatory enough, too hard to follow, etc’ They would make the same complaints about the DL as they do about the TLM.'”

    It seems to me that the Divine Liturgy of S. John Chrysostom has much in common with the traditional Western liturgy, but the outward experience is not the same at all — the Byzantine liturgy is very florid, with a lot of movement, chanting, etc., while the old Roman Rite emphasizes sparsity of movement, solemnity, and silence. Also, the amount of time that the priest faces directly away from the congregation in the Roman Rite seems higher than in the East, where the priest is often moving about the sanctuary. Also, the old Roman Mass is always offered in Latin, while most congregations in the Byzantine churches have a primarily vernacular liturgy.

    That said, I think the primary factor the Orthodox could use in converting the Romans is an emphasis on the ancient character of Orthodox piety. Also, Orthodox missionaries could appeal to the fact that the East has no centralized authority. (Who in Western culture today celebrates authority?) Also, a smart missionary could argue that Vatican II changed everything in the West, while the East has never broken its traditions.

    Posted 10 Jul 2006 at 1:13 pm
  42. Anthrakeus wrote:

    “the Pope and the Patriarch of Constantinople reunified several times in the past (don’t ask me how) but the people revolted.”

    Also, it doesn’t seem that the Slavs were much involved in these Councils. The reunifications effected by “uniatism” among the Slavs were mostly reunifications of an eparchy or two, not the reunification of an entire church sui juris with subsequent defection, as one could argue was the case with the Greeks and many of the “Oriental Orthodox”. I believe all of the Armenians came into union with Rome at one point, only to defect almost en masse once again. At any event, the “Uniate Churches” were usually created through talks between the bishop of the place and Rome (cf. reunification talks with the SSPX).

    “Could you imagine the average Roman going from Novus Ordo to Divine Liturgy???? It would be “too long, strange, not participatory enough, too hard to follow, etc”

    I think they would find the Liturgy more fulfilling in an Orthodox parish than almost any Roman parish. Those arguments are put forward by people with agendas. The length might be off putting, but what you call strange is properly called “mystery”, and is on a basic level appealing, and indeed necessary, to the human soul. Look at the attractiveness of Buddhism or the occult. It is because the mystery inherent in those systems. I don’t think the average person cares about participation one way or another, beyond what they have been told is right. As far as participation there is far more participation in a Byzantine Liturgy than the average Roman gets. Don’t confuse the “music minister” with the laity. She may be a layperson, but the role has become one just as distant from the laity as the caricatures of the old Roman priest. The average parishoner in a Roman parish has no more participation in the Liturgy than 100 years ago, except that 100 years ago they would have spiritual participation, which today is lacking.

    When the liturgy is in Greek or Slavonic it may be hard to follow, but most Catholic churches say Divine Liturgy in English. The Orthodox behave themselves better in this regard, but I think most jurisdiction have official vernacular translations. Besides, the difficulty in following Tridentine High Mass is principally that the Missals don’t distinguish between sung and silent prayers. Eastern books normally leave out the prayers said only by the priest (or mark them better).

    Posted 10 Jul 2006 at 5:38 pm
  43. Tom Smith wrote:

    “…it doesn’t seem that the Slavs were much involved in these Councils.”

    Good point. Indeed, the Slavonic churches were so far out of the loop that the Archbishop of Moscow began calling himself Patriarch of Moscow, the Third Rome, in direct response to the intra-Orthodox schism of Byzantium achieved in the unification with Rome. Since the Moscow Patriarchate was not erected with the backing of Constantinople, one could argue that a material schism still exists, separating the Russian Orthodox Church and its daughters (the various Ukrainian Orthodox bodies, etc.) from the remainder of the Orthodox Church. Although, to be fair, I know nothing of Orthodox canonical tradition. Interestingly, in the liturgical reading of the diptychs, the Patriarch of Moscow takes the fifth position, after New Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. So the Orthodox reading of the diptychs, after a 400-year span of having only four Patriarchs mentioned (as Old Rome had not been included since 1054), added Moscow.

    Posted 11 Jul 2006 at 8:58 am
  44. Jezz wrote:

    “I’m sorry, I wasn’t under the impression that theological definitions are meant to be complicated.”

    Backhander?

    No, that was a forehander – it was aimed at the person to whom I was speaking, not a 3rd party.

    I don’t mind jabs like this, I just prefer it if they are on-topic and (if possible) if the person being jabbed is present to to defend themselves.

    What *exactly* is wrong with creating a detailed exposition of the Faith? What *exactly* is consitutive of “unnecessary detail?” Do you have a problem with religious philosophy in general, or only when religious philosophy leads to the promulgation of dogma?

    These questions, I think, will prove a permanent sticking point between you and I.

    There is nothing wrong with creating a detailed exposition of the Faith, and I never claimed that there was. I guess rather than “unnecessary detail”, I probably should have said “speculative details” – ie, details that are not revealed facts nor follow as a strict logical deduction from revealed facts.

    “What about Catholic philosophy? Do you know something about that?”

    A little, perhaps. I don’t pretend to be a scholar. I was talking about Palamas, however, and not the Fathers. You’re talking about how the Fathers = Catholic philosophy. While I can agree to that statement, you’re ultimately equating S. Gregory Palamas with Catholic philosophy, which, I think, is erroneous, although, as you can see, I know very little of Palamas.

    I know you were talking about St Gregory Palamas… I think perhaps you missed the point that I was trying to make, and was that St Gregory Palamas is not responsible for the terminology or theology behind “essence” and “energies”. This terminology was used at least as early as the Cappadocians, whom both Churches regard as Catholic, and hence the “essence” and “energies” distinction is part of Catholic philosophy. Importantly, it was philosophy done in the language of the Creed, the Councils and the Bible itself.

    “Essence,” I can agree with. Obviously, with all the discussion of the Incarnation dealing with “ousia,” and culminating in the definition of Christ as “homoousion” (not sure about the spelling), “essence” has a firm grounding in Patristic writings. Dropping the Palamite lens through which contemporary Orthodox writers see, where do “energies” come into play, though? (I’m not setting you up; I genuinely have no idea.)

    I already gave you some references to Patristic works that you could use to find this out for yourself – why didn’t you?

    Perhaps I’ll post a snippet as well this time:

    Basil (Epistle CCXXXIV, NPNF2-08): “Do you worship what you know or what you do not know ? If I answer, I worship what I know, they immediately reply, What is the essence of the object of worship? Then, if I confess that I am ignorant of the essence, they turn on me again and say, So you worship you know not what. I answer that the word to know has many meanings. We say that we know the greatness of God, His power, His wisdom, His goodness, His providence over us, and the justness of His judgment; but not His very essence. The question is, therefore, only put for the sake of dispute. For he who denies that he knows the essence does not confess himself to be ignorant of God. because our idea of God is gathered from all tire attributes which I have enumerated. But God, he says, is simple, and whatever attribute of Him you have reckoned as knowable is of His essence. But tile absurdities involved in this sophism are innumerable. When all these high attributes have been enumerated, are they all names of one essence? And is there the same mutual force in His awfulness and His loving-kindness, His justice and His creative power, His providence and His foreknowledge, and His bestowal of rewards and punishments, His majesty and His providence ? In mentioning any one of these do we declare His essence ? If they say, yes, let them not ask if we know the essence of God, but let them enquire of us whether we know God to be awful, or just, or merciful. These we confess that we know. if they say that essence is something distinct, let them not put us in the wrong on the score of simplicity. For they confess themselves that there is a distinction between the essence and each one of the attributes enumerated. The operations are various, and tile essence simple, but we say that we know our God from His operations, but do not undertake to approach near to His essence. His operations come down to us, but His essence remains beyond our reach.”

    One does not need a “Palamite lens” (or indeed any kind of special lens) to see the essences/energies distinction – St Gregory Palamas was merely reiterating the theology of writers like St Basil.

    When I return to Pittsburgh in a few weeks, I will look up the relevant passages in The Orthodox Church.

    There’s no need to wait (though you may if you desire). The relevant passages are in the online excerpt of that book that I linked to here.

    “Positive terms like Judge, King, Lord, Master, God, Just, Loving, etc are said to describe His energies.”

    You claim that God’s energies are accidental characteristics. So are his qualities as Judge, King, etc. accidental? That seems like quite a commitment you’re making here.

    We believe that, had He chosen to, God could have not created the universe. Thus, it is not essential to God that He create. Thus, anything that has to do with God’s interaction with Creation cannot be considered an essential characteristic.

    Terms like “Judge”, “Master”, “Lord”, “King” etc refer to God’s relationship to His creation. God wouldn’t be Judge if He didn’t have a creation to judge. He wouldn’t be Lord if there was no creation to lord over. He wouldn’t be King without Creation as His kingdom. And so on. Because these are titles that God wouldn’t have if there was no Creation, and because Creation was not essential to God, these titles cannot be titles describing His essence.

    Gregory of Nyssa (Against Eunomius, II:10, NPNF2-05) “We know that of all the names by which Deity is indicated some are expressive of the Divine majesty, employed and understood absolutely, and some are assigned with reference to the operations over us and all creation. For when the Apostle says “Now to the immortal, invisible, only wise Gods,” and the like, by these titles he suggests conceptions which represent to us the transcendent power, but when God is spoken of in the Scriptures as gracious, merciful, full of pity, true, good, Lord, Physician, Shepherd, Way, Bread, Fountain, King, Creator, Artificer, Protector, Who is over all and through all, Who is all in all, these and similar titles contain the declaration of the operations of the Divine loving-kindness in the creation.”

    It seems to me that, when one describes Him as “God,” one is referring to an essential characteristic. Isn’t God essentially and necessarily God? Is God only God accidentally? That doesn’t seem to make sense. Either Palamas is stating that God’s Divinity can be predicated to Him only accidentally, which seems to me nonsensical, or Palamas is not paralleling the Cappadocian Fathers’ apophatic theology.

    I quote Theophilus of Antioch:

    Theophilus of Antioch (To Autolycus, I:IV) “And he is called God [theos] on account of His having placed [tetheikenai] all things on security afforded by Himself; and on account of [theein], for theein means running, and moving, and being active, and nourishing, and foreseeing, and governing, and making all things alive.”

    Calling Him “God” describes something that He does – an energy/operation.

    Tiny nitpicky detail here: it’s incorrect to speak of the West *following* Barlaam, as most of the influential Scholastic thinkers were hammering out their doctrines in the thirteenth century, while the controversy over the Holy Hesychasts was in the fourteenth.

    Point taken. I should have said that Barlaam followed the West. From memory, he was educated in Italy so this is not surprising.

    “…leaves us with the fact that we can only experience God through created intermediaries, whereas the Orthodox belief is that we experience God directly. This is what prevents the West from accepting Orthodox theology (as espoused by St Gregory Palamas).”

    Thank you for giving me a bit of education in Palamas. With what you’ve told me, though, I disagree. The main disagreement here comes from the notion that God’s actions are uncreated, not from the various explananations as to how God is experienced (directly or indirectly). Since God has no components, and is therefore simple, and because all that is uncreated is God, the only uncreated thing is God’s essence.

    Yes, that is the the standard RCC view. But the Orthodox never had quite the peculiar idea of “divine simplicity” that the West did (note that “divine simplicity” was the basis for St Augustine’s argument by which he derived the filioque). This peculiar view of divine simplicity is one of those instances where the Orthodox accuse Latins of doing too much theological speculation.

    “Ss Justin, Gregory and Basil were Orthodox writers. In light of this observation, you need to reevaluate your statement ‘almost every Orthodox writer I have read’.”

    When I was talking about “Orthodox writers,” I meant to exclude the Fathers. In referring to “Orthodox writers,” I meant “modern Orthodox writers,” as in, “those moderns in the Eastern Orthodox Church.”

    Yes, I know that is what you meant. But that is not the way that we think. We do not think of two churches – the Church of the Fathers and the Orthodox Church. From our point of view, they are the same Church, and they are our writers.

    Also, both Orthodox and Catholics typically think of the Fathers as belonging to the Church to which they belong. This comes out in my writing — I think of the Fathers as Catholics, although I would not deny that, as one of the two Churches resulting from the Great Schism, the Fathers belong equally to the Orthodox Church.

    This is true. Note also that, as an Orthodox, I believe that our Church is the Catholic Church. Which is why I prefer to refer to your church as the RCC or the papists, as it is more in accord with my belief.

    “But our criticism of them is that the scholastics went far beyond merely trying to explain truths of the faith – they began using philosophy to speculate on hitherto unknown truths, which subsequently became dogma.”

    By “hitherto unknown truths,” you imply that all truths of the faith were known at all times, going back to the Apostolic period. That seems, to me anyway, incorrect.

    And this is a major point of divergence between the Orthodox and papal churches. The papacy holds that development in doctrine is possible. We hold that doctrine doesn’t change. An argument over who is correct would take us too far afield, I fear.

    A few Reformers did, indeed, dislike this aspect of the Scholastic philosophy. Many, however, used the Scholastic method against Catholicism.

    Yes, this is true – the Reformers were not always consistent in this respect. One of the things that I can’t help but notice when reading the Lutheran Confessions is (despite Luther’s dislike of scholastic excesses) the fact that the tone of the Confessions and other Lutheran writings is quite scholastic in places. Especially the Formula of Concord.

    Also, I think you’re on to something here. You said that “we were not the first” to take issue with Scholasticism. I agree — because Orthodoxy has not, by and large, come to condemn Scholasticism until very recently. It seems to me strange that the Orthodox would dislike Scholasticism so strongly today, when just a few hundred years ago, Russian schools were teaching Aquinas in Latin, and had no problem talking about transubstantiation.

    Was this at the same period under Peter the Great, who (under influence from Western ideas of Church-State) abolished the Patriarchate and severely weakened the Church in Russia?
    At any rate, I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with studying Aquinas, but the fact that they studied Aquinas does not mean that they approved of the scholastic method. It is just another instance of the bee going from flower to flower.

    “The enumeration of the sacraments.”

    . . . was dogmatically defined in response to the Protestant Reformers who claimed that there were only two.

    Actually, the Lutherans were happy to admit any number of sacraments. What they primarily objected to was the insistance that they be enumerate exactly seven of them:

    (Apology of the Augsburg Confession, XIII – The Number and Use of the Sacraments, Kolb-Wengert Book of Concord) In the thirteenth article the opponents approve the statement that the sacraments are not simply marks of profession among people, as some think, but rather they are signs and testimonies of God’s will toward us, through which God moves hearts to believe. But here they insist that we also enumerate seven sacraments. Now, we believe that we have the responsibility not to neglect any of the rites and ceremonies instituted in Scripture, however many there may be. But we do not think that it makes much difference if, for the purpose of teaching, different people have different enumerations, as long as they properly preserve the matters handed down in Scripture. After all, even the ancients did not always number them in the same way..[big snip]… But let us skip over all of this. No intelligent person will argue much about the number or the terminology, as long as those things are retained that have the mandate and promises of God.

    “The enumeration of the sins.”

    I take it that you mean the seven deadly sins? We get our theology on the seven deadly sins primarily from St. John Cassian and many of the Desert Fathers.

    I don’t deny this, but the point is that the number seven wasn’t dogmatically fixed. None of the Fathers thus quoted would have been particularly fussed if someone argued for 6 or 8 deadly sins.

    “The legalistic classification of sins into ‘mortal’ and ‘venial’.”

    In the Liturgy books in the pews of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Pittsburgh, there are guidelines for the reception of Communion, and among them, is that one must go to confession if one is conscious of serious sins. They use the word “mortal” parenthetically. When I am back in Pittsburgh in a few weeks, I can get you an exact citation if you wish.

    Again, we don’t disagree with the general observation that different sins have varying levels of seriousness, and the idea that some sins are extremely serious. But to try and precisely define and sharply delineate these differences and their different consequences is very un-Orthodox.

    “The system of merit that underlies the dogmatic explanation of the workings of the Atonement, along with its related spin-offs (superrerogatory works, etc).”

    Once again, these were defined at Trent against the Protestant heresies.

    The speculation about merit was the cause of these Protestant heresies, and the speculation no less heretical than the view it condemned. would not have arisen, were it not for the speculation about merit in the first place. As proof, I submit the Orthodox Church, which survived for 1000 years without these heresies arising.

    “The Immaculate Conception.”

    This was a necessary definition in light of the dogmatic teachings on Original Sin defined in light of the Pelagian heresy.

    And of course, the Western understanding of Original Sin is another example of a doctrine that resulted from theological speculation. This is the problem that occurs when you dogmatise speculation – it leads to further speculation. Like if you see a painting which is a masterpiece, and you try to improve it with a brush stroke… soon, you will have to add more brushstrokes in order to make the original addition blend in better. Before long you end up with a painting which barely resembles the original and from which the author’s original spirit has been lost.

    And besides, even granting a Western understanding of Original Sin, the definition of the Immaculate Conception isn’t necessary at all. The premise is that a pure vessel was needed to carry Christ, but there is no justification given as to why the Theotokos had to have been pure from birth. Even if we accept the premise that she needed to be pure, the most that this proves is that she was purified by God at some time between her conception and the conception of her Son. Going beyond this conclusion is speculative.

    “Having the earth declared at the centre of the universe and unmoving (ok, perhaps this wasn’t declared dogma, but it was certainly an opinion held seriously enough to land Galileo in trouble).”

    Where was this “declared?”

    Well, as I noted it wasn’t declared officially – however, the opinion was taken seriously enough to get Galileo in trouble. Which means even if it hadn’t been officially declared, it still must have been considered pretty solid opinion.

    “…we can know nothing apart from revelation…”

    This strikes me as a particularly Protestant view. Is it the case that all dogmatic truths are revealed? Is the Trinity a revealed truth? The dual natures of Christ?

    Yes, all revealed. Man can know nothing unless God reveals it to him.

    Although Scripture hints at things like this, it’s never smack-you-in-the-face obvious.

    And if we believed in Sola Scriptura, then this point might carry some weight. But we are Orthodox, and Scripture is only one part (albeit one of the most important parts) of our revealed Tradition. Note that in most of these disputes, it was Tradition that carried the day – the theological justifications came afterwards. For example, in the Arian controversy, the deciding factor was the fact that, in the worship Tradition of the Church, we worship Christ as God. Therefore, He is God. The theology was derived from the praxis. Arius, on the other hand, tried to do theology without regard to practice, and then tried to derive praxis from this (ie, we shouldn’t worship Christ because he is a creature). In summary, we reason from praxis to theology, whereas the scholastic approach attempts to argue from theology to praxis.

    “This sort of pointless speculation is what we criticised Origen for.”

    II Constantinople called him a “heretic,” not “one who uses philosophy too much.”

    Sure, but this observation does nothing to dampen my point because he can be both. In point of fact, the reason he arrived at his heretical views was because he did too much theological speculation, instead of relying on revealed Tradition.

    Posted 11 Jul 2006 at 11:40 am
  45. Tom Smith wrote:

    “I don’t mind jabs like this, I just prefer it if they are on-topic and (if possible) if the person being jabbed is present to to defend themselves.”

    Fair enough.

    “I guess rather than ‘unnecessary detail’, I probably should have said ‘speculative details’ – ie, details that are not revealed facts nor follow as a strict logical deduction from revealed facts.”

    I see what you mean, but my question remains: why? You claim that all truths are known by revelation — obviously, revelation comes in many forms. Why not speculative theology?

    “I know you were talking about St Gregory Palamas… I think perhaps you missed the point that I was trying to make, and was that St Gregory Palamas is not responsible for the terminology or theology behind ‘essence’ and ‘energies’.”

    I understand that part well enough — Palamas did not coin the terms. Right, we agree. What I mean to say is that I find it hard to imagine that Palamas did not explicate the terms, and didn’t also expand upon their Patristic bases. What I meant by the phrase “Palamite lens” was that modern Orthodox writers probably tend to interpret the Fathers, on the subject of essence and energies, through the explanations of Palamas, which is quite natural — being Orthodox, there’s nothing wrong with that. All I’m getting at is that I doubt that the notions of essence and energies were freighted with the Palamite explanations as far back as the Patristic period. If the Fathers had explained essence and energies in such a way as to defeat the anti-Hesychast party straight away, there wouldn’t need to have ever been a Gregory Palamas to defend the Hesychasts, would there?

    “This terminology was used at least as early as the Cappadocians, whom both Churches regard as Catholic, and hence the ‘essence’ and ‘energies’ distinction is part of Catholic philosophy.”

    I well appreciate that fact.

    “St Gregory Palamas was merely reiterating the theology of writers like St Basil.”

    . . . But I again emphasize that, during the Patristic period, there was no S. Gregory Palamas explaining essence and energies. I’m not saying that the notions of essence and energies are completely wrong; I merely state that I think Palamas’ defitions of such are at least somewhat flawed.

    “I already gave you some references to Patristic works that you could use to find this out for yourself – why didn’t you?”

    I do not have access to an academic library, nor will I for some months. Until September, it will be hard to look up references. Unlike you evidently do, I don’t have a huge mansion brimming with Patristic tomes. (That was a joke.)

    “Yes, I know that is what you meant. But that is not the way that we think. We do not think of two churches – the Church of the Fathers and the Orthodox Church. From our point of view, they are the same Church, and they are our writers.”

    From your point of view, this is completely sensible. But from our point of view, it is erroneous — I’m sure you can appreciate this fact. As I stated above, we think of the Fathers as Catholics, and the Western Church as the Orthodox Church. For obvious reasons, it’s simpler to refer to that Church with which ecclesial communion was broken in 1054 as the “Orthodox Church” — and that is why I do so. It would be utterly obnoxious to call your Church the “Heterodox Church” or the “Orthodox” Church. Anyway, this little debate is very far off the topic, and since we obviously understand one another, I say let’s drop it. Sound good?

    “There’s no need to wait (though you may if you desire). The relevant passages are in the online excerpt of that book that I linked to here.”

    Thanks. With all the help you give me, I really have no excuse, do I? I don’t think that the excerpts you posted cover the bit on philosophy and scholasticism, however, so I’ll look it up in my paper copy.

    “We believe that, had He chosen to, God could have not created the universe. Thus, it is not essential to God that He create. Thus, anything that has to do with God’s interaction with Creation cannot be considered an essential characteristic.”

    Point conceded. We believe the same — that God’s creative will is not necesary. Good arguing here.

    However, I still nitpick. Is God’s office as Judge, for instance, dependent upon Creation? The obvious answer is in the affirmative, but for some reason, I want to say that God’s capacity as Judge is essential. At this point, I can’t give you a reason why I want to say this.

    “Theophilus of Antioch (To Autolycus, I:IV) ‘And he is called God [theos] on account of His having placed [tetheikenai] all things on security afforded by Himself; and on account of [theein], for theein means running, and moving, and being active, and nourishing, and foreseeing, and governing, and making all things alive.’

    Calling Him ‘God’ describes something that He does – an energy/operation.”

    This is undebiably a nitpick, but, according to Theophilus, it is not “God” that describes an energy, but “theos.”

    Though the words “theos,” “deus,” and “God” all refer to the same Entity, it would not surprise me to find out that they are not exactly analogous. This debate makes this clear, I’d say — translated into English, Theophilus is saying that God is only God because of Creation. In English, the word “God” almost always refers to an Entity which exists as God independently of Creation. In other words, in English, it is very strange to speak of God qua God, because God is God in regard to everything — even Himself.

    Also, merely because one of the Fathers says something, it isn’t the teaching of the Church. Where there is universal or at least very significant agreement, the doctrine stands as the teaching of the Church. You would need to establish a concord between many of the Fathers to sell me on the notion that the Lord’s Godness is an accidental quality.

    “Point taken. I should have said that Barlaam followed the West. From memory, he was educated in Italy so this is not surprising.”

    I knew that he was educated in the West, though I know not where. I have also heard that, when he fell into disgrace, he left for the West, and eventually became a bishop. I don’t know if it’s true, but it’s interesting.

    “This peculiar view of divine simplicity is one of those instances where the Orthodox accuse Latins of doing too much theological speculation.”

    Right. I guess this one’s not going to get solved in our little debate, then.

    “And this (development of doctrine) is a major point of divergence between the Orthodox and papal churches. The papacy holds that development in doctrine is possible. We hold that doctrine doesn’t change.”

    Yes, we do believe that doctrine can develop. But you mischaracterize our position, holding that we believe doctrine can change. It cannot change — if we were to assign to each doctrine a particular ontology, that ontology is always identical to itself. The “development” is merely an increased understanding of divine truth over time. However, as you say, this is another debate completely.

    “Was this at the same period under Peter the Great, who (under influence from Western ideas of Church-State)…”

    Now DON’T try to blame secularism on the Western Church!

    “…abolished the Patriarchate and severely weakened the Church in Russia?”

    Yes. But it also occurred beforehand — Scholastic teachings on transubstantiation were very closely mirrored at the Council of Jerusalem (1672), seventeen years before the accession of Peter the Great, indicating that Western teaching had influenced (perhaps “infected,” from your perspective) the East well earlier.

    “Actually, the Lutherans were happy to admit any number of sacraments.”

    I don’t disagree — I stated that Trent defined the seven sacraments in response to the Reformers who posited two and *only* two sacraments. Remember that the Reformation was a time of great upheaval, and that the Protestant positions were hardly well-established by the time of that Council.

    “I don’t deny this, but the point is that the number seven wasn’t dogmatically fixed. None of the Fathers thus quoted would have been particularly fussed if someone argued for 6 or 8 deadly sins.”

    And the Catholic Church would have no argument, as the number of deadly sins is *not* dogmatically fixed (nor will it be, for that matter).

    “But to try and precisely define and sharply delineate these differences (between mortal and venial sin) and their different consequences is very un-Orthodox.”

    Really? It seems as if a sharp delineation goes back as far as the New Testament:

    “If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly, he should pray to God and he will give him life. This is only for those whose sin is not deadly. There is such a thing as deadly sin, about which I do not say that you should pray. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly.” (I John v: xvi-xvii).

    deadly sin = mortal sin.
    non-deadly sin = venial sin.

    Doesn’t this verse imply that it is important to know the difference between deadly and non-deadly sin?

    “The speculation about merit was the cause of these Protestant heresies, and the speculation no less heretical than the view it condemned.”

    How can speculation be heretical? Heresies are positions contrary to the teachings of the Church, not methods of thinking.

    “As proof, I submit the Orthodox Church, which survived for 1000 years without these heresies arising.”

    The West never had to combat a serious outbreak of Nestorianism. Was Nestorianism the result of Eastern theological error?

    “And of course, the Western understanding of Original Sin is another example of a doctrine that resulted from theological speculation.

    I think this is perhaps the worst example for you to pick to demonstrate your point, because it is patently untrue that Original Sin arose in anything approaching its Augustinian form before the Pelagian heresy of the fifth century — Augustine’s doctrines were forumaled after the teachings of Pelagius surfaced.

    “This is the problem that occurs when you dogmatise speculation – it leads to further speculation. Like if you see a painting which is a masterpiece, and you try to improve it with a brush stroke… soon, you will have to add more brushstrokes in order to make the original addition blend in better. Before long you end up with a painting which barely resembles the original and from which the author’s original spirit has been lost.”

    Speculation leads to dogma, you say. But since dogma is, by definition, absolutely and eternally true, what’s wrong with that?

    “Well, as I noted (geocentrism) wasn’t declared officially – however, the opinion was taken seriously enough to get Galileo in trouble. Which means even if it hadn’t been officially declared, it still must have been considered pretty solid opinion.”

    Right. But the thing is, one need remember that the papal triregnum has three crowns — one being that of the temporal authority of the papacy. One of the primary reasons for the (informal) condemnation of heliocentrism was the fear that Galileo’s imprudence (and impudence) in promulgating his ideas would cause a mass uproar among the public.

    “Yes, all revealed. Man can know nothing unless God reveals it to him.”

    I agree conditionally. If God is passive in revealing truths to man, I agree. But if God must act positively to reveal truths to man, I disagree.

    “And if we believed in Sola Scriptura, then this point might carry some weight. But we are Orthodox, and Scripture is only one part (albeit one of the most important parts) of our revealed Tradition. Note that in most of these disputes, it was Tradition that carried the day – the theological justifications came afterwards. For example, in the Arian controversy, the deciding factor was the fact that, in the worship Tradition of the Church, we worship Christ as God. Therefore, He is God. The theology was derived from the praxis. Arius, on the other hand, tried to do theology without regard to practice, and then tried to derive praxis from this (ie, we shouldn’t worship Christ because he is a creature). In summary, we reason from praxis to theology, whereas the scholastic approach attempts to argue from theology to praxis.”

    I don’t think the Churches are as far apart as you think they are on the matter — in Catholic dogmatic theology, proper matter for dogma is tradition, both theological and liturgical. Traditionally. . . um, the strongest argument in dogmatic theology is an appeal to Tradition.

    Posted 11 Jul 2006 at 4:13 pm
  46. Tom Smith wrote:

    “…the reason (Origen) arrived at his heretical views was because he did too much theological speculation…”

    Okay, you may be right, but that doesn’t demonstrate that theological speculation is wrong. This is like saying one shouldn’t cross the street because one might be hit by a car.

    Posted 11 Jul 2006 at 4:16 pm
  47. Anthrakeus wrote:

    1. “God could have not created the universe. Thus, it is not essential to God that He create. ”
    It is heresy to say otherwise. We don’t consider His role as Creator essential (except in so far as it is in God’s nature to be able to create, and in point of fact He did). Because of the mystery of God in relation to His creation we do sometimes come close to saying that God “had” to create. But we can’t quite figure out how to reconcile determinism (which we don’t like), freedom (which we do), and God’s providence. And that’s in the human sphere. So, it’s not unusual that we have problems talking about God in this respect. Our problem is creating a third class between God and creation of uncreated operations of God. If being a Judge requires something created why can’t God’s Judgeship what we call those effects of God related to His justice. This may be, however, a merely semantic argument. We don’t like the idea of “uncreated” operations (it smacks of Arian demiurges), but we certainly don’t think that God’s creating is essential (at least not necessary). Depending on the ontologist you talk to, you get differing opinions on whether our free action are nonetheless essential. Descartes thought they were. I don’t think Aristotle did.

    2.” Theophilus of Antioch (To Autolycus, I:IV) “And he is called God [theos] on account of His having placed [tetheikenai] all things on security afforded by Himself; and on account of [theein], for theein means running, and moving, and being active, and nourishing, and foreseeing, and governing, and making all things alive.”

    The Fathers often did this analogical exposition, and their is nothing wrong with it, if you keep in mind that it is analogical. I am a linguist, so it is my field of expertise to talk about this. “Theos” in Greek is unrelated to either of these words. It is cognate with the Latin “Deus”, a language which has neither of these words (Gk. tetheikenai = Lat. locavisse; Gk. theein = Lat. propter). It is likewise cognate with the Sanskrit “devah”. It is Indo-European in origin, and means, well… god. Basically, “god” is a proper name (even in a sense for polytheists) and has the same descriptive force that “American” has, it describes a set of entities; it doesn’t *mean* anything.

    This, of course, means that “God” isn’t really essential to God, it’s just what we call Him. It has little descriptive force. Thus, there isn’t even much in God’s essence that makes Him “God”. If He all of a sudden quite being just or simple or holy we wouldn’t stop calling Him God (although we’d all be a bit confused).

    At any rate Theophilus is being analogical, which I don’t mind, but he’s not being etymological.

    3. Barlaam was, in fact, a Western monk who became Orthodox, argued with Palamas, and then became Catholic again. For the record, we don’t revere him in any way. For Western theologians the argument had be more or less settled centuries before Barlaam or Palamas.

    4. You can’t simply call us Roman Catholics as that has a particular juridical and liturgical basis (I, for one, am Catholic, but not Roman). I don’t mind being called a “papist”, however, in the past this term has been used as an instrument of bigotry, and is somewhat akin to calling an African-American a “Negro”. The word has an innocuous origen, but has become tied up with bigotry.

    Of course, we think of ourselves as “orthodox” and you guys as the heterodox (although we tend to assume you agree with us more than perhaps you do). “Eastern Orthodox” is a little better, but I’m eastern and (at least in my mind) orthodox, but not Eastern Orthodox. The term “Schismatic Greek” held some sway in Catholic circles a century ago, but not all Orthodox are Greek, and calling you schismatic to your face (so to speak) would be a bit rude. Besides, it presumes too much.

    I suppose we’ll just have to live with the pitfalls of religious terminology.

    5. “Actually, the Lutherans were happy to admit any number of sacraments.” The Calvanists and the Anabaptists did object to seven Sacraments, not just because they didn’t like enumeration, but because they denied these acts to have the effects which we both believe they have (no Christ in the Eucharist, no forgiveness in Confession, no priesthood, etc.). The point of enumerating seven Sacraments wasn’t to fix a specific number, but to disfuse attempts to deny the effects of these Sacraments. Besides, there’s no real theological disagreement between Catholic and Orthodox theology on the Sacraments, only semantic. When an Easterner (I know some of the “Oriental Orthodox” talk like this) says that the sign of the cross is a sacrament (mysterion), he doesn’t mean that its exactly like Holy Orders. He just doesn’t make a distinction that Catholics make between the “Seven Sacraments” (of which no more can be made, somewhat by definition) and sacramentals, which can vary. The Akathist is a sacramental. Its recitation is accompanied by grace. However, were you to deny that there is grace to be had from Marian devotion you wouldn’t exactly be a heretic (strange, yes; heretic, no). If you deny that grace comes through Chrismation, then you’re a heretic.

    6. “Now, we believe that we have the responsibility not to neglect any of the rites and ceremonies instituted in Scripture, however many there may be. But we do not think that it makes much difference if, for the purpose of teaching, different people have different enumerations, as long as they properly preserve the matters handed down in Scripture.”

    There is some insincerity in these words. The reason to fix the establishment of the Holy Mysteries in Scripture is so as to deny most of them. Confession has only a foothold in Scripture, and the denial of Holy Anointing and Chrismation as sacraments is quite easy (we could both adduce Scripture quotes to support them, but try convincing a Protestant that Scripture supports Sacraments). The only Sacraments that Protestants see in Scripture are the Eucharist and Baptism (maybe Holy Orders, but not in the orthodox sense of priesthood, only in the sense of commissioning by the people).

    Now, of course, the numbering of the Mysteries at seven is of a late date, and somewhat artificial. Peter the Lombard in the eleventh century was the first to give the full list at seven, although lists containing seven from East and West can be found much earlier- most left out either Chrismation (not surprising as the East combines the celebration of Baptism and Chrismation into one rite under almost all circumstances) or Matrimony (monks didn’t always think of Marriage, as it was outside of their experience, and it’s not like the Church hasn’t had its share of people who hated the body). However, no orthodox writer ever denied the effect of any of these seven, and they are the only seven to have an unchallenged place (both in theology and in the liturgy). Not every community used holy water or Marian devotions (at least not in the same way), but there is uniformity over these seven (with the possible exception of Matrimony) in both words and actions.

    7. “don’t deny this, but the point is that the number seven wasn’t dogmatically fixed. None of the Fathers thus quoted would have been particularly fussed if someone argued for 6 or 8 deadly sins.” Nor would any Catholic. I doubt any orthodox writer would deny that these seven are sinful, but classify them as you wish. They just became popular as a method for the examination of conscience (as most sins stem from one of these at least). But there is not now or has there ever been dogma on this matter. Technically it’s only the universal teaching of these being sinful that would stop you from saying that, say, sloth is sinful (the best Scripture you could find on the matter is “if they will not work, let them not eat” from Paul.

    8. “But to try and precisely define and sharply delineate these differences and their different consequences is very un-Orthodox.” If you read a Moral Theology textbook, you’d see how hard it is to make a sharp distinction between mortal and venial. Now, it’s a little easier to delineate “grave (i.e., serious) sins”, but still a little shaky. Nor do we make this distinction to say “Well, it’s okay to lie- that’s only venial”, but to say “You committed murder, you’re not allowed to receive the Eucharist!” In such cases I doubt there would be much disagreement between our two Churches.

    9. “This is the problem that occurs when you dogmatise speculation – it leads to further speculation.” This is a valid point, but it’s not like the same couldn’t be said for Arianism or Monophysitism, both of which you condemn. The Church could have said not to speculate on the humanity and divinity of Christ, but instead it demanded acceptance of the traditions of our fathers. Much the same was done by the Scholastics. It’s just that their questions were farther removed from the Church Fathers. It never occured to St. John Chrysostom to consider whether or not the Mother of God suffered Original Sin. It is, however, possible to deduce what he would have thought based on his writings. He talks about the Blessed Mother in terms incompatible with the idea of Original Sin.

    10. And while we are on the subject of Original Sin, little has been defined about it other than that we’re all born in it, that we get it not by imitation but by descent (it’s not just a bad habit we pick up), and that it results in the same state for our souls as if we had committed a “mortal sin”. In practice all this just boils down to the belief that without Baptism we’d go to hell (do the Orthodox concur on this, at least as a general principle?). Everything else you think is “dogma” is just common opinion. It’s not a great idea to disagree, but if you do we’re not going to kick you out.

    11. “the opinion was taken seriously enough to get Galileo in trouble.” As I noted that’s *not* what got him into trouble.

    12. “Is it the case that all dogmatic truths are revealed?” I think what Tom means is not just revealed (which we believe, too, btw), but revealed as formulated. Basically does dogma come “no assembly required” or do we have to delve into the fonts of revelation to find out what God means. I don’t think you could find a quotation in Scripture which clearly formulates the Nicene conception of the Trinity, even if you could find citations to support it.

    13. “The theology was derived from the praxis.” Which is most commonly how dogma is determined even in the West. That we give theological arguments in the documents defining dogma doesn’t mean that these arguments are *why* we’re defining them. Take the IC, for example. In the Liturgy we call the Mother of God “the ever blessed and immaculate (spotless) Mother of our God, more honorable than the Cherubim…” If Our Lady is *ever* blessed, it implies that she was blessed from the first moment of her being (conception). That this statement comes so close to the word “immaculate” (the Greek might even allow for a translation of ever-blessed and ever-immaculate, depending on where “ever” comes) leads us to believe that the Mother of God never had the stain of sin, even from her conception (Immaculate Conception). Arguments about the pure vessel and whatnot come after the conviction that she was immaculately conceived.

    It should be noted that the idea of the Immaculate Conception spread from the East to the West, not the other way around. All the West did was to explain it.

    14. “we reason from praxis to theology, whereas the scholastic approach attempts to argue from theology to praxis.” We actually do both. And so do you. The liturgy refers to Mary as the Theotokos as often as it does to cement this dogma in the minds of the faithful. Its use is pre-Chalcedonian, but its repetition is all theology.

    15. “In point of fact, the reason he arrived at his heretical views was because he did too much theological speculation, instead of relying on revealed Tradition.” Origen may have, but that doesn’t mean that using theological speculation makes one a heretic. You yourself said that St. Cyril of Alexandria philosophized “too much”. Perhaps, we are just emulating him. To win your argument you would need to show how philosophizing is harmful in itself, not just capable of misuse.

    16. “I agree conditionally. If God is passive in revealing truths to man, I agree. But if God must act positively to reveal truths to man, I disagree.”

    What? Tom, speculative theology, and I want to be quite clear on this, is not (nor has it ever been) as means of revelation. Revelation is over and done. We have all that we will ever get from God (until we reach heaven, that is). Speculative theology merely comes up with answers to questions people are asking based on dogma. If this “speculation” is the only logical consequence of other dogmas we likewise consider it dogmatic, because illogic is evil. Otherwise, one may disagree when one chooses. When you and Jezz say “speculative theology” what you probably mean is “systematic theology”, which is a whole other kettle of fish. Systematic theology puts the dogmas together so that they make sense. That systematic theology leads to speculation is not surprising, but it is not a necessary consequence. Something like the Immaculate Conception comes from systematic theology. Precisely, this was done by making the dogma of the Immaculate Conception (a traditional belief) fit with what we know to be true, as some doubted its truth. If you don’t like speculative theology, that’s okay, but abhoring systematic theology is ridiculous.

    God reveals actively. What you mean to say is that you don’t believe that God presents all truths in clear, simple English. Which (other than some of the crazier fundamentalists) no one would oppose, but God is anything by passive in revelation.

    Posted 11 Jul 2006 at 8:21 pm
  48. edey wrote:

    ““Anyways, I think Tom is right about converting individual Orthodox/Catholics because, if I am informed correctly, the Pope and the Patriarch of Constantinople reunified several times in the past (don’t ask me how) but the people revolted.”

    Twice, that I know of; at the Council of Lyons, 1274, and the Council of Florence (1439). The first reunion was promoted by the bishops and scuttled by the Emperor, and the second provoked by the Emperor and scuttled by the laity and the bishops sympathetic to the laity.

    These two reunion councils provide much fodder for the oft-repeated claim of the supposed caesaropapism of the Byzantine Emperors.”

    So, in these reunions were some of these dogmatic differences yet to be defined? What about the ones that were issues at the time? How were they resolved? Did the Orthodox just take the Catholic understanding?

    Also, how do families and parishes just convert back and forth? From what I understand, it is usually over disciplinary reasons like a married priesthood (which is allowed in the Eastern Catholic rites…the us just seems to have some problem with the implementation of that for some reason.) Are the dogmatic differences not well known? Wouldn’t the priest bringing them into whichever church they are entering explain them??

    I will have a more substantive comment in the next few days.

    Posted 20 Jul 2006 at 11:14 am

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  1. From SmartChristian.com on 28 Jun 2006 at 2:05 pm

    What is the possibilities of the reunion of the Roman Catholic Church (West) and the Orthodox Church (East)? Posted at 4:52 pm by Andrew Jackson (Permalink)

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