I read recently that Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky), the first leader of the ROCOR, worked to stamp out the Russian Church's dependence on Western theological methods. Do you know anything of this?
Yes, I do know of this. I forgot Blessed Metropolitan Anthony. I consider his Dogma of Redemption, which is too much misunderstood, to be an Orthodox classic (albeit, not without problems). I think his attempt at "cleansing" the Seminaries was in some ways misguided, but his contribution to Orthodoxy has been very positive, unlike the other three I mentioned. My attitude towards Metropolitan Anthony is the same as St. John Maximovitch, his pupil. A great man who made some errors.
I did read them. I don't mean to denigrate Metropolitan St. Philaret of Moscow, but seeing how his catechism came out of the "Western Captivity," I don't see it as necessarily definitive of Orthodox faith. An excellent resource for a broad study of Orthodox dogmatics, certainly, but I wouldn't place my trust too much on this catechism of St. Philaret.
Its not just Metropolitan St. Philaret, if you didn't notice
. Which part of St. Philaret's explication do you take issue with specifically, btw?
This "Western captivity" stuff is just a way to create a gap in our understanding that can be filled in with whatever we want by "going back to the Fathers" and creating a new Orthodoxy in our own image, as Fr. Seraphim Rose pointed out. It also implies that Orthodoxy was lost.
But lets take a look at what some great Hesychast Fathers (Sts. Gregory Palamas and Nicholas Cabasilas) have to say on this matter:
St. Gregory Palamas, Homily 5:
"Before Christ we all shared the same ancestral curse and condemnation poured out on all of us from our single Forefather, as if it had sprung from the root of the human race and was the common lot of our nature. Each person’s individual action attracted either reproof or praise from God, but no one could do anything about the shared curse and condemnation, or the evil inheritance that has been passed down to him and through him would pass to his descendants. But Christ came, setting human nature free and changing the common curse into a shared blessing. He took upon Himself our guilty nature from the most pure Virgin and united it, new and unmixed with the old seed, to His Divine Person. He rendered it guiltless and righteous, so that all His spiritual descendants would remain outside the ancestral curse and condemnation. How so? He shares His grace with each one of us as a person, and each receives forgiveness of his sins from Him. For He did not receive from us a human person, but assumed our human nature and renewed it by uniting it with His own Person. His wish was to save us all completely and for our sake He bowed the heavens and came down. When by His deeds, words and Sufferings He had pointed out all the ways of salvation, He went up to heaven again, drawing after Him those who trusted Him. His aim was to grant perfect redemption not just to the nature which He had assumed from us in inseparable union, but to each one of those who believed in Him. This He has done and continues to do, reconciling each of us through Himself to the Father, bringing each one back to obedience and thoroughly healing our disobedience. To this end, He established Holy Baptism and gave us saving laws."
St. Gregory Palamas, Homily 14:
“If the conception of God had been from seed, He would not have been a new man, nor the Author of new life which will never grow old. If He were from the old stock and had inherited its sin, He would not have been able to bear within Himself the fullness of the incorruptible Godhead or to make His Flesh an inexhaustible Source of sanctification, able to wash away even the defilement of our First Parents by its abundant power, and sufficient to sanctify all who came after them.”
St. Nicholas Cabasilas, The Life in Christ:
"It was neither yesterday nor the day before that the evil began, but at the time that we began to exist. As soon as Adam despised his good Master by believing the evil one and was perverted in will, his soul lost its health and well-being. From that time on his body agreed with the soul and was in accord with it, and was perverted with it like an instrument in the hand of the craftsman. The soul shares its passions with the body by being closely united with it, as is shown by the fact that our body blushes when the soul is ashamed and wastes away when the soul is beset by anxieties. Because our nature was extended and our race increased as it proceeded from the first body, so wickedness too, like any other natural characteristic, was transmitted to the bodies which proceeded from that body. The body, then, not merely shares in the experiences of the soul but also imparts its own experiences to the soul. The soul is subject to joy or vexation, is restrained or unrestrained, depending on the disposition of the body. It therefore followed that each man's soul inherited the wickedness of the first Adam. It spread from his soul to his body, and from his body to the bodies which derived from his, and from those bodies to the souls. This, then, is the old man whom we have received as a seed of evil from our ancestors as we came into existence. We have not seen even one day pure from sin, nor have we ever breathed apart from wickedness, but, as the psalmist says, 'we have gone astray from the womb, we err from our birth' (Ps. 58:4)."
St. John quoted St. Ambrose to support his own assertion that the early Western fathers rejected any concept of Immaculate Conception, but this usage doesn't necessarily imply agreement with St. Ambrose's position on original sin.
St. John is quoting St. Ambrose as a "Holy Father" of authority on the subject of the universality of Original Sin. It does indeed "imply agreement."
Merely repeating the assertion that the issue of the "Western Captivity" is a phony issue doesn't make the assertion true, regardless of how loudly you keep saying this.
It is if the "Western Captivity" was merely an issue of language, and not of content, as Fr. Seraphim Rose maintained.