Sure, but this is the same kind of opinion/judgment call that we have to make about the Orthodox Church, too. Did the faith stay the same, or move away from the truth? More to the point, do the historical facts give us enough to be able to make this judgment? I would say they don't - not for you, not for us. We must just trust.
I guess my issue with the question of "did the faith stay the same or move away" is that we can show the continuity of the faith through the writings of the saints. But for one to say that the Orthodox Church "moved away" from the truth is difficult for me to swallow, not just because I'm Orthodox, but because those who make that assertion have NEVER ONCE been able to offer any kind of proof of that from a source of the same time period as the sources we provide. While we can literally point to the writings that were handed down from the apostles and onward, with no breaks in between, no break in communion, etc., the best any Protestant has ever given me for disputing the writings of the saints was their opinion!
Oops, sorry ... I misread you there. Yes, I agree that the church was Catholic after the Schism. However, there are some very interesting things that make the faith as practiced (even by some priests and monastics) particularly 'English' and different from European Catholicism. One of my favourite examples is that, when the Catholic Carthusian monks were told by their General Chapter that they shouldn't be so closely involved with lay people, the English Carthusians instead made sure that they found a proper way for lay people to interact with their spiritual fathers in the monasteries. This was happening in the late middle ages, just before the Reformation - I feel it suggests how the character of faith remained somewhat different from Roman Catholicism, and - I would hope - very true to the origins of the Church.
This is exactly what I mean. The faith was different...
I have not heard of any Orthodox petitions to return Imperial Roman coinage to Rome.
I think there's a difference though in what we're talking about. Retaining the law and literal interpretations of Scripture are two different things with two different results. That's why I disagree with your example of "rending unto Caesar." That is a matter of literal interpretation, not retaining of the law. If the issue there were of retaining the law, then the question would NOT be "is there a petition about returning imperial coinage to Rome," it would be, "do we pay taxes to the government?" In other words I don't think you are using the proper example to demonstrate what you are trying to say. "Returning imperial coinage to Rome" means we have literally interpreted the Scriptures, not retained a useless law. Does this make sense?
And is Heorhji wrong about the suicide example?
I'm afraid I'm not familiar with this example. Or maybe I've just forgotten. Was this something that was discussed while I've been away from the forum? Feel free to fill me in...
More importantly, though, there are surely far too many things that Orthodox Churches do now, which have no basis in the Church founded at Pentecost.
I'm afraid you'll have to be more specific... I will address the ones you give below, though.
Where did the Apostles decide that one or other calendar was important?
They didn't, which is what gave the Church the freedom to decide on a more scientifically accurate calculation of the calendar, and why the Churches who didn't accept it are now in schism for retaining the law. (No offense meant by that to anyone. Don't want to drag up the debate again, just trying to give a succinct response...)
When did they decide that priests should wear vestments of the particular type worn in Orthodox Churches?
The vestments are descendant from those that the Jewish priests wore. I'll have to get my husband on this. He's the vestment guru. Any of the guys on here who know him will attest to that. He'll tell you the history, development, and purpose of each piece. Suffice it to say that they are descendant from the Jewish vestments (which makes sense to me, considering that the apostles and early Christians would have worshiped in the way that they were comfortable and accustomed to). They developed further because of their purposes. Each piece had a reason for being.
When and why did they decide that unaccompanied singing was best? That men should wear beards?
Again, descendant from the Jewish cantor tradition. The early Christians retained much of their Jewish roots, worshiping in the familiar way, and we have not changed much of that. As far as instruments, though I am a musician trained in both Western music (years of classical and Broadway style training, currently studying Opera with a voice professor at the University of Georgia) and Byzantine music, I am thoroughly opposed to instruments in the Church. Not because I don't like them. I also play the piano a little. I love instruments. But I believe they have their place. The Church is not the place for performance. It is the place for worship. Nor is it the place for instruments alone. The purpose of the music itself is only to carry the words. The music is a vehicle for the words, that we may pray to and praise God. When we remove the words, all we have is pointless noise (it might be pretty, but it is still pointless noise).
Who gets to decide which of these are 'trivial' (and therefore, it seems, allowed), and which are 'crucial' innovations?
That's why the historical continuity and continuity of the faith are essential. That's why retaining the hierarchy is essential. That's why remaining a conciliar Church is essential. That's why receiving the sacraments is essential. The CHURCH decides.
Ah, yes, I see. No, I didn't mean that. I always feel sad that homosexual couples are so often unable to have their own children - and I don't mean any political point about adopting, I just mean it's sad that some people don't end up in a situation where they can have their own babies with their partner.
Not to be critical at all, because I do understand (intimately) the sorrow that comes from desiring a child that one cannot have. However, it's one thing to be unable to have children because something in your body isn't working right. It's another thing to not be able to have children because God never intended for you to have them that way. This, to me, is like saying I'm sorry that I can't fly (sans airplane). God never intended it. Why are we sorry that God didn't create us differently? Isn't that an incredible amount of hubris to essentially say that God was wrong in His creation? I don't mean that in an accusatory way, just trying to make a point.
I agree that Christ could have done so had He chosen to do.
That's all my point was. Whether homosexuality was normative or not is really neither here nor there.
I don't believe He did (see other posts on this thread). But it is (in my humble opinion, shared by a few professors of Classics) not correct to suggest that Christ would have been in accordance with social norms had he blessed homosexual unions.
That is fine - as long as we don't end up confusing 'bolstered' with 'proven', as I think is sometimes easy to do.
Okay, I think we've come full circle!
Can I say how much I have been enjoying this discussion? I hope that isn't rude, and maybe it is very tedious for you, but I have had to think and question and work things out all the way - it's a great Advent question and has me constantly thinking about the nature of faith. So, I do hope it's not too obvious for you - I owe you a great deal for your patient and perceptive comments, even if I may not always agree!
I, too, have quite enjoyed this. I actually was thinking before I read your post that I appreciated your patience with my lengthy responses. I'm nothing if not long-winded, I guess (am I right, KoD?). You owe me nothing. Please pray for me.
It's nice to be back on the forum and discussing away...