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Keble
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« on: September 03, 2004, 10:54:29 AM »

I'm taking the liberty of splitting this thread.

This leads to my suspicion I mentioned in (2) which was somewhat reinforced when I read a recent quote from an Orthodox priest in Greece (on this website, actually) who stated that the "common people" find it easier to pray to humans (the saints, Mary) than to God.  This statement almost gives the impression there are two Christianities: one for the masses, who spend more time praying to the saints and venerating relics and icons then worshipping God directly; and the other for the more theologically astute.  It's almost if the second group rationalizes the practices of the first group which appear to outsiders (at least) to be "folksy" superstitions.  I must admit I'm having trouble seeing how these practices, while agreeing with the theological rationale behind their (seemingly) a posteriori justifications, are not examples of innovation in praxis if not doctrine.

There's an interesting excursus on this point in The Name of the Rose; I don't know exactly how "period' the speech of the characters actually is, but certainly during the reformation the issue was pushed to the fore.

I personally cannot go much further in discussing this without my Protestantism lighting up like a fiery beacon. But I will say that I do think the kind of rationalization you posit does in fact occur.
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« Reply #1 on: September 03, 2004, 12:03:05 PM »

I'm taking the liberty of splitting this thread.There's an interesting excursus on this point in The Name of the Rose; I don't know exactly how "period' the speech of the characters actually is, but certainly during the reformation the issue was pushed to the fore.

I personally cannot go much further in discussing this without my Protestantism lighting up like a fiery beacon. But I will say that I do think the kind of rationalization you posit does in fact occur.

 

Yeah, this is what I suspect.  I'm just wondering if any Orthodox believers can address this.  

Again, I'm not trying to start a fight.  In investigating historical Christianity I've changed my views on several issues including the nature of Baptism and the Lord Supper, salvation, and the relationship between Tradition, Scripture, and the Church.  I've changed my mind on these things because of the consensus of the historical witness from the early Patristic period.  However, I've always been bothered that a similar consensus from the same time period is lacking  (to say the least) regarding the role of Mary in the church, the importance attached to icons, and other such popular practices that gradually became more prevalent later on.  Looking at the same historical evidence, why should I not conclude that the lofty (and perhaps excessive?) veneration of Mary (and icons etc) was an innovation rather than part of the original Apostolic deposit?

That's why I'm wondering if the best approach is to perhaps go with the consensus of the first 2-3 centuries of Christian belief and practice as normative for tradition.  This approach is advocated by this website:
www.scrollpublishing.com
However, I believe this approach is not without it's problems.
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« Reply #2 on: September 03, 2004, 12:15:43 PM »

Doubting Thomas,

It is hard to tell what exactly was widely practiced in the early Church, and what was not, due to the Church purposefully remaining quiet about it's inner faith. They would argue doctrines and whatnot in apologetics, and get into some of the moral practices/stances, but by in large the worship/faith end of the spectrum of teachings/practices was not much discussed. Even in the mid-4th century we have Saints saying that they can't/won't speak of certain things (ie. put them in writing) because they fear that those outside the Church might learn of them. This was a time when those uninterested in Christianity weren't even allowed to see the services, and even catechumens couldn't see certain parts of the services. In fact, catechumens were not even taught about certain aspects of the faith until a couple weeks before baptism.

Certainly I will grant that things like icons became much more commonplace later on. However, they were not totally absent from early Christianity, nor were they insignificant. That they became more important later on does not mean that there was an innovation, any more than the rising of organized monasticism meant there was an unhealthy innovation in monasticism. Times change, and the way that the faith once delivered to the saints is practiced sometimes changes as well. We Orthodox don't believe in a development of doctrine; but we do believe in a development of practice when necessity calls for it. (And they call us stagnant! ha! Smiley )

If the new manifestation of the faith contradicts the apostolic witness, then obviously there is a major problem that needs to be dealt with. However, if all we are talking about is a new manifestation of, or different emphasis upon, an apostolic tradition, then I don't see what the problem is. I realise that you are not Orthodox, so this won't apply to you, but for my own part, I think it is for Orthodox Christians to submit to whatever the tradition is which they have received. Certainly St. Vincent of Lerin's canon is a foundation stone of Orthodox theological thought; however, older does not always mean better, and just because those in apostolic times or shortly thereafter did it one way, that doesn't mean that the Church today must of necessity follow suit. If the Church really is the literal body of Christ, and if we are literally guided by Christ as our head, then we must have faith that our Lord can redirect us to do things differently when the time and situation calls for it.
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« Reply #3 on: September 03, 2004, 12:31:35 PM »

... Theophilus who gave many of the Holy Fathers over to torments and tortures, seeking the truth about the holy icons and believing whatever he would. "If there be anyone in the city intent on uprising, then he will be caught not long after I am told." And after reigning for 12 years, he was stricken with an intestinal disorder so that he desired to relinquish his life. His mouth opened so wide, that his internal organs were visible.

The empress was so upset at what had happened, that she could barely sleep. And in a dream she beheld the most pure Theotokos holding the pre-eternal Child, surrounded by most luminous angels. They were striking Theophilus her husband and humiliating him. Now when her dream had passed and Theophilus had come to his senses, he cried, "Woe is me in my wretchedness, I am struck for the sake of the holy icons." And immediately the empress held an icon of the Theotokos above him and entreated her with tears. And Theophilus, so inclined, saw that one of the clergy surrounding him had an engolpion, which he grabbed and kissed. Now as soon as his lips touched the icon, and he opened wide his mouth, he returned to normal and was relived of the adversity and affliction and fell asleep, after confessing that it is good to venerate the holy icons. Then the empress, fetching the holy and precious images from her bedchamber, convinced Theophilus to kiss them and venerate them with all his heart. A short while afterwards Theophilus departed this life. Theodora then commanded that all who were in exile and in prison be freed. John was deposed from the patriarchal throne, since he was more a sorcerer and demon worshiper than patriarch. Then Methodius, a confessor of Christ, ascended the throne, having suffered much through having been closed up in a tomb alive.

While he was there, Ioannicius the Great, who was practicing asceticism on Mount Olympus, received a divine visitation. The great faster Arsaacius came to him and said, "God has sent me to you, that we might go to the righteous Isaiah the recluse in Nicomedia and learn from him what God desires and what is fitting for His Church." Now when they came to the venerable Isaiah, he said to them, "Thus saith the Lord: Behold, the end is approaching for the enemies of My image. Go to the empress Theodora and to the Patriarch Methodius and tell them: ‘Cease to do what is not holy, and offer sacrifice to Me with the angels by venerating the countenance of My image and of the Cross’." Hearing this they immediately left for Constantinople and announced what had been said to Patriarch Methodius and all God’s assembled ... (Read more...)
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« Reply #4 on: September 03, 2004, 12:44:33 PM »

Keble,
What that that Sean Connery movie back in the 80's (I think)?  I think I saw it in my world History class in High School.
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« Reply #5 on: September 03, 2004, 12:55:08 PM »

Doubting Thomas,

It is hard to tell what exactly was widely practiced in the early Church, and what was not, due to the Church purposefully remaining quiet about it's inner faith. They would argue doctrines and whatnot in apologetics, and get into some of the moral practices/stances, but by in large the worship/faith end of the spectrum of teachings/practices was not much discussed. Even in the mid-4th century we have Saints saying that they can't/won't speak of certain things (ie. put them in writing) because they fear that those outside the Church might learn of them. This was a time when those uninterested in Christianity weren't even allowed to see the services, and even catechumens couldn't see certain parts of the services. In fact, catechumens were not even taught about certain aspects of the faith until a couple weeks before baptism.

Thanks for your response.  This was kind of what I was getting at in the other ("Christmas"..) thread, but since Keble appropriately split this into a new thread I'll try to clarify what I meant here.

I guess the point of asking if there are "two Christianities" in Orthodoxy comes from an impression (reinforced by the quote of the Orthodox priest mentioned in the other thread regarding the "common people") that there is one Christianity for the common masses (who spend more time praying to the saints and Mary and are more preoccupied with saints and icons) and the other for those who know the rationale behind those practices.  It reinforces a suspicion that these practices, while having a rational theological  justification, are in fact an accomodation to the "common" folks who entered the church in greater numbers after the Roman persecutions ceased during which time those practices began to make their appearance in the historical record.  If this is the case, then it would seem that the theological justification for these practices of "veneration" are a posteriori rationalizations for something that wasn't originally in the apostolic deposit.

Now you make a good point about the importance of secrecy regarding certain church practices in that time period, and there is patristic documention of that importance.  It just seems curious that there is not any mention of Mary's intercession (for example), and the importance thereof for the church, in any of Paul's letter or in the Apostolic Fathers despite that fact they did discuss parts of the liturgy not attended by the unbaptized, namely the Eucharist.  
Quote
Certainly I will grant that things like icons became much more commonplace later on. However, they were not totally absent from early Christianity, nor were they insignificant. That they became more important later on does not mean that there was an innovation, any more than the rising of organized monasticism meant there was an unhealthy innovation in monasticism. Times change, and the way that the faith once delivered to the saints sometimes changes as well. If the new manifestation of the faith contradicts the apostolic witness, then obviously there is a major problem that needs to be dealt with. However, if all we are talking about is a new manifestation of, or different emphasis upon, an apostolic tradition, then I don't see what the problem is. I realise that you are not Orthodox, so this won't apply to you, but for my own part, I think it is for Orthodox Christians to submit to whatever the tradition is which they have received.

But how do they (the Orthodox) distinguish between the Apostolic Tradition and traditions?   It seems that in reading Church History, the Fathers didn't always agree on whether a doctrine or practice fell into the former category or the later (or even if there was a difference between the two).  For instance, I've read here (IIRC) that some regard "toll houses" as part of the Apostolic Tradition and others regard it as theological opinion.  How does one know which is which?  Also Irenaeus claimed that it was a tradition from the apostles that Christ was 50 years old at the time of the crucifixion, yet most would disagree.  

I guess I'm worried that if one is required to accept tradition (little "t") on the same ground as Tradition, as something required for belief, then how can one be sure that he is not adding to the deposit of the faith?


Quote
Certainly St. Vincent of Lerin's canon is a foundation stone of Orthodox theological thought; however, older does not always mean better, and just because those in apostolic times or shortly thereafter did it one way, that doesn't mean that the Church today must of necessity follow suit.
Yes, I agree that Vincenf of Lerin's canon should basically be adhered to.  But then do not some historical Christian groups disagree on what has been believed "always, everywhere, and by all"?
Quote
If the Church really is the literal body of Christ, and if we are literally guided by Christ as our head, then we must have faith that our Lord can redirect us to do things differently when the time and situation calls for it.
But which Church?  I've been generally inclined to believe that it's the Orthodox (or that they come the closest), but after reading the first two volumes of Jaroslav Pelikan's "The Christian Tradition" series I'm not sure what to believe.  It seems like much of the Christological controversies surrounding the 3rd through 6th Ecumenical Councils had as much to do with politics and linguistic and terminological misunderstandings as it did with concern for correct doctrine, especially when one reads what modern day "Nestorians" and "Monophysites" actually believe.  Though I personally lean towards the Orthodox Christological understanding expressed in those councils, I guess I'm currently inclined to limit the duration of the "undivided church" to the first 400 years of its history and not the first Millenium.
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« Reply #6 on: September 03, 2004, 01:17:41 PM »

I think that the splitting of the two "traditions" (one for the "masses" and one for the "theologically erudite") crosses the line into pseudo-Gnosticism, in a sense.

Christianity is a journey towards God.  We are called to be like Him as much as we possibly can and to share in his energies, perfecting our theosis along the way.  The cult of Mary and the saints is one way to do so.  Every Orthodox Father who discusses it, every Orthodox catechism, every Orthodox explanation of the Faith will be quite clear that prayer to the saints and veneration of the Holy Icons is merely a tool along the Way to coming closer to God.  It can seem from the outside that the masses are fiddling with icons and praying to Mary instead of to God and those who are further along in perfecting their theosis don't, but the latter began as the former.  It was through the practice of the Orthodox faith, pleading the Blessed Mother and the saints for their intercession and venerating their icons, that those further along the Way came to be in that space.  It's part of growing up, so to speak.  

And nor do they forsake the practices of their spiritual childhood once they reach a sort of "spiritual" adulthood.  They become part and parcel of their life and of their Way to God.

I hope that made some sense.
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« Reply #7 on: September 03, 2004, 01:38:22 PM »

First, <<I'm deleting this.  Schultz said it better>>

Second, we place the veneration of icons in the required slot because it was determined by an ecumenical council.  If that is not valid because you don't like or understand the answer, then the rest won't be valid either.

Third, I've read and enjoyed Pelikan's books.  Please read the caveats at the beginning of his books.  They are not intended to explain every dimension of the history of the development of Christian doctrine, let alone this specific issue (don't forget that subjects were expected to bow to images of the emperor-why wouldn't they give greater honor to the images of Christ and the saints?).  

I think you would be best to locate other sources, including the text of the Second Council of Nicaea.  Review the proof of the fathers.  Do you believe what they are saying or do you believe them to by untruthful or misled?

It is also easy to find yourself reading secular, cynical books on any of the Councils.  There is a lot more to what happened than linguistic misunderstanding and political fighting.  

Personally, I think Pelikan did a good job in that people tend to find what they expect to find.  I didn't read the first two books the way you did, apparently.  I don't believe Pelikan walked away from his studies with the "But which Church?" query.

From a purely human point of view there are many issues concerning what we know to be true about history and, more to the point, what is impossible for us to know.  If you reject anything that is impossible to know, you will end up very frustrated.

Once you come to accept that, we enter another land called faith.  History, in my opinion, does point us to the True Faith, but it doesn't complete the journey.  It's more like a brochure.  You still have to buy the tickets and get on the plane.  When you get there, expect to see more than what was on the tri-fold marketing pamphlet.
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« Reply #8 on: September 03, 2004, 03:19:13 PM »

DT,

You raise some good points, sir, and they are some I probably should have grappled with some more before conversion.

My own thoughts on the subject are pretty much a paraphrase of Anthony Coniaris' (sp?) Introducing the Orthodox Church: The Church has developed over time.  Things which were not used in worship in the beginning (like incense, due to association with pagan idols) were incorporated later, while other things (like musical instruments, likewise prohibited at first) remained unused.  The Church saw fit to make such decisions.

So we're not dealing with a "carbon copy" of the original Christians here...not necessarily.  Just like, when you see someone put their baby picture up beside their face, you wouldn't say, "Oh, that can't be you; it looks nothing like you!"  You recognize that the child from the past has grown up and, though the facial structure may be recognizeable, everything from hair amount to body proportions to strength to size to coordination to the existence of teeth and body hair are all indications that things have radically changed.  Yet no sane person would deny that this is the same person as the one in the photo.

It's kind of like that with the Church.  Certain practices were seen by the Church as a whole to be universal -- such as the Real Presence, Baptismal regeneration, Infant Baptism, the Episcopacy, for ex. --  and therefore they have been clung to.  Others have been seen as "adapting to the moment," or fleeing from a certain strong pagan influence before the Church was ready to baptize it and properly deal with it.

The cult of Mary and the saints, along with icons (with incense marks in front of them), are seen as early as the catacombs -- the OT-era belief that the departed could pray for us (and vice versa) was naturally woven into NT practice.  

As for Mary's exalted role...as you know, I was rather persistent in my questioning of this in another thread.  I still don't know if I buy Mary's total, personal sinlessness, though this is not Orthodox dogma, so I guess I don't "have to."  But the real exaltation of her role (which had been there to a degree for some time anyway) began after the title Theotokos was decided.  This was hardly an accomodation for "the masses."  The first believers knew Him to be divine, but had not dealt with how this affected the Theotokos' birthgiving.  Once it "truly hit" the Church that she gave birth to GOD, the commemorations around her birth and death (which already existed) took on SO much more meaning and the theoneustos command to "call her blessed" made a lot more sense.

So those are my ramblings...not so organized...but it's the end of my work day, and I'm a bit zoned...I think I need a Corona...con lima y mucha sal.... Wink
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« Reply #9 on: September 03, 2004, 03:24:05 PM »

First, <<I'm deleting this.  Schultz said it better>>
Yes, he made a good point.

Quote
Second, we place the veneration of icons in the required slot because it was determined by an ecumenical council.  If that is not valid because you don't like or understand the answer, then the rest won't be valid either.
Yes, but how does one define how many councils are truly "ecumenical" without begging the question?
The "Nestorians" say there are 2.
The "Monophysites", 3.
The iconoclasts, 6.  Wink
The (Chalcedonian) Orthodox, 7 (or even 8 or 9 if one includes the Photian and Palamite councils)
The Roman Catholics say 20-something.  (In fact, I've read quotes from Catholics on other message boards who say that they accept all the ecumenical councils--not just the first 7).

Quote
Third, I've read and enjoyed Pelikan's books.  Please read the caveats at the beginning of his books.  They are not intended to explain every dimension of the history of the development of Christian doctrine, let alone this specific issue (don't forget that subjects were expected to bow to images of the emperor-why wouldn't they give greater honor to the images of Christ and the saints?).
I've enjoyed his books as well.  In fact, I've read them because he is probably the eminent church historian who wrote these books before he became Orthodox.  

Quote
I think you would be best to locate other sources, including the text of the Second Council of Nicaea.  Review the proof of the fathers.  Do you believe what they are saying or do you believe them to by untruthful or misled?
 
First, how does one know a priori that a given council is "ecumenical" and thus binding?  Weren't there iconoclast councils that had the appearance of being ecumenical which preceded Nicaea II?  Doesn't the council have to be "internalized" in the church?  (And if so, which church? )

Second, which "fathers"?  Beyond a certain point chronologically there seems to be a disagreement as to who should be considered Fathers.  This is evident in the Non-Chalcedonian discussion area on this board where different folks have tesitified that one group's "saint" was anathematized as a "heretic" by another group (and vice versa) during the Christological debates.

Quote
It is also easy to find yourself reading secular, cynical books on any of the Councils.  There is a lot more to what happened than linguistic misunderstanding and political fighting.  

Actually, I've read a good deal of pro-Orthodox books on the Councils up to this point, and I read Pelikan's book with the hope that it might further bolster my case to continue on my path towards Orthodoxy.  Also, I realize there was more to it than "linguistic misunderstanding" and "political fighting" but these seem to have played a role as well.  The question for me is whether God guided the Orthodox church to the correct conclusions in these debates despite these other factors.  That's certainly possible.

Quote
Personally, I think Pelikan did a good job in that people tend to find what they expect to find.  I didn't read the first two books the way you did, apparently.  I don't believe Pelikan walked away from his studies with the "But which Church?" query.

I haven't actually finished volume 2 (got another hundred pages) but I have read the chapters on icons and now I'm at the part where East and West parted ways.  Overall I've enjoyed them, and I certainly didn't read them with a skeptical intent.  As I mentioned, I was looking for these books to make me more certain about the claims of Orthodoxy, not less.

Quote
From a purely human point of view there are many issues concerning what we know to be true about history and, more to the point, what is impossible for us to know.  If you reject anything that is impossible to know, you will end up very frustrated.

Once you come to accept that, we enter another land called faith.  History, in my opinion, does point us to the True Faith, but it doesn't complete the journey.  It's more like a brochure.  You still have to buy the tickets and get on the plane.  When you get there, expect to see more than what was on the tri-fold marketing pamphlet.

Good point.
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« Reply #10 on: September 03, 2004, 03:53:52 PM »

DT,

You raise some good points, sir, and they are some I probably should have grappled with some more before conversion.
And perhaps I'm being over-analytical.  But I'm expressing some of my wife's doubts as well, and before I persist in persuing Orthodoxy, I want to make sure it's right for me and my family.


Quote
So we're not dealing with a "carbon copy" of the original Christians here...not necessarily.  Just like, when you see someone put their baby picture up beside their face, you wouldn't say, "Oh, that can't be you; it looks nothing like you!"  You recognize that the child from the past has grown up and, though the facial structure may be recognizeable, everything from hair amount to body proportions to strength to size to coordination to the existence of teeth and body hair are all indications that things have radically changed.  Yet no sane person would deny that this is the same person as the one in the photo.

It's kind of like that with the Church.  Certain practices were seen by the Church as a whole to be universal -- such as the Real Presence, Baptismal regeneration, Infant Baptism, the Episcopacy, for ex. --  and therefore they have been clung to.  Others have been seen as "adapting to the moment," or fleeing from a certain strong pagan influence before the Church was ready to baptize it and properly deal with it.

That's a good point.

Quote
The cult of Mary and the saints, along with icons (with incense marks in front of them), are seen as early as the catacombs -- the OT-era belief that the departed could pray for us (and vice versa) was naturally woven into NT practice.  
Okay...I have read this. I guess I'm looking for specific documentation of dates and details of these beliefs/practices, particulary for the time period preceding Nicea.

Quote
As for Mary's exalted role...as you know, I was rather persistent in my questioning of this in another thread.  I still don't know if I buy Mary's total, personal sinlessness, though this is not Orthodox dogma, so I guess I don't "have to."  But the real exaltation of her role (which had been there to a degree for some time anyway) began after the title Theotokos was decided.  This was hardly an accomodation for "the masses."  The first believers knew Him to be divine, but had not dealt with how this affected the Theotokos' birthgiving.  Once it "truly hit" the Church that she gave birth to GOD, the commemorations around her birth and death (which already existed) took on SO much more meaning and the theoneustos command to "call her blessed" made a lot more sense.
I'm with you regarding the sinlessness of Mary.  Some of the earlier Church Fathers seem to take it for granted that Mary committed (at least minor) sins.  Otherwise, point granted.

Quote
So those are my ramblings...not so organized...but it's the end of my work day, and I'm a bit zoned...I think I need a Corona...con lima y mucha sal.... Wink
It's Labor Day weekend, so enjoy that Corona.  Smiley
(and thanks for your thoughts)
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« Reply #11 on: September 03, 2004, 06:42:46 PM »

Okay...I have read this [about the catacombs]. I guess I'm looking for specific documentation of dates and details of these beliefs/practices, particulary for the time period preceding Nicea.

Here's a link about the OT and NT reasons for the intercession of the saints and depending on their intercessions.

As for the history of catacomb icons, Eusebius states that, he had seen a great many portraits of the Saviour, of Peter and Paul, which have been preserved up to his time (Eusebios, History of the Church, Book VIII. Ch. 18, pg. 20, Col 680).

Also, the Catacombs of Rome have wall paintings with mystical representations of Christ, such as the fish, the anchor, and the lamb.  The themes of the wall paintings were things like Daniel in the lion's den, the Martyr Thekla, Christ, St. Peter, and St. Paul, all dressed in the garb of the philosophers.

Examples are in the catacombs of Priscilla, Domitilla, Sebastian, and Callixus. A pre-Nicaean church with icons is Dura Europos, dated about 256 A.D. The frescoes there are of events in Christ's life -- the raising of the paralytic, Christ walking on the waters, the Samaritan woman at the well and the Old Testament battle of David and Goliath. After the Edict of Milan, icons -- portable, fresco, mosaic, enameled, and carved -- begin to appear in the newly-built churches -- such as St. George in Thessalonica, where 36 million pieces of glass and stones were used in the mosaics; the mausoleum of Galla Placidia; the Baptistry of the Orthodox in Ravenna; the frescoes of the tomb at Nish in Yugoslavia; and the Wax-painted panel ikons of St. Catherine's Monastery -- and in the houses of the faithful.

The iconoclasts in the 8th and 9th centuries were largely influenced, not by primitive Christianity, but by the Islamic strictures against religious portrayal of the human form.
« Last Edit: September 03, 2004, 06:58:56 PM by Pedro » Logged

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« Reply #12 on: September 03, 2004, 08:03:56 PM »

Pedro,

Thanks again for the info, and the link.

Have a good weekend. Smiley

DT
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Justin Kissel
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« Reply #13 on: September 05, 2004, 06:45:42 PM »

Doubting Thomas

Many of your questions deal with epistemology/gnosiology, so they are well beyond my abilities to answer. Regarding that subject, the most I could do is point to sources I have found helpful. The text I would most strongly suggest would be the essay The Theory of Knowledge of Saint Isaac the Syrian, by Saint Justin Popovich, which is translated into English in the book Orthodox Faith and Life In Christ. Also helpful might be the essay Humanistic and Theanthropic Education by Saint Justin Popovich, which is also translated into English and included in the above book (this book can be bought at this site). I was also greatly helped by many of the writings found in the Philokalia, such as On Those Who Think They Are Made Righteous By Works, though obviously these types of texts deal less explicitly and frequently with theories of knowledge.

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I guess the point of asking if there are "two Christianities" in Orthodoxy comes from an impression (reinforced by the quote of the Orthodox priest mentioned in the other thread regarding the "common people") that there is one Christianity for the common masses (who spend more time praying to the saints and Mary and are more preoccupied with saints and icons) and the other for those who know the rationale behind those practices.  It reinforces a suspicion that these practices, while having a rational theological  justification, are in fact an accomodation to the "common" folks who entered the church in greater numbers after the Roman persecutions ceased during which time those practices began to make their appearance in the historical record.

Well, if I correctly understand the point being made, I would have to say that based on my own reading, I would have to disagree with the premise of what you are saying. If you read documents about the priesthood (e.g., St. Gregory the Theologian, Oration 2--where the point I'm about to make is explicitly stated), even in the fourth century it was said that the Christian clergy was filled with all sorts of rascals who really didn't care much about things spiritual. Even St. John Chrysostom (3rd Homily on Acts, I think it was) said that most bishops wouldn't get to heaven. I have a very high respect for the priesthood of God, but I think it is incorrect to see them, as a group, as being more pious. As a matter of fact, not a few monks did some very scandalizing and amazing things to avoid ordination, exactly because they knew their piety would suffer if they became clergy. Now, I am certainly not saying that I am more pious than Orthodox clergy. Not at all! All I'm saying is, I think that dividing Christianity into the "pious clergy" and "simple lay people" is a false dichotomy. After all, the priests were, for the most part, every bit as much the product of that pagan culture as the lay people, were they not?

I'll concede that there probably were indeed "accomodations," but I would return to the point in my other post: I would suggest that if and when these changes took place, they were changes that were in line with (ie. allowed by or taught by) the apostolic witness, that they were already part of Church life to some degree, and that it was by divine will that they came to be more fully utilized in the Church. If it was not God's will, then the practice fell away. I guess that sounds triumphalistic, like "hey, we're right and we didn't go wrong," and for that I apologize. I am only saying how I try to understand these type of things when they come up.

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If this is the case, then it would seem that the theological justification for these practices of "veneration" are a posteriori rationalizations for something that wasn't originally in the apostolic deposit.

Well, I think there is something to the idea that veneration was transferred from the Temple (somewhere--I forget where--in the OT the Jewish people are commadned to reverence the Temple) to the new Temples of God. The place where God resides, so to speak, changed, and so did that which was reverenced therefore change. Perhaps some of our arguments are anachronistic; I guess I take it by faith (and I've not found much in studying that contradicts this) that what the Orthodox teach is true.

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It just seems curious that there is not any mention of Mary's intercession (for example), and the importance thereof for the church, in any of Paul's letter or in the Apostolic Fathers despite that fact they did discuss parts of the liturgy not attended by the unbaptized, namely the Eucharist.

Well, this is true; I suppose I was overstating the point. I could give you arguments about the purpose of Paul's writings being to deal with particular problems and not give doctrinal/practical overviews, and so forth, though I'm sure you already know most of these (whether you find them persuasive or not).
 
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But how do they (the Orthodox) distinguish between the Apostolic Tradition and traditions?

Good question. It's that epistemology thing. Wink  FWIW, though, I don't know that a sharp distinction between "Big T Traditions" and "small t traditions" is a very good way to go about things. Obviously the distinction has some merit, as not everything is totally dogmatic or totally custom, but I'm not sure on what basis such a distinction could/should be made (it seems to me like an artificial theological construct which is based on no authority or experience, but only on what seems like a "logical solution"...now I don't have a problem with logic, but if we are going to set our entire world view up around something, certainly we should make sure it has a foundation we trust, no?)

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It seems that in reading Church History, the Fathers didn't always agree on whether a doctrine or practice fell into the former category or the later (or even if there was a difference between the two).

Well, I hate to say this (since I'm happy when people convert), but agreed. And of course it sometimes gets even more complicated (like when the calendar controversy started dividing the Church, since two different factions each claimed, contradicting each other in the process, to be following the apostolic tradition)

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...toll houses... Also Irenaeus claimed that it was a tradition from the apostles that Christ was 50 years old at the time of the crucifixion, yet most would disagree.  

I'm not gonna touch the toll houses one. Wink I think you make a good point; there were a lot of "traditions" floating around in the early Church that we don't necessarily affirm today. I don't know why I feel the need to agree with you when I'm not offering a justification/defense...  maybe just to remind everyone (including ourselves) that Orthodox is about faith, and life, and not about closing one's mind to anything that might bring up doubts or problems, reading a few books, and then knowing all the answers. I also have problems with certain things in the Scripture (e.g., why is such a harsh man as Samson held up as highly as he is?), but I must take things by faith, as they come and go...
 
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But which Church?  I've been generally inclined to believe that it's the Orthodox (or that they come the closest), but after reading the first two volumes of Jaroslav Pelikan's "The Christian Tradition" series I'm not sure what to believe.

Oddly enough, I also had problems with Mr. Pelikan's books. To be honest, I was astonished at his take on the Roman see. I guess I was expecting something a bit more... Orthodox. I would point out, though, that Mr. Pelikan was writing as a Protestant at the time, and not an Orthodox (much less a traditionally-minded Orthodox) Christian. Mr. Pelikan was (and still is, I presume) also very much pro-ecumenism (this comes out much more clearly, I think, in his non-historical works, like his The Melody of Theology: A Philosophical Dictionary) and I think some of this rubbed off on him the wrong way.

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It seems like much of the Christological controversies surrounding the 3rd through 6th Ecumenical Councils had as much to do with politics and linguistic and terminological misunderstandings as it did with concern for correct doctrine,

I'm not going to deny that problems in language, nationalism, byzantine imperialism, etc. didn't play a part. Being an Orthodox Christian, I obviously think there's more to it than that, though. Smiley Emperor Justinian, for example (whose wife was apparently a closet monophysite and worked at resolving things "behind the scenes" quite extensively, many times without St. Justinian's knowledge), tried a half dozen different ways to resolve some of the divisions as they existed at his time. Certainly the Church tried very hard to resolve the disputes, and I find it hard to believe that all the saintly and pious men (including pious, though I wouldn't say saintly, men on the monophysite/monothelite side) simply couldn't see the truth right in front of their noses (ie. that they, in essence, agreed with each other).

I don't mean to knock Mr. Pelikan's book(s), which are pretty good as far as they go (and which I would recommend ahead of Fr. Alexander Schmemann's book on Church history). I suppose I have an adverse reaction to the IMO way-too-overly-positive reaction of most Orthodox to him. However, in the end, Mr. Pelikan had to smush thousands of years of complex ideas and histories into 5 tiny books; not an easy task! What we get is overviews; oversimplications; which means (not meaning any insult to Mr. Pelikan of course) distortions of the truth. Rene Descartes said, to paraphrase, that history isn't really "true," because history books don't record all the "small" stuff, all the day to day stuff. I think the same thing can be said of history books many times. In only getting general overviews or extremely detailed studies, we get a distorted view of history, divorced (to a greater or lesser degree) from the actual context in which the history went on. Maybe I agree and maybe I disagree with some of what Mr. Pelikan has said in his history books; but either way, I think they are only one very small part of a very large puzzle.

I should say here that, while I look forward to reading any corrections you have, on points where I got things confuzzled, I must try to avoid posting again here. I actually decided about a month ago to stop posting these type of things, and in fact to try and scale back my posting across the internet drastically, especially on 1) polemical, and 2) deeply theological, posts. And here I am in a heavy thread like this! Priests and Deacons should be making posts here in answer to your very valid and sincere questions, not I. So, I look forward to any corrections you might have for me, though I hope you won't mind if I bow out at this point. Smiley
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« Reply #14 on: September 06, 2004, 03:29:26 PM »

Paradosis,
I don't mind if you bow out at all.  I appreciate your effort at responding to some of my crazy questions.  I think I may bow out for a while as well.  Please pray for my wife and I that we will come to the place where we can worship God together in Spirit and in Truth.
Later...
DT
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« Reply #15 on: September 06, 2004, 11:34:16 PM »

DT said:
"I guess I'm looking for specific documentation of dates and details of these beliefs/practices, particulary for the time period preceding Nicea."

Besides Pedro's excellent references, consider also The Theology of the Icon (Ouspensky) - volume 1 has plenty of specific pre-Nicene references.

We are catechumens entering the Orthodox Church, and thrilled to be "entering into the life of the Church", where we're for the first time seeing heart and head both ministered to.

We had been and are still struggling with some of the same questions you raise, but saw and heard enough to decide to trust the authority of this ancient Church.  I overheard an Orthodox priest at an assembly say that there are some truths the Church proclaims from the housetops, and others (particularly the role of Mary) that cannot be grasped by someone until they enter the life of the Church, then it becomes apparent but still not something that can really be described.  We're not there yet, but are already appreciating her more than we ever dared as Protestants.

George
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« Reply #16 on: September 07, 2004, 09:37:33 AM »

DT said:
"I guess I'm looking for specific documentation of dates and details of these beliefs/practices, particulary for the time period preceding Nicea."

Besides Pedro's excellent references, consider also The Theology of the Icon (Ouspensky) - volume 1 has plenty of specific pre-Nicene references.
Thanks for the reference.  Can I find that at amazon.com?  I would like to see that for it may balance out some of the "anti-image" quotes I've read from some church Fathers (or at least put the latter into context).

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We are catechumens entering the Orthodox Church, and thrilled to be "entering into the life of the Church", where we're for the first time seeing heart and head both ministered to.

That's great.  My wife still doesn't understand a lot about Orthodoxy, so we're checking out local Methodist churches and Episopal churches for some type of "compromise".  I'm not sure I'd be ultimately happy in either of those two places (If only one of those Episcopal churches would become WRO...)

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We had been and are still struggling with some of the same questions you raise, but saw and heard enough to decide to trust the authority of this ancient Church.  I overheard an Orthodox priest at an assembly say that there are some truths the Church proclaims from the housetops, and others (particularly the role of Mary) that cannot be grasped by someone until they enter the life of the Church, then it becomes apparent but still not something that can really be described.  We're not there yet, but are already appreciating her more than we ever dared as Protestants.

George
Thanks for sharing.  I guess that's the bottom line--learning enough that the ancient historical church can be trusted.
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cizinec
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« Reply #17 on: September 08, 2004, 08:48:06 AM »

Doubting Thomas,

I'm just not sure you are going to find what you're looking for in books.  They'll help, I suppose, from the point of intellectual justification and with apologetics, but the real answer to your questions can only be answered through prayer, fasting and the life of the Church.  I know you're next question is, "Which one is the church?"

I can only say that you will never really feel comfortable with the answer to this question until you immerse yourself in prayer and fasting.

I'm not discouraging you from studying.  I'm merely encouraging you to add (if you aren't already doing so) another dimension to your search.
« Last Edit: September 08, 2004, 08:50:48 AM by cizinec » Logged

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« Reply #18 on: September 08, 2004, 10:24:34 AM »

Doubting Thomas,

I'm just not sure you are going to find what you're looking for in books.  They'll help, I suppose, from the point of intellectual justification and with apologetics, but the real answer to your questions can only be answered through prayer, fasting and the life of the Church.  I know you're next question is, "Which one is the church?"

I can only say that you will never really feel comfortable with the answer to this question until you immerse yourself in prayer and fasting.

I'm not discouraging you from studying.  I'm merely encouraging you to add (if you aren't already doing so) another dimension to your search.  
Thanks for the advice.  I probably do need to pray more (and fast) and read less.
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« Reply #19 on: September 08, 2004, 01:47:01 PM »

I don't know about reading less . . .

I don't want to discourage your studies.  You never know how God leads.
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