I didn't want push things since this is such a sensitive topic, but I am of course in agreement with you Seraphim. I've often--because of my passions--wanted to write an apologetic to some of the Orthodox works out there on sexuality. But how is that, the neophyte correcting the scholars? Not right. Yet, in that Orthodox literature, unfortunately, is where I think most people are getting this stuff; it is Orthodox theologians who are saying these things: talking about sexual intercourse as a spiritual experience, saying that the Fathers never spoke of contraception, etc. God forgive me for saying it (I do not say that flippantly), but they should know better.
I was once told be a priest who has done some research and published some materials on contraception, that a very moderate and well known theologian had once told him that everyone he (the theologian) knew who had researched the subject had come to the same conclusions as this priest: namely, that contraception wasn't allowed until the mid-20th century in the Orthodox Church. Nonetheless, this theologian, in spite of knowing what the Fathers taught, did not accept the traditional Orthodox position. Now I do not mean to judge him here (whatever justification he has in his mind for doing this, it is not for me to judge), I bring it up simply because it speaks to the fact that this stuff really is nothing more than creative theology divorced from the teachings of our Church.
I hate to say that because it sounds judgmental, but what else can one say when there are established beliefs and one decides not only to not follow those beliefs, but to actually say things that the Fathers never said and sometimes even spoke against? If there is some justification for these new thoughts, I wish they would explain them more clearly--why the need now
? How are we any worse off today than Roman society, where sex with slave boys was common, mistresses and adultery were indirectly promoted by unfortunate laws (e.g., the woman took on the status of the husband in Roman society, so if the woman was sleeping with a slave, she obviously would never marry him, since that would maker her too a slave), prostitution legal and rampant in many places, etc.?
The crazy thing is that works from outside the Church, like the liberal Catholic John Noonan's book, as terrible as it is (claiming that the early Church Fathers got their beliefs partially from a bias towards stoicism and so forth), are just as good as sources for Orthodox information as most Orthodox material on the subject. What I mean is, at least you know that what Noonan is saying--in his premises and conclusions--is schlock; but at least he gives a ton of references from the early Church, and from all sorts of different views. With much of the Orthodox material out there, it's not schlock, but things which are contrary to the faith of our Fathers are stated authoritatively, quotes of St. John Chrysostom are given, a straw man with Augustine's face is beaten apart, and normally those minsconceptions are given as all that need be said about the subject. The Orthodox Christian who hasn't looked into the subject is left with the impression: West (especially Augustine), bad; East (especially Chrysostom), good.
I don't have a huge problem with something like the MP said (The Basis of the Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church, 12, 12
), though I would prefer something a bit more tradition. But the bad part is, most of the stuff out there just really pushes the limits, IMO. I mean, if they are going to say this stuff, then that's fine, they certainly have a right to do so, but they should discuss why they are leaving the traditional position, and adopting a new course. What is their justification? It is a theology of love and toleration: but it is an artificial theology for which an apolgetic is completely absent. I'd be willing to plop down some serious money for a monograph that systematically looks at what Chrysostom really
taught on the subject.
I hope this post will not offend anyone. As I said in my last post, I have strong opinions on this subject, if for no other reason that people like Dave Armstrong and other Catholics use the position of some Orthodox Christians on this subject to be Catholic, and not Orthodox. And I have to admit that they're right, the Catholic Church is more consistent (though IMO not totally consistent) on this subject. I don't think it is an issue large enough to keep someone from being Orthodox (I think their concept of marriage/divorce/annulments is a much stickier and stranger web), but why give them the excuse if we can help it? Ok, I'm not being totally honest--I also have a person reason for being so attracted to the subject.
Again, I apologize if this doesn't sit well with people, please tell me if my polemics are ticking you off--or tell me why my argumentation is flawed.