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Author Topic: Why Not Eastern Orthodoxy?  (Read 1684 times) Average Rating: 0
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djrak
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« on: July 14, 2005, 03:04:52 AM »

i just came accross this:
http://catholica.pontifications.net/?p=929
comments?
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« Reply #1 on: July 14, 2005, 03:25:16 PM »

Some of what he says in true. Some is not. But whether true or not, I don't think he hits the mark on anything.

Quote
First, I am troubled by Orthodoxy’s "Easternness."

Orthodoxy emphasises "easternness" because western religious culture has become so distorted. Simply put, "the East" and "the West" grew apart from the beginning, and by the 4th or 5th centuries were traveling down different roads. That is not to say that "the West" (I am speaking of a culture, not a geographical location!) is all bad. However, there are bad things in the west, and there are good things in the west. When it comes to religion, "the East" preserved the apostolic faith and those living in "the west" allowed it to be subverted. Thus, we obviously emphasise "the east" when there is a difference in belief/practice.

I am a westerner. I was born in America, as was my parents and Grand parents. But, even as a westerner I can see that something went terribly wrong, that the west first swung towards superstition and papal domination, and then swung back towards the other direction (e.g., the so-called enlightenment). It has been swinging back and forth ever since. I am not saying that Orthodoxy is free of problems. We've got some whoppers (just look at our missionary activity last century... oh wait, what missionary activity?)ÂÂ  But in the end, even as a Westerner, I can see that the East preserved the faith purely, thus the reason I am Eastern Orthodox.

Quote
The coherence and power of Orthodoxy is partially achieved by excluding the Western tradition from its spiritual and theological life.

I would say that "the west" is not included as much simply because we went 1,000 years without much fruitful contact with "the west". If the author wishes this to be a point against Orthodoxy, then it is also a point against every other Christian group, from Augustine's time on down (did Augustine ever learn Greek? Did Chrysostom ever learn Hebrew? Let's be consistent here. If Orthodoxy not including the West as much is a mark against it, then I want to hear about how many times Gregory the Theologian or Basil the Great were quoted in the west. Did not their influence pass away as Western writers replaced them in highest authority?)

Personally, I make no attempt to purposely exclude the "Western tradition". I like Ambrose, in spite of the fact that he is as hung up on stoicized sexual morals as Augustine, is aghast that a priest would marry, etc. I love St. John Cassian... oh wait, bad example, that's a westerner that the west themselves rejected for centuries. SmileyÂÂ  I like St. Vincent of Lerins. I like St. Bede. I like many western saints, even if they talk in different ways and about different things (e.g., a western writer's more likely to talk about fortitude than fasting; a western monastic, following St. Benedict, is more likely to emphasise moderation, while an easterner, following the fiery ascetics, is more likely to speak of great podvigs... though on that point, interesting, the Russians and others eventually did adopt a more westernized moderate, systematic, communal system.)

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One is hard-pressed to find an Orthodox writer who speaks highly of the Western Church, of her saints, ascetics, and theologians,

I think I just did. Smiley And fwiw, I have a webpage defending Augustine on my website. Fr. Seraphim Rose did so. St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco did so. Lots of people here do.

Quote
of her manifold contributions to Christian religion and Western civilization.

Well she kept it from total decay...ÂÂ  she kept the dark ages from becoming the pit-of-despair ages, I'll give her that...

Quote
According to Orthodox consensus, Western Christianity went off the tracks somewhere along the way and must now be judged as a heresy.

Huh? Whoever said that "Western Christianity" is a heresy? The filioque is a heresy. Papal infallibility is a heresy. Papal supremacy is a heresy. The Immaculate Conception of the Theotokos is a heresy. Supererogatory works is a heresy. Purgatory as a dogma is a heresy. And I might go on. These things are heresy. But whoever said that "Western Christianity" is heresy? Catholicism may be in heresy, but I hardly see how one could say that Catholicism is heresy. At most, you could only say that to be a practicing Catholic you must embrace heresies.

"Western Christianity... must now be judged as a heresy." That's some polemic the guy has going on, to put such words in our mouth! If that is what he thinks the Orthodox believe, then no wonder he rejected us. But to paraphrase a modern Catholic thinker (can I quote one and still keep my image as a Western-hater? Smiley ), "Very few people reject Orthodoxy. But many people reject what they think is Orthodoxy".

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Understandably, Eastern Christianity considers itself the touchstone and standard by which the Western tradition is to be judged.

Only when there is evidence of corruption or distortion. I have no problem reading Ambrose or any number of other Western writers. I have no problem reading C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton and many others like them, for that matter. The whole "east vs. west" thing only comes into play when there is a chance that the west went down the wrong road at some point.

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To put it simply, Orthodoxy has no real place for St Augustine. He is commemorated as a saint, but the bulk of his theological work is rejected.

That's absurd. That's like saying "Catholicism has no real place for St. Gregory. They weren't in communion with him when he was alive. And it took a long time for them to finally recognize him as a Saint." Of course Orthodoxy has "a real place for St Augustine". He is a Saint. Defenses have been written to protect him. But, also, critiques have been written to protect Orthodoxy, and that is what gets Catholics (and many Protestants), who considered Augustine a super-saint and theologically superior to pretty much everyone. And I might add, two of the first significant rebuttals of Augustine's work were by Westerners: St. John Cassian and St. Vincent of Lerins.

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Second, I am troubled by the absence of a final court of appeal in controversies of faith and morals.

Well that is a subject in itself. Who is going to answer such an epistemological question in a post, or even twenty posts? I would only point out that 1) Orthodoxy does have a system for coming to decisions, it just might not be a systematic or visible as some might like. And 2) that no other group has devised a better system than Orthodoxy's. Catholicism, for example, for all its talk about having a final authority, really has nothing of the kind. If what the Pope says or does isn't in line with what is expected, they merely call him an anti-pope, say he couldn't be the real one, and proceed to bypass the system.

There were times in history when there were two, three, and even four people claiming to be Pope. Now, from the lay person's perspective in those times, does that seem to offer a "final court of appeal in controversies"? So far from solving the epistemological problem, Catholicism has simply tried to sweep the problem under the rug and close their eyes. I do apologize if Orthodoxy's messy attempt at a solution doesn't seem as neat and tidy as Catholicism's solution. If I were you I'd check under the rug though. Smiley
« Last Edit: July 14, 2005, 03:32:16 PM by Paradosis » Logged

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arjuna3110
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« Reply #2 on: July 14, 2005, 09:32:09 PM »

i just came accross this:
http://catholica.pontifications.net/?p=929
comments?

I read the article, but I wasn't particularly moved by the author's criticisms of Orthodoxy. 

Increasingly, I think Orthodoxy has preserved more of the Gospel than any other denomination of Christianity.  That especially includes collegiality among the bishops, clarity about the Trinity (i.e., no filioque), the Liturgy, and an understanding of theology as direct communion with God instead of religious philosophy (as represented by Augustine and, especially Thomas Aquinas). 

The author of the article said that he did not like how "eastern" Orthodoxy is.   I think he made an error in that remark.  I think the real issue is that the East has remained Orthodox but the West has ceased to be Orthodox.  The West used to be Orthodox (about 1000 years ago).  The West could become Orthodox again.  And one Westerner in particular (me) is strongly weighing whether he will become Orthodox. 

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« Reply #3 on: July 15, 2005, 03:18:04 AM »

Paradosis,

One small point, but I'd never consider St. John Cassian as a westerner. To my mind he's one of the best examples of the unity of the whole Church prior to the Schism. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that it is his 'easternness' that is part of the problem the RCC has with him - he simply had a far better grounding in the faith as expressed in both east and west than Bl. Augustine had and this lead him to oppose Bl. Augustine's problematic theology. Seeing as St. John Cassian was born in Scythia Minor (despite some people, usually Roman Catholics disputing this, it is well known in the east that he was from the area of Cassian in what is now Dobrogea, Romania), was a monk in the Holy Land and then Egypt, was close to St. John Chrysostom before his exile and only then settled in the west and founded monasteries here. St. John Cassian's life and teachings truly straddle both halves of the Church.

James
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« Reply #4 on: July 15, 2005, 03:44:40 AM »

James

I think that I would agree with you Smiley Having said that, let me say why I spoke of St. John as a western saint. First, because he was largely responsible for monasticism as it existed in Egypt and Palestine moving westward, even if the west itself was slow in recognizing his contribution (and sanctity). And second, because Catholics themselves consider him a western saint (some people even call him "John the Roman" or "John Cassian the Roman"). We might make a similar comment about Bl. Jerome, being a neophyte disciple of St. Gregory the Theologian (and I think ordained Deacon by him), spending much time in the East, and then eventually returning to the East after a seemingly unpleasant time back in Rome for a while. Yet, Bl. Jerome is generally considered a western saint. *shrugs*    Thinking about it though, your point is well taken, it would probably be best to not call St. John western.
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« Reply #5 on: July 15, 2005, 04:47:18 AM »

James

I think that I would agree with you Smiley Having said that, let me say why I spoke of St. John as a western saint. First, because he was largely responsible for monasticism as it existed in Egypt and Palestine moving westward, even if the west itself was slow in recognizing his contribution (and sanctity). And second, because Catholics themselves consider him a western saint (some people even call him "John the Roman" or "John Cassian the Roman"). We might make a similar comment about Bl. Jerome, being a neophyte disciple of St. Gregory the Theologian (and I think ordained Deacon by him), spending much time in the East, and then eventually returning to the East after a seemingly unpleasant time back in Rome for a while. Yet, Bl. Jerome is generally considered a western saint. *shrugs*  ÃƒÆ’‚  Thinking about it though, your point is well taken, it would probably be best to not call St. John western.

Paradosis,

I'm glad we agree as I think St. John is far more valuable as an example of the essential unity of the Church in his time rather than as an example of something western in a false east/west dichotomy. I can't be absolutely sure of this, but I suspect that it's actually only in the east that you'll see names like St. John Cassian the Roman. I believe that it's likely this is a slight corruption of the Romanian title for him, Sf. Ioan Casian Românul. Român (which is pronounced somewhere between romun and romin) means Romanian (or little Roman) and hence the title actually means St. John Cassian the Romanian, similarly his companion St. Germanus is known as either Sf. Gherman din Dobrogea or Sf. Gherman Românul.

In any case, given that his sanctity is often denied in the west whereas he is widely celebrated in the east, I do think it's a little misleading to think of him as western. This is not the case with St. Jerome.

James
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« Reply #6 on: July 15, 2005, 11:52:40 PM »

As for the "easterness," what about the Western Rite? Look at the pictures of their parishes. They seem pretty "western" to me.

Simply put, "the East" and "the West" grew apart from the beginning, and by the 4th or 5th centuries were traveling down different roads.

Personally, I make no attempt to purposely exclude the "Western tradition". I like Ambrose, in spite of the fact that he is as hung up on stoicized sexual morals as Augustine, is aghast that a priest would marry, etc. I love St. John Cassian... oh wait, bad example, that's a westerner that the west themselves rejected for centuries. Smiley  I like St. Vincent of Lerins. I like St. Bede. I like many western saints, even if they talk in different ways and about different things (e.g., a western writer's more likely to talk about fortitude than fasting; a western monastic, following St. Benedict, is more likely to emphasise moderation, while an easterner, following the fiery ascetics, is more likely to speak of great podvigs... though on that point, interesting, the Russians and others eventually did adopt a more westernized moderate, systematic, communal system.)

Paradosis I like much of what you wrote but I find problems with these sections.
First to say the West was already headed on a path that would eventually lead to heresy in the fourth and fifth centuries seems absurd. Just look at how often the Partiarchate and Caesar in New Rome promoted heresy. Let us not forget St.Martin the Confessor. If anything it often looked as if New Rome was headed down a path that would lead to heresy. In my own research I came to the conclusion that it is really not until Charlemagne that we have a real going off the path or missing the mark in Western Europe. But it still took another two centuries for the heresy of the filioque to corrupt all of the West and when I say the heresy of the filioque I mean the heretical interpretation of it; that Holy Spirit has an eternal procession from the Son as well as the Father.

As far as St.Ambrose is concerned I think you will find that he was hardly "western" in the sense that St.Augustine was. He knew Koine Greek fluently and his exegetical works seem to be much like those of St.John Chrysostom. Let us not forget St.Ambrose is the Honey-Mouthed Saint! Legend says when he was born a bee flew out of his mouth.

As far as Western Monasticism I do see your point that with St.Benedict a more moderate Rule begins to take shape but I can hardly view St.Benedict as having been a moderate Medieval Benedictine. His biography by St.Gregory the Great attests to his being an ascetic. Also if you look at the Anglo-Saxon, Celtic, and Gallic monasticism in the early Middle Ages, when the "west was Orthodox," you will see that there is no great difference from the East that we can say is disctinctly western. This only happens several hundred years later.

What I am trying to say is what Fr.Romanides of blessed memory always pointed out: it is not a question of an East vs. West dichotomy but of a Frank vs. Roman dichotomy. I admit I was sceptical about this at first but when I looked at the differences between Clovis and Charlemagne, St.Edward the Confessor and William the Conqueror, I saw just what he was talking about.

Although I disagree with his Ecclesiology and have found one apparently glaring error in his works I think Vladimir Moss is a good author to read on the Orthodox West. I am particularly thinking of the The Fall of Orthodox England The Restoration of Romanity and The Mystery of Christian Power.

The reason why I point all this out is because in recent times Roman Catholic historians have tried to promote the "Lung theory," that the West is a lung and East is a lung of the Church, and purposely distort history to try and prove this. The arguments they most frequently make are that the West was very different from the East way before 1054. They confuse vestments and canons with faith.
However there are some Roman Catholic historians who do admit that "something" happened in the eleventh century that seemed to transform in Christianity in the West. One RC historian with great clout who holds to this opinion is Yves Congar who wrote, "This change took place only in the West where, sometime between the end of the 11th and 12th centuries, everything was somehow transformed. This profound alteration of view did not take place in the East, where, in some respects, Christian matters today are still what they were then - and what they were in the West before the end of the 11th century." After Nine Hundred Years.

Don't let anyone tell you the East was somehow mystically protected from the very beginning or that the West was heading for heresy from the very beginning. It is a false and evil dichotomy that makes the Slavic and Greek peoples out to be somehow a chosen people while Western Europeans have some defect which must be cured by the East which always knows better. I can't tell you how disgusted I am when Greeks or Russians speak disparagingly of the "West" as if it were some disease.
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« Reply #7 on: July 16, 2005, 09:13:31 AM »

Sabbas, that was a superb post ! 

Thank you !

I am going to print this out and study it !




As for the "easterness," what about the Western Rite? Look at the pictures of their parishes. They seem pretty "western" to me.
Paradosis I like much of what you wrote but I find problems with these sections.

First to say the West was already headed on a path that would eventually lead to heresy in the fourth and fifth centuries seems absurd. Just look at how often the Partiarchate and Caesar in New Rome promoted heresy. Let us not forget St.Martin the Confessor. If anything it often looked as if New Rome was headed down a path that would lead to heresy. In my own research I came to the conclusion that it is really not until Charlemagne that we have a real going off the path or missing the mark in Western Europe. But it still took another two centuries for the heresy of the filioque to corrupt all of the West and when I say the heresy of the filioque I mean the heretical interpretation of it; that Holy Spirit has an eternal procession from the Son as well as the Father.

As far as St.Ambrose is concerned I think you will find that he was hardly "western" in the sense that St.Augustine was. He knew Koine Greek fluently and his exegetical works seem to be much like those of St.John Chrysostom. Let us not forget St.Ambrose is the Honey-Mouthed Saint! Legend says when he was born a bee flew out of his mouth.

As far as Western Monasticism I do see your point that with St.Benedict a more moderate Rule begins to take shape but I can hardly view St.Benedict as having been a moderate Medieval Benedictine. His biography by St.Gregory the Great attests to his being an ascetic. Also if you look at the Anglo-Saxon, Celtic, and Gallic monasticism in the early Middle Ages, when the "west was Orthodox," you will see that there is no great difference from the East that we can say is disctinctly western. This only happens several hundred years later.

What I am trying to say is what Fr.Romanides of blessed memory always pointed out: it is not a question of an East vs. West dichotomy but of a Frank vs. Roman dichotomy. I admit I was sceptical about this at first but when I looked at the differences between Clovis and Charlemagne, St.Edward the Confessor and William the Conqueror, I saw just what he was talking about.

Although I disagree with his Ecclesiology and have found one apparently glaring error in his works I think Vladimir Moss is a good author to read on the Orthodox West. I am particularly thinking of the The Fall of Orthodox England The Restoration of Romanity and The Mystery of Christian Power.

The reason why I point all this out is because in recent times Roman Catholic historians have tried to promote the "Lung theory," that the West is a lung and East is a lung of the Church, and purposely distort history to try and prove this. The arguments they most frequently make are that the West was very different from the East way before 1054. They confuse vestments and canons with faith.

However there are some Roman Catholic historians who do admit that "something" happened in the eleventh century that seemed to transform in Christianity in the West. One RC historian with great clout who holds to this opinion is Yves Congar who wrote, "This change took place only in the West where, sometime between the end of the 11th and 12th centuries, everything was somehow transformed. This profound alteration of view did not take place in the East, where, in some respects, Christian matters today are still what they were then - and what they were in the West before the end of the 11th century." After Nine Hundred Years.

Don't let anyone tell you the East was somehow mystically protected from the very beginning or that the West was heading for heresy from the very beginning. It is a false and evil dichotomy that makes the Slavic and Greek peoples out to be somehow a chosen people while Western Europeans have some defect which must be cured by the East which always knows better. I can't tell you how disgusted I am when Greeks or Russians speak disparagingly of the "West" as if it were some disease.
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« Reply #8 on: July 16, 2005, 07:04:17 PM »

James,

Your observation seemed to be right on about St. John; I googled for "John Cassian the Roman" (or something like that) and sure enough what came up was Orthodox sites.



Sabbas

Greetings. I hope this post won't seem too disagreeable, I think we are on the same basic wavelength here, and discussion of differences is probably a good thing (what's the fun in a theology site where everyone just nods their head in agreement on every detail?)

Quote
First to say the West was already headed on a path that would eventually lead to heresy in the fourth and fifth centuries seems absurd.

Well, I think them being on the road to heresy is debatable. I mean, the filioque, papal supremacy, and a number of other problems have their roots in 5th century western theology, even if they didn't manifest themselves as full-blown heresies until centuries later. But, primarily, I was thinking more of approaches to theology and praxis, and not necessarily dogmatic deviations. That's why I gave two examples that illustrated how even then the East and West had diverging approaches/mindsets, rather than listing doctrinal differences.

St. Ambrose, for example, in his Treatise on the Priesthood (1, 50), which in all other areas I found to be very excellent, had this to say about clerical celibacy:

Quote
But ye know that the ministerial office must be kept pure and unspotted, and must not be defiled by conjugal intercourse; ye know this, I say, who have received the gifts of the sacred ministry, with pure bodies, and unspoilt modesty, and without ever having enjoyed conjugal intercourse. I am mentioning this, because in some out-of-the-way places, when they enter on the ministry, or even when they become priests, they have begotten children. They defend this on the ground of old custom, when, as it happened, the sacrifice was offered up at long intervals.

However, even the people had to be purified two or three days beforehand, so as to come clean to the sacrifice, as we read in the Old Testament. They even used to wash their clothes. If such regard was paid in what was only the figure, how much ought it to be shown in the reality! Learn then, Priest and Levite, what it means to wash thy clothes. Thou must have a pure body wherewith to offer up the sacraments. If the people were forbidden to approach their victim unless they washed their clothes, dost thou, while foul in heart and body, dare to make supplication for others? Dost thou dare to make an offering for them?

Some would-be Catholic apologists are now even trying to prove in print that clerical celibacy is a custom that extended back to apostolic times, and that it is the East, with their married priesthood, that has changed. I am not sure whether the story about an attempt to mandate clerical celibacy at the First Ecumenical Council (reported by Socrates or Sozomen I think), and a refutation of it by the monk Paphnutius, is authentic. If it is, that would take us back even earlier than the time of St. Ambrose.

But at the very least, it seems that by the 5th century, there were diverging views on the issue. I remember reading that by the 9th century, when West and East were arguing over who got Bulgaria, one of the ways that western priests stigmatized eastern ones was by saying that eastern priests were so lax and unfaithful that they married and had children. This is just one issue where there is a difference, but I think there are others, including doctrinal ones.

Now, please do not misunderstand, I am not saying that the west was heretical in the 4th or 5th (or even later) centuries, nor am I saying that we should put every western Father to the fire to make sure he is pure. I am only saying that we should do with western fathers of this period what we do with eastern Fathers and thinkers: if we come across something in them that 1) we do not believe, or 2) we do not practice, then we should feel no obligation to follow it.

I am not, just to give an example, going to try and apply canons from various councils which condemned people who said that priests couldn't have sexual relations with their wives. However, if I come across something that doesn't line up with any of the variety of Orthodox positions on a subject, I won't feel compelled to say it's an orthodox position just because a saint said it. I think St. Photius spoke well on this when speaking of what you do when a saint makes errors (even dogmatic errors).

Quote
Just look at how often the Partiarchate and Caesar in New Rome promoted heresy.

I wold agree there Smiley In fact, as I said in another thread a couple days ago, it is my understanding that Constantinople was in heresy more than any of the other 4 Sees which are considered to be part of the so-called Pentarchy. Hey, I'm not saying that East was pristine and West was corrupted. All I'm saying is that there are certain mindsets, certain ways of doing things, that differed, and that I think the East kept the faith pure. That is not to say that Constantinople in any given year was pure, but only that the Church Catholic kept the faith pure.

Since I already mentioned clerical celibacy, I'll just bring that up again. Who do you think is more in line with apostolic doctrine, those who won't let priests marry and have families, or those who allow it? And, which is probably closer to the orthodox faith, making people put their wives away in monasteries or some other such place so as to be "pure" for the eucharist, or considering priests pure (the marriage bed undefiled) even if they have families? I am not trying to say "Bad West! Heretics!" ... yet, there is a difference here, and I don't think it's a small one, and I don't think it's the only example.

Quote
As far as Western Monasticism I do see your point that with St.Benedict a more moderate Rule begins to take shape but I can hardly view St.Benedict as having been a moderate Medieval Benedictine. His biography by St.Gregory the Great attests to his being an ascetic. Also if you look at the Anglo-Saxon, Celtic, and Gallic monasticism in the early Middle Ages, when the "west was Orthodox," you will see that there is no great difference from the East that we can say is disctinctly western. This only happens several hundred years later.

You know, I went back and skimmed through St. Bendict's rule (which I found in a 2nd hand book store of all places! Smiley ), and I think I spoke amiss before. While I remember the rule being more moderate, now that I look at it I can see that he does not say what I thought he said.

Anyway, I get the feeling that we are still going to disagree here, but it's good to talk about things. You've already gotten me to see at least a couple errors I made!

Justin
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« Reply #9 on: July 26, 2005, 01:57:06 AM »

James,

Your observation seemed to be right on about St. John; I googled for "John Cassian the Roman" (or something like that) and sure enough what came up was Orthodox sites.



Sabbas

Greetings. I hope this post won't seem too disagreeable, I think we are on the same basic wavelength here, and discussion of differences is probably a good thing (what's the fun in a theology site where everyone just nods their head in agreement on every detail?)

Well, I think them being on the road to heresy is debatable. I mean, the filioque, papal supremacy, and a number of other problems have their roots in 5th century western theology, even if they didn't manifest themselves as full-blown heresies until centuries later. But, primarily, I was thinking more of approaches to theology and praxis, and not necessarily dogmatic deviations. That's why I gave two examples that illustrated how even then the East and West had diverging approaches/mindsets, rather than listing doctrinal differences.

St. Ambrose, for example, in his Treatise on the Priesthood (1, 50), which in all other areas I found to be very excellent, had this to say about clerical celibacy:

Some would-be Catholic apologists are now even trying to prove in print that clerical celibacy is a custom that extended back to apostolic times, and that it is the East, with their married priesthood, that has changed. I am not sure whether the story about an attempt to mandate clerical celibacy at the First Ecumenical Council (reported by Socrates or Sozomen I think), and a refutation of it by the monk Paphnutius, is authentic. If it is, that would take us back even earlier than the time of St. Ambrose.

But at the very least, it seems that by the 5th century, there were diverging views on the issue. I remember reading that by the 9th century, when West and East were arguing over who got Bulgaria, one of the ways that western priests stigmatized eastern ones was by saying that eastern priests were so lax and unfaithful that they married and had children. This is just one issue where there is a difference, but I think there are others, including doctrinal ones.

Now, please do not misunderstand, I am not saying that the west was heretical in the 4th or 5th (or even later) centuries, nor am I saying that we should put every western Father to the fire to make sure he is pure. I am only saying that we should do with western fathers of this period what we do with eastern Fathers and thinkers: if we come across something in them that 1) we do not believe, or 2) we do not practice, then we should feel no obligation to follow it.

I am not, just to give an example, going to try and apply canons from various councils which condemned people who said that priests couldn't have sexual relations with their wives. However, if I come across something that doesn't line up with any of the variety of Orthodox positions on a subject, I won't feel compelled to say it's an orthodox position just because a saint said it. I think St. Photius spoke well on this when speaking of what you do when a saint makes errors (even dogmatic errors).

I wold agree there Smiley In fact, as I said in another thread a couple days ago, it is my understanding that Constantinople was in heresy more than any of the other 4 Sees which are considered to be part of the so-called Pentarchy. Hey, I'm not saying that East was pristine and West was corrupted. All I'm saying is that there are certain mindsets, certain ways of doing things, that differed, and that I think the East kept the faith pure. That is not to say that Constantinople in any given year was pure, but only that the Church Catholic kept the faith pure.

Since I already mentioned clerical celibacy, I'll just bring that up again. Who do you think is more in line with apostolic doctrine, those who won't let priests marry and have families, or those who allow it? And, which is probably closer to the orthodox faith, making people put their wives away in monasteries or some other such place so as to be "pure" for the eucharist, or considering priests pure (the marriage bed undefiled) even if they have families? I am not trying to say "Bad West! Heretics!" ... yet, there is a difference here, and I don't think it's a small one, and I don't think it's the only example.

You know, I went back and skimmed through St. Bendict's rule (which I found in a 2nd hand book store of all places! Smiley ), and I think I spoke amiss before. While I remember the rule being more moderate, now that I look at it I can see that he does not say what I thought he said.

Anyway, I get the feeling that we are still going to disagree here, but it's good to talk about things. You've already gotten me to see at least a couple errors I made!

Justin

I think we are on the same wavelength too!

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Well, I think them being on the road to heresy is debatable. I mean, the filioque, papal supremacy, and a number of other problems have their roots in 5th century western theology, even if they didn't manifest themselves as full-blown heresies until centuries later. But, primarily, I was thinking more of approaches to theology and praxis, and not necessarily dogmatic deviations. That's why I gave two examples that illustrated how even then the East and West had diverging approaches/mindsets, rather than listing doctrinal differences.
I don't think there is a debate about being on the road to heresy in the 5th century. Now if you said Seventh I could agree that there is a good debate there. If you said 9th century I would say that almost certainly the West was heading towards heresy and that it would have taken a great miracle to have gotten the West back on course. You or I could easily come up with a hypothetical situation in which the East fell into heresy and the West remained Orthodox and then show that that heresy had its roots hundreds of years earlier.

I also disagree that the East and West had diverging mindsets. If you say that in general there are some sharp differences in opinion I can agree but on the whole I see the same mind in St.Bede as I do in St.John Damascene. Also I the difference between the mindsets of East and West were no greater or in fact less than the differences between the Celts and the Anglo-Saxons, the Greeks and the Slavs, the Germans and the Italians, and whoever else we can mention.

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St. Ambrose, for example, in his Treatise on the Priesthood (1, 50), which in all other areas I found to be very excellent, had this to say about clerical celibacy:


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But ye know that the ministerial office must be kept pure and unspotted, and must not be defiled by conjugal intercourse; ye know this, I say, who have received the gifts of the sacred ministry, with pure bodies, and unspoilt modesty, and without ever having enjoyed conjugal intercourse. I am mentioning this, because in some out-of-the-way places, when they enter on the ministry, or even when they become priests, they have begotten children. They defend this on the ground of old custom, when, as it happened, the sacrifice was offered up at long intervals.

However, even the people had to be purified two or three days beforehand, so as to come clean to the sacrifice, as we read in the Old Testament. They even used to wash their clothes. If such regard was paid in what was only the figure, how much ought it to be shown in the reality! Learn then, Priest and Levite, what it means to wash thy clothes. Thou must have a pure body wherewith to offer up the sacraments. If the people were forbidden to approach their victim unless they washed their clothes, dost thou, while foul in heart and body, dare to make supplication for others? Dost thou dare to make an offering for them?

Some would-be Catholic apologists are now even trying to prove in print that clerical celibacy is a custom that extended back to apostolic times, and that it is the East, with their married priesthood, that has changed. I am not sure whether the story about an attempt to mandate clerical celibacy at the First Ecumenical Council (reported by Socrates or Sozomen I think), and a refutation of it by the monk Paphnutius, is authentic. If it is, that would take us back even earlier than the time of St. Ambrose.

But at the very least, it seems that by the 5th century, there were diverging views on the issue. I remember reading that by the 9th century, when West and East were arguing over who got Bulgaria, one of the ways that western priests stigmatized eastern ones was by saying that eastern priests were so lax and unfaithful that they married and had children. This is just one issue where there is a difference, but I think there are others, including doctrinal ones.
This is a good point and a clear difference very early between East and West however I think it has little to do with a diverging mindset than a difference in opinion that pious ideas about celibacy inflated. Even within Orthodoxy we find people stating that Bishops should absolutely be celibate because only one who has chosen to live like an angel should be a bishop. Of course it was not always so.
Also clerical celibacy did not become universal in the West until long after St.Ambrose was arguing for it. In reading St.Gregory of Tours you come across many mentions of Bishops being married, the only stipulation being that a married bishop move out of the family house and cease having conjugal relations with his wife.
I agree clerical celibacy is a big issue but I do not see it as the result of a diverging Western mindset.

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Now, please do not misunderstand, I am not saying that the west was heretical in the 4th or 5th (or even later) centuries, nor am I saying that we should put every western Father to the fire to make sure he is pure. I am only saying that we should do with western fathers of this period what we do with eastern Fathers and thinkers: if we come across something in them that 1) we do not believe, or 2) we do not practice, then we should feel no obligation to follow it.
I completely agree!

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I am not, just to give an example, going to try and apply canons from various councils which condemned people who said that priests couldn't have sexual relations with their wives. However, if I come across something that doesn't line up with any of the variety of Orthodox positions on a subject, I won't feel compelled to say it's an orthodox position just because a saint said it. I think St. Photius spoke well on this when speaking of what you do when a saint makes errors (even dogmatic errors).

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I wold agree there  In fact, as I said in another thread a couple days ago, it is my understanding that Constantinople was in heresy more than any of the other 4 Sees which are considered to be part of the so-called Pentarchy. Hey, I'm not saying that East was pristine and West was corrupted. All I'm saying is that there are certain mindsets, certain ways of doing things, that differed, and that I think the East kept the faith pure. That is not to say that Constantinople in any given year was pure, but only that the Church Catholic kept the faith pure.
I guess what I am having a hard time understanding is how was it that the East uniquely had a mindset that kept the faith pure.
Of course I think that when the West fell into heresy it had a mindset at odds with Orthodoxy, this is quite clear when considering Barlaam, but I do not think that the West had some mindset that was so different from the East that it was bound to fall into heresy for good.

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Since I already mentioned clerical celibacy, I'll just bring that up again. Who do you think is more in line with apostolic doctrine, those who won't let priests marry and have families, or those who allow it? And, which is probably closer to the orthodox faith, making people put their wives away in monasteries or some other such place so as to be "pure" for the eucharist, or considering priests pure (the marriage bed undefiled) even if they have families? I am not trying to say "Bad West! Heretics!" ... yet, there is a difference here, and I don't think it's a small one, and I don't think it's the only example.
I would say that I can see both sides of the issue when it comes to the celibacy of priests. If we are asking what is more in line with Apostolic doctrine one could argue the Orthodox Church is erring because it does not allow its bishops to marry. What I think you are getting at is what is often viewed as an overly stringent and puritanical mindset in the West that negatively affected praxis and doctrine. However I think you will find that in the East there were pronoucements that seem quite harsh and puritanical. Just the other day I was flipping through The Ladder of Divine Ascent and came across a passage which spoke of the shamelessness and vanity of women. I am certainly not condemning St.John Climacus or saying he was Chauvinist but I would say that in exhorting monks to avoid conversation with women and to steer clear of the opposite sex so as to preserve the purity of the Angelic habit he may have gone a little too far. Of course we could also say the same of the King Solomon and interpret Eccl. 7:26-29 as woman hating.

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You know, I went back and skimmed through St. Bendict's rule (which I found in a 2nd hand book store of all places!  ), and I think I spoke amiss before. While I remember the rule being more moderate, now that I look at it I can see that he does not say what I thought he said.

Anyway, I get the feeling that we are still going to disagree here, but it's good to talk about things. You've already gotten me to see at least a couple errors I made!

Justin
I am glad I changed your mind about the Rule of St.Benedict. Let us also remember the worldliness that Russian Monasticism fell into during the 15th and 16th centuries. Eastern monasticism, though on the whole it has maintained the spirit of the Desert, was not always pristine and on occasions saw lapses into over-indulgence.

Yes we do still seem to disagree a bit but I hope I am beginning to win you over. The reason why this is such a big deal to me is because I have been thinking and studying quite a bit about the Western Rite and just how Orthodox it is. The more I read the more I am convinced that those of us in the Eastern Rite, 99.99%, all too often confuse Orthodoxy with the style of our rites. Don't get me wrong if I had a choice between Western or Eastern Rite, as I have mentioned before, I would choose Eastern though I have no problem with the Western Rite and would like to occasionally attend the Latin Mass which, sadly, few Western Rite parishes offer as most serve only in the vernacular.

Please forgive the lateness of my reply!


Sabbas, that was a superb post !

Thank you !

I am going to print this out and study it !




Read and study Romanides not me! but thanks for the compliment!

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