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.
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?)ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š 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.
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.
ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š 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.)
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.
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.
of her manifold contributions to Christian religion and Western civilization.
Well she kept it from total decay...ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š she kept the dark ages from becoming the pit-of-despair ages, I'll give her that...
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?
), "Very few people reject Orthodoxy. But many people reject what they think
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.
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.
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.