11 August 2009

On consensus, claimed and actual

Over on Weedon's blog, the discussion of the Compline prayer has returned to familiar ground: the Jerome reference concerning church government. Note this exchange between Rdr. Christopher Orr and Rev. Weedon. Reader Christopher wrote:

'The only difference between dogma (δογμα) and kirigma (κηρυγμα) was in the manner of their transmission: dogma is kept "in silence" and kerygmata are "publicized".' (Fr. Georges Florovsky, 'The Function of Tradition in the Ancient Church')

The doctrines concerning the Mother of God were examples of dogma. They were revealed 'in mysteries', in the sacraments, of which the sub tuum praesidium is a surviving example - as is the consensus of all the ancient liturgies.

The consensus of the Church is pretty clear on the place of Mary and requests to her for her assistance - unless one believes in some form of a DaVinci Code theory of early, mass apostasy (or, least indelible taint) across the vast expanses and boundaries of Christendom from the true faith. It's OK to believe that, it's just that it is what it is.

Of course, if this is cherry picking, then so is referring St. Jerome for patristic verification of one's doctrine of Holy Orders. Then again, the consensus of the Church is pretty clear on that, too.

To which Rev. Weedon replied:

Christopher,

The point with St. Jerome is that he claims to present what is the teaching of the Apostles as witnessed from their writings. It's a worthwhile endeavor for all who claim to speak for the Church.

There is, of course, all the difference in the world between an author, however venerable, claiming to present the teaching of the apostles and an author actually presenting the teaching of the apostles. Arius, Nestorios and their ilk claimed to be presenting the teaching of the apostles; so such a claim is not sufficient.

What is sufficient is that said claim be received by the Church. The veneration of Mary and intercession of the saints passes that test; for over 1,000 years in East and West alike both have been practiced, and this in itself should give opponents pause.

Despite the appeal to Jerome, the equality of presbyters and bishops does not pass that test. For the faithful, this fact is enough. For opponents, nothing would be enough.

50 comments:

orrologion said...

It is also rather amazing to me that while the 'silence' of dogma practiced and handed on via the sacraments and the lex orandi is strictly out of bounds, it is perfectly acceptable to assume the 'real church' of all those with 'real faith' existed through centuries and centuries of church history in silence.

Apophatically Speaking said...

On one hand not surprising, really. They are merely being consistent with the position they have taken. On the other hand, resorting to dubious, untenable constructs should set off the alarm bells, or at least one would hope so.

Lord have mercy on our friend, and us.

Nathan said...

"For opponents, nothing would be enough."

You don't seem very confident that people can change/be changed - even persons like Pastor Weedon, who have certainly "come and seen" in regards to EO - and continues to explore, I am sure (though perhaps with some caution), through reading, conversing, etc.

It is this kind of rhetoric/hyperbole that frustrates me greatly - on both sides of the Luth/EO debates. To say that the prayers to Mary and the Saints never made any of the fathers of the Church uneasy and uncomfortable is not true, I believe, as an examination of Chemnitz's work on the Council of Trent will show. I think it is very responsible - and necessary - to consider whether or not this was because they were being conservative.

Otherwise, it seems to me that arguing, trying to convnice, using actual historical evidences ceases to matter less and less. I suggest that for many Western Christians like myself, this is a very important factor - and one, that is quite "Christian" (think Acts: God has given proof to all men... (c. 17), this wasn't done in a corner (c. 26) etc).

I think that this kind of "evidential mindset" is simply part and parcel of the "rule of faith", which holds on to the Treasure of the Gospel passed on to us in the Church’s historical voices... which explains our instinctively being driven back to the Scriptures time and again to test all things.

Or do you only want to give the conservative, historically minded Protestants credit for this? For it seems to me that these are those who are truly driven by the rule of faith – which often has been formed and grown in them from their infancy. Yes, it seems messy (kind of like the chaos in the O.T. - who was in charge of God's people back then, admittedly more bound together by blood, cultural and national ties...) but it seems to me that such are the Church, whether or not they are recognized as being so, and the Kingdom of God is theirs in Christ.

~Nathan

Apophatically Speaking said...

Hi Nathan,

We would object and say that the "evidential mindset" as you call and define it, that it may be easily open to abuse and error especially when used to trump all else. For the Orthodox faith historically does not restrict itself to evidence alone. So when you say that it is the very rule of faith itself, you will have put yourself dangerously far out of reach of the that which has been considered orthodox over the centuries.

Nathan said...

"So when you say that it is the very rule of faith itself..."

I did not say this. Please go back and read my words again.

~Nathan

Nathan said...

Sometimes the evidence from history catches us way off guard. For example, the word "hello" is a 19th century word. Point: when were the concepts "kerygma" and "dogma", as they are being used here first so finely distinguished? (yes, the terms in Greek do exist from early on) The 4th century? The 19th century? By whom? Why/for what? If our curiousity is not aroused by these questions - and we go on to simply grant/assume that the early church would have at the very least recognized/understood the distinctions being made here, we are not really engaging in a fruitful discussion I think - until we address this more fundamental of issues. Unlike some philosophers, I do believe that some words do more or less have universal meanings, probably words like man, woman, child, sun, moon, happy, sad, good, evil, body, spirit, walk, run, sleep, eat, love, hate, forgive, condemn (more on this here: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/11/science/11naming.html?_r=1&pagewanted=print ). And yet - some words and their corresponding universal meanings are not simply gifts to all men, but are also the co-creations of men. Not every word has a universal essence divorced from the evidences of history?

I would love to get a response to this, if persons would due me the honor.

Love in Christ,
Nathan

Nathan said...

"Not every word has a universal essence divorced from the evidences of history?

I would love to get a response to this, if persons would due me the honor."

There should be no question mark in that first sentence. As for the second, I am "due" nothing, but if you would "do" me the honor, I would be grateful.

Thanks again.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Dear Nathan,

If I seem to you to be a little less than sanguine about hopes for 'dialogue' between the Orthodox and Lutherans, it is for several reasons:

1. Historical experience, both at the time of the Reformation and in the past few years, shows how futile such 'dialogues' are.

2. Knowing Pr. Weedon and his case, as I do, I have been taught by sad experience that these matters aren't always simply a case of following the trail of evidence where it leads.

3. Lutherans and Orthodox speak a fundamentally different idiom. With Lutheranism, as with its mother Rome, it is fundamentally a case of staking a position with convincing arguments, from books; existentiality is optional. In the case of Orthodoxy, it is fundamentally a case of existential reality; books are less important. I believe Pr. Weedon was there when Fr. Roman Braga said, "Having a big library and reading many books does not bring one into communion with the living God," or words to that effect.

Your question on words and universal essences is not quite fully formed so as to be able to respond.
1. It depends on what you're referring to by 'word.' In the sense of 'utterance,' no words have universal essence.
2. The notion of 'meaning' itself is a relatively late phenomenon; mediaeval thinkers spoke of signification--a more profitable way of speaking of these matters.
At the present time, however (school begins in a little over a week), I don't have the time or interest to pursue the inquiry further. It's a worthy question, of course, but one that will be lost in the comments section of an Orthodox blog. Perhaps you could start a blog on the topic yourself?

Cordially,

Fr. Gregory

PS Congratulations to you and Sheila on your upcoming fourth. Right now I'm in Pittsburgh visiting my newborn grandson.

Nathan said...

Father Gregory,

Thanks for your congratulations to us. I hope you have a wonderful time in Pittsburgh visiting the new little one.

I must say that from a human perspective, this all seems rather hopeless. I have a hard time understanding your approach/attitude. First, you put “dialogue” in quotes – I could assume why, but could you elaborate why? Second, in regards to Pastor Weedon, you say “I have been taught by sad experience that these matters aren't always simply a case of following the trail of evidence where it leads” – am I right to think you are assuming that he is not still interested in discerning God’s will in regards to the EO? I guess I don’t understand how *you* can say what will be enough evidence to “shake up” his worldview/presuppositions/faith sufficiently to open him again to what you consider to be the true path. I’m not saying that you should compromise the firmness of your own convictions (if you are settled in your knowledge), just that God’s patience and timing shames us all… Third, why do arguments and books necessarily need to go together? Arguments in books may be longer, more complex and abstract, but I submit that persons are still capable of discussing all arguments without books (whether by telephone, or preferably, face to face). Fourth, what does “existentiality is optional” mean exactly, and why is it necessarily opposed to argumentation (=books?). See here. Fifth, of course you would not say that books are unimportant, as you treasure the Scriptures – so, in what sense are the Scriptures important to the EO that distinguishes them from Lutherans for example? Finally, I mean words as utterances not extracted from their contexts, but used within them – again, I do believe that some words have universal meanings/significations which can be discerned with high levels of confidence, and that these words are given to us as gifts which form us, and ultimately, we should not vainly imagine that these messages to us – these words to us – this communication to us – can be “used” apart from the intentions and purposes of the person uttering them (if “meaning” is a “relatively late phenomenon, as you say, perhaps you can help me out here: what did people say in the past instead of “what do you mean” – that is what I am getting at).

I hope all of my questions make sense and don’t seem too “onionism-ish”[opposite of unionism, as you taught me]/picky. I understand if you are busy (which school do you go to/teach at?) and don’t have time to respond.

Re: the hopelessness I refer to: from my perspective, it all can’t be hopeless, because God shows us in Christ and through his faithful servants that *He keeps communicating with us* – revealing to us His desire that *none* should perish - I will cling to Luke 15’s prodigal father to my dying breath. We can only reject this persistent effort on His part.

Love in Christ,
Nathan

Nathan said...

Here's more about words (an excerpt from Lutherans Looking East):

Regarding the importance of words, is it possible that Words are far more
important than you are giving them credit for (I rejoice at the words in the EO
services and prayers)? You say that they are not the criteria of the Faith, and
in the West, words are "the criteria of the content" of their faiths.
Obviously, this is not the whole picture, as for us, the God-Man Jesus Christ,
the revealer of the Trinity and author of our salvation, is the criteria of the
content of our faith. To say this however, is not to separate Him from the
words that He speak, for *these* really are spirit and life. By criteria, do
you mean both "a standard on which a judgment or decision may be based" and "a
characterizing mark or trait" (dictionary def.), or something similar? In that
case, I am puzzled how words cannot be *a key/essential* criteria of the Faith
for EO as well? (this certainly seems the case when I hear persons talking about
divine simplicity and terms like nature and person and such…). Is this not
simply a matter of emphasis?

Again, I don't think you can assert that Lutherans would deny that we can have a
"wordless joy of Christ's presence" – at least as long as the importance of His
Words is not denied in our relationship with Him as a whole. Yes, faith does
come from the Word of God Himself, but when it comes to our responsibilities to
our neighbor, we do not believe that we are to separate this fact from the fact
that faith comes by hearing not just "words about God", but God's life-giving
words (regarding who we are, who He is, and what He has done for the world and
us in particular). I do not feel comfortable speaking *confidently* about
persons being able to come to faith in any other way – Romans 10 seems to
indicate that God's way of saving the world through His Son is intimately tied
up with using the feet of those who trust and obey Him.

Nathan said...

"See here" = http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2009/06/03/babies-in-church-part-iv-miraculous-ordinary-conversational-experience/

Jason said...

Hi Nate. Have you Fr. Freeman's post on "The Orthodox Reading of Scripture" (http://fatherstephen.wordpress.com/2009/07/31/the-orthodox-reading-of-scripture/). It's quite good, and I believe truthful.

Apophatically Speaking said...

Nathan, I have read and re-read your post, my original comment remains the same. The point being is that you appear to use the "evidential mindset" to trump all else, and that this is way beyond the pale.

But I could well be misunderstanding you, so perhaps you can explain what you mean.

Apophatically Speaking said...

As to the supposed substantive distinction made between kerygma and dogma, this can be claimed (to use the original assertion of Fr. Gregory) but this does not make it so. It remains an untenable contrivance, an idolatry of the mind.

Nathan said...

Apohatically...,

My point is that I did not say that the "evidential mindset" of which I spoke is the very rule of faith itself. I said it was part and parcel with it, inseparable from it.

More later - got to run.

~Nathan

Apophatically Speaking said...

Yes Nathan, and I humbly submit that to do so amounts to allowing for a false criteria. But this is where we disagree, and this is why you are Lutheran and I am Orthodox.

It is very difficult, if not impossible, to have true dialogue about these matters. For it requires participants to lay aside the need to convince, to change the other, to win. This rarely happens, hence the quotation marks: "dialogue".

This medium posting opinions, but hardly a place to have fruitful discussions. We should recognize this limitation.

Nathan said...

Apophatically speaking,

I am discouraged - and upset - though by God’s grace I pray that He would help me speak kindly and thoughtfully – by what you say. You seem to assume that I do not seek or cannot be seeking the truth. You seem to assume that persons who argue always do not seek to learn, even as they, in love, try to pass on the convictions they consider precious and valuable to others (esp. those they love, and have much face to face contact with). In other words, I desire communion with those I hear speak Christ, and this, by God’s grace, overcomes any desire to win: I truly believe that I want to know if God would have me be EO, RC, etc, even as I put forth that which I have believed and experienced (and think “known”) in Christ as a Lutheran (who at one time got caught up in Evangelicalism and Reformed theology). You seem to assume that through letters it is impossible for people to do these things – and that God cannot use such a medium as this to change hearts. Do you really believe that person’s minds and views have never been changed by correspondence of this sort, even if over time? It makes me sad, and to me it denigrates the power and precious gifts of the words God has given us to communicate Christ’s love to one another.

Nathan said...

Please allow me to give a I Peter 3:15 answer. I’m sure we can agree that the message we have to share with the world is of the first importance (I Cor. 15:3-4): more, we preach Christ crucified, and are determined to know nothing but this (Gal. 3:1-6) – and to boast in nothing but this (Gal. 6:14). Though a stumbling block and foolishness to the world, it is the power, wisdom, and salvation of God to all who believe. As Paul says, “Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should (Eph. 6:19-20). More: “Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act towards outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Col 4:4-5)...

Nathan said...

Here we would undoubtedly agree. And if we look further, I think you would agree with me that the following Scriptures are quite interesting. Here we admittedly do not find much “the Kingdom of God is within you” talk, but rather see that God’s people are preaching what God and Christ did for them, outside of them. For example, Luke 1:1-4, I John 1-3, and II Peter 1:16 all talk about how they were eyewitnesses to events that actually happened. As a matter of fact, in the Bible both believers and unbelievers are told to examine history to ascertain God’s truth - to use their minds and eyes. God himself often made such challenges, for Israel was called by God to be his witness of mighty historical acts of confirmation (Isa. 44:6-8, 52:6). God apparently did not think that challenges to look at history were improper references to an authority above his written or oral revelation! (Gary Habermas) Jesus also testified not just to His miracles or power per se, but rather to how his miracles specifically fulfilled the Prophetic Scriptures in order to comfort John who doubted he was the Messiah (Luke 7:18-23). When Peter convicts the crowd, he notes “we are all witnesses of the fact [that God raised Jesus from the dead]” (Acts 2:32), and that the suffering of Christ was foretold through the prophets… Repent (Acts 3:18-19), and that the early Christians “testif[ied] to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 4:33). Paul, like Peter “reasoned with them from the Scriptures, proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead.” (Acts 17:2,3), and he “vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ” (Acts 18:28). Later he says to a man familiar with the prophets that the things he says are “true and reasonable “… and that “none of [theses things] has escaped [the king’s] notice, because [they were] not done in a corner” (Acts 26:25,26). Finally, he says that “[God] has given proof… to all men… [that he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed] by raising him from the dead (Acts 17:31). Paul seems to think that the evidence of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection were testified to by, and also fulfilled the Scriptures given to the Israelites… and that in trying to convict his audience using this message, some would come to faith. Yes, evidence seems quite important here....

Nathan said...

...Paul tells us to imitate him, and of course there is no Gospel to be preached independent of, untethered from, history, historical evidences. How then, I wonder, is an evidential mindset not part and parcel of the rule of faith? And as one considers the Church, (why should the question “Where is the Church” not be thought about in light of the claim that “Salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ is at the heart of all the great controversies that shook the Early church as it tried to work out its own self-understanding”? - I believe the Church has, by history, been forced to define and better understand itself due to heresies) why should such thinking, which tests all things (i.e. vs the Scriptures which testify to and give the reasons for and interpretations of the miracles which have occurred in history) not also play a prominent role?

Of course it was not such an “evidential mindset” that brought me to faith from early on, for by God’s grace I was baptized and nurtured in this faith from early on. But as I grew and begin to question the grounding of my faith in an age enthralled by the fruits of the scientific method and such, I believe that the Holy Spirit has used such evidence to keep me in the faith. When I may be tempted to believe that it all is a lie, such evidence hunts me down and kills me. I can not imagine “eating, drinking and being merry – for tomorrow we die” because the unconquerable facts of the Gospel acts tell me that the precious gift of my faith is not in vain, and the preaching that brought me to faith not useless. When the claims and events around me no longer hold their power over me to cause me to question “Christianity”, but rather the forms of Christianity (i.e. who is the Church), why should I not think that God will use evidence to play a large part in this?
I am very interested in an EO response to this question - perhaps an EO apologetic to this typically Western way [?] of doing apologetics… I assure you I am interested in a response and desire holy conversation, because I don’t doubt that I may be missing something here. As it stands now, it seems to me that many of those converting EO must *in some sense* believe that they converting to EO because they are “following the evidence where it leads”, while of course adding that God Himself has led them to see the truth, and the scales have fallen from their eyes…

I will check back again, but won't comment again for a week.

In Christ,
Nathan

Nathan said...

Jason,

I'll chat with you off list. Thanks for the piece.

~Nathan

Apophatically Speaking said...

Dear Nathan,

Let me first of all make clear that it is not my intent nor desire to have you upset and discouraged over this. Please accept my apologies for such poor communication on my part, my failure to communicate clearly. Let's start over.

I do not purport to be represent the EO perspective. I am merely an Orthodox Christian, a convert from protestantism (25 years - ranging from Dutch Reformed to Charismatic Pentecostal), relating my experience. It is my hope that my perspective may by chance be of some help, but I am no substitute for the Orthodox saints such as the St. Basil, Cappodician Fathers and St. Maximus (to name a few).

I don't mean to say, and this is where I believe our communication is breaking down, that historical evidence plays no role. It most certainly does, as any Orthodox Christian will attest. But there is more going on, and this is not self evident (not pointing fingers, merely observing). The western traditions have unwittingly agreed upon the boundaries of the debate shaped by the scientific method and (more recently) scientific materialism. It is to this influence and compromise that we object as a foreign (and modern) introduction to the faith. The result is that it distorts the Christian faith, and reduces it to a set of propositional truths, hemmed in by materialistic precepts. Certainly it is more nuanced as I describe it, but it is merely an outline I am attempting to sketch (volumes have been written about this).

History does matter, but in a different context, in a different way. It matters not as a construct to prove our faith. Evidence is not what slays the dragon of scientific materialism: our faith does, but our faith does not hinge upon evidence. Christ the God-Man did come in time and space and thus historical evidences are plenty. But for the Orthodox this is a given. We don't look to historical evidences to make ourselves more sure of our faith.

We believe the testimony of Christ's Holy Apostles, what they did, their writings and accomplishments, and the holy tradition they passed on. We believe that through them Christ by the work of the Holy Spirit established His Church. The Church in which we can experience the fullness of our faith, is a continuing, living witness which cannot be reduced to writings alone.

In short, our faith is not in evidence, but in God.

Blessings,

-- Robert

Nathan said...

Robert,

Just some quick questions (I won't write anything lengthy until Friday at the earliest). When you say:

"The western traditions have unwittingly agreed upon the boundaries of the debate shaped by the scientific method and (more recently) scientific materialism. It is to this influence and compromise that we object as a foreign (and modern) introduction to the faith. The result is that it distorts the Christian faith, and reduces it to a set of propositional truths, hemmed in by materialistic precepts."

Could you talk a bit more about how you think theologians (here I am thinking about guys like Luther) used the "scientific method". And if you think I have done this above, could you help me see where I am doing it?

Thanks!

~Nathan

Apophatically Speaking said...

Hi Nathan,

By scientific I mean a scholastic and rationalistic approach, the mother of scientific materialism. This is not an uniquely Lutheran or even Protestant occurrence, as this can be traced to Aquinas and Anselm, for instance (hence we refer to it as "western").

Let's take a look at the article to which Jason is referring, Fr. Freeman comments:

"Others accept as their matrix a statement of faith written 1500 years later, constructed on a matrix invented by medieval scholastics who sought to reform the Church. They had no command from God, no conversation with the Apostles, nothing but their own ideas and rationality from which to construct new matrixes. From Germany Luther gave us his “salvation by grace through faith,” and read the Scriptures accordingly. Calvin gave us his matrix of the sovereignty of God.

These approaches change and distort the rule of faith once and for all delivered to the saints. So from the original post here, "The consensus of the Church is pretty clear on the place of Mary and requests to her for her assistance" - such now are called into question and deemed not to fit in the new matrix - as new epistemological rules have been introduced.

It is this to which I wish to call your attention.

I leave it up to you to judge yourself which matrix you are using.

Blessings,

-- Robert

Lvka said...

St. Jerome said two truthful things: that the Bishop is the same as a Presbyter, superior to him only insofar he has two powers that the later doesn't: to ordain Priests [and Deacons], and to rule over them as chief of the synod of local clergy, and Jerome argues he should do so in a brotherly fashion. (Look, I'm sorry, but I honestly can't find anything wrong with what St. Jerome said, because what he said was and still holds true, so...) -- The fact that others, in their desperation, seem willing better to be grasping at straws than to accept the truth is not my problem, nor St. Jerome's...

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Lvka, you wrote:

"St. Jerome said two truthful things: that the Bishop is the same as a Presbyter, superior to him only insofar he has two powers that the later doesn't..."

But insofar as x is the same as y, x cannot have powers that y lacks.

Nathan said...

Robert (Apophatically...),

I plan on talking again tomorrow - just trying to keep you on the line a bit more! :)

~Nathan

Nathan said...

Apophatically Speaking,

I noticed you did not comment on whether I had fallen prey to the “scientific method” in my long email above. When you say “a scholastic and rationalistic approach”, what is the best resource you know that might be able to help convince me that something really changed around the 11th century? From my limited reading of these things, John of Damascus seems quite similar (“scientific” and “rationalistic”?) to the later theologians. What really, is the difference, I wonder?

Re: “new epistemological rules” being introduced, I’m not sure about this, although I would contend explicating what the “rule of faith” is, is quite difficult, as I think its safe to say that it has been far more implicit and tacit then explicit. Since you seem to agree with Father Freeman, would you then say that the claim of Lutheran church historian Douglas W. Johnson that “Salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ is at the heart of all the great controversies that shook the Early church as it tried to work out its own self-understanding”, is false? If not, what more might you like to add to this?

Father Gregory,

Is there not a difference between men choosing among brothers who will be a superior for the sake of good order and unity because they believe that is God pleasing then in insisting that a separate class of pastors exists who really should determine who rules the church (albeit well)?

Or am I making things to simplistic?

Thanks again men!

~Nathan

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Nathan, you asked:

"Is there not a difference between men choosing among brothers who will be a superior for the sake of good order and unity because they believe that is God pleasing then in insisting that a separate class of pastors exists who really should determine who rules the church (albeit well)?"

Perhaps the simplest and briefest way to answer this is to distinguish three approaches:

1. Logically possible: Both alternatives you propose are logically possible.

2. Historicist: The evidence is somewhat murky, as I am given to understand, which of the two is more certain. Ignatios certainly teaches a monarchial episcopate. Jerome, writing centuries later, questions its origin.

3. Theological: How did the Holy Spirit answer this question in the history of the church? For well over 1,000 years nobody questioned that there were bishops, and that they could deal with and discipline presbyters, and that this was pleasing to God. Only when Roman bishops refused to ordain evangelical preachers did the Lutherans begin to call this order into question.

We Orthodox are not an antiquarian society, trying by research to figure out what the earliest church did. We are that church, as it has grown and developed--organically and historically linked to Christ and the Twelve. We are named after no man; our head is Christ alone.

Cordially,

Fr. Gregory

Apophatically Speaking said...

Nathan,

I had hoped the passage by Fr. Freeman would be direct enough. However it appears the relevance of Fr. Gregory's point no. 3 (above, "Lutherans and Orthodox speak a fundamentally different idiom") is as ever evident here. And this makes dialogue indeed quite difficult, if not futile.

I have not read Douglas Johnson's works so I can't make any specific comments. However, assuming for a moment that he is taking the classic Lutheran position, then his assertion would be most certainly false. For "salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ" is reinterpreted by the reformers to mean something quite different from the Holy Orthodox Faith.

Blessings to you my brother, I hope you will come to understand the things of which I speak.

-- Robert

orrologion said...

"Lutherans and Orthodox speak a fundamentally different idiom".

I would pair this with the quote at the top of Fr. Gregory's blog from Fr. Pavel Florensky:

"One hears that, in foreign lands, people are now learning to swim, lying on the floor, with the aid of equipment. In the same way, one can become a Catholic or Protestant without experiencing life at all--by reading books in one's study. But to become Orthodox, it is necessary to immerse oneself all at once in the very element of Orthodoxy, to begin living in an Orthodox way. There is no other way."

This doesn't mean leap before you look, and it doesn't mean turn off your brain. It does mean that "it is necessary to immerse oneself all at once in the very element of Orthodoxy" to begin to understand there is a difference in paradigm, a difference in lens, a different in the way facts are assumed and interpreted, different mores and norms of mind. That is, it is necessary to understand the context of Orthodoxy to understand its statements - and to understand how they are different from Lutheranism, perhaps even how and why Lutheranism is not the fullness of the truth. This immersion is to be found not in a greater volume of reading and intellectual wrestling with concepts and proof texts, etc., but in the worship and prayer life of the Church, in her cycles of feasting and fasting, in the art of her icons, in the physical actions of her worship, in the lives of her saints.

If you wish to understand Orthodoxy, you can't approach it as a Lutheran. You can't focus on book theology like a Lutheran. More fieldwork is required before the right questions can even be asked, much less understood. Give yourself the time to simply observe Orthodox worship and prayer over time - and not just a couple of weekends. Go to weekday services, visit multiple parishes and monasteries. Allow yourself to store up questions - by the time you get around to asking them (later) you will realize many don't even make sense to you anymore. That is what happens when you "immerse oneself all at once in the very element of Orthodoxy".

It is the only way. Otherwise, you'll simply dismiss Orthodoxy for not being Lutheranism. I'll give away the ending on that one: it isn't.

Lvka said...

Man is like any other animal, only that he has an immortal soul. And the bishop is the head of the council of presbyters, the only one capable of ordaining. Deacons, on the other hand, are a completely different thing. Or laity.

Lvka said...

Nathan,

"no-one gives that which he doesn't himself possess": that's why fallible cardinals can't oradain an infallible Pope, and that's also why presbyters can't ordain bishops. (Or deacons ordain priests, or the laity ordain deacons, or whatever).

And there's also a theological reason: One God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, therefore, one Bishop. Monarchical Godhead, monarchical bishoprick. (Do You know the Creed?)

The bishop is among his Priests what Peter was among the Twelve, or Paul among the Seventy, or Stephen among the Seven, or the Arch-Priest among the Priests, or Moses among the seventy elders of Israel in the wilderness, or the King among the Judges of Israel, and so on.

And another point (which Jerome made): the way in which Christ taught us to rule is in a brotherly and lovingly fashion, the greater one tending to the needs of the lesser, not oppressing them despotically. (Jesus washing the feet of the disciples).

Nathan said...

Robert,

"For "salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ" is reinterpreted by the reformers to mean something quite different from the Holy Orthodox Faith."

Maybe. I'm not so sure, and I read a lot of the church fathers. I find nothing I disagree with in Cyril of Alexandria.

Father Gregory,

I understand you are absolutely certain about who you are, like Martin Guerre's widow, have certainty about who/what you are dealing with. I however, am the one who needs to be convinced, and so why not be more like Paul and Peter in the Scriptures I quoted above, and get more evidential?

Orrologian,

As you know, I have done a bit of "field work", and have a certain degree of respect for much EO piety, esp. in regards to their devotion to their liturgies, which are full of the precious words of the Shepherd this lamb recognizes.

Lvka,

"One God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, therefore, one Bishop. Monarchical Godhead, monarchical bishoprick. (Do You know the Creed?)"

Interestingly, this is one of the reasons I am not immune from considering the claims of Rome as well, as much as I find many of the teachings beyond my ability to stomach them. In any case, I am sure many faithful Israelites felt the same way about the High priest and priests of their day...

In addition to the fact that EO itself is not whole, but littered with breakoffs, stuff like this intrigues me as well:

http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles4/CarlsonPrimacy.shtml

Thanks to all for your comments. Will check back in a week.

~Nathan

orrologion said...

...littered with breakoffs

This is a bit of an overstatement. There are a handful of Old Calendarist groups around the world, but most of them aren't even in communion with each other and they represent a tiny fraction of Orthodoxy. Given its size, it's about like claiming that the RCC is "littered with breakoffs" because of the existence of Womynpriests, SSPX and the Old Catholics. In fact, the largest 'splinter group' (ROCOR) was formed during the Russian Revolution and this internal schism was healed recently when it united with the Moscow Patriarchate.

The web allows small groups an inordinate amount of attention not commensurate with their size.

Apophatically Speaking said...

The Christian faith is not mere philosophy that requires convincing; the Christian faith, however, is Truth that demands repentance.

Lvka said...

Nathan,

whereas it is true that over-seers DO exist (as distinct from presbyters), it is ALSO true that there is NO such thing as an OVER-over-seer (or epi-episkopos): there are three holy orders in the Church, not four (there was no Arch-Arch-Priest in the Old Covenant).

The one who ordained them all was Christ, when He breathed the Holy Spirit upon His disciples. If You're searching for a "bishop of bishops", then He's the only One to fit the profile [1 Peter 2:25]. He did not just breathe the Holy Spirit upon St. Peter, and then let him ordain the others (as Apostles & bishops) Nor was it the case that such ordinations went through St. Peter and/or the Popes (until a change in the faith of the Roman Church brought with itself also a change in their practice: lex orandi, lex credendi)

If matters of doctrine or practice were in the good ol' days handled by bishops gathered together in synods (for establishing dogma, or for ordination of other bishops), these two things became in the course of time to depened on one man and one man alone: the Pope of Rome.

Apophatically Speaking said...

Nathan,

you asked for a source

I can highly recommend Prof. Andrew Louth's "Discerning the Mystery - an essay on the nature of theology"

It's not cheap, but a very worth while read, a veritable tour de force.

Nathan said...

Orrologian,

I think it is likely that I think size is far less important than you do. The way is *narrow* after all.

Father Gregory,

Is it lack of time, a general sense that trying to convince me would not matter, or something else that accounts for your lack of response? I know it is not my "right" to get a response from you, although please know that my question is heartfelt, and I do value your thoughts now, as I did some 10 years ago in seminary. I apologize about my reference to Martin Guerre's widow - it was unnecessary. I, in fact, am becoming more convinced that EO may indeed be the "ancient true Church" while I am unconvinced that the Confessional Lutherans are not those who are truly Church in the West. But I am still exploring, questioning, praying, struggling to know the answers to these questions.

Apophatically Speaking,

You said: "The Christian faith is not mere philosophy that requires convincing; the Christian faith, however, is Truth that demands repentance."

Interesting that you say this. I, for one, have very little use for philosophers who think the conversation has ended, but there is a sense in which the content of the Christian faith had indeed ended (i.e. Luke 24, I Cor. 15, etc). I can see how my request to Father Gregory that he try to "convince" me could be misinterpreted. In my mind, convince may at times go hand in hand with "convict". I do not contend that it is only the kinds of external evidences that I speak of that God's Holy Spirit uses to decimate our prideful selves en route to becoming new men, as there is a moral compass, however seared, that resides in each man and may be pricked by God's Spirit through His commandments. At the same time, as I have demonstrated above, it seems quite clear from the testimony of the Scriptures that Paul especially endeavored to convince/convict His fellow Jews of the reality of Christ through what we today would call historical evidences. I urge you to read my lengthy discussion of God's use of evidence in that longer post once again and to consider whether my requests for evidences are really unreasonable. I assure you that I do not think they are rooted in philosophy or any philosophical system/school, but rather a real desire to deal honestly and forthrightly with the on-the-ground evidences that confront us all in the yaw and pitch of life. For I do not see how God does not work in this very way....

Nathan said...

Apophatically Speaking,

So, if I was not clear, I too, with you, gladly contend that: "the Christian faith, however, is Truth that demands repentance".

Romans 1 tells us we are without excuse. And Paul does the same in regards to the evidence of God's resurrection of Christ in Acts 17. The Word of God, and the Word of God interpreting the evidence of history, hunts us down and wounds us that we may be bandaged - kills us that we may be raised to life - it is not some thing to persuade us to use our rational and philosopical decision-making powers to choose the good.

Finally, thank you for the suggestion of the Louth book. It seems that Louth is interested in many of the same things that I am (what with tacit knowledge, Polanyi, etc.). However, after checking out the Amazon page for the book, I must say that the fact that Karen Armstrong, a scholar for whom I have very little respect, wholeheartedly endorsed the book makes me a bit wary. : ) (not saying that her endorsement should in any way diminish the book: its just that I have this emotional reaction towards Karen A, who again, I think is more a propagandist than a forthright, serious and honest scholar)

Lvka,

I think I am quite familiar with your position. As someone who has looked quite deeply into these matters of the papacy, it seems to me that many of the EO responses to the evidence are deeply unconvincing, though I freely confess I must read more. You say, "there are three holy orders in the Church, not four (there was no Arch-Arch-Priest in the Old Covenant)", and at times, I have suspected that this is true: deacon, pastor, and Pope (as in Peter). This certainly does not mean I think it is healthy for all the ordinations to go through the Pope, if he is, indeed, as the RC apologists contend he is.

Do you know of others who have read David Carlson's book and what they think about it?

orrologion said...

The Church is narrow enough, no need to look for yet narrower ways that soon reduce to being bishop of your mother's basement - which just also happens to be the Really True, Genuine, Super-Traditional Extra Orthodox and Catholic Western Orthodox Church of the Universe.

By their fruit you shall know them. Schism begets schism.

Nathan said...

Orrologion,

I understand what you are saying. But where is the necessary balance? Those in EO know, would you say? Do you think that others in those break off groups, or Nestorians, or Monophysites might have the same inner confidence about their "true Churchness" though? Have you explored this much? Really curious.

Will check back in a week again. Best to all.

Father Gregory, thank you for the kind privilege of being able to leave my comments on your blog. It does not go unnoticed, although I know my feistiness might make it appear as if you are dealing with a thankless wretch.

Which I am, of course. Lord have mercy.

~Nathan

Apophatically Speaking said...

Nathan,

In your opinion, what "evidence" will convince or convict you? Furthermore, why would it be up to you to determine this? Which, or rather whose, standard are you using?

As an aside, although it is not altogether unrelated to the above questions, there is something that is very curious to me and I am not sure you aware. You take two opposing, irreconcilable positions. On the one hand you say, "show me, I want to know", while on the other you say, "I already know, don't bother me". Well, Nathan, you have to make up your mind.

Nathan said...

Apophatically Speaking,

"In your opinion, what "evidence" will convince or convict you?"

I believe this is for God to know, and for His messengers to determine as they talk with me and here my questions, as Paul surely did in Acts.

"Furthermore, why would it be up to you to determine this?"

Where did I say it was? God is the one who convinces, convicts, slays, not I.

"Which, or rather whose, standard are you using?"

I'm going by what I see in Acts and the Scriptures (again, see above).

"As an aside, although it is not altogether unrelated to the above questions, there is something that is very curious to me and I am not sure you aware. You take two opposing, irreconcilable positions. On the one hand you say, "show me, I want to know", while on the other you say, "I already know, don't bother me". Well, Nathan, you have to make up your mind."

Where did I say "I already know, don't bother me?" What did I say that gave you this impression? It is true that believe I know Christ, and that Lutheranism is my birthright, but where did I tell anyone not to bother me? Am I not doing the very opposite, that is, asking for persons to speak with me about what you know to be true? Which of my statements or questions have not been reasonable or have not made sense?

~Nathan

Apophatically Speaking said...

I don't know Nathan, I have no idea. His messengers from Acts do I am sure, and that is what matters to you.

Apophatically Speaking said...

Be it as it may, my best wishes - go with God!

Nathan said...

"I don't know Nathan, I have no idea. His messengers from Acts do I am sure, and that is what matters to you."

Please forgive me if I am wrong, but I will take this as evidence that you are wholly uninterested in engaging me in what I consider substantial and life and death questions. I take this also to mean that you believe I have mischaracterized the approach used by Paul and others in the book of Acts to bring persons to a knowledge of the truth (namely, using evidence, argument from the Scriptures, etc.)

If I am indeed wrong in my beliefs about Christ's church I pray that He would have mercy on me and send others who will not shake off the dust so readily.

Christ have mercy on me, a sinner.

~Nathan

Apophatically Speaking said...

Hi Nathan,

You are forgiven.

Seeing that you only wish to be engaged on your own terms further discussion is deemed to be fruitless. But this not on account of any disinterest on my part, make no mistake about it.

Nathan said...

Apophatically...,

I'm not sure what specific comments (or questions?) of mine made you think that I was only interested on carrying on a discussion on my own terms. I really do hope to get a chance to look at the Louth book when I can come across one - does that help? : )

~Nathan

Apophatically Speaking said...

Yes it is available at Eight Day books for $25.

It is worthwhile. But foremost we must love.