Church and dogma

“Every alteration in the basic creed, each subsidence in the hidden foundations of the Church, ‘which the Lord founded upon the rock of faith,’ produces sooner or later cracks of division on the ‘surface’ of the Church’s face. If dogma is falsified, whether intentionally or not, ecclesiology, both pastoral and administrative, is deformed, spiritual life is falsified and man suffers.

Ecclesiology and Christian anthropology have the same basis: Trinitarian and christological dogma. The Word is made flesh, and theology is ministered in the life of the faithful. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, the theology of the Fathers who proclaimed Christ speaks about our life, which is Christ.

The hypostatic union of the two natures in Christ makes us partakers by grace in the unapproachable life which is in the Holy Trinity. And the mode of existence of God in Trinity forms also the mysterious structure of our own being ‘in the image’. Only when we are conformed to Christ, recognising Him by partaking in His Life, do we ‘regain our proper stature,’ our natural function and our freedom, as the Church and as persons. Ecclesiology and spirituality have the same basis: dogma. The Church is Christ, His body living in history. It is summarised in each of the faithful, who is the Church in miniature. The personal consciousness of each of the faithful has an ecclesial dimension, and every problem of the Church is the problem of the personal salvation of each of the faithful.

Consequently, when the heretic lays hands on the “traditional faith” he lays hands on the life of the faithful, their raison d’etre. Heresy is at once a blasphemy towards God and a curse for man. This is the reason why the entire organism and spiritual health and sensitivity of Orthodoxy has from the beginning reacted against the destructive infection of heresies.’

Archimandrite Vasileios in Hymn of Entry pgs 20-21.


  1. If we partake “in His Life”, are we partaking in His energies, His person or both? Would you say His Life is “communicable energy” or “communicable Christlikeness”? How would you say we become the “Resurrection and the Life” – through abiding in Him or simply His energies?


  2. If dogma is falsified… ecclesiology… is deformed…

    How does the author square this claim with the existence of non-Chalcedonian Churches whose ecclesiology is more or less identical to that of the various Eastern Orthodox Churches? Or is there something here that, doltish occidental that I am, I am missing? How specifically do the ecclesiologies of the Chalcedonian and non-Chalcedonian Orthodox differ?


  3. Greg,

    I am of the same opinion with Fr. John Romanides on the non-chalcedonians. See his paper: ST. CYRIL’S “ONE PHYSIS OR HYPOSTASIS OF GOD THE LOGOS INCARNATE AND CHALCEDON ” @ I do not believe that Dioscoros is a monophysite or a Eutychian, but that they are somewhat rigid in their formulae of the Incarnation, where St. Cyril was more open to other formulae. In other words, I do not beleive they lack the content of the faith.



  4. Dear Mr Jones,

    Fair enough; that certainly makes for a cogent answer. That said, do you suppose that Archimandrite Vasileios is of the same opinion as yourself and Fr Romanides? I have never seen anything by Archimandrite Vasileios himself on the subject, but I know that the various monasteries of Mt Athos in general are rather more convinced that the non-Chalcedonians confess a different faith than the one confessed by the Eastern Orthodox. If Archimandrite Vasileios, like most of his fellows on Mt Athos, is of the opinion that the non-Chalcedonian hold to a different faith, then how does he square their existence with his claims that false dogma necessarily deforms ecclesiology?


  5. “… more or less identical.”

    What exactly does this mean?

    I apologize for my lack of clarity. I meant simply that if one were to ask a pious and well informed Oriental Orthodox and a pious and well informed Eastern Orthodox questions of an ecclesiological nature (e.g. “what is the Church?”, “who is a member of the Church?”, “what is the eschatological function of the Church?” etc) the answers would appear quite similar.

    Of course, that “appear quite similar” presumes a perspective – appear quite similar to whom? I mean that the answers would appear quite similar to myself, a thorough-going Roman Catholic. As such, part of what I was trying to ask in #1 when I wrote “am I missing something” is whether actual Oriental Orthodox and actual Eastern Orthodox would agree that their ecclesiological understandings are quite similar, or whether they would contend that there are important differences. I would be loathe to tell the various Orthodox that their ecclesiologies are the same if they themselves perceive a difference, but from where I am standing I cannot see any and would be obliged to anyone who might point them out if they do exist.


  6. Mark,

    Participating in the Life of Christ is participating in His energies. Abiding in Christ is abiding in His energies and abiding in His energies is abiding in Christ. We cannot separate Christ from His energies, although we distinguish them from His nature. We partake of divine nature by means of the energies but not by becoming that nature itself. Even, though we do not become the divine nature we still partake of it because the energies are not separated from the nature. Christ’s nature is in His person and cannot be considered apart from His person. We participate in the life of the person of Christ but we do not become His person (hypostasis) but retain our own unique hypostasis. We are in Him and He is in us. Again, we cannot pull apart abiding in Christ and abiding in His energies. We live in Christ and He is us; God becomes all in all. Thus all that Christ is, we will be but by grace as creatures and not as the only-begotten Son of God of one essence with the Father.

    I hope this helps but Perry and Photios can explain this better than myself.


  7. Greg,

    Thank you for your clarification. That said, it appears to me that by the use of the word “identical” you actually mean “similar.” Is that correct?

    God bless,


  8. [I]t appears to me that by the use of the word “identical” you actually mean “similar.” Is that correct?

    Actually, I would say the reverse would be nearer the mark. By “similar” in my previous posts I actually meant something much nearer to the sense of the word “identical.”


  9. Greg,

    Our Ecclesiology is formed by our Christology and the sacraments, an error in the latter corrupts the former. Hence, our salvation is compromised. Having said that, I do not believe Mia physite Christology of Dioscoros heretical or that the content of the faith of Oriental Orthodoxy that follows the strict Cyrillian formulae heretical (as understood by Cyril and Dioscoros). However, this should not be confused with the fact that there were genuine bone fide Monophysites running around in the Post Chalcedon “non-Chalcedonian” Orthodox churches (Severus, Philoxenus of Mabbug, and Jacob of Sarug), just as there were genuine Monothelelites, Nestorians, and Monphysites running around in the Chalcedonian Orthodox churches.



  10. It is interesting you mention Severus of Antioch as one of the “real” monophysites since he is considered a saint and a great theologian among the non-Chalcedonians. I don’t know exactly how he is monophysite, but I wonder how modern non-Chalcedonians reconcile his theology with their claim that they are *not* monophysite.


  11. I must disagree with Photios regarding his claim that the Anti-Chalcedonians do not ‘lack the content of the faith.’ Even if they are not Monophysites — and I am not willing to concede that point, only willing to set it aside for the sake of argument — the fact remains that the Anti-Chalcedonians are Monothelites, the heresy condemned by the Sixth Ecumenical Synod (Constantinople III, 680-681) and thus do lack the content of the Faith.

    As Dr Farrell has written in his Free Choice in St. Maximus the Confessor:

    The Sixth Ecumenical Council is thus far more important for the Orthodox than is the Chalcedonian definition, because in its definition are hidden the responses of one of the Eastern Church’s most brilliant theologians to the vital issues of divine predestination and human free will. Furthermore, it is important because in it is also hidden the presupposition of a vast theological development, reaching back beyond the Triadology of the Cappadocians to the Arian controversy, to the Origenist Problematic and its underlying neoplatonic foundations. More than any other council, it was called upon to reflect in a systematic way upon the relationships of Triadology, Christology, and the divine and human wills. In a major way it confronts the issue of revelation and reason, of theodicy and the possible use (or rejection) of the philosophical meanings of philosophical terms…(p. 192).

    Can the anti-Chalcedonians be said to share this content of the Faith?



  12. Julio,

    The biggest problem I have with the Anti-Chalcedonian position from an historical viewpoint is how they can regard Dioscorus as a saint but Eutyches as a monophysite when it was Dioscorus who supported and defended Eutyches at the ‘Robber Synod’ whilst supporting those who brutalised St Flavian (who died from his injuries soon thereafter). It seems inconsistent. I’ve never heard a good answer from an Anti-Chalcedonian.



  13. Thomas,

    First of all, I’d like to start out by saying “Spraznikom!” and I hope you are rejoicing in the Feast of Pentecost. Regarding your last comment, I had the exact same concern. I asked Abouna Timotheus Soliman of the Southern diocese of the Coptic Church in the U.S. how the Copts defend Dioscorus while anathemizing Eutyches. He said that at the time Dioscorus did not fully understand Eutyches’ position. He simply defended him on the grounds that he (Dioscorus) felt that Eutyches was making a bold stand against the supposed “Nestorianism” of the “two natures” language.

    Abouna Timotheus also explained that from the Coptic perspective the matter of the robber synod is seen more as a question of defending the integrity and independence of the Alexandrian Church from meddlesome Imperial policies. Even now, many Copts I know will refer to both to the Eastern Orthodox and the Uniates as “Melkites”- in their mind they are all “king’s men” or “emperor’s men” since they stayed loyal to the “oppressive” Roman Empire and follow the liturgical tradition of the Great Church in New Rome.



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