Lemon Juice on a Paper Cut

Like Bactine of old, this stings. Oh! Daniel, my Daniel! This one is for you!

22 Responses to Lemon Juice on a Paper Cut

  1. […] with Contemporary Orthodox Experientialism. They are well worth your read. Also worth your read are Perry’s comments. Though I’m afraid that this is two sets of Orthodox folk talking past one another, to some […]

  2. Rob G. says:

    “Go grab his book Orthodox Patristic Dogmatics.”

    Thanks — I may do that. All I’ve read of his is The Ancestral Sin, mainly because I was put off by his polemicism.

  3. Rob,

    No his scholarship on Palamas, Cyril, Theodore, and other Christological issues is not really affected by his more polemical writings. Go grab his book Orthodox Patristic Dogmatics. You’ll learn much. In fact Romanides on Christological issues was a great ecumenical theologian.

    His evaluation of the west is impoverished at times because it is not a critical enough analysis and he is not careful enough in dealing with very complex issues. He is far too sweeping. Now, having said that, I do not believe that scholastics or any other Romanist actually do get around the outline of the problems he lays out for them. If I thought, otherwise, I wouldn’t be Orthodox.

    Remember there was a voice of Orthodoxy in the West even among the Franks themselves. The filioque was not something that was embraced immediately, but metasized and grew like a virus. Eventually the take-over was full and complete but it did not happen in quite the time frame that Romanides suggests. But then again, when do you think Romanides suggests the West was heterodox? He considers Leo III Orthodox. Careful what you take as hear-say about Romanides, he is usually quite distorted amongst his detractors, about as bad as Luther is to Lutheran ears. I’ve read Romanides quite thorougly and know his theology quite well, so if you have any doubts about what people say, just give me a shout. Most Romanides haters haven’t really read him.


  4. Rob G. says:

    Photios — it’s definitely from Fr. Pat; as I said above, he gave me his permission to post it. I doubt if he will check the posting, however, so I will forward him Perry’s response.

    A further question about Romanides: isn’t it possible that his anti-Western bias affected his scholarship, rather than being a result of it? It seems to me that if Romanides is correct, then the West was, in effect, heterodox long before the Schism, and that things that most historical theologians consider to be theologoumena really are not. Did the West gradually cease being orthodox, and the East not realize it till later? I find this interesting considering that intercommunion was still going on up to (and in some places well past) 1054. Were we Orthodox thus in communion with the heterodox without realizing it?

    To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever heard this explained.

  5. photios says:

    Romanides has his place and that is in patristic dogmatics. Few are better, really. The problem is Romanides is not a medievalist and some of his theories need to be dealt with on a more speculative basis. But to throw Romanides to the dust-bin on his massive work on Christology and his corrections to misunderstandings to Palamas is not a person that is interested in the truth, but a person that is bent on smearing him because of his non-careful evaluation at times of the west.

  6. photios says:

    I have my doubts this came from Fr. Reardon and how does Fr. Behr play into this mix.


  7. Rob G. says:

    “This is from Western Augustinian scholars and not from Orthodox writers or anyone writing on Augustine who has even heard of Romanides.”

    I’ll have to look at your response more closely, but the above quote jumped out at me. If Romanides is ‘the bomb,’ why is it that I’ve heard more than a few Orthodox priests and theologians, some prominent, some not so prominent, as well as at least one Eastern Catholic theology professor tell folks either to take Romanides with a grain of salt or steer clear of him altogether?

  8. RobG,

    To some extent it is true in terms of emphasis but I don’t take Palamas to distort Cyril’s teaching so there would only be justification if Palamas and Cyril could be opposed in some way and the same goes for Maximus. To do so, one borders on implicitly rejecting the idea that these men all taught the same faith. Moreover, assuming that Fr. Behr wouldn’t qualify these statements, on the very same grounds we should reject Fr. Behr’s take as being representative of Orthodoxy along with Fr. Reardon’s. This isn’t personal anymore than they take their comments concerning Palamas, Lossky et al to be personal. The point is logical.

    I think a more informative criticism of Lossky and Co. would be to explain why the emphasis occured and that will take more than simply talking about the Russian diaspora, but Papal actions and lots of other things. But I suppose its far easier to blame Russian beggars. It also seems odd that a year or two Fr. Reardon told me questions of essence/energies were “above my pay grade” and yet he is making these kinds of judgments. This same line I have heard from Hart before so I smell a skunk.

    Maximus and Co. are more than “Good folks.” Maximus’ theology is confirmed by Ecumenical councils, something that cannot even be said for Augustine or the “Scholastics.” And much of the theology from the 15th century (and really even long before that) forward has been anti-Scholastic and Palamite so the idea that it is a late Russian invention is rather odd. The Russians were just getting out from under Khanic control at that period. The usual complaint is that Orthodox theology has been “static” which is an intellectual curse word meaning something akin to “stupid.” That seems odd if the Orthodox have recently invented a new take in the last hundred years. Both cannot be true. And to say that this is one “room” of Orthodox teaching is only to confirm that it is legitimate Orthodox teaching, even if it implies a rather inane compartmentalistic way of looking at Orthodox teaching.

    I would need to know what the author takes to be “scholastic.” It certainly doesn’t mean something like an orderly discussion or analysis. If that were so few and far between would be the non-scholastics. I’d venture that this person doesn’t know what Scholasticism is in terms of dialectical methodology. Of course that was precluded not by the Turks but by Maximus’ Christology.

    It is quite true that Scholasticism or something like it did come from the East but converting theology into a science was deemed contrary to Orthodox teaching on Christological grounds, specifically in Cyril and then Maximus, and had more in line with the Platonic approach to theology than Christianity. This is why in Spain for example you had schools teaching philosophical theology with Jews, Muslims and Christians because they all had bought into the same Platonic metaphysical outlook and methodology in doing “theology.” That didn’t have much to do with the Turks qua theology. Why is Ibn Rashd, Ibn Sina, Al-farabi on the one hand and Albert, Aquinas and Scotus on the other hand all dealing with the same problem of the eternality of the world and a free creation?

    If Orthodox theological writings ignore Augustine, it is functionally the case that the Western texts pretty much up until very recently ignore Maximus or even earlier thinkers like the Cappadocians, failing to take them seriously on their own terms rather than as some kind of precursor to Augustine. Secondly, Augustine’s writings don’t function to frame the relationship between nature and grace for Orthodox teaching as they do for the West and that might have something to do with why they are ignored. Of course if these people want to embrace Augustine’s thought on that point, then they are going to have a hard time embracing Athanasius view of the relation between God and creation since it is non-dialectical. God doesn’t need “signs” as causal intermediaries. The Trinity’s relation to the world is direct and non-dialectical.

    Leo’s Tome is well recognized to have certainly linguistic and conceptual weaknesses. Second, Augustine’s Christology doesn’t map Chalcedonian Christology as simply as this person thinks since Augustine’s primary model for glossing the relation of the hypostasis to the natures is that of the soul’s relation to body which seems quite problematic. This is why Augustine tends to confuse hypostasis with soul, which has obvious Apollinarian implications. This is from Western Augustinian scholars and not from Orthodox writers or anyone writing on Augustine who has even heard of Romanides.

    Regardless of how we read Barlaam, one has only to read the Capita to see the anti-Latin bent of Palamas’ teaching. Barlaam’s theology is apophaticism gone haywire because of his addition to simplicity to the theological mix. If the essence is simple then God is beyond any embodied knowledge.

    Contrary to being a limitation, I take the teaching of Palamas, especially Maximus to be quite an effective tool for evangelization, for it solves problems that have long since plagued Wwestern theology. How does Fr. Reardon or anyone else think one is going to solve monothelitism without it? Please explain to me how it is possible for the saints in heaven to have free will and it impossible for them to sin? How is it possible for Adam having “original righteousness” to sin? And more importantly how was it possible for God to convey righteousness to Adam prior to and apart from any motion of his will? If this is possible, why didn’t God convey “confirming grace” to Adam without any motion of his will and skip the possibility of evil? You’ve heard these things from me before, but I want to know what these men are offering in its place? The problem of evil is the single most serious objection to Christian theology in academia. Right now Plantinga style free will defenses are the mainstay of Christian defense and it is quite obvious that it is incompatible with any major Scholastic model-Aquinas, Scotus, Albert, et al. With the collapsing of Molinism, the rise of Open Theism, what exactly does Fr. Reardon suggest in evangelization? THOMISM?
    Just look at Gaine’s little book on the question of eschatological freedom. The man starts with Augustine, jumps to the Scholastics considering Aquinas, Scotus, Ockham and Suarez, all of whom endorse some form of Compatibilist type notion of freedom. It is hard for me to see how that isn’t going to commit one to not only to rejecting any free will defense, but also Dyothelitism and the free will of the saints in the eschaton and divine freedom. If Scholasticism is so superior, why hasn’t it given adequate resolutions to these problems rather than requiring Papal intervention or simply spawned endless new takes on the problems, each one simply emphasizing one end of the spectrum (freedom or unity) more than the other so that the original problem just comes back to bite you in the ass all over again?

    To be quite frank, I wonder if these people know Augustine and Scholasticism at all. I wonder if they are bored with Orthodox teaching and need something new to play with.

  9. Lee says:

    I’m eagerly awaiting a response to your quote, Rob G.!

  10. Rob G. says:

    A little late to this discussion, but it put me in mind of something I received from Fr. Patrick Reardon some months ago regarding anti-Westernism in contemporary Orthodoxy. I quote it with his permission — any thoughts?

    “What almost always passes for ‘Orthodox theology’ among English-speaking Orthodox these days is actually just a branch of the larger Orthodox picture. Indeed, it tends sometimes to be rather sectarian.

    The Orthodox Church is an ancient castle, as it were, of which only two or three rooms have been much in use since about 1920. These two or three rooms were furnished by the Russian émigrés in Paris between the two World Wars. This furniture is heavily neo-Palamite and anti-Scholastic. It relies heavily on the Cappadocians, Maximus, and Gregory Palamas (who are good folks, or course). Anything that does not fit comfortably into that model is dismissed as “Western” and even non-Orthodox.

    Consequently, one will look in vain in that theology for any significant contribution from the Alexandrians, chiefly Cyril, and that major Antiochian, Chrysostom. When these are quoted, it is usually some incidental point on which they can afford to be quoted.

    Now I submit that any ‘Orthodox’ theology that has so little use for the two major figures from Antioch and Alexandria is giving something less than the whole picture.

    Likewise, this popular neo-Palamite brand of Orthodoxy, though it quotes Damascene when it is convenient, never really engages Damascene’s manifestly ‘Scholastic’ approach to theology.

    Much less does it have any use for the other early Scholastic theologians, such as Theodore the Studite and Euthymus Zygabenus. There is no recognition that Scholasticism was born in the East, not the West, and that only the rise of the Turk kept it from flourishing in the East.

    There is also no explicit recognition that the defining pattern of Orthodox Christology was formulated in the West before Chalcedon. Pope Leo’s distinctions are already very clear in Augustine decades before Chalcedon. Yet, Orthodox treatises on the history of Christology regularly ignore Augustine.

    Augustine tends to be classified as a ‘Scholastic,’ which he most certainly was not.

    But Western and Scholastic are bad words with these folks.

    In fact, however, Augustine and the Scholastics represent only other rooms in the larger castle.

    For this reason I urge you, as you can, to read in the Orthodox sources that tend to get skipped in what currently passes for ‘Orthodoxy.’ For my part, I believe the Russian émigré theology from Paris, which seems profoundly reactionary and anti-Western, is an inadequate instrument for the evangelization of this country and the world. I say this while gladly recognizing my own debt to Russian émigré theology.”

  11. David Richards says:

    Perry, what will be the topic of your dissertation? And do I get a free, autographed copy??

  12. Sophocles says:


    Blessed Nativity Fast. And speaking of “swords” in speaking truth, this exchange of letters printed on November 9, 2007 between Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus(Orthodox) and Papist Bishop Fransiscus of the Island of Syros, is very blunt(on the Metropolitan’s side) on the some of the major differences between the Orthodox Catholic Church and the Roman Catholic Church and how they have worked themselves out historically.



  13. Cyril says:


    I think you are so branded because you come not with olive branches, but a sword, not balm to sooth the wounds, but salt to purify. We have too many who want to paper over difficulties, because that is easier than pulling down the wall and getting to the rot that is causing all the problems. Further, you suffer from the malady of all ‘young’ scholars: the ‘what-does-he-know virus’. Get that book published, man (the dissertation done too), and this will be a big thing, because then your detractors will be more beholden to answer your arguments, and not attack you as a “mean and nasty” brute.


    Alas, in the OCA there are no bishops with any theological gravitas or acumen who would know where to begin with DBH. None of them have anything beyond a degree from St. Vlads or St. Tikhon’s (our Met has a business degree from Robert Morris), and some of them do not even have that. The only one with any training, Abp Peter (he did work at the Sorbonne on the ancient canons–pub’d later by SVS press), just reposed a few days ago (may his memory be eternal). There is also an ethnic bishop, retired, in NJ, who because of his gifts and his status as an intellect (he does do some adjuncting at Drew U) has been duly shut out of the pierogey and vodka club called “the holy synod” (I wouldn’t say this of all of them). They actually had a chance to make Fr. Golitzin a bishop, but they chose instead a fellow who had dropped out of seminary. Later on, another fellow was nominated who was an MD and who also had a D.Phil in theology, but was blasted by the aforementioned drop-out for not having his M.Div. Thus, I would not hold my breath about any bishop in the OCA to act as regards DBH. Heck, we can’t get them to take action against people who steal from the church.


  14. What I’d love to see is Hart be sensored by his local Bishop for believing Augustinism and the Cappadocians are identical in Triadology.


  15. MG,

    Yes, I have read multiple volumes of Swinburen’s stuff. To be fair, what he maintains as philosophy, re Open Theism, and what he personally professes theologically may not be co-extensive.

  16. MG says:


    What you’re saying about Swinburne sounds right. He retains many Western beliefs (Fillioque) doesn’t understand a lot of Eastern ones (essence/energies, hyper-ousia, person/nature) and has some views that would make traditional westerners squirm (i think he’s still an open theist, too strong of a social Trinitarian). Im glad he became Orthodox but it would be nice if he read Bradshaw or something.

    Have you read any of his works?

  17. David Richards says:

    What is ironic about Hart and his writings, at least those which I have read (admittedly few), is that he *seems* to be on the opposite end of those people whom he accuses of forging an artificial distinction between East and West and making the gap too wide. That is, he seems to be driven by the agenda, the need if you will, to prove that the Eastern and Western “halves” of Christianity are really not all that different. The lengths he goes to betray this, I think, and for me it obscures any scholarly analysis of the Holy Fathers he may offer. He is also known for committing–frequently in my observation–the word = concept fallacy. Really a shame.

  18. Cyril,

    Why the heck is it that I get tarred as being mean and brutal and all the other nasty terms when it comes to stuff like this?!

  19. Cyril says:

    My favorite commentary on DBH came from Fr. Alexander Golitzin: “David who?”

  20. Gabriel,

    I suspect it will take time, but from comments made it seems that Hart interprets Palamism in a Eunomian fashion, where the energies are cut off from the divine power, making them arbitrary and hence precluding any genuine knowledge of God. I do not know why he interprets Palamas this way since it seems obvious from his writings that the energies are not extrinsically related to the divine ousia.In any case,this way of reading Palamas and Palamites motivtates his charge of Nominalism and Voluntarism.

    Lots of converts are still residual Latinists. This is why I argued in a post on Pontifications that one must genuinely convert and not be an Anglican in exile. In any case, I understand why this is so. Lots of converts are refugees from other bodies and just so long as enough is the same in terms of moral theology, liturgy, etc. they kind of push away any claims of significant differences. This is also due in part I think to a habit of reading theology through an Augustinian or Scholastic lens. Of course this habit renders nearly inexplicable why the schism occurred or includes genuine reasons but puts undue weight on them.

    In any case, some refugees are just content to be away from the quackadoxy of their former body. Such was my experience with Swinburne who seemed unintereted in claims of substantial difference, but he wasn’t a rhetorical terrorist either. Say what you like about Swinburne, but the man is the picture of an English gentleman.

  21. You are!…or, at least, you practically are. Fr. John’s review is a mere 5 pages–enough to call the problems out, but not enough space to explore them.

  22. Well it’s about DAMN time!!! Sheesh, you’d think we were making this stand all our own!!

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