I Don’t Get It

I must confess that the following is something of a rant on my behalf. Oh, its not that bad of one so don’t click away just yet.  In graduate school as well as meeting people through other means, I have fairly often run into intelligent people who have converted from Protestantism to Rome. That’s fine. I usually don’t make a big deal of it. After not so long a while, they usually start poking me as to why I am not Catholic.   This turns into a rather dogmatic attempt to convert me. Inveitably this ends up in a complicated theological, philosophical and historical discussion. (Translated from the Dwarvish-I have to take people out to the theological woodshed.) But what amazes me, repeatedly, is the answer I routinely get in one form or another to a simple question.

“Prior to converting to Rome, did you ever consider or seriously investigate Eastern Orthodoxy?” I’ll leave open what constitutes “seriously investigate.” The answer is usually “no.” It comes in other forms, which betray a lack of serious engagement. These are the usual dismissive reasons which I will try to roll into one. Orthodoxy is a collection of ethnic groups without a visible head and hence have no clear teaching on anything where everything is left to private judgement willy-nilly and where the intellect is evil and is devoted to being ethnically insular. When pressed, this is usually accompanied by the contradictory statement that “Well, I am a western Christian.” Now to be fair there are plenty of Orthodox parishes and individuals who may fit that description as far as being ethnically insular, but such is the case for the local Catholic parish with lots of Poles, Hispanics or Irish.  Being ethnically insular is hardly the province of the Orthodox. Just ask the Dutch Reformed where practically every other family name beings with “Van” something or other. The rest of the dismissive reasons are similarly foolish.

Now in general, the negative reply just floors me. How can a reasonably well educated person simply ignore or dismiss so easily the second largest Christian tradition on the planet, which has an unquestionable antiquity and preserved apostolic orders and a sacramental life? How does that count as an informed decision? Because that is what many of the people I have met project when they speak of their conversion to Catholicism. I am not arguing that their conversion necessarily is irrational or may lack epistemic justification.  Of course justification and truth are not co-extensive such that an atheist can be justified in his atheism. But it seems to me, that reasonable people, people with advanced education and had the time are guilty of being epistemically imprudent. Please  note again, that I am not talking about the common man. I am talking about well educated individuals with access in many cases to primary languages, who at best go no further than reading some Bp. Ware.

If we were to reverse the situation, it becomes quite apparent how imprudent such a decision in fact is. Say some Protestant who was well educated and had reasonable time and access to a decent university library, read only Orthodox works and simply ignored or dismissed out of hand Catholicism. Would such a person be imprudent? I would think so. This is not to say that people do not make imperfect decisions all the time or that people can only do the best or reasonably good enough investigations. Fair enough. But when said persons project dogmatic certainty and try to convert me, in my weakeness perhaps, this irks me.

So, if you are on the conversion trail. Be patient. Take your time. Be fair. If you’re not, you are liable to get intellectually whacked by someone who did take their time and was fair. In which case you will become epistemically as well as spiritually unsettled, which will be bad for you and those around you.

59 Responses to I Don’t Get It

  1. Tap says:

    Well thats one way of Interpreting it. All groups always answered to a higher human authority in the OT. Moses being the highest authority. Just like Now you have deacons answering to Priests, Priests to Bishops, Bishops to Archibishops/patriarchs. From your point of view it all ends at the Archbishop level. Whereas i a& Catholics Says all Bishops/Archbishops have to have one human authority that they all answered to.
    Moses being type of Christ does not preclude Moses being a type of Peter. As i’ve said previously. As we see Moses being ignorant of God’s power when he contemplated how 600,000 would be fed. Nor does the Serpent being a type of Christ mean that Moses cannot of himself be a type of Christ. We certain cannot ascribe him in that circumstance to be a type of Christ.
    Moses as the ultimate human authority for God in OT, is a direct type for Peter’s Ultimate authority in the new covenant.

  2. Tap,

    Again, Christ is the fulfillment of Moses, not Peter in the NT. Secondly, I think your reading would destroy the model and transition of and to episcopacy in the NT and the Apostolic Fathers.

    We begin with High Priest, Priests and Levites. Then we have Jesus, Apostles, and 70 Disciples. Then in transition we have the Apostles, Presbyters, and Deacons. Then with the Apostles dying out, we have bishops, Presbyters and deacons. Each of these are Triadic or rather Trinitarian as is reflected in Ignatius of Antioch, with the first being the source of ministry. To inject a Petrine Chrism superior to the Apostolic and Episcopal offices per se wrecks that primitive model.

  3. Tap says:

    Ok, so pardon my tardiness. Let me give you one more of those typologies that i’ve seen for moses-peter. I must says there are others, but you guys might find it too eisegetical. Anyways, here is one

    Exod 18:13-16 http://ecmarsh.com/lxx-kjv/exodus/exo_018.htm

    “And it came to pass after the morrow that Moses sat to judge the people, and all the people stood by Moses from morning till evening.
    and Jothor having seen all that [Moses] did to the people, says, What is this that thou doest to the people? wherefore sittest thou alone, and all the people stand by thee from morning till evening?
    And Moses says to his father-in-law, Because the people come to me to seek judgment from God.
    For whenever there is a dispute among them, and they come to me, I give judgment upon each, and I teach them the ordinances of God and his law.”

    Paying attn to the first and last sentence about judging brings to mind Jesus words in Luke 22:30 about the Apostles judging the 12 tribes of israel. Moses in the last sentence letting us know that Judgeing does not involve only disputes, but also as regards “Ordinances of God and his law.” Yet this task was later distributed as i’ve pointed out earlier to 70 others, Moses remaining supreme to Aaron and rest.

    So when Jesus says: “they sit on the Sit of Moses, he is referring back to the covenant” Yet Moses’seat always had a supreme authority, who was called the high priest. So it says again in John 11:49

    in light of that, and as simplistic as it’s always been for me. I can’t ignore Matt 16:18-19, or John 21:15-17

  4. Tap says:

    Perry the references to schism & heresy, are just my own eisegesis, based on my framework. Nothing solid (sorry for not making that clear enough).

    But as far as types. Like i said, one type in one person does not preclude a type in another nor does person has a single ancient type.

    So for a specific instancem we see Moses as a type of Christ, yet in Num 21:8 the brazen serpent is the type of Christ instead of Moses

    Another example is the Spirit given to 70 being a type of the 70 disciples that Christ sent out, but its not as exact as being a type for the Goverement of the Church today.

    What i’ll have do if i can is read exodus through Deut to give you specific example of the Peter-Moses typology. Will try to do that by saturday, but don’t hold me to it. But the one i gave in Numbers are a good example.

  5. Tap,

    I am not sure why Deut is a type of Peter. Is there some specific NT employment of Deut in relation to Peter?

    The case of gal 4 is an apostle using OT passages and I don’t see NT writers doing that with thepassages for Peter that you claim.

    I can agree with Num 12 and 14 but again I can see no Petrine employment in the NT. Did you have something in mind? Iw ould think the perpetual intercession would be obviously linked to Christ in Henbrews where such language is used.

    I am not clear on you employment of 16 but if you are arguing that schism from Rome led to the conquest of the East by the Moslems, what would the sacking of Rome in 822 by the Muslims imply? And what would the conquest of Rome by the Arian Goths in the fifth century imply even before that?

    Further, this is exactly the same kind of argument employed by pagans during the fall of Rome to the pagans that Augustine countered in the City of god. IF your argument were right, Augustine and a big chunk of Catholic theology is falsified. But I don’t think you want to say that.

    So unless there is some patristic or apostolic employment of those passages, I don’t see any reason to see them as applicable to Peter and Romeby extension. But thanks for the clarification.

  6. Tap says:

    Absolutely Perry, the whole of Moses’ life is a type of the life of Christ as also confirmed Deut 18:18. But he is also a type of Peter. Remember, Type depends on 1. whole narrative, 2.specific text. The specific text doesn’t even have be in context. Just like the Virgin in isaiah 7:14. Or even the admonition to avoid giving the Eucharist to the unbaptized/uninitiated in Exod 12:45-49.

    A good example would be as saint paul says in Gal 4:21-30 Isaac represents the current Church convenant in contrast to Ismael representing Judaism.
    But that does not detract from the fact that Isaac was a type of Christ when Abraham was going to offer him as sacrifice.

    Following my no doubt, biased (and simplistic) view
    Numbers 12 & 14 is a narrative of schism. If the various Bishops of Rome where to emulate Moses in those cases, They (the Bishops of Rome) would be daily beseeching God not to utterly wipe out all in schism.

    Numbers 16 would be a narrative of heresy, Numbers 16:33 being prophetic in one sense, that all those places where some form of subordinationism was “preached” They become swallowed up by the Saracens.

    Lol, now i know i should have a longer list of the Moses Vs Peter typology, and you aren’t really interesting in my “eisegesis.” I’m sure there are more, i’m just saying that one type in one of the ancients does not necessarily preclude another type in that same ancient person.

  7. Tap,

    I am just curious. You don’t consider Moses as a tyoe pf christ there seeing that the Deut 18 prophecy is linked to Christ?

  8. Tap says:

    Chris i should have said Matt 16:18-19, not just the confession but the Charism given. But again, i really don’t want to argue. There is no argument (including yours) that i haven’t heard before including the ones for/against the antiquity of “Papal*” authority. In my simplistic mind, a lot of verses have confirmed it for me including Num 11:25(and more). In which the Spirit that was in Moses was given to 70 yet Still Moses retained “supremacy”. But a little earlier on, in Num 11:21-22 Moses not yet knowing God perfectly, [using your own words now] ‘refused to accept and understand what it truly means’ for God to be the God’. , yet this didn’t take away from from his authority.

    In anycase if i see someone struggling with protestantism vs CA/EO i jump in headlong into the debate, but if that its Catholic Vs Orthodox i don’t even bother.

    God Bless

  9. Chris Jones says:

    Tap,

    There is something to be said for “simplistic” if it means accepting what the Church teaches with a simple, straightforward faith. Not everything in the Scriptures is subtle and difficult.

    The trouble with the “simplistic” understanding of Mt 16.18 is that it isn’t as “simple” as it seems. Our Lord’s simple commendation of Simon for his faith has been made the basis of a complex and extensive (rather than “simple”) edifice of teachings about the Papacy. Even if those teachings are true, it cannot be said that they follow in a straightforward way from what the Saviour said.

    In particular, when Simon confessed Jesus to be the Christ, he was commended; but when (in Mt 16.22) he refused to accept and understand what it truly means for Jesus to be the Christ, he was rebuked and condemned. So the confession of Christ must be accompanied by a full understanding of, and commitment to, the meaning of the title “Christ.” Catholics find Simon’s confession to have important implications for the role within the Church of Simon’s successors. But they are not so quick to grasp the importance of his subsequent failure to embrace the fulness of the faith, and what implications that might have for how his successors’ primacy might be conditioned.

  10. Tap says:

    Before responding to “visibilium”, let me Just say, i’m a Catholic, who has a great fondness in his heart for St. John Cassian and St John Chrysostom. I intend to read more and more of the Eastern Fathers. No intention of leaving the Catholic Church b/c of 2 simple texts in the Bible. I know they are simplistic, and i’m probably just and ignorant babler. But Matt 16:18 and another verse that “visibilium” referred to , though inadvertently.

    Visibiliums said:
    “The argument for the RCC over Orthodoxy comes down to convenience and utilitarianism. The RCC is Western. The RCC has a single guy in charge, which implies a more effective administrative model. The RCC has a greater number of churches for their believers’ travel convenience. The RCC has more members, and prospective spouses are more numerous.”

    Although his words are not meant to be Flattering to the Catholic Church, essentially here is what it means to me; Matt 5:14 “A city on the Hill cannot be hid” <—surely Another simplistic view, and in this case even out of context.

    Just my opinion

  11. photios says:

    Thanks I have a pdf format of it too.

    The information should be in my paper regarding divine simplicity.

    I haven’t seen Hart give a careful exegesis of the texts in his books to give any kind of satisfaction to the topic.

    Nona Verna Harrison also touches on the both/and dialectic with regard to how the Cappadocians use attributes with respect to God.

  12. Ezekiel says:

    Photios:

    I think that is the most likely criticism of Hart’s theology in this area. However, his reading of both Augustine and the Cappadocians is sufficiently reasoned from the texts (to these eyes) that I will have to take it in deeper consideration before I can agree or disagree. Any more on this would be appreciated.

    Off topic, but the footnotes in your paper linked above don’t format correctly outside of MS Office. Between that and the necessary font, I actually made a .pdf of it for my own use. If you would like, I could email that to you to use as an alternate hosted file.

    Fr. Patrick:

    I’m familiar with those quotes, but in the context of St. Gregory’s corpus, I become a little less sure if those are meant in the sense they seem to have when “naked”. I have been accused of allowing myself too much subtlety (or, maybe just analysis paralysis) when thinking on these issues, so I am open to all sorts of correction. Palamite theology and the filioque were instrumental in my conversion to Orthodoxy, so I am not trying to say St. Gregory is simply part of the same theological tradition as the West if read correctly. I submit, to my poor best, to the belief of the Church as expressed in the Liturgy.

  13. Ezekial,

    To quote St Gregory Palamas:

    “Unless an essence has an energy distinct from itself, it will entirely lack actual existence and will be a mere mental concept.

    and:

    God also possesses that which is not essence… But the fact that it is neither an accident nor essence does not mean that it has no existence: it exists and it truly exists… God’s divine energy is neither and essence nor an accident, nor is it something utterly non-existent.”

    St Gregory clearly teaches that the Divine energy is not Divine essence and has real existence distinct from the essence. He certainly not only implies but expressly states a real distinction. He also considers those that assert that God is only essence are atheists. So, it would seem that St Gregory does hold a very real distinction and that he has no place for a reconciliation with those denying this real distinction. I cannot see how Hart can make such a reading, which would seem to run contrary to what St Gregory is saying and also miss the whole point of the dispute.

  14. photios says:

    Ezekiel,
    Hart doesn’t follow the Cappadocian reading of simplicity. He’s boxed into the same either/or dialectic as the Augustinians. Neither can really grasp God as unitatively complex.

    Photios

  15. Aglaios says:

    Atychi,

    When I hear people speak of Rome offering something “definite” and authoritative to any question, whereas the Orthodox are somehow lacking this; or, similarly some speak of the Roman Church as being unified whereas the Orthodox Church is supposedly not unified… My only response when I hear this is to tell people to pick up a phone book and find and attend any 10 Roman catholic parishes in the area, and then to do the same for any 10 Orthodox parishes in the area. You will soon experience the chaos and liturgical anarchy that is modern Roman Catholicism, while at the same time experiencing the consistency of Tradition among the Orthodox. There exists vast ideological divisions in the Roman Church (Liberal Catholic, Conservative Catholic, Charismatic Catholic, Traditionalist Latin Mass Catholics, Liturgical progressives…) and all this takes place under the Pope. Don’t let a mere administrative/outward unity fool you -the unity that Roman catholics tout is a facade. Sure, Orthodox do have problems, but it’s really nothing compared to the crisis of faith and liturgy that modern Rome is facing. I do not rejoice in this. It seems Benedict is attempting to turn this around, but basically the current conservative Pope coule just as easily be followed by a liberal/progressive Pope. Example- compare the 19th century Popes with Paul VI or John Paul II. I go to a Roman Catholic school and have to some degree an “insider’s knowledge”. When I hear the papacy and Vatican being upheld as offering something “authoritative and certain” which supposedly ensures unity, I have to chuckle a little. Paul VI certainly offered something certain -it was to radically change a venerable age-old Roman rite liturgy into a highly Protestant watered-down and “simplified” liturgy where the priest faces the people and ancient Gregorian chants are replaced by Protestant and pop songs. This is modern Roman authority at work.

  16. Ezekiel says:

    Since it does have some bearing on the possibility of reconciling the Palamite teachings with the RCC, I am curious what the commenters here think of the suggestion of David Bentley Hart’s that St. Gregory may not imply a “real” distinction, given a reading of him as following substantially the Cappadocians. It would seem to me that such a reading puts St. Gregory within the understanding of most patristic understandings of divine simplicity (including Augustine’s), which would make them far more palatable to the RCC. (Obviously palatability to the RCC is not the yardstick of theological validity.)

    My reading of Palamas is admittedly limited so I have no idea how valid or invalid this reading is. It does not offend my intuitions on the matter, but it certainly surprised me.

  17. Lee,

    1. God lacks extended parts.

    2 He lacks substantial form and form recceiving matter. God is pure self subsistent form lacking all matter.

    3. God is not composed of act and potency.

    4. God is not composed of essence and anything disjointed from it.

    5.God is not composed of subject and accidents.

    6, God is not composed of essence and esse. The divine essence is pure subsistent existence.

    I think that is roughly sufficient to capture the idea of ADS.

    What do you think Lateran 4 had in mind?

  18. lee faber says:

    You’ve probably posted on this elsewhere, but what exactly do you think “Absolute” divine simplicity actually is? All one finds in the creed of Lateran IV is “omnino simplex”, the first term not being the technical “simpliciter” that would be required for the “absolute” bit.

  19. Atychi says:

    It seems to me that the Catholic church has all sorts of advantages over Orthodoxy–advantages that even outweigh knee-jerk anti-Catholic sentiments from many Prots.

    As far as I can tell, it’s mainly about atonement as satisfaction. In many ways, it’s the only game in town for the West. I’m good friends (and a godfather to) a number of converts who still wrestle with this issue. The Orthodox simply deal with the Cross–the Holy life-giving Cross–in a different (perhaps even scandalous) way. The Catholic church has so many various little avenues and permutations with regards to historical soteriological considerations that Prots. can jump on board with all of the “satisfaction” baggage (even the penal substitution variety). Prots. are cafeteria Christians, and I think they find a version of this in the Catholic church (goodness, look at all of the various issues that Catholics say “we don’t have to accept this because it’s not Ex Cathedra”, etc.). One still gets to pick and choose. I say this not as a criticism, because we see it in Orthodoxy as well. From what I’ve read of Photios’ writings (and maybe even of Perry’s?), I don’t think they’d hesitate to say that the Holy Theotokos possibly (if not did so in fact) sinned (and they’d no doubt cite Saints Chrysostom and Basil [maybe even Irenaeus?] to offer Patristic witness).

    But this issue gets into the next reason why an American Prot. would choose the Catholic church. Because the Catholic church actually gives a definitive, dogmatic answer. We replace the relativism of sola scriptura with the absolutism of Papal Infallibility–a concreteness many Prots. have been yearning for.

    From my perspective, to be Orthodox, one has to give up Anselm (or, a la, David Hart, at least all of the Anselmian who severely misread Anselm). You don’t have to give this up in the Catholic church. Nor do you have to give up a watered down liturgics. Nor do you have to give up what appears to be semi-Pelagianism.

    Hell, and this seems really appropriate for modern Americanism, you don’t have to give any of this up and you get authority and tradition to boot.

    I say all of this as someone who isn’t a fire-breathing anti-Catholic. In fact, I think there’s an Orthodox thread wholly in tact within Catholic tradition; that is, one could ascribe to Orthodoxy and find its theology expressed in Catholicism (minus Papal infallibility). The same, of course, cannot be said for Orthodoxy. We do not have a Catholic thread running through our tradition; the opposite, of course is true.

    Just some musings. Sorry for the ramblings, and sorry I can’t proofread it. Gotta go. One of the kids just broke something breakable. And one just cursed and pronoucned the death of the one who broke something.

  20. Ed Siecienski says:

    Photius,

    As Stan Lee used to say, “Fair ’nuff.” There is a difference between Augustine and the Augustinians, many of whom (as you said) took him as THE authority, oftentimes at the expense of other views (e.g., Cassian’s) that better expressed the patristic mind on certain subjects. One of my colleagues put it this way: the East read Augustine as a father, whose views on certain subjects were extreme, but orthodox. The West read Augustine as representative of the center, which allowed them to embrace even more extreme views (like Luther’s and Calvin’s) and call them orthodox.
    Still, I must admit that Augustine’s thoughts on concupiscence have always meshed well with my observations of human nature (my own included). I think it was Chesterton who said that “original sin was the only doctrine you could prove by reading the Times.” Augustine may not have known about processions in the godhead, but he did know about human nature. I know the Orthodox have never spoken about about original sin in Augustinian terms, and I find Maximus’s observations on human nature to be right on the money (gnomic will, self-love, and all that), but still I gotta say that when I look around me, I still see lots and lots of concupiscence.

    Concupiscently,
    Ed

  21. Ed,
    Careful though, because I said Augustinian, and I put that into quotes to try and create that differentiation between Augustine and his later followers. Romanides locates the divergent doctrine and the forming of two Europes in the 9th century, and that the source of the doctrine of the Carolingians as being Augustine. If we stop there and think at that point, Romanides is absolutely correct. Augustine is innocent of what his interpreters did to him, namely making him the sine qua non and the consensus patrum par excellence to a single man(i.e. Augustine is the greatest of the Fathers). The error was making Augustine the measuring stick of almost everything that is Christian. That is why I think Romanides is so tough on Augustine.

    The very dialectic of the schism itself exist within Augustine because Augustine follows both sets of theological models (i.e. the ordo theologiae) in different parts of his theology and writings.

    Photios

  22. Ed Siecienski says:

    Photius,

    I will read your paper with great interest, although with class prep, two kids, and all that it may be a few days before I get to it.

    As for Augustine, I must admit a sympathy for him that many Orthodox do not share, even when it comes to the filioque. My reading is that Augustine was not trying to “solve a metaphysical problem,” or introduce “the God of the philosophers” into Christianity, but rather trying to understand the scriptural truth that “the Spirit who proceeds from the Father” is also “the Spirit of the Son.” Even if one disagrees with his solution, Augustine himself was open in De Trinitate to criticism, finishing the work with a prayer that any errors might eventually find correction. I am aware that others tend to see Augustine as the point of division between East and West, especially on the filioque, but I’m not willing to go that far. That his speculations are later interpreted and dogmatized in such a way that they become divisive is beyond doubt. Is Augustine himself responsible for this? Does he do something “novel?” Romanides and others say yes, but I think I must (respectfully) disagree. This is not to say that Augustine was right on the matter, but to cast him out for a work that was(by his own admission)speculative, seems to go beyond what is necessary. This is akin to giving Nyssa the boot for teaching apocatastasis, which Mark of Ephesus refused to do at Florence. Augustine used the tools available to him, scriptural, conciliar, and philosophical (too much of this last one, perhaps, although he was neither the first or last father to use Plato for his own purposes), and if he erred, perhaps we should heed the voice of Photius and “cover the nakedness of our fathers” rather than “publish abroad their shame.”

    As to whether the Latin system can ever incorporate the palamite distinctions into their thinking, I will admit that this is tough, especially given their stress on divine simplicity. Certainly the Latins at Florence would have thought so. Today? I wonder . . .

    Ed

  23. photios says:

    Ed,

    I’ll be blunt here while you get a chance to read my paper and you can keep this in the back of your mind while you read it. If you start with a philosophical view of God, and define Him as an absolutely simple Being (notice how all programs of natural theology do this whether Origenistic, Arian, Eunomian, or “Augustinian”), you can never consistently come to the Palamite view. I’m not sure if this was absolutely conscious in Mark’s mind (though I think as the method of how he just DOES theology as a habit, it was) as the misinterpretation problem, but with the philosophical starting points of the Latins, the Scholarius reunion formula can mask the ordo theologiae (of the Latins) and the program of re-interpretation that it (those philsophical starting points) will demand. That was the final conclusion I came to regarding this mess…

    Photios

  24. photios says:

    Ed,
    You can download the paper from this link:
    https://energeticprocession.wordpress.com/2006/04/26/gregory-of-nyssa-and-eunomius-trinitarian-structures-investigated/

    Be sure to grab the font too.

    I would really appreciate your thoughts.

    I think I subtly state in that paper why I think the language of Cyprus or Palamas or Scholarius could lend itself to misinterpretation. I identify that with the problem of the ordo theologiae, and how a different ordo theologiae masks itself and forces a different interpretation of patristic texts. I try to do this as subtly as possible for my own purposes. This is why I think the Augustinian tradition consistently cannot recognize Palamas in the previous Fathers, and notably in Gregory of Nyssa. Though I present this in the context of Eunomius and Gregory, I subtly have my aims at the Florentine’s and how they would interpret the main problem.

    Photios

  25. Ed Siecienski says:

    1 – Fr. Oliver was kind enough, during the writing of my book, to make available rough translations he is doing of the ninth-century texts concerning the filioque. I was just in e-mail contact with him, but if anyone should speak to him before I do, please pass along my best.

    2 – At Florence Mark was hamstrung by the emperor, and unable to give the palamite answer, he relied on the falsification argument (which, although taken to an extreme, did have some basis in fact, as patristic scholars now note). Scholarius was (dare I say it) sneakier, introducing the language of Gregory of Cyprus in some of the reunion formula. The problem was that both Mark and the Latins thought it capable of misinterpretation (which is exactly what they said about Cyprus’s work in the 13th century). I have no doubt that Mark accepted and could have articulated the palamite view, but (as you say) once not permitted to do so he simply “went with his best pitch.”

    3 – I agree, the unionist argument of Beccus and Bessarion was flawed. I would certainly grant to both sincerity and a genuine desire for church union as a good in itself, even if I have to disagree with their reading of Maximus. Even if their argument made sense in context (which, frankly, it doesn’t) it makes no sense given Maximus’s other trinitarian writings and his firm belief in the teaching that to the Father alone belongs causality.

    4 – Photius, could you give me a reference or a link to the Nyssa article?

    5 – Perry, thanks for the nice welcome.

    Ed

  26. ochlophobist says:

    Fr. Oliver Herbel is the godfather of my middle daughter. I spoke to him this week. He is doing well.

    He is friends with a RC theologian, David Fagerberg, who is exceptional among RCs in his understanding of Orthodox concerns regarding filioque issues. Fagerberg just gave this year’s Schmemann lectures at SVS.

    Fr. Oliver has the most nuanced views I have heard of how the RCC could articulate a dogmatic structure which brings it in line with Orthodoxy. And he does this as an Orthodox thinker absolutely committed to the theological positions of Sts. Photius and Maximus.

    But even given that brilliant nuance, I still hold that one of the two communions would have to cease to be what is now is, dogmatically, in order for union to occur. VatI on the role of the Papacy makes this abundantly clear. There can be no road except retraction on that front.

  27. photios says:

    Ed,
    I’d like to hear your thoughts on my paper about Gregory of Nyssa. That was the paper where I believe I articulated these views independently of your own though not in an East-West context of Maximus but in the Eunomian controversey.

    Photios

  28. photios says:

    Perry,

    I have met Fr. Herbel on our blog. He used to post way back. We got into it about Maximus once on Farrell’s thesis, though the dispute mostly ended up being about words if I remember right. Good man that Fr. Herbel, I hope he is doing well.

    Photios

  29. photios says:

    Ed,

    There is one text in the Mystagogia that seems to be a forerunner (like Maximus) to Gregory of Cyprus (I need to get my notes out and see what you think of this text). Though your right, the Mystagogia has a context. It is to articulate the hypostatic originations and that thesis primarily, though St. Photios does get into methodology of how the two groups are interpreting patristic and New Testament texts. St. Photios plays heavily on authorial intent of the New Testament in his exegesis (which Protestants might like), the “of” equals “from” argument and the ‘that which comes from “mine”‘ comes to my mind.

    You are right the Mystatgogia is not a sum total of Trinitarian doctrine or even of the Holy Spirit from an Eastern Theological stand-point.

    You mention in your dissertation a Photian-Carolingian dialectic, and I’m happy to see that you say that this lies with Photios’ partisan interpreters at times and not St. Photios himself. Though, you do seem to indicate that Mark was of this camp. I always took Sts. Mark and George Scholarius to be of the same mind here, and that Mark just got tired of correcting the re-interpretation game that the Latins were doing and also sadly being hamstrung by the Emperor in giving Palamite doctrine the full treatment.

    But any headway or acknowledgement of correct doctrine is a path in the right direction I suppose.

    The worst argument I’ve seen is to propose that of the Greek Unionists, Bekkos and his adherents, that the Son isn’t a primary cause but a secondary cause derived from the first. That Maximus was only denying the former and not the latter say the Unionists. Of course that view falls prey to the very dialectical conundrum that St. Photios articulated, not to mention a very philosophical view of God (where is the cause of the next divine person ad infinitum?)

    Photios

  30. Ed,

    I don’t know if Photios knows Fr. Herbel. He and I were at SLU at the same time prior to my termination by the powers of darkness. He was in the theology department and I was in the phil department. If he chat with him, pass along a greeting for me.

    We are certainly glad to have your contributions here.

  31. Ed Siecienski says:

    Photius,

    Alas, Florence is a BIG problem, in that it does what Maximus said cannot be done (saying that the Son is cause of the Holy Spirit). I do not pretend to have the solution, but perhaps (and I’m just spitballing here) Rome could do what the Anglicans did – say the use of the term was “unfortunate” and “no longer current among us.” This does not solve the problem, but it would be a start.
    On a side note, Fr. Oliver Herbel (whom I believe you know) and I have spoken some on Photius and the filioque, because he interpreted me as saying Photius was wrong. I assured him that this was not my intent. Photius, in denying the Carolingian teaching, was 100% right. I simply pointed out that in the context of his denial he never explored Maximus’s teaching or the eternal relationship between Son and Spirit. This is COMPLETELY understandable given the context of the debate. However, it later became problematic when later generations read the Mystagogia, not as a response to the West, but instead as a complete explication of Eastern trinitarian thought. I thought I should include this so that you would know I am not, in any way, demeaning your namesake and a saint of the Church.

    Ed

  32. photios says:

    Ed,
    Thanks. Fully endorse your view on a theological level, it was brilliant. I came to the same exegetical understanding before I even read you.

    I agree that some in Rome would like to see the hypostatic origination of the Son go away in the filioque, but what of Florence? It is dogmatically binding on them. And you know as I know that it professed this type of doctrine. As Salmon has said, they’ve boxed themselves in with this infallibility of the Roman Church. They can come to intellectual agreement all they want, but running the full distance of overturning the council’s decrees would be needed and declaring Florence a false council of union. But then where would that leave Vatican I? The Long Distance Run would surely leave a real mess, and you’d probably have something like the 15th century papal schism on your hands. My somewhat pessimistic thought on it anyways…

    Then there is the methodology of re-interpreting texts based on Development of Doctrine that leaves me VERY uneasy. If it were ever to come about that it is NOW being proposed that the Florentine Fathers actually penned down–though notably independent of their actual theological world view–a spirit “inspired” text compatible with Palamas and Gregory, I would just have real problem with what’s being done…not just exegetically there but the potentiality of such an interprise in principle. It just looks too much like what some of the gnostics were doing.

    Congrats on the publishment, I will for sure have a copy as I do your dissertation.

    Photios

  33. Andrew says:

    More Western Rite Orthodox parishes would certainly help, of course. May the tribe of hierarchs like His Grace Bp Basil of Wichita, who supports and works for the increase of the Western Rite within Orthodoxy, increase!

  34. Ed Siecienski says:

    Photius,

    I was Roman Catholic, but cannot find it in my heart to say a word against the “faith of my fathers.” I remember reading Lev Gillet (Monk of the Eastern Church) explaining to his mother his own journey to Orthodoxy. He spoke about (and I’m paraphrasing here) the same light burning in Catholicism and Orthodoxy, but it burning “perhaps a bit brighter” in Orthodoxy. This pretty much sums up my view as well.
    My own work on the filioque (watch for “The Filioque: History of a Doctinal Controversy” coming from Oxford University Press in October)confirmed my belief that on this matter Orthodoxy had better interpreted the mind of the fathers (esp. Maximus) on the procession, although even here I am loathe to describe the Western teaching as heretical. The one thing I am sure of after studying the debates – historically both sides have been guilty of a lack of Christian charity, and I am pleased that modern discussions have tried to “speak the truth in love” – not engaging in a form of cheap ecumenism, but genuinely engaging one another. Note, for example, the prominent place given to Gregory of Cyprus and Palamas in the US Bishops Statement on the Filioque – Catholics pondering the work of these two great figures as a way of understanding the eternal relationship between Son and Spirit without introducing the idea of “hypostatic origin” of one from the other. This is a good sign.
    On a final note, please call me Ed.

  35. photios says:

    Pat,

    To be fair here, when the Orthodox had their opportunity to evangelize, they pretty much did. They evangelized the Celts and the Russians. But with the german take over of the papacy, and the tearing asunder that transnational Roman-Byzantine econoumia, along with the Arabs in the East, it’s been pretty tough to go about evangelizing anybody outside Orthodox lands with swords pointed at both ends, ya know…

    And then there’s the problem of ecumenism today, and the false idea of “sister churches” that Rome is trying to shovel down into Orthodox quarters.

    Photios

  36. Pat says:

    “How can a reasonably well educated person simply ignore or dismiss so easily the second largest Christian tradition on the planet, which has an unquestionable antiquity and preserved apostolic orders and a sacramental life?”

    Simply put: Get over it! So, your little ecclesial feelings are hurt. I am a RC and I have been taught and believe that EO is true. At the same time I have never been evangelized by EOC. What is up with that? Your whole bit of whining-because that is what this is-can be turned around by asking how the EO Church can so easily ignore its mandate to preach the Gospel Universally? Face it! the EO Church better start by looking at its own shortcomings.

  37. photios says:

    Dr. Siecienski,

    You highlighted what is in my opinion the biggest problem with Orthodoxy today. It is has facilitated, and I’m not privy to say how it all happened-or that I know how it all happened, a fractured ecclesiology with the canonical problem that borders on being anti-gospel.

    To go further on your excellent comment, I do not believe Orthodoxy will be “seeker” friendly in the country until it does something similar what the East Romans did in the 9th century in converting Russia. That solution (I believe) will require a different eccesiological approach from the top (or demand at the bottom). Granted the situation in America is multicultural whereas Russia in the 9th century was singular in form, but we do have a national language and I think a national culture.

    In my own example,
    To be Orthodox, I shouldn’t have to assimilate myself to being Greek or Russian and all its liturgy. Orthodoxy in some sense has failed to rightly transplant the gospel in America.

    Best wishes,
    Photios

    P.S. I thought you were a Roman Catholic or papal christian of some stripe.

  38. Ed Siecienski says:

    Last year at the AAR I was the Orthodox respondent at a workshop on intra-Christian conversion. My task was to ask the panelists (Scott Hahn, Francis Beckwith) whether in their journey’s to Rome they had ever considered Orthodoxy. Even from a RC perspective, I pointed out, Orthodoxy has preserved the true faith, orders, and sacraments. Why not Orthodoxy?
    I admitted at that time that the reason more don’t consider Orthodoxy is the Orthodox themselves – so often so tied to a particular ethnicity that non-Greeks, non-Russians, etc.. are made to feel like outsiders. The other reason, which some posters here noted, concerned the fact that Orthodoxy is not “on the radar” – Catholics are a real presence here in the US while the Orthodox are far fewer. A third reason, especially the case with evangelicals, is that they have always looked at the problem in terms of a “Protestant-Catholic” dialectic. Thus for many the only option seems to be returning to the Church their forefathers left in the first place.
    If this is all true (and I believe it is) then perhaps it is the Orthodox who require the change. Not a change in doctrine, but in our approach. We must be evangelical, welcoming, present so that “seekers” will see Orthodoxy as a real option, offering not only truth and beauty, but the answer many have been looking for.
    Places like this blog are a wonderful beginning, but maybe it’s time (in the words of the Doobie Brothers) to “take it to the streets.”
    Prayers and best wishes to all.

  39. […] and preserved apostolic orders and a sacramental life? How does that count as an informed decision? Because that is what many of the people I have met project when they speak of their conversion to Ca…“ No […]

  40. Alex,

    I found this book be extremely helpful, illuminating, perceptive and clearly written.

    http://www.uncutmountainsupply.com/proddetail.asp?prod=PTRO

    I cannot see Perry or Photios not backing this endorsement.

  41. Aglaios says:

    An Anglican student I go to an RC school with just decided that he’s converting to Rome, to which I asked if he’s considered the Orthodox Church. He basically said that he’s a Westerner with the implication that Orthodoxy is something merely for the ethnic East. My response was- “well let’s consider the Bible itself… it originated in Palestine and the Middle East, it was written in Greek and Hebrew, it came out of an Eastern and what many would consider “exotic” culture; yet no one questions its universality -no one considers the Bible “an ethnic thing”. We could say the same about the Orthodox Divine Liturgy. While many people look upon it as foreign and exotic, it is as universal as the Bible is especially when translated into the languate of the poeple, which has always been the official policy of the Orthodox Church.”
    My friend took this to heart and I think became a little more open to looking at Orthodoxy.

  42. ochlophobist says:

    Matt,

    I attended a number of Eastern Catholic churches before my conversion to Orthodoxy. Part of this happened to be a matter of logistics – I lived closer to two Eastern Catholic parishes in the Twin Cities than any Orthodox parish for a spell, I also have family in Ohio and WVA (near PA) that live close to Eastern Catholic parishes. As far as I can recall, I attended 8 or so different Eastern Catholic parishes in 4 states. These include Byzantine Catholics, Maronites, Ukrainian Catholics, and a church that I think was Ruthenian.

    On my way to Orthodoxy, having been an inquirer to Orthodoxy for years, I converted to RCism under pressure from the Catholic community I was living and working with (at a Catholic run, mostly Communio types, some “neo-Caths”, antiquarian theological bookstore), after being convinced that RCism was the only intellectually resptable option. That lasted for two years, and during those two years I attended Orthodox Divine Liturgy more than Novus Ordo Mass because I could not stomach the Novus Ordo, which I found to be religious banality heaped in human resourcesspeak.

    Once, in a Ukranian Catholic parish in MPLS, I heard what amounted to the most “anti-Catholic” rhetoric I have ever heard from a priest speaking in church. The priest used the whole homily (he never mentioned the Gospel reading or the liturgical calendar), 25 minutes or so, to lambast JPII, he called him a liar and worse and, point by point by point, went through a list of things promised to Ukrainian Catholics which he felt had been proven to be disingenuous or Trojan horses. It was clear that a move to Orthodoxy was not in the cards, yet there was no foreseeable end to his disdain for Rome. All of this in a parish that did the most parsed Divine Liturgy I had ever seen, before which a nun in a Western habit lead the congregation in the Rosary.

    I have also had a couple of bad experiences in Orthodox churches, to be sure.

  43. Visibilium says:

    The argument for the RCC over Orthodoxy comes down to convenience and utilitarianism. The RCC is Western. The RCC has a single guy in charge, which implies a more effective administrative model. The RCC has a greater number of churches for their believers’ travel convenience. The RCC has more members, and prospective spouses are more numerous. Thanks to backsliding RC politicians, the RCC is almost a mainstream feature of American life indistinguishable from the Episcopalians, except for those pesky sexual issues.

    The RCC provides familiar landmarks to Western Protestants. I take malicious glee in asking Calvinists, who think my Orthodoxy is exotic, how much they enjoy celebrating Catholic Easter every year. The responses are unpleasant, but intellectually impotent.

    On a separate note, I was watching a history program on one of the satellite TV channels, when a secular historian stated that the Byzantine Empire had been one of Europe’s traditional enemies. I was floored at how thoroughly the Vatican spin on the alien nature of the Orthodox world had taken hold in the modern, secular West.

  44. Matt,

    I firmly believe it goes both ways.This is why I narrowed the prudential question down to people for whom mitigating circumstances and lack of abilities can’t be invoked as exculpatory.

    As for the Copts, that depends on what constitutes “serious.” I had some significant interactions with them, read about a dozen books and articles when I was Anglican.

  45. Matt says:

    Just to be fair, I have met Protestant converts who did not investigate Rome first before jumping East – so it can work both ways. I think that Perry’s case in far more common though. It should also be noted that it is pretty rare to meet Protestant converts who investigated Eastern Catholicism before converting to Orthodoxy. That is possibly even more understandable though.

    I have a question for the learned folks here. Did anyone investigate the non-Chaceldonians seriously before converting (to Rome or Constantinople)? I have yet to meet a single convert who did so. But I figure if anyone did they are probably to be found on this blog 🙂

  46. I wonder if some people’s decisions to investigate Rome more thoroughly have to do with the people they know rather than the theological points themselves. They will more seriously consider the points of someone they respect, as long as they go with who they think Christ is, or how they think He acts. I have known an intellectual seeker who went with Rome after investigating Orthodoxy because he ‘wasn’t ready to go that far’. I myself find Rome to go further with respect to the Papacy, Marian devotion, and purgatory, and this was before I studied that much about the filioque and ADS. The only thing I can think of right now is that the east goes further with asceticism and the need to pray constantly, and the love of God rather than his wrath.

    Yet I sense that Rome-ward leaning people think that Romans act more loving, and thus are closer to the truth. They like the western “tone”. And thus those who sound so magnanimous in saying that the east is just too sternly uptight, picky, and judgmental about Roman “errors”, sound more loving. And that’s when they quit listening to how important we think these differences are. I don’t think they are as sensitive to the ramifications of these errors. They seem to “like” the way Augustine and Aquinas talk, so when we say that they lead to Calvinism, they seem to think it didn’t have to. Only Calvinists took it that way and they can blow them off pretty easily when the Pope says he’s not a Calvinist.

    I get the feeling that when we score a point about the east’s accuracy and the west’s errors, they don’t see it as important because they think love and order are more important. I see Roman magisterial order as a limiting straight-jacket, and they see eastern freedom as too loose. And as to love, I see that kind of nice tolerance as too lax a view on errors as long as they make a person feel good. But then again, Orthodoxy makes me feel good too. So I think many points are lost in translation, but mainly I think they just “like” the way Rome and the Pope explains things better than all the many Orthodox books you have to read and the many Orthodox you have to talk to to get a sense of what Orthodoxy is. Orthodoxy seems more like a puzzle that you have to put together yourself instead of a nice, neat packaged outline (like the Roman Catechism).

    The Grand Inquisitor stays in the back of my mind and I wonder how they don’t see the accuracy of it. I guess Dostoyevsky just “seems” too angry. So, are we too angry? The nice Orthodox don’t seem to care that much about Roman errors either. So are heretical views sufficient cause for anger? I do get the sense that some Orthodox are too angry, probably mostly me. Metropolitan Jonah says we aren’t supposed to “react”. But there are plenty of Orthodox examples of aggressive confrontations of heresies. I think someone on this blog a while back said the rhetorical rules were different in the first Millennium. Maybe rhetoric is a valid subject for development. I myself would like to grow in speaking the truth with love. I believe there is a way to do it without compromising the faith. I also believe that the ones who may “sound” unloving really have everyone’s best interest at heart and are just trying to protect folks from “damnable and destroying heresies”.

  47. “The emperor is not as forgiving as I am.” Darth Vader, Return of the Jedi.

    Daniel/Photios is the grumpier version of moi.

  48. Alex,

    Your post is fine, but address me by name correctly or I will ban you.

    The decrees of the Synodikon are decrees taken from the Ecumenical Synods of the Church and a few Local Synods. They are about the Trinity or Christ or hereoes or heretics. So yes, they are on par with the decrees of the Trinity.

    You’ll either learn to grow thick skin commenting here in response to me in particular or you’ll learn some of my pet peaves and try to avoid them. For example, One being a non-Orthodox telling us what we dogmatically do or don’t believe about Rome. Sorry if I’ve grown grumpy with that one…even though you are a newcomer…

    Photios

  49. Alex,

    On the Synodikon, many major universities have a copy of the critical text with an English translation. Yours does. I know since I read it when I went there. Of course, you could go to an Orthodox parish on the Sunday of Orthodoxy where they are read and hear for yourself.

  50. Alex,

    Why is Constantinople a tower in the distance in the first place in the mind of such people? Why isn’t it just as much upfront as Rome?

    I am well aware of the limitations concerning prudential judgments and concerns and this is why I focused in on people for whom many of the common limitations simply do not apply. If someone is Rome ward bound, certainly Constantinople isn’t on the same level at the get-go as Calvinism, Judaism and Islam. This I think would betray what we would normally define as prejudice. I would offer that the differences look murky from a distance, but any significant amount of reading will bring them closer to the eye. While doing so will not make the decision easier, an in fact much more difficult, the differences will cease to be obscure, except in most cases to the willfully obtuse.

    In my experience such excuses are not the tip of the ice berg, they are rather the entire glacial shelf. Granted that this is anecdotal, but I suspect it isn’t so limited to me as some might suspect.

    As for your gloss that such things as rejection of the filioque are not dogmatic for Orthodoxy, I think this is false and something of a howler. The 8th Council of 879 as well as the council of Blachernae of 1285 along with other sources are sufficient to show that the rejection is “dogmatic.” Further the maintenance of Nicene-Cappadocian Trinitarianism and Dyophysite and Dyothelite Christology as already defined wouldn’t require an entirely new definition. As for the Papacy, I’d simply point to the Fifth Council in its rejection of papal claims of making irreformable judgments for the other sees of the pentarchy as well as denying that any see in and of itself requires the support of any other for the execution of its apostolic ministry. It isn’t a stretch to see its statements as being in direct opposition to the definition of Vat 1.
    Any serious or significant investigation of the Arian controversy will bring to light the concept of energies, for much of the debate turned on how this was conceived. (This leaves untouched the entire philosophical tradition in which concepts of energies flourished among the Platonists, Aristotelians and well into the medical traditions of the ancient world.) This is one reason why Athanasius could argue from deification in baptism to the full deity of Christ.

    For these and other reasons, the Orthodox are not standing on the ground of theological opinion or speculation. It is not the case then that Rome simply affirms everything we do, but just a few other things. While there is considerable overlap in some areas, this does not imply conceptual identity anymore than it does with Protestantism and Catholicism. And this is what one should expect given that significant and mutually exclusive differences in Triadology and Christology will “trickle down” to differences in how the sacraments and ecclesiology are conceived. This is born out even in recent survey works like Chadwick’s East and West: The Making of a Rift in the Church as well as older works like Dvornik’s.

    As for the dogmatic status of ADS, Rome has dogmatically asserted it. How it is filled in philosophically has varied. True enough. But it is true that its home is in the late Platonism of Augustine and not just any philosophical gloss will prove consistent with that tradition. It is not enough that some philosophically consistent view of simplicity is constructed from the logician’s toolbox. And even if Aquinas’ formulation should fall prey to the kinds of criticisms I and Orthodox in long past have made of the conception, it would still be the case that Rome formally approves of serious error. Added to this, I would argue, is that the same problems in the articulation made by one of Rome’s masters can be regenerated just as easily in the other models. Switching from epistemic internalism to externalism doesn’t grant you a get out skepticism card.

    It may be true that the dogmatic approval of ADS was to fend off the Albigensians, and while that might be historically illuminating, it isn’t theologically justifying. Using theological determinism as a shield against Origenism’s perpetual falls and restorations doesn’t amount to a justification of former. It only indicates that a different error has been adopted. And an apophatic gloss on ADS doesn’t prove exculpatory since many different heterodox views weren’t protected from condemnation on the very same ground. The main target in any case isn’t Aquinas, but Augustine and late Platonism.
    Reporting what is clear or unclear to you may have standing on what epistemic justification you possess, but it doesn’t amount to an argument that ADS as say conceived by Aquinas is off the philosophical hook. What one wants is the latter, not merely the former. And while I can accept for the sake of argument that the idea of the dogma is not necessarily the same as the idea as articulated by a specific theologian, I’d need to know from you what the idea as dogma in fact is first. What idea is that exactly? Second, this seems to me to confuse the explanatory order, for the terminology is conceptually explicated philosophically so that it won’t be possible to say what the dogmatic idea is without a specific philosophical gloss. So this doesn’t seem to me to move the ball down the agnostic field.

    Neither is it helpful to your position to remain agnostic on Palamas and Aquinas, for that is a locus of major disagreement. Further, to remain agnostic essentially on this point will require you remain ignorant on the papacy and the filioque, for as John 8th conceded to the East in the 9th century, contra Hadrian his predecessor, heresy indeed was a charge with which a Pope could be charged. Not only that, but given Gregory 7th’s justification for the papacy in the 11th century on the filioque itself, it is not possible to remain agnostic on the one without also doing so for the other. This kind of agnosticism doesn’t render Orthodoxy idle, it renders idle any decision one way or the other. Besides, Catholicism won’t permit you in good faith to remain agnostic on dogmas necessary for salvation, of which ADS and the Filioque are instances. These are not practical differences as is made obvious in the discussions of Blachernae and Florence.

    Further, dogmas of the church are dogmas long prior to any formal writing of them. The dogma of the resurrection of Christ didn’t require any formal technical vocabulary sufficient to exclude major errors to become so. The dogmas of the church are not yesterday’s acceptable philosophical glosses. These teachings have long since been enshrined in major patristic writings as well as the liturgy of the Church.

    As for the Neuhaus quote, others will suffice. Just substitute it with Scott Hahn’s comments on the same topic.

    BTW, I am sorry I missed you a few months back at the local Ethiopian restaurant.

  51. Alex says:

    Dear Mr. Thermios (a.k.a. Photios),

    I’m afraid the primary concern of my reply is not the disparity between my attempt to be polite and to agree with the author of this post and your rather impolite implicature –to say it politely. It seems that I am forced by whatever force implicature has, to understand your remarks in an accusative manner. By all means, if you did not imply any accusation as to my being ignorant, I shall stand corrected; but then you can justly be ascribed imprudence in your manner, tone, and diction. But that’s the rub; prudence. That was the point of the author and the point of my reply and the point of this reply insofar as it is a rejoinder to your reply.

    As a matter of honesty and illustration I spoke of my own case. If you would like to discuss any matter of my assertion for its truth or falsity, I welcome inquiry. After all, I am a journey man.

    But, the relative obscurity of this the decrees of the Synodikon –and I said *relative*– is precisely off the point of my gentle, hedged assertions.

    I suppose, then, I should inquire: the decrees of the Synodikon, are those dogmas with respect to the nature of God on the authoritative par with say the Trinity?

    When you say these dogmas are not optional, do mean to say that if any member of the Orthodox Church would be a heretic insofar as they deny the denials of “divine simplicity” and “the filioque”?

    As as final point, not in reply to Mr. Photios, I should say that if one is possessed of the truth one ought to follow it then and there. It would be imprudent to think one must rule out what may be the truth before one can journey toward the truth insofar as it glints in the distance. Evidence, if it is good, will always lead to the truth, and if that is through Rome to the giants beyond, so be it, if not, so be it, if a journey man to the death bed, so be it, so long as the truth, in some degree, is grasped in love.

    I remain an honest and hopefully prudent journey man,

    Alex

  52. Alex,

    You obviously haven’t read the decrees in Synodikon of Orthodoxy..particularly the later additions concerning the Holy Spirit and the doctrine of Gregory Palamas. These contradict and condemn divine simplicity as understood by the Papal church and the filioque. And they ain’t optional. I bet you’ve never read those or heard of those decrees.

    Photios

  53. Alex says:

    Correction: I thought this was MG’s blog since he sent me the link, but I’m wrong about that.

  54. Andrew Armstrong says:

    Very brief, a point that could explain some of that behavior. Perhaps we can chalk some of the decision making up to the American’s laziness. They are simply not willing, or don’t have the time, to properly investigate all the options. I would expand the search to even non Christian religions. If you are on a Truth quest there are very few paths you shouldn’t at least look down. I remember going to a Buddhist temple with my family as my parents went on their faith quest. (My father is now an Orthodox priest). In my own studies I’ve discovered that the eastern religions, particularly Taoism, have far more in common with Orthodoxy than Catholicism does with it. Pretty crazy. It seems that people decide a religion based on popularity or convenience and their journey ends at the first stop. I’m probably rambling but theres some thoughts.

  55. kepha says:

    It has taken me two years of study just to re-examine my Catholic Faith in light of Protestant claims, I cannot even imagine how long it will take to examine a fundamentally different ecclesial tradition!

  56. Alex says:

    As a journey man, I suppose I should comment, but only quickly and in passing –not to say this thread deserves only a quick and passing comment from a journey man who, coming from Ireland and England (metaphorically speaking), has first caught a glint of the Roman citadel with its pretty seven hills. Of course, there are other giants in the distance, with gleaming towers. But, prudence must dictate –first come first serve– here in the thread, and out here on my apparently ever Romeward journey.

    The author of the thread (I don’t know if it was posted) asks a very good question for those of us with some education beyond whatever piddly amount we received in public high school. The question, as I understand it, is “Is is prudent, when seeking adherence to a definite faith and tradition, a well-marked religion, to give more or less time to various “options” definitely available for inspection?”

    Like any prudential question, circumstances are essential components. Here, however, we realize the limitation of such a question. After one eliminates options -Islam, Judaism, Calvinism, etc.– that are clearly not “‘live”, I, as well as some Romeward journey men, are in the territory of the vastly similar and murky differences between the ancient church cousins. From that point, the question, “Is is prudent…” cannot be answered in general. The specifying mark, “an educated person” is, of course, less than perfectly general, but is it not not particular enough?

    I would certainly agree, however, with the main sentiment of this short note. The grandeur, greatness, and glory of the Orthodox way of life, theologizing, tradition, and sheer historical antiquity, must needs be appreciated, never dismissed, even rightly praised and honored for its long stand and persevering adherence to Jesus Christ. Yes, indeed, the excuses this author has heard are, to be sure, disappointing little remarks coming from educated persons. In defense, only out of charity, such replies might very well be tips of ice-burgs. If not, then, by all means, this complaint of the author’s remains.

    For myself, however, I should say the following:

    I have not investigated EO as much as RC; in fact, there is a disparity. But, insofar as I come from a very agnostic, pragmatic, even pietistic Protestant philosophy, my investigation of things Roman have, ipso facto, also been my investigation of things Eastern –the priesthood, the infallibility of the church, praying to saints, venerating Mary, etc. Of course, when it comes to the differences, the disparity of my investigation is on the Roman side. But, then again, any sensible EO would insist on the soundness of their own argumentation contra-Rome on those differences that make distinctive their own theological positions. What are these? I’ve heard, mainly, the following main disagreement spots, the investigation of which would be entailed by any person who wants to justly decide between EO and RC: 1. the form of teaching authority, viz., the Magesterium and esp. the Papacy; 2. the filioque 3. divine simplicity.

    I’m sure there are more, to be sure, but these seem to be the *philospohical* and *theological* dividing lines. And this is appropriate, for these are dogmatic positions of Rome and are not dogmatic positions of Orthodoxy. Any other location of disagreement seems to me about bells and whistles.

    But here is how things stand: EO does not affirm, as Rome, 1 – 3. But, as far as I understand it, neither do they have dogmas contradicting these positions. At the very least, it is not clear that they do dogmatically contradict these positions. Hence, the disagreement seems to fall into the category of theological opinion. I don’t want to assert this strongly, but from a journey man’s perspective, with the glint of the Roman citadel in his eye, it seems to be this way.

    Now, the attack on divine simplicity, however, is an exceptional case. For if it is shown that an dogmatic position of Rome is *self-referentially incoherent* or *self-contradictory* then no one needs to dogmatically limit it out, good old Grandpa Logic will have barred it from the wise man’s table of discussion.

    But, so far as I know, this idea *as a dogma* is not the same as that idea in the hands of one of the Roman’s theological masters, St. Thomas. The dogmatic position was for defense against the Albigensians. Thus, once we know what they were affirming, we know more precisely what “Divine Simplicity” was not affirming. However, even if we take the Roman dogma to stand or fall with St. Thomas’ formulation of the idea, it is not clear to me it is incoherent or self-contradictory. And further, if it were, it does not seem to me that the position many Orthodox, esp., this blog’s very own, my friend MG, defend, namely, the divine energies, is itself crystal clear. From my point of view, agnosticism regarding St. Thomas and Palamas view of God seems emminently rational.

    As a final remark, I should note that it may be true that the Orthodox do have, *practically speaking*, positions that contradict particular Roman claims. But unless these rise to the level of dogma, or are shown to be at that level, the position is only a definite theology, a definite philosophy, a well-marked religion insofar as it is literally and justly described as part of Roman Catholicism.

    I’m sure such a remark will ignite some level of perturbation, or disagreement, but at this stage, it seems to me accurate and in no way demeaning, disrespecting or otherwise downplaying the greatness and glory of the Orthodox life and distinctive liturgy and worldview.

    And by the way, the remark of Neuhaus, which I’d heard before, was then and is now disappointingly vague.

  57. Chris,

    Newman is an older example, but I had in mind people from my own experience. I was putzing around blogs last night and found this little gem about thelate Neuhaus.

    “Richard John Neuhaus replied to my query of why he didn’t more fully consider the Orthodox Church when he eventually “swam the Tiber.” His response was that he did, in fact, consider it, but the fact that he was a Westerner was a deciding factor. “And besides, the book was about my journey to the Catholic Church, not my side trip to Orthodoxy.”

    http://amywelborn.wordpress.com/2009/01/05/lord-have-mercy/

  58. Dean says:

    I made the move from Prot. to RC in college. I’d certainly like to think I was reasonably well-read and intelligent. I can (and could) read both and Latin & Greek, although I’m not sure why that would be a qualification.

    The thing is, I was only dimly aware of the existence of Orthodoxy. I had never seen an Orthodox Church, never met an Orthodox Christian, found no material in my University library that ever pointed me in that direction. This was in the late 1980’s – so the Internet was still in its infancy and definitely not something I would ever have used as a resource. So I simply had no opportunity to evaluate Orthodoxy. I have often wondered since (especially over the last few years) if I would have decided differently had I known about Orthodoxy then.

    But at the time, RC was the only real alternative available, and it seemed like the promised land, offering everything we didn’t have as Evangelicals – Sacraments, consistent teaching, a real living connection to the Christians that had gone before us and the wisdom they had passed down to us. And I know that I am not totally unique. We converts tend to get to know one another in a parish, and most of the ones I know that are my age (closing in on 40) converted for very similar reasons and have had much the same experience over the last five years of wondering how we missed the Christian East so completely.

    I think your advice to those who are looking for the Church _right now_ is very well-taken. But many of us old-timers really just didn’t get the opportunity – it’s not viciousness or blindness on our part. Or at least not _only_ that 😉

    Dean

  59. Chris Jones says:

    The great exemplar of the attitude you are describing is Newman (the pattern, if not the specific impetus, for a great many “intellectual” conversions from Protestantism to Catholicism). Newman seems to have embraced Rome without any serious engagement with the claims of Orthodoxy.

    His arguments against Protestantism are admirable intellectually; but one wonders whether a serious engagement with Orthodoxy might not have led him to the conclusion that “to be deep in History is to cease to be a Roman Catholic.”

%d bloggers like this: