Changing the unchanging

February 24, 2011

There is a light bulb joke the asks “How many Orthodox monks does it take change a light-bulb?” The response is “Change??”

There is a sense among Orthodox (Catholic) Christians that there is no change in orthodoxy but what does this mean? Is there absolutely no-change in any aspect of orthodoxy? We may also ask what to we mean by orthodoxy? Is it a description of creed/dogma and practice or only creed/dogma or only practice? Then with any one of these options there is the question of what creed/dogma and what practice and the extent of creed/dogma or practice. Read the rest of this entry »


Axios!

July 9, 2010

Over at the PCUSA General Assembly  recently, an ample demonstration of genuine Orthodox ecumenism was given.

I’m watching the PCUSA General Assembly this evening, and my jaw dropped when I heard a representative of the Russian Orthodox Church, bringing ecumenical greetings, taking the Assembly to task for its actions regarding homosexuality, which he said looked to him to be at attempt at creating a new religion, “a modern form of paganism.” (He also indicated his disappointment that the assembly worship that used the Nicene Creed included the filioque.) I tuned in too late to hear who the gentlemen was (though he did refer to being from Belarus), but I can’t say enough about his forthrightness in bearding the lion in its own den.

The Priest in question seems to be the Very Reverend Siarhei Hardun from the Orthodox Church of Belarus.


Picking Cherries

June 12, 2010

In the history of Christianity, there has never been a century or so where there has not been some kind of theological controversy. In any given controversy it is usually the case that there is a spectrum of positions that occupy some place on the argumentative field. Caution is therefore required in data selection to establish points about who taught what and how widespread a given view in fact was.

Such is the case with the Iconoclastic controversy. Iconoclasm came in a variety of forms and varied over time. Initially iconoclasm in the East identified images of persons and biblical figures as idols while preserving the use of decorative images such as the Cross. Representational (though not necessarily figurative) images of Christ and images of the saints were prohibited. Due to their material composition they could not convey the resurrected glory of the saints. Such was the position around the 750’s. 

By the early ninth century in the East iconoclasm became more moderate even under the favorable impetus of imperial backing. Gone were the arguments by and large that icons were equivalent to idols, along with the Christological arguments that to make an image of Christ implied a major Christological error.

The situation in the West was different for a variety of reasons. The West was a hodgepodge of various kingdoms, with certain parts of the old empire still under the control or influence of Constantinople. The most salient party is that of the Franks, who had forged an alliance with Rome. Politically this had its advantages but also presented problems. With an alliance with the Franks, Rome was far more free and autonomous than under imperial rule. The Franks gained the political and religious legitimacy that they so eagerly coveted.

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Like a Horse and Carriage

May 14, 2010

Please listen here while you enjoy this daily meditation.

“The error of those who say that the Vicar of Christ, the Pontiff of the Roman Church, does not have a primacy over the universal Church is similar to the error of those who say that the Holy Spirit does not proceed from the Son. For Christ himself, the Son of God, consecrates and marks her as his own with the Holy Spirit, as it were with his own character and seal, as the authorities already cited make abundantly clear. And in like manner the Vicar of Christ by his primacy and foresight as a faithful servant keeps the Church Universal subject to Christ. It must, then, be shown from texts of the aforesaid Greek Doctors that the Vicar of Christ holds the fullness of power over the whole Church of Christ.

Thomas Aquinas, Against the Errors of the Greeks, Bk 2, 32.


Mexican Jumping Beans

December 22, 2009

So over at Triablogue, against my better judgment, Steve Hays and I have been going at it. Steve has been kind enough to talk about the Protestant Confessional adherence to the Filioque, a doctrine he admits isn’t justifiable by Scripture alone. If you want to see how a Protestant jumps around trying to avoid the obvious internal inconsistency, go take a look at the comments here,  here and here.  Either they have to give up Sola Scriptura or their doctrine of the Trinity as confessionally stated in say the Westminster Confession or the London Baptist Confession. (Where is James White when you need him, eh?)  And don’t think things like the Covenant of Grace can go through without the assumptions that drive the Filioque. Anyway, its a real hoot to watch a Calvinist jump around.

Have a joyful and merry Christmass everyone.


An Imposition

June 13, 2009

Often in discussions of the Filioque clause, it is pointed out by Catholics that Rome does not require Eastern Catholics to recite the clause. From this it is either argued directly or implied that Rome takes a more tolerant and somewhat charitable position in contradistinction to the Orthodox who do not permit its recitation at all. (Adrian Fortescue exemplifies this in his Rome and Constantinople, 23)

But this is not in fact the case. Rome has directly imposed the recitation of the Filioque on Eastern Catholics and attempted to do so with the Orthodox and the Orientals on a good number of occasions.

Pope Nicholas III for example imposed the recitation of the Filioque as did Martin IV and Nicholas IV. Eugenius IV imposed the Filioque on Armenians when they were received by Rome. When Callistus III sent Simon, O.P. to Crete as an Inquisitor he bid him to make sure that the Greeks recited the Filioque. Even Eastern churches in traditionally Latin geographical locations have been required to employ the Filioque. (See Allatae Sunt, sec. 30-31)

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The Nub

May 6, 2009

Fr. Jean Miguel Garrigues has an interesting article on Latin Trinitarianism relative to the Filioque. Here are some sections that I thought expressed well a major problem. Hat Tip to Bekkos.

The Arian crisis and the reaction of the orthodox fathers would not fundamentally change the Latin theology of the procession. In the East, Arianism, in its radical version with Eunomius, in fact quickly situated its denial of trinitarian consubstantiality on the metaphysical level of the Godhead; marked by Neoplatonic theories of hierarchical participation, Eunomius postulated that any multiplicity of divine persons could only be possible under the form of subordinated participation. That obliged the Cappadocian fathers to confess in God one principle of personal multiplicity, irreducible to any order of essence: the hypostasis. In the East, the natural theology of Eunomius obliged the Cappadocian fathers to profess, in all its irreducibility, an authentic theologia of the Living and Threefold God distinguished from all order of essence, even from that of the economy. But at the same moment the Latin fathers were running up against a more unpolished, less metaphysical Arianism, which was content to deny the divinity of Jesus and of the Spirit in considering them concretely in their economic mission upon the earth. For the Latin fathers, therefore, it was not an issue of defending the possibility of a plurality of persons within a unique divine essence, but of showing that the consubstantial procession of the Son and of the Spirit was prolonged even at the point where they “left the Father” in order to come on their mission into the world. Not needing to confront Eunomius’s philosophical Arianism, the Latin fathers were able to continue their deepening trinitarian reflection in continuity with the economic theology of their third century predecessors. For them, it was a matter of showing that the mission of the Son and of the Spirit “outside the Father” is rooted in the order of their consubstantial procession from him, an order which is revealed in the economy. In this task, they were aided by an assimilation of vocabulary between the verbs proerkhomai (Jn 8:42) and ekporeusthai (Jn 15:26) — the most ancient translations of the Gospels and, following them, St. Jerome’s Vulgate translate these two different Greek verbs by a single Latin verb: procedere… 

 St. Hilary, nevertheless, influenced by the Eastern notion of ekporeusis (he wrote book VIII of De Trinitate in exile in the East) presents a distinction between the procession of the Spirit from the Father (Jn 15:26) and his reception of divinity in the Son who holds this from the Father (Jn 16:14-15). Evidently reserving the verb procedere (in the sense of ekporeusthai) to signify the relation of the Holy Spirit with the Father alone, he nevertheless sees the Holy Spirit as a manifestation of the full trinitarian consubstantiality which he receives from the Father and the Son:

“‘All that the Father has is mine; that is why I told you, “The Spirit will receive from what is mine and will announce it to you” (Jn 16:15). He receives, then, from the Son, he who is sent by him and who proceeds from the Father. And I ask if it is the same thing to receive from the Son and to proceed from the Father. If one thinks there is a difference between receiving from the Son and proceeding from the Father, it is certain, contrariwise, that it is one and the same thing to receive from the Son and to receive from the Father…” (De Trinitate, VIII, 20; PL 10, 251A).

Leaving open the possibility of a specific sense of the procession of the Holy Spirit as ekporeusis from the unique personal principle of the Father, St. Hilary directs his attention above all to the Spirit’s reception of divinity from the Father and the Son. Under this more scriptural term of “reception,” he takes up again, as his own, all the teaching of early Latin tradition concerning the Holy Spirit’s consubstantial procession as seal of the divine plenitude.

“The Father is in the Son and the Son is in the Father, and the Holy Spirit receives from both of them (accipiat ab utroque), given the fact that the Spirit expresses the inviolable unity of this Holy Trinity” (PL 10, 656B).

Unfortunately, St. Hilary’s distinction between procession and reception was too hesitant to have had a decisive influence upon a Latin tradition which, for more than a century, had already fixed the sense of processio as derivation of the triune consubstantiality from the paternal source. It was seen above that St. Ambrose of Milan took up again St. Hilary’s accepit ab utroque (receives from both) in formulating this as a Patre et Filio procedit (proceeds from the Father and the Son)…

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