Tradition Thursday- #1

This post is the start of something new- a series devoted to the writings of the early Fathers of the Church. As you can see from the title, it will be (assuming I decide to keep it going, of course) a feature on Thursdays here on this blog. My hope is that this series will deepen my understanding of the history of the church and to help me develop my faith as well.

The first subject of this series will be the letter written by Saint Clement to the Corinthians. Saint Clement is recognized as a pope and successor to St. Peter (here is the wiki on him).  He wrote the letter in response to sedition and rebellion against religious authority by members of the church in Corinth. While his name is not on the letter, early Christian writers recognized his authorship. Clement uses the plural as he represents the Roman Church (or See)- probably relying on that for authority rather than his position. Given the probable date of composition of the letter- from 70 AD to 96AD, the Apostle John was still alive and some of the New Testament had yet to be written. It is a long letter, too long to quote in a single post.  I will only quote from parts of it, and what I do cover will be split among several posts in this series. As for formatting, I am possibly going to try several methods. In this post I will quote the letter in the original post and include my thoughts in the comments. Perhaps in others I will include them in the OP itself. I will keep the chapter designations of my source for ease of reading and responding. Without further ado:

Chapter 1. The Salutation. Praise of the Corinthians Before the Breaking Forth of Schism Among Them.

The church of God which sojourns at Rome, to the church of God sojourning at Corinth, to them that are called and sanctified by the will of God, through our Lord Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, from Almighty God through Jesus Christ, be multiplied.

Owing, dear brethren, to the sudden and successive calamitous events which have happened to ourselves, we feel that we have been somewhat tardy in turning our attention to the points respecting which you consulted us; and especially to that shameful and detestable sedition, utterly abhorrent to the elect of God, which a few rash and self-confident persons have kindled to such a pitch of frenzy, that your venerable and illustrious name, worthy to be universally loved, has suffered grievous injury. For who ever dwelt even for a short time among you, and did not find your faith to be as fruitful of virtue as it was firmly established? Who did not admire the sobriety and moderation of your godliness in Christ? Who did not proclaim the magnificence of your habitual hospitality? And who did not rejoice over your perfect and well-grounded knowledge? For you did all things without respect of persons, and walked in the commandments of God, being obedient to those who had the rule over you, and giving all fitting honour to the presbyters among you. You enjoined young men to be of a sober and serious mind, you instructed your wives to do all things with a blameless, becoming, and pure conscience, loving their husbands as in duty bound; and you taught them that, living in the rule of obedience, they should manage their household affairs becomingly, and be in every respect marked by discretion.

Chapter 2. Praise of the Corinthians Continued.

Moreover, you were all distinguished by humility, and were in no respect puffed up with pride, but yielded obedience rather than extorted it, and were more willing to give than to receive. Acts 20:35 Content with the provision which God had made for you, and carefully attending to His words, you were inwardly filled with His doctrine, and His sufferings were before your eyes. Thus a profound and abundant peace was given to you all, and you had an insatiable desire for doing good, while a full outpouring of the Holy Spirit was upon you all. Full of holy designs, you did, with true earnestness of mind and a godly confidence, stretch forth your hands to God Almighty, beseeching Him to be merciful unto you, if you had been guilty of any involuntary transgression. Day and night you were anxious for the whole brotherhood, 1 Peter 2:17 that the number of God’s elect might be saved with mercy and a good conscience. You were sincere and uncorrupted, and forgetful of injuries between one another. Every kind of faction and schism was abominable in your sight. You mourned over the transgressions of your neighbours: their deficiencies you deemed your own. You never grudged any act of kindness, being ready to every good work.Titus 3:1 Adorned by a thoroughly virtuous and religious life, you did all things in the fear of God. The commandments and ordinances of the Lord were written upon the tablets of your hearts. Proverbs 7:3

Chapter 3. The Sad State of the Corinthian Church After Sedition Arose in It from Envy and Emulation.

Every kind of honour and happiness was bestowed upon you, and then was fulfilled that which is written, My beloved ate and drank, and was enlarged and became fat, and kicked.Deuteronomy 32:15 Hence flowed emulation and envy, strife and sedition, persecution and disorder, war and captivity. So the worthless rose up against the honoured, those of no reputation against such as were renowned, the foolish against the wise, the young against those advanced in years. For this reason righteousness and peace are now far departed from you, inasmuch as every one abandons the fear of God, and has become blind in His faith, neither walks in the ordinances of His appointment, nor acts a part becoming a Christian, but walks after his own wicked lusts, resuming the practice of an unrighteous and ungodly envy, by which death itself entered into the world. Wisdom 2:24

Chapter 5. No Less Evils Have Arisen from the Same Source in the Most Recent Times. The Martyrdom of Peter and Paul.

But not to dwell upon ancient examples, let us come to the most recent spiritual heroes. Let us take the noble examples furnished in our own generation. Through envy and jealousy the greatest and most righteous pillars [of the church] have been persecuted and put to death. Let us set before our eyes the illustrious apostles. Peter, through unrighteous envy, endured not one or two, but numerous labours; and when he had at length suffered martyrdom, departed to the place of glory due to him. Owing to envy, Paul also obtained the reward of patient endurance, after being seven times thrown into captivity, compelled to flee, and stoned. After preaching both in the east and west, he gained the illustrious reputation due to his faith, having taught righteousness to the whole world, and come to the extreme limit of the west, and suffered martyrdom under the prefects. Thus was he removed from the world, and went into the holy place, having proved himself a striking example of patience.

Chapter 9. Examples of the Saints.

Wherefore, let us yield obedience to His excellent and glorious will; and imploring His mercy and loving-kindness, while we forsake all fruitless labours and strife, and envy, which leads to death, let us turn and have recourse to His compassions. Let us steadfastly contemplate those who have perfectly ministered to his excellent glory. Let us take (for instance) Enoch, who, being found righteous in obedience, was translated, and death was never known to happen to him. Noah, being found faithful, preached regeneration to the world through his ministry; and the Lord saved by him the animals which, with one accord, entered into the ark.

Chapter 10. Continuation of the Above.

Abraham, styled the friend, was found faithful, inasmuch as he rendered obedience to the words of God. He, in the exercise of obedience, went out from his own country, and from his kindred, and from his father’s house, in order that, by forsaking a small territory, and a weak family, and an insignificant house, he might inherit the promises of God. For God said to him, Get you out from your country, and from your kindred, and from your father’s house, into the land which I shall show you. And I will make you a great nation, and will bless you, and make your name great, and you shall be blessed. And I will bless them that bless you, and curse them that curse you; and in you shall all the families of the earth be blessed.Genesis 12:1-3 And again, on his departing from Lot, God said to him, Lift up your eyes, and look from the place where you now are, northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward; for all the land which you see, to you will I give it, and to your seed for ever. And I will make your seed as the dust of the earth, [so that] if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall your seed also be numbered.Genesis 13:14-16 And again [the Scripture] says, God brought forth Abram, and spoke unto him, Look up now to heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them; so shall your seed be. And Abram believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness. On account of his faith and hospitality, a son was given him in his old age; and in the exercise of obedience, he offered him as a sacrifice to God on one of the mountains which He showed him.

Chapter 11. Continuation. Lot.

On account of his hospitality and godliness, Lot was saved out of Sodom when all the country round was punished by means of fire and brimstone, the Lord thus making it manifest that He does not forsake those that hope in Him, but gives up such as depart from Him to punishment and torture. Genesis xix; cf. 2 Peter 2:6-9 For Lot’s wife, who went forth with him, being of a different mind from himself, and not continuing in agreement with him [as to the command which had been given them], was made an example of, so as to be a pillar of salt unto this day. This was done that all might know that those who are of a double mind, and who distrust the power of God, bring down judgment on themselves and become a sign to all succeeding generations.

Chapter 12. The Rewards of Faith and Hospitality. Rahab.

On account of her faith and hospitality, Rahab the harlot was saved. For when spies were sent by Joshua, the son of Nun, to Jericho, the king of the country ascertained that they had come to spy out their land, and sent men to seize them, in order that, when taken, they might be put to death. But the hospitable Rahab receiving them, concealed them on the roof of her house under some stalks of flax. And when the men sent by the king arrived and said, There came men unto you who are to spy out our land; bring them forth, for so the king commands, she answered them, The two men whom you seek came unto me, but quickly departed again and are gone, thus not discovering the spies to them. Then she said to the men, I know assuredly that the Lord your God has given you this city, for the fear and dread of you have fallen on its inhabitants. When therefore you shall have taken it, keep ye me and the house of my father in safety. And they said to her, It shall be as you have spoken to us. As soon, therefore, as you know that we are at hand, you shall gather all your family under your roof, and they shall be preserved, but all that are found outside of your dwelling shall perish. Moreover, they gave her a sign to this effect, that she should hang forth from her house a scarlet thread. And thus they made it manifest that redemption should flow through the blood of the Lord to all them that believe and hope in God. You see, beloved, that there was not only faith, but prophecy, in this woman.

Chapter 13. An Exhortation to Humility.

Let us therefore, brethren, be of humble mind, laying aside all haughtiness, and pride, and foolishness, and angry feelings; and let us act according to that which is written (for the Holy Spirit says, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, neither let the rich man glory in his riches; but let him that glories glory in the Lord, in diligently seeking Him, and doing judgment and righteousness ), being especially mindful of the words of the Lord Jesus which He spoke teaching us meekness and long-suffering. For thus He spoke: Be merciful, that you may obtain mercy; forgive, that it may be forgiven to you; as you do, so shall it be done unto you; as you judge, so shall you be judged; as you are kind, so shall kindness be shown to you; with what measure ye mete, with the same it shall be measured to you. By this precept and by these rules let us establish ourselves, that we walk with all humility in obedience to His holy words. For the holy word says, On whom shall I look, but on him that is meek and peaceable, and that trembles at my words?Isaiah 66:2

[Source]

My comments to follow.

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85 Comments

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85 responses to “Tradition Thursday- #1

  1. trugingstar

    What you’re talking about is correlation, not causation.

  2. happyhen11

    Truging,

    There was one Church with 5 traditional Apostolic Sees: Jerusalem, Antioch, Rome, Alexandria, and Constantinople. “Apostolic” means an Apostle ( on whose shoulders Christ Himself laid the authority of His Church) was the foundational bishop of that church and these Sees or cities were chosen in the Council of Nicea, First Council of Constantinople, and then the Council of Chalcedon as Christian centers of authority. To this day ALL bishops ordained to Apostolic Sees or those who received their authority from those Sees receive this authority of the Apostles at their enthronement as part of an unbroken line of succession. By example, my bishop in under the authority of the Patriarch of Constantinople and thus the authority granted by St. Andrew the First Called of the Apostles who was the founding and first bishop of Constantinople. These unbroken lines of succession are recorded and many can even be accessed online thanks to technology. BUT in other words…. it’s a big deal… a really big deal.

    In 451 AD, after the Council of Chalcedon, there was a disagreement inside the See of Alexandria (with smaller groups in other Sees) concerning the 2 natures of Christ. The disagreeing group, labelled the Monophosyites, broke from the Church due to this disagreement and thus the first large break, the Oriental Orthodox and Coptic Churches.

    The next large break would not come until the mutual anathemas and excommunications of the Patriarchs of Rome and Constantinople in 1054 AD. This, known as the Great Schism, had been brewing for many many years with many smaller schisms, reunifications, and reconciliations prior to that point. This Great Schism had many reasons, none of which I will go into but it laid the foundation for the separating of East and West we still have today. At this juncture, the See of Rome and Her Patriarch (the Roman Pontiff or Pope) went her way and the still unified Sees of Constantinople, Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch and their Patriarchs went their way…. thus creating Western Catholic Christendom and Eastern Orthodoxy*. Both have gone on to evangelize, spread the Gospel, do good, and both have spread across the globe.

    Protestantism occurred as schism in Western Christendom. It’s most recognizable and formative moment being on October 31, 1517 when Martin Luther, a German Catholic priest, nailed his ninety-five theses on the church door in Wittenberg, protesting some of the practices of the Catholic Church at that time, hence the name PROTESTant. And thus the Reformation. The Catholic Counter-reformation (and the Catholic Revival) starting with the Council of Trent in 1545 addressed some of Luther’s concerns to the betterment of the Catholic Church (and dismissed some as heresy or false teaching) but schism and protestantism were there to stay. And then, the deluge. If you wish more information on the sects of protestantism and how they differ from each other, there are plenty of sources out there on the internet but beware, at last count there were 40,000 different protestant denominations in the US alone, a daunting task indeed.

    There is a great deal more to all as you can imagine but that should help with some of the terms and thoughts being expressed.

    I am Orthodox so I will not comment on threads pertaining to Catholic Tradition specifically. But I grew up protestant (Southern Baptist), bless many of the things the church of my upbringing gave me, and understand God knew the journey I had to take to find Him. The Great Physician of our souls knows the medicine we need.

    *As an aside and clarification, the term “Greek Orthodox” is an American aberration due to the multiple, very recent, and even ongoing diaspora from traditionally Orthodox nations. The Orthodox Church regardless of the nationality (Russian, Serbian, Romanian, Greek, Ukrainian) of it’s people is unified in doctrine and liturgy. Nationality attached to Orthodoxy merely designate the nation of origin of those who founded the church, the American or foreign jurisdiction to which their hierarch is affiliated and from whom he receives his authority, and possibly the language that is used in the service. In the US, that last one is pretty variable as English is fast becoming the common language. I attend a Greek Orthodox parish (and have attended services at Antiochian, Romanian, Serbian, and Russian parishes as well) but we use little to no Greek and have many families from Ukraine and Russia who also attend. Orthodoxy traditionally evangelized and then conducts services in the native language of the people of the area so when they came to America, the “Greek church” was in Greektown and the “Russian church” was in Russiantown. But they are all the same Orthodox Church.

  3. Feminine But Not Feminist

    Tru, we can all have our own opinions. But what matters in the end is Truth. There are thousands of different denominations, and even more people who consider themselves to be “nondenominational”. I used to be one of them. But they can’t all be right, only one can.

  4. Of course its causation. You didn’t just spontaneously have the idea of Sola Scriptura form inside your head. You received instruction on Christianity from others before you. And their background was Protestant. Your thought patterns developed over time thanks to the influences of others, who were in turn influenced by those before them.

  5. trugingstar

    Before there was the Roman Catholic tradition, there was Zealousness for the Law (Acts 21). So, Zealousness for the Law is the most important tradition.

  6. Thanks for your comment and explanation Happyhen. I appreciate it when our Orthodox brothers and sisters add their perspective.

    It think you will like this series, as it will be focused on pre-schism Tradition- the early fathers of the Church.

  7. trugingstar

    I told you how I had the “idea of Sola Scriptura from my head.”

    It’s very simple.

    Is there a God or isn’t there?

    Well, long story short, a number of events proved His existence.

    Does He care about humanity or is He (or she or them) shy?

    There are many world religions, and a desire for people to have religion, so God is not shy.

    Is God malevolent or beneficent?

    If He is malevolent, then the extent to which He is mean is either by causing religious confusion or by being some kind of a spiteful God, like Allah. I do not wish to worship a spiteful God, no matter how powerful.

    Is He honest or dishonest?

    If He’s honest and benevolent, then he would attempt to lay out a Scripture that was honest, trust worthy, and capable of being interpreted by any person, whether fool or small child. If He is dishonest about some things, He’s a liar, and I can’t trust that He’s benevolent.

    Is He omnipotent or not?
    If he is benevolent, honest, and omnipotent, there would be a simple scripture and clear evidence of His existence. There would not be a reason for error in the Scripture.

    So, I tested it. If I can prove that the Bible is wrong at any given point, than I have evidence that God is either not omnipotent or not honest. But from what I’ve found, Genesis 1 describes a round earth, when interpreted painstakingly literally.

  8. trugingstar

    @happyhen

    But plainly, it’s not a schism at all. The Greeks see it as Roman protest to the true church. The Romans see it as Greek protest to the true church. You and Donal should see each other as Protestants as much as you see me as a Protestant. Why all the back-patting?

  9. happyhen11

    Thank you Donal. It sounds to be a very interesting series.

  10. trugingstar

    I would go to a Baptist church or a Bible church, but what if I said that I align myself as Messianic? I don’t follow Gentile denominations. I believe in the Remnant Theology that the Romans 11 remnant is and has been protected in Israel for thousands of years. Until the Nations have all received the gospel, it shall remain a remnant. After the fullness of the Gentiles has come to pass (everyone has heard), the fulness of Abraham will come to pass.

    So, the first “scism” would have been at the council of Nicaea. The Jews were not allowed to Biblically live as they were called and also stay a part of the newly-formed “Church.” I simply side with the Nazarine church (not to be confused with the denomination known as “Nazarine” or with the heretic Ebionites). I think the other churches protested from a Jewish faith. I think the Romans were naughty and disobeyed Paul, as per Romans 11, by saying that their grafting-in was to replace the Jews. It’s not a complete church if Abraham’s line can’t live as they were called by the Abrahamic Covenant. Orthodox/Catholic churches made this illegal under their order, so they’re not the real church. There may be branches within them that are grafted into the real church, but as churches, they are red herrings.

  11. trugingstar

    *edit: “biggest” schism, not first. 😛

  12. happyhen11

    “Why all the back-patting?”

    Donal and I, I am sure, pray for the reunification of our Churches and all Christians across the globe regularly. As it stands, we have found our respective homes through the grace of God. I am not in the habit of condemning people for seeking the Truth with faith and love. I shall leave that task to the perfect.

  13. trugingstar

    You pray for reunification, but you’re in disagreement. Just stop identifying yourselves as Greek/Roman and aligning yourselves with denominational doctrine and bam! Your prayers are answered.

  14. Patrick

    “I will say that you don’t interpret the Bible correctly, as you aren’t interpreting it verbatim.”

    You aren’t following it verbatim because the Bible isn’t in the Bible. Or where in the Bible does the Bible say what the Bible is? How do you even know what books are supposed to be in the Bible if following the Bible verbatim is supposedly your only guide? Therefore, you don’t believe only in the Bible and your own interpretation of it. You implicitly believe in whoever or whatever historical process produced the Bible as the Bible.

    As far as “Protestant” goes, that’s an historical term that refers to a particular movement. You could redefine it to mean pretty much anything, but that’s not the common usage that everyone mutually understands when they refer to “Protestant.”

  15. mdavid

    FBNF, You really should read this book.

    I’m interested in why this particular book had such a large effect on you. I haven’t read it but was considering buying it about 5 years ago, and I might now. What specifically was the draw, and how would you compare it to others like it? Thanks.

  16. Mrs. C

    I wonder if the reason why following a particular Church doesn’t seem to matter much comes from the initial belief of “once saved always saved”. A person who believes this, would have a hard time seeing the need to worry about what “Biblical” church they attend. If your salvation is already assured, then you are free to find or bounce around among any church home. It just becomes a matter of who you agree with or what gives you personal edification.

    I don’t know what tru believes about salvation but if it’s once saved always saved, then salvation and how you obtain that is what needs to be discussed.

  17. mdavid

    Happy, See of Rome and Her Patriarch (the Roman Pontiff or Pope) went her way and the still unified Sees of Constantinople, Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch and their Patriarchs went their way…. thus creating Western Catholic Christendom and Eastern Orthodoxy*. Both have gone on to evangelize, spread the Gospel, do good, and both have spread across the globe.

    By 660, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem were gone. So it’s pretty much just Rome vs Constantinople. And Constantinople foolishly pushed caesaropapism. That did not bode well for Orthodoxy over the following years.

    I also think your historical interpretation is biased to Orthodoxy. Here’s why:
    First, there are many Eastern rites within Roman Catholicism, but none of the Western rites in Orthodoxy.
    Second, Eastern Orthodoxy is hardly “spread across the globe” in quantity like Catholics are; it’s pretty local to Europe and a few outposts. Orthodoxy is <17% of Christianity and falling in proportion.
    Third, Catholics have continued to hold universal councils as before the split, while the Orthodox, lacking Peter, have not. Yet they attended the prior ones. On this the Orthodox have changed and Catholics have not.
    Fourth, Catholics have grown in number and space since the split, while Orthodoxy has retracted (proportionally, 51% vs 17%). If this continues at pace, Orthodox will fade to black in another 1,000 years.
    Fifth, the doctrine is now quite different; unification would be impossible unless the Orthodox changed, and that ain't going to happen.

    In summary, it's not like an "even" split as implied above. It's much more like the Orthodox went their own way and have suffered for it, while Catholics have remained, well, universal (catholic) and prospered.

    [DG: Let’s save the West/East debates for another thread, shall we?]

  18. happyhen11

    Yes, mdavid, you never fail to remind me of why I didn’t become Catholic.

  19. nooneslisteninganyway

    The catholic church is logical, mdavid?
    That’s a strange thing to say. I find their theology quite Byzantine, if you’ll pardon the expression.

  20. mdavid

    Happy, you never fail to remind me of why I didn’t become Catholic

    Either my historical understanding jars (I try to be historically accurate) or you find me personally offensive, but neither reason is sufficient to become any religion.

    And I’m certainly not suggesting you (nor anyone else in this combox) should become Catholic. Personally, I think Orthodoxy fills an important space between Catholicism and protestantism.

    no none, The catholic church is logical, mdavid? That’s a strange thing to say. I find their theology quite Byzantine…

    Complex problems lack simple solutions (Chinese saying). God is infinite by definition, so the closer you get, the more complex any understanding must be. This is just the basic requirements of logic itself.

    Amusingly, Byzantine’s are Catholic (I used to attend).

  21. mdavid

    DG, most modern scholars now believe that Mark (as we have it now) predated the present form of Matthew

    For your amusement: Our bishop said this nonsense from the pulpit today at my church…and then started to spout about tradition regarding other things. I just glared and growled. Wife gave me the evil eye.

  22. happyhen11

    mdavid,
    While I will not venture into matters of doctrine as that is a mine field and our host is a kind and generous man and probably doesn’t want theological grenades turning his fine salon into a saloon, I will address some non-doctrinal issues and errors in your statement.

    “First, there are many Eastern rites within Roman Catholicism, but none of the Western rites in Orthodoxy.”

    Yes, there are actually. I’m sorry you weren’t aware of them. They are not as well known as the Byzantine/Uniate Churches nor as numerous but they do indeed exists in multiple jurisdictions. Their advent mostly came in the 19th century as Orthodox spread into traditionally Catholic and protestant areas. It was not uncommon for whole parishes to convert to Orthodoxy and yet seek to maintain their Western liturgical praxis and rich cultural heritage. And while there is still some variation in that praxis, the doctrines they believe and teach are Orthodox.
    http://www.rwrv.org/
    http://www.antiochian.org/western-rite
    http://www.staugustinedenver.org/index.html
    http://www.stmichaelwhittier.org/parish-site/
    http://www.stsoc.org/#/home

    “Second, Eastern Orthodoxy is hardly “spread across the globe” in quantity like Catholics are; it’s pretty local to Europe and a few outposts. Orthodoxy is <17% of Christianity and falling in proportion."

    Actually somewhere between 12-15% (200-300 million I think is the count) would probably be more accurate and if you examine my statement I never claimed Orthodox numbers equaled Catholic nor even came close, only that both churches did indeed spread out and did and still do good in the name of Christ. I would consider missionary action from Russian Alaska and China and South East Asia to Africa to Australia and to present day United States, Canada, and Central and South America to spreading across the globe. Orthodoxy exists on every inhabited continent on this planet and where she is planted, she grows. No, our numbers are not as great as the Catholic Church but the Catholic Church did not and does not continually suffer under the yoke of extreme Muslim animosity nor did the bulk of the Catholic world suffer under the barbarity and murderous reign of Communism that created more martyrs to the faith than any other force in history. Having read numerous biographical accounts of monks and priests from those nations, I am humbled by their zeal and the faith they must have to have kept the Church alive under the overwhelming oppression. The single most moving was recounted in the book "Father George Calciu: Interviews, Homilies, and Talks." If anyone can get through the account of his 21 years of imprisonment and torture at the hands of Romanian communists without shedding tears, you are made of sterner stuff than I.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/11/25/AR2006112500783.html
    http://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2011/04/fr-george-calciu-first-century-christian-in-the-twentieth-century

    "Third, Catholics have continued to hold universal councils as before the split, while the Orthodox, lacking Peter, have not."

    Universal or Ecumenical Councils have nothing to do with St Peter, one of the founding bishops of the churches of Jerusalem, Antioch, and Rome. They are held in special circumstances generally stemming from a need to clarify doctrine in the light of a threatening heresy that has gained a foothold in the Church body : Arainism, Nestorianism, Monophysitism, Monothelitism, and iconoclasm. They also address matters necessary for the faith: the Creed, the Incarnation and 2 natures of Christ, the Trinity, the necessity of icons in worship. As the Orthodox doctrines necessary to the faith have not changed and praxis has changed very little (we still use the Liturgies of St Basil the Great 4th century, St John Chrysostom 5th century and the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts 6th century as the praxis of communion), there has simply been no need for a Universal council. All that is left is more mundane non-doctrinal issues. That is what regional and local councils have traditionally been used for and are still used for to this day. Regional or local councils have been an Orthodox tradition since the start. And Orthodox have had a great many local councils in the past 1000 years. In fact, a great many were held around the time of the Western protestant Reformation in order to clarify the Orthodox position on the theologies popping up out of this movement. I guess we could have slapped the term Ecumenical on a few of those but that, in the opinion of many, would cheapen the nature of the true Ecumenical Councils that proclaimed the Truth in the face of heresy.

    http://oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodox-faith/doctrine/sources-of-christian-doctrine/the-councils
    http://mb-soft.com/believe/txw/orthcoun.htm

    "Either my historical understanding jars (I try to be historically accurate) or you find me personally offensive, but neither reason is sufficient to become any religion."

    Or it could just be that I think you are wrong and your wrongness exemplifies many characteristics of the few but very zealous of your faith that interpret all of history in the shining light of Western Christendom with little or no recognition that there was and is a great big world out there that has little to do with the Medieval Frankish Church and what she has become. It is a distasteful failing that in seemingly the one bad apple that spoils the bunch.

    As to you personally, I get the feeling you are a very amiable and a likeable person.

  23. Patrick

    Happy Hen,
    The Western Rite links you list, at least the first two, are a modern outreach effort, not analogous to what mdavid mentioned, which are long-established eastern rites of the Catholic Church that recognize the authority of the Bishop of Rome. Even the Orthodox recognize that Peter and his successors are special, though they do circumscribe his authority.
    One of the Western Rite websites has this: “The Holy Catholic Church; otherwise known as the Orthodox Church, was united across all of the Holy Roman Empire. From Byzantium in the east all the way to Rome in the west and even in the British Isles and what is now modern-day France. The Church existed in a way that was united in doctrine and theology for over a thousand years after the day of Pentecost in AD 33.”
    One reason I didn’t go to Orthodoxy is the name change. Both Catholic and Orthodox basically say the same thing about the Church since Pentecost. There’s a group known as the Old Catholics who formed in opposition to Vatican I believing the Church went of the rail and they, the Old Catholics, were maintaining the true orthodox position. That’s kind of like Orthodoxy. The “Old” Catholics could just as easily have been the “Orthodox” Catholics, or just the Orthodox.

  24. Patrick

    About themselves as the being “the Church” I mean

  25. happyhen11

    “The Western Rite links you list, at least the first two, are a modern outreach effort, not analogous to what mdavid mentioned, which are long-established eastern rites of the Catholic Church that recognize the authority of the Bishop of Rome. Even the Orthodox recognize that Peter and his successors are special, though they do circumscribe his authority.”

    Some Eastern Rites in the Catholic Church have no Orthodox or Oriental counterpart but very few. So in the case of the vast majority of Eastern Rite we are dealing with situations in which politics or power influenced said conversions to Rome or hierarchs followed what they saw to be the right course at the time but the vast majority of the modern Eastern Rite started as Orthodox or Oriental in nature. Regardless, proselytizing to those we see as Christian though not Orthodox has not been an activity most Orthodox have participated in as a means of evangelism and even when Orthodox have been less generous in our description of other Christians, the conversion of those of the West who already espouse faith in Christ under duress due to political realities is just not something we have done with any regularity. So while the Eastern Rite Catholic Churches may show the diversity of Catholicism at the present time (which even without the Eastern Rite is diverse in people and cultural tradition), the history of the conversion of those churches is enlightening.

    The simple fact that Vatican II had to affirm the legitimacy of Eastern Catholics liturgy and the practice of infant chrismation and the giving of communion to infants (something Orthodox have always done) and Rome’s insistence that Eastern practices be revived where they had actively been repressed or Latinized and even lost entirely points to the very uneasy alliance up to that time of the converted Eastern and original Western rites in the Catholic Church.

    Western Rite churches in Orthodoxy generally come into being as a need to offer the Western Liturgical Traditions, at times almost forgotten in Orthodoxy, to those who long for that and who also long to revive pre-Tridentine Western liturgies and the cultural character that many of those beautiful liturgies contributed. As for it being outreach, in the West, all of Orthodoxy today is outreach, period, though active evangelism on the level of evangelical protestant churches is not normative. The form and place those Western Rite parishes occupy is still being realized and the bishops are moving very slowly and actively monitoring. Church policy in Orthodoxy is glacial if anything but most of us are fine with that as going slow leads to less error, less “progress,” and far far less “innovation.”

    As to the Holy Glorious and All-Praised Leader of the Apostles, Peter, absolutely (I love the full names of Saints!). And it is commonly known that had the Great Schism been mended (or never happened) the Patriarch of Rome to this day would hold the highest seat of honor as First Among Equals, the seat now held by the Patriarch of Constantinople. That said, the divisions now are quite numerous and even the basics of some theology have drifted very far apart. Plus, Orthodoxy is far more bottom up in leadership while remaining top down in authority. As much as the world and the media likes to call our Ecumenical Patriarch an Eastern pope, ask most Orthodox in the world and his status as the most revered of bishops yet one of many bishops will be confirmed. When he is in council, his seat is level will all other bishops, he has one vote, and first and foremost he is as much a servant of his flock as any other bishop.

    “Both Catholic and Orthodox basically say the same thing about the Church since Pentecost. ”

    Not really but again that is doctrinal. I suggest further study as the doctrines, church organization, and approaches to theology of the East and West by even the 800’s especially had become divergent.

    As to the name of churches, churches didn’t have placards outside. The Hagia Sophia wasn’t The Hagia Sofia Catholic Church and then in 1054 they scribbled out Catholic and wrote in Orthodox. The Church was both orthodox and catholic. Catholic from the Greek katholikos for universal. Orthodox from the Greek orthos meaning “right” and doxa meaning “opinion”. So I guess one could say at the schism in the opinion of the respective churches, the East became catholic and Orthodox and the West became Catholic and orthodox.

  26. Patrick

    Why would the Patriarch of Constantinople be the most honored after the Patriarch of Rome and not one of the other patriarchates? Rome got the honor because of Peter not because it was Rome.

    “As much as the world and the media likes to call our Ecumenical Patriarch an Eastern pope, ask most Orthodox in the world and his status as the most revered of bishops yet one of many bishops will be confirmed.”

    Seems to me he ought to be merely one among many. If the actual First Among Equals departed, there would only be Equals remaining. I don’t see any reason why one would become First, unless there was also a Second Among Equals when the First was still there. But at that point the entire “Among Equals” idea would go out the window, because they would have long since hashed out who was Third and so on.

    “So in the case of the vast majority of Eastern Rite we are dealing with situations in which politics or power influenced said conversions to Rome or hierarchs followed what they saw to be the right course at the time but the vast majority of the modern Eastern Rite started as Orthodox or Oriental in nature.”

    So some Eastern hierarchs of Eastern Catholic Rites, I guess, stuck with Peter from before the Great Schism or returned after the fact. I wonder if there are any Western Orthodox Rites like that? That’s what mdavid was saying.

    It was the Catholic Church like in the creed, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, instead of the One, Holy, Orthodox, and Apostolic Church. So one opted for a name change to make a point and one remained the same.

    ““Both Catholic and Orthodox basically say the same thing about the Church since Pentecost. ”

    Not really but again that is doctrinal.”

    I meant to say that they say the same thing about themselves as far as being the true Church from Pentecost, etc.

    “Church policy in Orthodoxy is glacial if anything but most of us are fine with that as going slow leads to less error, less “progress,” and far far less “innovation.””

    Yeah, that’s an issue in the Catholic Church these days. I haven’t encountered it much as a convert directly into the old liturgy. I can see in theory though how the essential ability to innovate and progress is a good thing versus a much more glacial consensus-driven dynamic, even if it has unfortunately lead most recently to things like the new liturgy.

  27. happyhen11

    Good stuff Patrick. Thank you for the enlightening conversation. All that reading and research I have done over the years is being put to the test :p

    “Rome got the honor because of Peter not because it was Rome. ”

    It got that title because it was the capital city of the Roman Empire at the time, the largest city in the known world, and incredibly influential as well as being the See in which Peter was bishop at the time he was martyred, as it was not the only See he helped to found as bishop. By the time of the schism, Rome was little more than a backwater outpost on the far reaches of the Byzantine Roman Empire due to the repeated sacking it had faced at the hands of Visigoths, Vandals, etc. Peter was one of the founding bishops of the Churches in Antioch and Jerusalem as well and both of those prior to Rome. And during the Apostolic Council of Jerusalem in which Judaizing was condemned, Peter was not the leader of that council though he was considered the first among the Apostles. St. James was the ruling Bishop of Jerusalem and thus the bishop of the city in which the Council was held was the Bishop who stated and penned the final decree.

    Primus inter pares, or “first among equals”, means exactly what is says. Primacy not supremacy, that is a very important concept. With this, Orthodox have no argument and never have. It is a very important distinction to make when you have a body of bishops who all share the same rank.. a bishop is a bishop is a bishop. Nowhere is an ecclesiastical rank higher than bishop mentioned. Even Patriarch is merely a title attached to the rank of bishop, a bishop of one of the Patriarchal Sees. It is also important in understanding that in a system where leadership most often comes from the bottom, from the parish level, and authority comes from the top, the Bishop is as much a servant of the people as the people are servants of the Bishop. Orthodoxy is not feudal. When you are used to a system that specifies that one bishop is not simply higher than all other bishops in honor but a prince among bishops in the Church, the Papacy makes sense. The Pope is also the living breathing substitute for Christ on Earth, Vicarius Christi, substitute of Christ. (Orthodoxy does not have this concept.) This very much resembles a monarchy, most specifically that of Rome and then the feudal monarchical system of the German Franks and then the Normans. The worlds the two Churches grew up in, helped to create, and had to exist in/cooperate with to survive influenced how they governed, evangelized, and ruled.

    Now why should the “Primus inter pares” fall to Constantinople after the schism? Well, Canon III of the Second Ecumenical Council in 381 granted to Constantinople the position of primacy second only to Rome, and primacy of the Eastern Patriarchates. All of this was due to Constantinople’s status as the then Capital city of the Roman Empire, since Emperor Constantine had officially made it so in 324. Byzantium was Rome, the Empire. Constantinople was called The New Rome. The Byzantines did not go by that term but Romans as the Roman Emperor from that time on resided in Constantinople. When Rome was no longer in communion, the Primus inter pares fell to Constantinople, the New Rome.

    “So some Eastern hierarchs of Eastern Catholic Rites, I guess, stuck with Peter from before the Great Schism or returned after the fact. I wonder if there are any Western Orthodox Rites like that? That’s what mdavid was saying. ”

    Obviously everything in the West was isolated by great distance from the East and was simply ceded to Rome as was appropriate in light of declarations in the Third and Fourth Ecumenical Councils declaring that bishops from one province are inviolate in their diocese and that no other bishop has that right to interfere with their church. The entirety of the West was Rome’s by right as her bishops were the shepherds of those flocks. Rome did not take this attitude however with eastern bishops and actively proselytized Eastern Christians in order to secure power for Roman Supremacy in the East. Pope Nicholas I (of the Photian/Nicholaitan Schism) and Bulgaria is a good example. As to the Eastern Rite aligned with Rome, you might look into the politics and the results of the Union of Brest in 1595 to see what I am referring to concerning political pressures brought to bear. As far as I know the only two non-Orthodox or Oriental originate groups within the Eastern Rite are the Maronite and the Syro-Malabar both of which suffered under the forced Latinization condemned and rescinded by Vatican II. There may be others I am not aware of but most Eastern Rite separated from the Orthodox or Oriental Churches to join Rome for one reason or another.

    I am aware of what mdavid is saying. I also don’t see why it is even an issue as the Roman Catholic Church sought to Latinize and essentially eliminate the Eastern praxis of the Eastern Rite for many years prior to Vatican II , obviously seeing Eastern praxis as inferior to the Latin Rite. Even to this day some Eastern Rite clergy feel the Roman Church sees them as inconsequential or even detrimental to universal reconciliation. That Pope Paul VI codified the Eastern Rite’s right to existence and verified the authenticity of it’s praxis and beliefs (a very Orthodox praxis) and saw those Eastern Rite churches as valuable might also have a great deal to do with the last few Popes not only being outwardly friendly with the Orthodox Church but downright conciliatory both in meetings and revision of theological statements. But to claim that the very modern and present day view of the Eastern Rite has overarching implications on Catholic claims to universal supremacy seems a bit specious if not outright implausible.

    “It was the Catholic Church like in the creed, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, instead of the One, Holy, Orthodox, and Apostolic Church. So one opted for a name change to make a point and one remained the same. ”

    Oh my. That’s a new one for me. Yes, the Four Marks of the Church. From the Orthodox perspective while yes the Nicean-Constaninopolitan Creed does use the word catholic (along with a 3 other words) to describe the Church, the use of that word signifies a characteristic of the Church not a formal name… it was never a name as the Church of Christ needed no name but did in fact use the term catholic as a descriptive to elevate itself above the religious meetings of the various heretical groups who also claimed to be Christian. The Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church were one and both simply the Church when the creed was ratified. The first recorded use of the term catholic as an adjective describing the Church I think was St. Ignatius of Antioch. The term orthodox as an adjective for the church was first used in the 5th century, I think in response to the Monophysitism heresy and the first major schism of the Church but I’ll have to do more research on that. I can understand the confusion but the use of the word catholic offers no amount of legitimacy from a doctrinal point of view, it is merely a descriptive title. The use of the adjective catholic is understandable in light of the schism as the use of the adjective orthodox or “right belief” by the East. They were both making a theological point that should not be lost on us if we know our history.
    Fr. Thomas Hopko on the term catholic:
    “The term “catholic” as originally used to define the Church (as early as the first decades of the second century) was a definition of quality rather than quantity. Calling the Church catholic means to define how it is, namely, full and complete, all-embracing, and with nothing lacking.

    Even before the Church was spread over the world, it was defined as catholic. The original Jerusalem Church of the apostles, or the early city-churches of Antioch, Ephesus, Corinth, or Rome, were catholic. These churches were catholic — as is each and every Orthodox church today — because nothing essential was lacking for them to be the genuine Church of Christ. God Himself is fully revealed and present in each church through Christ and the Holy Spirit, acting in the local community of believers with its apostolic doctrine, ministry (hierarchy), and sacraments, thus requiring nothing to be added to it in order for it to participate fully in the Kingdom of God.” http://orthodoxwiki.org/One_Holy_Catholic_and_Apostolic_Church

    “I can see in theory though how the essential ability to innovate and progress is a good thing versus a much more glacial consensus-driven dynamic, even if it has unfortunately lead most recently to things like the new liturgy.”

    On this we shall disagree. In my 40 years, the world has changed enough. Sameness in doctrine is good. Slow change in praxis is good. Glacial is where it is at, in my opinion. I can safely say the Tridentine Mass in Latin (and even the English translation) is one of the most beautiful creations of the Western world as is the choral music of the medieval Roman Catholic Church. Call me old fashioned and a traditionalist but I like old things. Innovation and doctrinal developmentalism messes with my zen.

  28. Novaseeker

    Regarding “name change”.

    In the East, due to the numerous schisms (e.g., after Nicea, after Chalcedon), the Church was known as “Orthodox” in contradistinction to the churches which were separated (the non-Chalcedonians, in the main, but also people like the iconoclasts). This was prior to the East/West schism and had nothing to do with a rebranding of the Eastern Church thereafter. “Orthodox” was simply how the Church referred to itself in the East, to distinguish it from other churches in the East. The mark “catholic” from the creed was never dropped from use in its meaning or in the recitation of the creed, but at the same time the use of the term “orthodox Christians” in the Eastern/Constantinopolitan liturgy is an ancient use.

    As for the so-called “great schism” itself, I have, over the course of the last 14 years in Orthodoxy, come to share David Bentley Hart’s skepticism of the “reality” of it: http://fatherdavidbirdosb.blogspot.com/2012/05/myth-of-schism-by-david-bentley-hart.html , to wit:

    That said, it is still not the case, even in the modern period, that an absolute division between the two communions has ever existed. Under communist rule in Russia, for instance, Orthodox and Catholic communicants sometimes received from the same chalice, with tacit episcopal consent, and there are parts of Syria and Lebanon today where this fluidity of boundaries is an open secret and intercommunion a simple fact of life. In fact, I know of two Syrian parishes in the United States that have passed from the jurisdiction of an Orthodox to a Catholic bishop or in the opposite direction where communicants who consider themselves either Catholic or Orthodox belong to one church and one altar. To put it simply, there has never been a time when a perfect and impermeable wall has stood between the sacramental orders of East and West.

    Perhaps none of this is very important: local irregularities, after all, are not an index of church discipline. But all of this raises a question for me. To wit: when and where can we really locate the schism? Not only in time and space, that is, but within dogmatic and canonical norms? We are divided, we know, but how, when, and by what authority? And, while it is a social and cultural and political fact that we are divided, what is its theological rationale? Can the failure of communion between two patriarchs or bishops—a frequent event in the early church—create a real division of sacramentally united communions from one another? Could, for instance, the Orthodox really believe that the pope could excommunicate another patriarch and his flock? By what provision of Eastern canon law? And if Rome cannot, how much less Constantinople? And if communion has never truly wholly ceased, how can we actually identify the moment, the cause, or in fact the possibility of that division?

    And this, I think, may be the real question that a discussion of papal jurisdiction must ultimately broach, the least obvious or expected question of all: not how we can possibly discover the doctrinal and theological resources that would enable or justify reunion, but how we can possibly discover the doctrinal and theological resources that could justify or indeed make certain our division. This is not a moral question—how do we dare to remain disunited?—but a purely canonical one: are we sure that we are? For, if not, then our division is simply sin, a habit of desire and thought that feeds upon nothing but its own perverse passions and immanent logic, a fiction of the will, and obedience to a lie.

    In any event, my last remark is only this: reunion of the Orthodox and Roman Churches has become an imperative, and time is growing short. I say this because I often suffer from bleak premonitions of the ultimate cultural triumph in the West of a consumerism so devoid of transcendent values as to be, inevitably, nothing but a pervasive and pitiless nihilism. And it is, I think, a particularly soothing and saccharine nihilism, possessing a singular power for absorbing the native energies of the civilization it is displacing without prompting any extravagant alarm at its vacuous barbarisms. And I suspect that the only tools at Christianity’s disposal, as it confronts the rapid and seemingly inexorable advance of this nihilism, will be evangelical zeal and internal unity. I like to think—call it the Sophiologist in me—that the tribulations that Eastern Christianity has suffered under Islamic and communist rule have insulated it from some of the more corrosive pathologies of modernity for a purpose, and endowed it with a special mission to bring its liturgical, intellectual, and spiritual strengths to the aid of the Western Christian world in its struggle with the nihilism that the post-Christian West has long incubated and that now surrounds us all, while yet drawing on the strengths and charisms of the Western church to preserve Orthodoxy from the political and cultural frailty that still afflicts Eastern Christianity. Whatever the case, though, we are more in need of one another now than ever. To turn away from ecumenism now may be to turn towards the darkness that is deepening all about us. We are called to be children of light, and I do not think that we will walk very far in the light hereafter except together.

    Nothing Protestants, who are outside the Church by definition, have to say regarding that matters much, in my opinion.

  29. Patrick

    “Peter was one of the founding bishops of the Churches in Antioch and Jerusalem as well and both of those prior to Rome. And during the Apostolic Council of Jerusalem in which Judaizing was condemned, Peter was not the leader of that council though he was considered the first among the Apostles.”

    Ah, so the Orthodox opinion of Peter isn’t quite as elevated as it first appears. Do the Bishops of Antioch and Jerusalem kind of consider themselves successors of Peter since he evidently helped found those sees?

    “All of this was due to Constantinople’s status as the then Capital city of the Roman Empire, since Emperor Constantine had officially made it so in 324. Byzantium was Rome, the Empire. Constantinople was called The New Rome.”

    Then even when Rome was a mere backwater in the fading empire, it had primacy over Byzantium, which was the New Rome. And that because Peter’s primacy followed Peter himself. I read that Alexandria was Second but got bumped to Third by that council, but that Rome didn’t recognize Byzantium’s Second Among Equals status till after the Great Schism. To me, the general picture I see developing here still confirms going Catholic rather than Orthodox.

    “Rome did not take this attitude however with eastern bishops and actively proselytized Eastern Christians in order to secure power for Roman Supremacy in the East.”

    I can easily see that being understood differently.

    “I also don’t see why it is even an issue as the Roman Catholic Church sought to Latinize and essentially eliminate the Eastern praxis of the Eastern Rite for many years prior to Vatican II , obviously seeing Eastern praxis as inferior to the Latin Rite.”

    I see it as an issue because it’s evidence that some in the realm of the Orthodox were always with Peter even if the hierarchs were treating them badly and others felt a need to return, but the same isn’t true from the other direction. I don’t have much interest in delving into history because it’s an infinite haystack and the actual particulars of historical truth are basically impossible to find, especially for an amateur like me. For example, the claim that Rome proselytized Eastern Christians in order to secure power and not to, say, give them the truth and try to stop them from parting with the successor of Peter. To me, as a disinterested outsider, that debate was extraneous to learning the truth, or to at least getting enough of a handle on it to take a step of faith. Scholars on both sides disagree and can “prove” their sides conclusively. From what you’re saying the sense I get is that Orthodox think Rome is The Man in actuality but the times got dicey and Byzantium got too big for its britches and Rome got too overbearing.

    From what I read St. Ignatius had “Catholic Church” capitalized more like a name than simply using an adjective, whereas “Orthodox” as a name didn’t appear till after the Great Schism. To me, it was one of the small things that tilted me toward Rome. Although to be fair I didn’t actually give the Orthodox any thought at all till shortly before my baptism when I temporarily got cold feet, thinking there’s no way to really know.

    The ability to innovate and progress might be part of why Catholicism is so much larger than Orthodoxy, even though it represents only one of the Sees and Rome had long since died out as the center of the Empire.

    For me, not only the TLM, but the community and practices that develop around it. Some people will talk about “preferring” the Novus Ordo, but not one is willing to discuss the objective beauty of the old liturgy versus the new.

  30. happyhen11

    Peter,
    Absolutely sir. You are correct. History for some of us is a bit of an blind obsession but it indeed can be a tiger pit and for us rather egocentric humans, checking our bias at the door is impossible. Read the article Nova posted. Good and humbling stuff there. I am thrilled you found a home in the Roman Catholic Church. It was a step in our journey though we never moved past the inquiring stage. Our faith journeys are a blessing.

  31. happyhen11

    Sorry correction.. Patrick not Peter. lol. Haha… guess I had St Peter on the brain :p

  32. Novaseeker

    The ability to innovate and progress might be part of why Catholicism is so much larger than Orthodoxy, even though it represents only one of the Sees and Rome had long since died out as the center of the Empire.

    Eh, actually a lot of that has to do with the historical situation of the Catholic countries (France, Spain, Portugal all being major colonial powers) as compared with the Orthodox ones (SE Europe/Greece under Turks from 1400s to 1900s) once the world entered the colonial era (which is when Christianity began to spread on a more global basis). Russia did some colonizing, and spread Orthodoxy with that across north Asia and into Alaska (many native Alaskans are Orthodox, a not well-known fact), but that’s very limited when compared with what happened in the Americas, the Philippines, Africa, etc. The historic circumstances and geography were substantial factors, really. Since the 1400s one main part of the Orthodox world or another has been under one or another yoke (Muslim Arab, Muslim Turk, militant atheist communists), all of which had a huge impact on the growth and spread of Orthodoxy, really.

  33. Patrick

    Maybe that ability to innovate and progress is a part of what led the Latins to annihilate the Muslim advance into the West and better insulated it from Communism.

  34. Novaseeker

    I doubt it, honestly.

    As far as the Muslim situation, geography played a huge role (East much closer to Muslims from the start). Also, unlike in the West, where powerful former barbarian (Christianized) states emerged after the collapse of the Western empire, in the East, the empire became gradually surrounded by Muslims. Perhaps it would have been better had the formerly pagan slav converts overthrown the Byzantine Empire in the East and formed new, strong Christian states to counter the rise of the Turks, in parallel to what happened in the West where the barbarians toppled the empire, but that didn’t have much to do with Orthodoxy in itself.

    As for the communist situation in Russia, again, this had more to do with the situation of Russia as a whole, economically in particular, but also politically. One can argue that the conservatism of the Russian clergy, and its support for the Tsarist state, was a contributing factor to the unlikely triumph of the Bolsheviks, but this same story played itself out with the ultra-traditional Spanish clergy in the Spanish civil war (and in the years leading up to it), with the fascist/nationalist/traditionalist side simply winning in Spain, and losing in Russia after an extended civil war.

    But anyway, that’s kind of beside the point when it comes to “size”, because the size issue is directly related to colonialism itself. Even if the Turks had not occupied Greece for the relevant time period, it seems unlikely that Greece would have had colonies of any significant size as compared with the Catholic countries along the Atlantic littoral. Here, again, geography is critical if not outright decisive (noting that also Catholic countries which were further away from the Atlantic similarly failed to develop colonies through which Catholicism was spread globally).

    The point isn’t to critique Catholicism, but rather to critique these ideas that Catholicism is somehow superior because of its size, or that its size represents some kind of superiority in terms of adaptability and development and so on, when its size is largely a product of colonialism, which itself is largely a product of where the colonizing countries were located (along the sea). I think it’s ideas like this (not singling you out personally, but the idea) which are very unhelpful for the dialogue between Orthodoxy and Catholicism. Thankfully the official dialogue is well beyond those kinds of debates, but in order for their work to bear fruit the laity on both sides need to abandon these kinds of ideas. Lord knows we have many of these kinds of ideas on the Orthodox side that need to be abandoned, as any Catholic who has discussed these things with an Orthodox can attest. But there are attitudes on the Catholic side that also need to be addressed, as well, in order for unity to really begin to take root among the laos tou theou on both sides — something which is surely a pre-requisite for the inevitable resumption of formal unity at some stage.

  35. Feminine But Not Feminist

    @ mdavid

    I’m interested in why this particular book had such a large effect on you. I haven’t read it but was considering buying it about 5 years ago, and I might now. What specifically was the draw, and how would you compare it to others like it? Thanks.

    Sorry, I didn’t have time to answer when I read this comment before, then I forgot to go back and answer. Hopefully you’re still curious about it.

    The draw for this book was that it was written by a Protestant who converted to Catholicism after considerable research, and since I had been Protestant and was considering Catholicism (but wasn’t sure about it yet) at the time, I was curious as to what he found that changed his mind enough to make the conversion. So I got it, and it was fascinating and quite convincing.

    Basically, he takes 34 different concepts that Protestants (in general) and Catholics disagree on, and shows the folly of the Protestant way of thinking by taking the Protestant belief and following it through to completion, which always leads to a dead-end.

    For example: chapter 11, called “Sola Scriptura and Christian Unity”. He starts off with a statement about how “If Protestantism is true, Protestants should be united in their interpretations of the Bible.” He then gives a brief explanation of Sola Scriptura, followed by some of the history of it, including examples of different denominations having differing views on even the most core concepts of Christianity. Then there’s a statement about how “Because Catholicism is true, Sola Scriptura has not led to unity but to endless divisions that show no signs of ceasing.” Then there’s a section explaining the fallout of there being so many different denominations that have the exact opposite of unity to each other precisely because of their different interpretations of what the Bible says. Then there’s a concluding paragraph under the title of “The Protestant’s dilemma”, briefly explaining that unity within the Church will never be achieved through Sola Scriptura, but that the opposite has proven to be true. And this chapter is only about 4 pages long, which is all it took. Pretty simple and straightforward.

    Each chapter is about a different concept, each one following the same pattern laid out above. I admit that when I first read it, I didn’t understand all of it. I go back and read parts of it sometimes after learning more about Catholicism and it’s like, “ok, that makes sense now”. But even then, what I did understand the first time around was pretty convincing.

    I can’t really compare it to others like it, because I didn’t feel the need to read others of it’s type after reading this one, because I didn’t think I would find another one better. Everything else I’ve read has been more about learning the doctrine, etc. Even though you have been a Catholic for a long time, I think you would like it. If anything, it would give you easy arguments whenever a Protestant challenges you about the validity of Catholicism.

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