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Nature and uses of Tradition in the Church - John Charmley - 03-12-2007

This follows on an interesting question raised by John Mark about the way in which St. Augustine is regarded in the Orthodox Churches.

In that thread I made the perhaps uncharitable comment that since the OCs seem not to think that anything written in the west between 1054 and now has much to tell them, it was unsurprising that they seemed able to dismiss the works of St. Augustine without, one suspects, reading them much. Unkind, perhaps, and certainly wanting in charity, but it does raise the question of what we mean by 'Tradition' and the uses made of it.

Fr. Gregory has made the point that there are many OO theologians whose writings have not been translated into English, and we know that many of the currents of thought of the Latin Church passed the Eastern and the Oriental Orthodox by whilst they were in captivity, so to speak; the situation with the Russians was somewhat different, but we know that there was always a strong current of resistance to western influence within the ROC.

So, I suppose there are two questions here.

One is the relationship between Western writers and the OCs. Newman, of whom I am very fond, seems to me very orthodox in his writings, and had it been feasible for a nineteenth century Englishman to have converted to Orthodoxy, he might well have done so; but that was not available to him - but do we think that the writings and thoughts of such a great Christian thinker have nothing to tell us?

The other is what we mean by 'tradition'? Newman was one of the foremost among that generation of Anglicans who rediscovered the 'Fathers', and one notes that many of the modern editions are based on the nineteenth century translations. But how far were the works of the Fathers actively read in the OCs over the ages? Indeed, were texts actually available of all those to whom we have access?

In Christ,