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- John Charmley - 04-05-2010

Dear Eve,

You have a nice knack of asking just the right questions Big Grin

In terms of our Evangelical friends, they may rail against 'tradition', yet they tend to be rather keen on their own traditions; it is the same story with infallibility Smile

On St. Peter, we are happy to concede a primacy of honour to the See of Rome as the early Church did, but we think it a shame that some later Popes have taken that to mean a universal governance from Rome; that was not the practice in the early Church.

On the leadership issue we would be at one with St, Ignatius, that where the bishop is, there is the Church. We do not see the need for a single leader. We would interpret the Petrine verses in Matthew as conferring on St. Peter a headship which can only be exercised in brotherly fashion, not a monarchical position; if the Pope in Rome would commit to this, it would be a huge step forward from our point of view; no harm dreaming Big Grin

Yes, the Blessed St. Peter did deny Our Lord thrice, but in St John we read that Our Lord restored him thrice. I have a great fondness for St. Peter. How like so many of us, impetuous, especially in words, brave, but also fearful; and yet how many of us would be willing to do as he did and lay down his life for the Lord when it mattered?

He seems to me an entirely appropriate leader of the Apostles, and I find I love him dearly, as he has all my faults - and I'd like to have some of his virtues.

In Christ,


- Antony-Paul - 05-05-2010

Dear Eve,

St Peter is perhaps a bit of a thorny question. There is no doubt that he was chosen by Jesus to be the leader of the Church. But beware of the wordplay - he was Simon, but became Peter as a 'rock' - Latin petrus - the rock upon which the Church was to be built.

He certainly showed great human weakness as you have observed. I feel this was a deliberate ploy by Jesus to demonstrate to us all that even the most exalted person is a wretched sinner in need of forgiveness, and when He forgives Peter time after time He is showing that He forgives us all - time after time.

It is also worth recalling that Peter was a man of humble origins. He was a fisherman, with no pretensions to greatness or intellectual ability. Such simplicity was obviously valued by Jesus as an example to us that it is not necessary to have an academic or regal background to achieve salvation or to give service to one's brethren.

His weakness was perhaps liable to let him down in dire circumstances, yet here we see God providing the strength to endure martyrdom. Wouldn't we all like to think we would have the same outcome!

All in all, I see Peter as a great symbol of hope, that we can depend on God to get us to Heaven if we keep asking for forgiveness every time we fall.

- John Charmley - 05-05-2010

Dear Antony-Paul,

Yes, St. Peter is an example to us all, and one whose weaknesses we share; I just wish I shared his strengths too.

I do, sometimes, worry that we are not in communion with Rome, and recall that St. Mark was the loyal lieutenant of St. Peter, and can't help thinking things would be better if the two Apostolic Sees were working together. But we are where we are, and must hope that ecumenical dialogue will help here.



- James-Antony - 10-05-2010

Dear John,
Christ is Risen!
It isn’t just you having problems with this thread. Page 3 was blank for a while and some of the posts have disappeared from page 1. Fr Simon gave a point by point answer to Eve’s list of questions back in December and included some good stuff on men and women in the home in marriage but this post has disappeared and Eves reply has disappeared too.
We discussed the Apostolic Deposit and Tradition at our weekly meeting yesterday evening in case we had got it wrong at all and Fr Simon confirmed that he used the terms Apostolic Deposit and Tradition interchangeably as in them being one and the same thing. He did say that maybe on reflection Tradition could be a better term as it allowed for things since the apostles but still reckoned Apostolic Deposit was good as although many things have been written since the apostles they should be in line with that original teaching/beliefs. He said that he received the early writings as part of the Apostolic Deposit, the Tradition, what has been received and he said he was enjoying reading the letters of Sts Ignatius of Antioch and of Polykarp. His agreed that not everything in the Tradition or Deposit of faith and practice has the same weight and that the Bible had great importance but it is never to be isolated from the rest. We were reminded that the main areas of the Tradition or source of our Faith are the Bible, the Liturgy and prayers of the Church, the Creeds and Councils and canons, iconography, the writings of the Fathers and how one should not be separated from the others. He said its important to have a more experienced guide to help us understand right. The Church is the context for understanding the Bible.
He seems to shy away from calling the Bible inspired as this word has been exactly defined by evangelicals and he does not think it should be. He said there is mystery here and likes to say the scriptures is God-breathed, as involving the breath or Spirit of God but we don’t know exactly how. We accept the Bible as high in the Tradition because that is its place in the tradition, but it is in the tradition we have received and not separate from it.
It was a helpful discussion and reminded us of the source of our Faith and to help us from going wrong.

- John Charmley - 10-05-2010

Dear James-Antony,

Many thanks for that summation.

I think there is a difference between the Apostolic deposit and tradition, and it is the one at which you and Fr, Simon hint. It is not clear, either from reading the NT or from the Apostolic Fathers what the relationship between Christ and the Father is, or how Our Lord is human and divine. Of course, succeeding generations made heavy weather of these things precisely for that reason. It was not unreasonable of Arius or Nestorius to teach what they taught; their positions can be supported from Scripture. But what does not support their positions was the tradition of the Church. St. Athanasius and St. Cyril both articulated positions which were not without controversy but which turned out to command the consensus of the faithful.

As ever, Fr. Simon is right to remind us that the various sources mentioned as 'tradition' should not be read apart from each other, and that they are not self-evidently transparent without guidance.

We receive the 'faith once given', but we are not to be in the position of that servant who took what he had been given buried it in the ground and returned it to his Lord as he had received it - are we?



- Severus - 11-05-2010

Not being "unreasonable" is, of course, one of the skills for which Satan is noted just as his ability to quote fluently from Scripture. Yet both Arius and Nestorius are clearly heresiarchs whilst St. Athanasius and St. Cyril are great fathers of the universal Church.

This issue was addressed by St. Vincent of Lerins in The Commonitory, "Some one may ask, Do heretics also appeal to Scripture? They do indeed, and with a vengeance; for you may see them scamper through every single book of Holy Scripture." His rule, therefore for the authentic interpretation of scripture as commended by holy and learned men, was to "interpret the sacred Canon according to the traditions of the Universal Church and in keeping with the rules of Catholic doctrine, in which Catholic and Universal Church, moreover, they must follow universality, antiquity, consent."

Similarly, Tertullian (De praescriptione haereticorum), in his battle against the 3rd century heretics, asserted that the only true understanding of the Scriptures belonged to the Church, so for those outside the household of faith, they were simply an array of disconnected passages, a dead letter, which they might try to use for their own ends, "For wherever it shall be manifest that the true Christian rule and faith shall be, there will likewise be the true Scriptures and expositions thereof, and all the Christian traditions."

Abiding in communion with those ancient apostolic sees which have jealously guarded the integrity of the faith is a sound means of maintaining that; whilst those who wander off must not be surprised that the further you get from the household of faith the louder the clamour of discordant voices and the greater the chance of being "tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive." (Ephesians IV: 14) It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the fathers used the imagery of a ship bringing us safe to harbour over tempestuous seas when describing the Church of God!

- John Charmley - 14-05-2010

Quote:His rule, therefore for the authentic interpretation of scripture as commended by holy and learned men, was to "interpret the sacred Canon according to the traditions of the Universal Church and in keeping with the rules of Catholic doctrine, in which Catholic and Universal Church, moreover, they must follow universality, antiquity, consent.

Agreed - but of course, unlike in St. Vincent's day we cannot quite say this without some qualification. The RCC and the EO would agree with the quotation, as I do, but if an enquirer were to ask which of us was the 'Universal Church' she'd get three different answers - alas. St. Vincent would not have settled for that as, in his day, although there were dissenting groups who claimed to be orthodox they were not; who, now determines which of those claiming to be the Church is it?

In Christ,


- Fr Gregory - 17-05-2010

St Vincent, of course, declares a fundamental Orthodox doctrine when he says: "interpret the sacred Canon according to the traditions of the Universal Church and in keeping with the rules of Catholic doctrine, in which Catholic and Universal Church, moreover, they must follow universality, antiquity, consent.”

But, as John rightly asks, who can say what is the “Catholic and Universal Church”?

Severus’ proposal that “Abiding in communion with those ancient apostolic sees which have jealously guarded the integrity of the faith” will give some guarantee of Orthodoxy is an excellent theory, but demonstrably unrealistic. Rome, for example, is one of the most ancient apostolic sees and claims that being in union with it guarantees faithfulness to Catholic teaching; not a position the Orthodox would accept.

Orthodox sees, ancient and more recent, have not been consistent exemplars of Orthodox doctrine or practice, and one could cite numerous examples from both ancient and modern times of heterodoxy in their teachings and actions. But, more importantly, to assume Orthodoxy can be identified with communion with a Patriarch is an example of the (essentially Roman) heresy of what I would call “autocratic clericalism”. Truth is not defined by a person (Roman claims notwithstanding) but by The Church. The People of God, the “Priesthood of all believers”, have a critical role in the preservation of Orthodox Tradition although they are all too often given second or third class status behind Patriarchs, Bishops, Priests and theologians. And are often seen as, at best, impolite or, at worst, schismatic if they challenge heterodox teaching or practice in the clergy.

I agree with St Vincent: universality, antiquity, and consent are the key principles, and sometimes can, and ought to, set the People of God to challenge the authorities of the Church as a worldly institution.

Orthodoxy has generally not sought (with a few fanatical exceptions) to define the limits of the Church too specifically in worldly terms, or to set too many rigid tests for membership (or, conversely, for exclusion). It is not my responsibility as an Orthodox Priest to wander round identifying those who are not members of the Orthodox Church! Happily, I cannot read minds and hearts, and do not speak for God! The incomprehensible generosity of God in the Incarnation requires that I am also generous, rather than judgmental.

There are beliefs and practices which are incompatible with Orthodoxy, and there are beliefs and practices which are necessary in Orthodoxy. There are even more beliefs and practices which might be described as “optional” and which neither define nor preclude a person as being Orthodox.

Following St Vincent, we should be cautious in accepting that which is not characterised by universality, antiquity and consent – even when it appears to be widespread, to have had a long history (which is not quite what is meant by antiquity), and to be all but universal in the Church. Some heterodox doctrines (notably ethnocentrism or phyletism) have been all but universal in Orthodoxy for many centuries (antiquity) and has been supported by every apostolic see at some time (universality and consent). But such doctrines are and remain heresy for all that.

Fr Gregory

- John Charmley - 17-05-2010

That's a tremendous answer, not least because it raises as many questions as it suggests answers to the ones asked thus far.

If we were to take St. Irenaeus' suggestion about the Apostolicity of Sees, then we should, as you say, Fr. Gregory quickly find ourselves mentioning his own citation of Rome as the best known and best-attested example. Rome itself would say that those things which to which the Orthodox object as novelties are, in fact, legitimate developments of the Faith once given; legitimised, of course, by one of those developing understandings - the position of the Bishop of Rome.

The people do, indeed, have a great part of play in saying what is 'Catholic and universal', but how that part is to be played is a vexed question. The largest Christian Church in the world today, as for a long time, is the Roman Catholic Church, and in so far as we can determined what universal might mean when it is at home, that Church is certainly more ubiquitous than the Orthodox Church. Phyletism has certainly been defined as a heresy by the EOs, but whether the OOs have done so I don't know. Either way, it tends to lead to mistaking ethnic practice for orthodox praxis; assuming, of course, that we can define the latter, and define who the 'we' who does the defining might be.

Here, for whatever limitations it has, the RCC has clarity where we have what might be called fudge majeure. The teaching authority for the RCC is not quite just the Pope; for us it is whom? One might, indeed say that it is not our part to say who is and is not a member of the Catholic and universal Church, simply to assert we are, which brings us back, perhaps inevitably, to the initial question of who is to say, to which the only real answer is 'God'.



RE: Questions from someone exploring the Orthodox faith... - DanielM - 27-07-2013

Yet this view doesn't effect what is correct view of Scripture and (if anything) demonstrates an incorrect understanding.

if anything, I would say that keeping to the Interpretations of the fathers of the Orthodox tradition is the correct understanding as it allows for us to follow the Apostolic Faith regardless of any divergences in our tradition.

It also allows for support in cases where other question.