A Generous Orthodoxy
07-12-2007, 04:42 PM
We are in your debt for this reflection.
I suppose that all eras have their bugbears, and for those of us of a conservative disposition the modern habit of indifferentism perhaps bulks so large that we fail to differentiate between an ecumenism derived from it and one derived from another - and orthodox - place.
Your post reminded me to that comment of Jacob Bar Hebraeus from The Dove cited here by Kirk, but which bears repeating:
Quote:When I had given much thought and pondered on the matter, I became convinced that these quarrels of Christians among themselves are not a matter of factual substance, but rather one of words and terms. For they all confess Christ Our Lord to be perfect God and perfect human, without any commingling, mixing, or confusion of the natures. This bipinnate 'likeness' ( Phil. 2:6-7) is termed by one party a 'nature', by another 'a hypostasis' and by yet another a 'person'. Thus I saw all the Christian communities, with their different Christological positions, as possessing a single common ground that is without any difference. Accordingly I totally eradicated any hatred from the depths of my heart, and I completely renounced disputing with anyone over confessional matters
That, I think, is pretty close to what you're saying here. Bar Hebraeus is not saying that the differences do not matter, he is saying that they are not what we think they are: we are all confessing the same Risen Christ, the same Trinitarian God, the same soteriology and the same salvation. Sometimes I wonder whether those sitting so stiffly on guard outside their Church proclaiming it to be THE one do not have something in common with the Roman guards outside the empty tomb? To think we can confine the Risen Lord is a little like thinking we can define Him exactly. Look where 'strictly speaking' got Nestorius!
All that said, and I am sure there will be many who see the holes in it, we come up against our old obstacle, St. Cyprian's ecclesiology and the well-honed language of boundaries; even to question this is, in the eyes of some, to come close to heresy. On this basis we end up with an EO and an OO rather than an OC, although both might quietly say they allow of the adjective out of politeness to the other bunch of schismatic heretics!
The original Protestant Churches thought, after all, that they were escaping from the accretions of the centuries and getting back to some form of primitive and Apostolic purity; but what Orthodoxy shows, surely, is that they went about it like some modern 'restorers' who strip away not only modern additions but also huge parts of the original?
To continue the analogy, Orthodoxy is, in this sense, like a more sensitive restorer who respects the original and does not think he can improve upon it. We do not entertain the notion that there was some perversion of original Christianity because we know our Church is the continuation of the one founded by Christ Himself; we read the Scriptures by its lights, not presuming to rely solely upon our own reason or that of others, but rather upon that of the God-inspired Fathers within God's Church.
But here the question of authority bulks as large for us as it did in the early Church; it was not for nothing that the Fathers of the first two hundred years were most exercised by this question. Some things change not, and they, like us, were faced with a multitude of folk claiming exclusive or gnostic revelation. Indeed, as we know, the canon itself was defined by the Church to ensure that books claiming Apostolicity should not be able to deceive (were that possible) the faithful. But authority was also needed to guard against false belief, and on that issue the great division of 451 took place; both sides firmly believed (as the official position remains) that they had held onto right belief. Naturally there are those who decry all attempts to show this as a misunderstanding in the words used by the Orthodox Information Centre, as signs of an:
Quote:ecumenical ideology, which seeks to gloss over the fundamental and abiding differences which distinguish the heterodox confessions from the Orthodox Faith. All too often, such differences are now conveniently dismissed as merely long-standing miscommunications of alternative, yet equally valid, terminological emphases. This perfunctory approach has been eagerly employed by Orthodox modernists in their theological dialogues with the so-called "Oriental Orthodox" churches.
In this sense we cannot proceed on our own, as we are not stray sheep; we have a bishop who is our shepherd, and we cannot take the Protestant line that shall find our own way there. But that said, we are also bound by a covenant of love, and were we bitterest enemies, we should be charged with loving each other; as we are brothers in Christ we know what He thinks about those who profess to love Him whilst hating their own brother!
Our own tradition guides us, as ever, aright. St. Irenaeus, in his treatise ?Against the Heresies (III, 24), told us that
Quote: ?Wherever the Church is, God?s spirit is too: and wherever God?s Spirit is, there is the Church and every Grace; for the Spirit is Truth.
Perhaps we need to ponder on our own tradition and to find the building blocks for the bridge of union within it?
In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)
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Generous Orthodoxy - John Charmley - 07-12-2007 04:42 PM