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Considering Propositions
15-04-2009, 12:47 AM,
Okay. That's a lot to reply to. It's actually a lot of questions going off in a lot of directions.

First of all, I believe that theology is important and therefore creedal statements are necessary in order to preserve the truth; but I don't believe that everyone needs to have a in-depth knowledge of theology. For the lay people a basic fundamental understanding is necessary by the time one has reached a rational age, but it's not our understanding that saves us, it is God's grace which transcends all of man's understanding. I think the Nicene creed is simple enough to satisfy the laity and theologically terse enough to satisfy the theologian and is important in preserving the faith by defining the truth at a point where the church began to go astray because of the influence of heretics.

Defensiveness and divisiveness are not truly the same things, but one may be the result of the other. And of course, these are not exclusive to Orthodoxy or any component of mankind's society for that matter. Defensiveness is the natural response to an offense, real or perceived, and so many Orthodox people have good cause to feel defensive on account of oppression from occupying nations or also from the assault of evangelicals with there proof texts and aggressive ministries. The great thing about Orthodoxy is, you don't have to be a theologian to be saved, you can just be a simple God-loving individual if you want to and not be ashamed if you don't understand the greater implications of creedal statements. There will always be those who are the defenders of the faith and those who are the body of the faith, those who are the winners of souls and those who are the nurturers of souls - these are the various members of the body and all are important.

The fact remains, that the Nicene creed was responsive, but that doesn't mean that this is a negative thing because it still projects a positive affirmation/proclamation of what we believe. I don't think that the Protestants have it all wrong, but this is not our focus when encountering them, we should focus on what we have in common so as to exude brotherly love. They believe something other than us but it does not mean that they are condemned - but what it comes down to is, when we know better we are compelled to do better.

God bless,
15-04-2009, 11:52 AM,
On "Nailing Down Absolutes in Orthodoxy Today"

Dear Marc,

It is so easy to be misunderstood when communicating online like this. So, I would like to attempt to be very clear with you that I appreciate the spirit of your posts and their content very much (case in point the concluding paragraph of your last post).

And, I agree with you that I did not serve up a softball to you in my last post about the first word in the first sentence of the Creed; but, I guess when we consider the different directions of my last post the question becomes 'is this an example of a severe deficit of attention, or is this train of thought spot on?'

And, in order to consider this further, possibly we can back this trolley up a bit and review/remember how we got here. As Father Peter has set this up to be a study that allows for individual experiences of real people livin' in the real world . . .possibly we can trade our telescope for a microscope, so to say, and bear down on the precursor of this thread which was the question(s) of a seeker, the one who would be Orthodox.

I really feel like I can relate to Don in many ways even though he has not 'converted' to Orthodoxy and I have 'converted' to Orthodoxy. But, as Don is leading with his heart in his posts here on the BOC site, I wonder if you can listen with your heart to what Don has been saying in some of his posts? In the following Don speaks for not a few in the present day, I think, as he wrote:

Quote:Surely in the Orthodox Church there are at least SOME non-negotiables - things that are proclaimed as being objective revelation from God. Things that can be discerned as being truth by the mystic as well as by the logician.

Can you hear the sentiment behind this Marc? "Surely . . . at least SOME non-negotiables . . . objective revelation." What I wrote about in my last post is where we end up when we do pursue this question, the question of the "We" to its logical end conclusion.

And, then look at the optimism in this quote by Don:

Quote:Father Peter, I thank you for your response. Scaffolding...YES! That is a very helpful insight! You have given me some good stuff to chew over, thank you. Yes, I do agree with you that the Creed would be a good place to start nailing down some absolutes.

This is what I am addressing as much as anything here Marc. Don is looking for some absolutes in the Creed that are non-negotiable in the Orthodox Church. And, with the strong emphasis on ecclesiology and polity in the Orthodox Church, I am making the point that we cannot even say definitively who "We" are as a body.

And, as Don shares that humans long for definition in the following:

Quote:And I think that as humans we all long for such authority and certainty.

How are we doing so far in supplying him with ecclesiological absolutes in the Orthodox Church? For, that matter, does it matter how much we type and think on this first word in the first sentence of the Creed? Is it possible to use the Creed to provide straight answers to straight questions like Don's . . .

And, again . . . what is the title of this thread? It is "Considering Propositions," and this in order to give some answers for those who are up against a wall, as Don also wrote:

Quote:But here I come up against my brick wall - How does one arrive at the objective certainty? Where does one draw the line between the essential and the superficial? This has been the jist of my question.

But, is it possible to use the Creed in this way? Is it possible to provide the kind of absolutes that are spoken of above for the one(s) who would draw a line as Don has said. And, this is interesting to me as it is presented because this demonstrates a good kind of division. Do you see what I mean Marc? Does Don want to draw a line in order to "divide" or in order to "unite?"

What is his motivation in desiring to draw a line? Obviously, it is to promote union/communion based on a desire for authenticity, but on an even deeper level please read his writing below:

Quote:Although I am not at present no longer a 'card carrying' Protestant, I am as yet uncertain as to where to plant my flag of commitment.

This is a person in a kind of theological no-man's land. This is a person without a country in a sense. Initially, there is a type of freedom that is experienced that is not a burden but a joy; but, after a while for most folks in this position, the initial feelings turn to frustration, then apathy, then despair.

So, it matters. Possibly, more in our day than in the day the Creed was written it matters when the seeker comes knocking at the door of Orthodoxy.

But, the question at this point is, how long will the seeker, the one looking for answers in the way of objective certainty (the one who would 'convert' to Orthodoxy), keep knocking at the door if we cannot even tell him/her definitively who "We" are?

Possibly, this is why some of the EO draw the sharp and distinct lines of division that they do, as they offer up finely honed answers to the question of the nature and limits of the Orthodox Church. Because they see the madness in offering any other answer as it relates to the One Holy Orthodox Catholic Church. Possibly, these rigorists do understand that if they explain it any other way, then the model being presented would be much akin to the divided churches of Protestantism!

Even if we take all the different directions that we are forced to travel when we consider the question of the "We" in the Creed and attempt to tie them together in the hope of a definitive answer, in terms of a prismatic center, in an integrative motif which yields a Christocentric Ground as the answer . . . even if we do this, where can Don plant his flag in this ground? If we conclude that within Orthodoxy today, the way to locate and identify the we is to transcend all divisions in Christ in a spirit of brotherly love, then are we saying something like, "To be honest Don as it relates the Church and especially the ecclesiology and polity of the Church there are no absolutes to be found in Orthodoxy today, in practice, but only, in theory, can there be an objective certainty?/! (how's that for post modern thinking Don?)

And, this can be developed further . . . but that for another conversation. As for today, the question is what does Orthodoxy today say to the one who comes knocking in search of both "identity" and "community?" Or, at the very least what does Orthodoxy today say to the one who comes knocking in search of understanding who "We" are?

I guess we can have him/her read the Apostles Creed and 'consider the propositions' to be found in it.

But, possibly he/she has already read the Creed and knows there is nothing specific of and limited to Orthodoxy in the Creed and it is subscribed to and prescribed by many other Christian faith traditions and denominations who make competing truth claims.

In Christ,
15-04-2009, 02:32 PM,
It is good to have such an interesting conversation to come back to.

In terms of personal reflection I was thinking yesterday about this first credal statement and the phrase 'Creator of heaven and earth, and of all things' came to mind. It seemed to me a wonderful thing that all of us humans, all angels, and all animals, birds, fish, trees, rocks, the whole universe, is united in a relation of createdness to God and with each other.

Especially in terms of other people it struck me forcefully that this first clause roots us in some sort of union with each other in God even before and apart from the Church. I wonder how much this unity of createdness really impacts my life as it is lived towards others. Yet, if we believe in the God who has created all things, then we must also believe in the shared createdness of all things.

But I have also been wondering about the origins of the creed. How far is it the product of an Imperial insistence that there be an official unity of sorts in the Imperial Church? How far is it so widely written that it encompasses a variety of theological positions - more than were allowed in later centuries? How far is it a personal and positive statement of baptismal faith? Are there two poles of personal and Imperial faith? Do these pull in different directions?

Rick, I understand what you mean about the possibility of any credal statement being exclusive, but I wonder how far it should be understood as an open invitation, a declaration of a salvific gift? This is what we have received! rather than, this is what we must believe!

Father Peter
15-04-2009, 06:45 PM,
I think Abouna Peter is correct here in his outlook, in considering the Creed a gift which we have received instead of that which we must believe, both are correct but the perspective is different - a classic "glass is half full vs half empty" scenario.

But I see where you are coming from also Rick, some people are genuinely searching for some firm delimiters as a means to proclaim what they are, which in the nebulous see of protestantism is sometimes hard to find. Orthodoxy certainly does have much more defined borders than most of denominational protestantism but it is because we know our faith better and because we remember that we are subject to God and not vice-versa. Many Protestant groups seem to fear offending anyone and therefore adjust their beliefs to be inclusive; and while I agree that this is a nice sentiment, it is sometimes at the expense of the truth. Mind you, this does not mean that we should cram the truth in peoples faces, but rather help them to embrace it gradually. This reminds me of what a dear father said to me about his work in India, Abouna Silas; he said that he can't tell the children in his orphanage that God is a Good Father because that invokes feelings of hatred and pain for them due to the horrible and abusive situations from which they came. But when he has shown them through his love what a good father is really like, then he can present this truth to them.

So I shy away from telling everyone what orthodoxy is, and rather I tell them about God whom I love and who loves me - ultimately this is orthodoxy, us answering God's call and responding in faith - and how much different is that from the protestants?

But to satisfy those who inquire to know, we can tell them that Orthodoxy is not just a bible based ministry, but rather it is much more. God is not a book full of words, He is the living Father that created all things as is stated in the Creed. He is our savior, redeemer and sustainer as in the Creed and He is our Inspiration and our Guide as in the Creed. We have a rich heritage of fathers who lived and died for the faith and have preserved for us the true contextual understanding of the Holy Bible free from the private interpretation of the Protestants. In my studies of Greek I have learned that you can make the Bible say whatever you want when you translate it into other languages, but the tradition and sayings of the fathers is what keeps us on the strait and narrow. We are not a bible based church, we are the church that gave the world the Bible. We do not read the bible in a vacuum, devoid inspiration beyond its pages, we believe in God the inspiration of the Bible and we seek to know him by following the tradition which flows directly from His visitation to His creation, and we do not follow after those who teach a new doctrine, or who say come and see God is over here or over there because we know that Satan works in such ways.
16-04-2009, 11:58 AM,
A Koinonia of the Spirit?:"The tomato is in the carrot, and the cucumber is in the green bean."

Dear Father Peter, Dear Marc,

Sometimes to speak of the "koinonia of the Spirit" brings mostly a yawn and the response, 'Oh yeah, I know all about that,' and then it is dismissed. And, I understand that often times, in the present day, the word "community" is the buzzword of those bourgeois who are involved in an anti-bourgeois rebellion of the bourgeois. But, I would like to consider both of these expressions now, today, at this point of our conversation.

Marc, when you wrote:

marc hanna Wrote:. . . some people are genuinely searching for some firm delimiters as a means to proclaim what they are . . .

I agreed with this, but I think what most, if not all who would consider making such a radical move (viz. Protestantism to Orthodoxy) would be looking/searching for is something much deeper than a mere means to proclaim what they are. In my experience, most are searching for a deeper level of communion, or to put it another way, a more authentic and deeper level of community/unity.

In this sense, the hope of the seeker is that he/she would find the Community of communities.

In this genuine searching, the goal and objective would be to enter into communion with *not* an institution; but, a Person, the Person of Christ . . . and the means to this would be through another Person, the Person of the Holy Spirit. In my mind, this is why IF "We" cannot give a unified answer (the 'We' being Orthodoxy), but instead we offer up a divided Orthodoxy--as we can do no other in the present day, lest we attempt to camouflage the situation or do the ostrich thing--THEN it becomes apparent that the "We" does not represent a koinonia of the Spirit, but separate churches (some not even in communion with others).

And, I can see how it might be thought that to just bring in any individual to any form of Orthodoxy would be a good thing. And, I allow some room for this; however, as we are talking specifically about the seeker described above, it occurs to me that one of two things could happen. First, if the avenue of "softening" or downplaying the reality of the situation is chosen, or if it seems wise to not be 100% clear with a seeker about what the relationships of various Orthodox churches are to each other in Orthodoxy today, then this could result in a very negative reaction in the one who came in hopes of finding the Community of communities after he/she comes in and is brought up to speed. Or, Secondly, if it is made abundantly clear at the onset to this kind of seeker, that in reality, the "We", Orthodoxy today, is a group of divided churches, then this could further polarize the thinking of one as it relates to the individual and the ecclesiological (or imperial).

And, for that matter is it so hard to see why those Protestants who link the ecclesiological with the imperial would much rather turn to a bible based church? In this the choice is viewed as being between an inspired emperor and an inspired Holy Writ. This is not hard to understand really.

But, what I'm driving at here is along the lines of Fr. Peter's post, because even after the Truth of an historic Orthodox Christian approach is realized; IF there is not a church with community to be found, THEN the seeker might as well stay where he/she is at. Or, possibly the seeker may feel that with all things considered as it relates to the shape and dimension of Orthodoxy today, he/she may as well pursue personhood on his/her own with a focus not on the ecclesiological, but instead on the Christological, the Pneumatological. In this sense the primacy becomes no longer an identification of or the need to find one's identity in the right church or the right bishop; but, instead there is a refocusing from the place where one finds himself/herself at the present.

And, I'm starting to go out to sea here again, so I'll come back to the jedi as we continue 'considering propositions' . . . but, I think what I am suggesting is that this once particular concrete Community, that could be pointed to, and was a simple thing in the beginning, has become something that is complex today, and something that is abstract and cannot be pointed to--it is much akin to a universal.

And, herein lies the connection to the Creed I think! Just as Fr. Peter has spoke of the possibility of any creed being "exclusive" and as he has spoken of the "open invitation" to be found in the Apostles Creed . . . the gospel of Christ itself is a particularistic message, but it has a universal appeal. The invitation of the gospel of Christ, the Kerygma of Christ, the proclamation of the Kingdom of God speaks to those who would be "We" and is made up of the "We." Is the Kerygma of Christ the Church or is it the Kingdom?

As we consider the Church of God in the beginning and as we consider the Churches of God in the present day, as we consider Orthodoxy in the earliest of times, and as we consider Orthodoxy today, what other kind of relational ontology can there be between the individual members of the Body of Christ than one comprised of those who transcend all divisions in Christ throught the koinonia of the Spirit? What other kind of relationship can there be within the current day context of division?

I appreciate your post about the relation of createdness Father. I think of an Asian gardener who writes about his compost pile in his vegetable garden. As he has said, in reality, because his compost feeds all of his plants each year, "The tomato is in the carrot, and the cucumber is in the green bean." And, I think that to understand what both you and he are saying is very important, especially as it relates to the "We" of the day in which the Creed was written, as well as the "We" and the context of Orthodoxy today.

In Christ,
16-04-2009, 01:31 PM,

It sounds very much like you are presenting a plea for unity among the Orthodox churches. What about the Roman Catholic church? I too would like to see such a thing but there are quite a few semantics to work out first.

That aside, maybe we should talk about that which divided us in the first place; those who strayed away from the Orthodox faith. But then this creates a new area of contention because we will have to argue about who it was that actually strayed away. So without accusing one or the other I will discuss the separation.

First and foremost, the schism that occurred after the Council of Chalcedon was not a punctiliar event, it occurred over the course of about a hundred years. Those now referred to as the Oriental Orthodox could not accept the Tome of Leo or the term "in two natures" as these were deemed to be at the heart of Nestorianism and they were being forced by imperial decree to accept them with the consequences of exile, torture or death if they refused. The authority of the council was overturned and re-overturned several times all the while the OO's remained hospitable to those who wished to join their belief by allowing EO priests to simply come over and after a period of time were allowed to resume their ministry. The EO's on the other hand required that OO priest wishing to make the switch be stripped of their priestly ordination and be re-ordained. Eventually, as decades went on, and the violence continued, the OO's gave up hope for reconciliation and ceased to mingle with the EO's, which was facilitated by the geography and the crumbling empire.

I think that today, the OO's still retain a tolerance of EO theology which is very much similar to ours now, but the anathemas must be lifted unilaterally so that injustice is not laid upon either party. The EO position has always been, the the OO's must accept the Council of Chalcedon in order to be in communion with them, but this will never happen because we will not endorse what we believe to be a corrupt and politically motivated council that deposed one of our beloved Saints and destroyed the unity of Christianity.

That got a little more one-sided than I originally intended but it speaks volumes to the issue of unity. The EO's believe it critical to the faith to accept Chalcedon, and the OO's consider such a thing to be a betrayal of our faith in Christ.

And this ties very closely to the Nicene Creed. In very much the same way that the Arians were considered a heretical group that were ultimately cast out once and for all, so the EO's and the Catholics have treated the OO's. But neither of these circumstances was an immediate separation, but both were the result of imperial intervention. Shortly after Nicea the Christian world awoke to find that it was Arian and was facilitated as such through imperial force, but Orthodoxy eventually prevailed and Athanasius was crowned a pillar of faith, but in the case of Chalcedon, political motives prevailed and so peace could not be found thereafter.

In both cases, Christians were forced by law to believe something, which we OO's do not subscribe to as a christian thing. I would like to see unity between the churches, and I think it is possible, but the issue is so polarized even to this day, and few people approach it with the objectivity it requires in order to solve it.

Anyone converting to orthodoxy will eventually learn about the schism, and if this is enough for Satan to take control of their heart and lead them away, then there is little we can do except keep our arms open for when they return. But we should learn ourselves, a lesson from all this, about the dangers of asserting limiting statements of faith, especially those which are so high level so as not to be understood by the laity. In the Coptic church right now there are those who have differing theological positions but should we condemn each other as heretics? But when someone begins to teach questionable doctrines to the laity, then we must refute them and bring them back in line with orthodoxy. Nestorious could have remained in the church in peace, but he began to speak out emphatically against the Mother of God, therefore Cyril had to refute him, so likewise Athanasius had to refute Arius, and the OO's refute Chalcedon.
16-04-2009, 02:31 PM,
Dear Marc,

marc hanna Wrote:It sounds very much like you are presenting a plea for unity among the Orthodox churches. What about the Roman Catholic church?

Honestly, this is the opposite of what I think I am writing about much because as another has wisely said of such unity:

Quote:Administrative and official recognition can only follow the recognition which the people have already achieved as members of the One Church.

I have participated in another forum in a thread titled "An American Orthodoxy?" And, in this thread most people think I am presenting a plea for a united American Orthodox Church and that I am speaking of jurisdictional issues; but, there as well, when I speak of transcending all divisions in Christ, I am not speaking about the administrative, jurisdictional, or ecclesiological at all. This
is the opposite of what I am writing about.

What I am contributing here has everything to do with the organic unity (a relational ontology) spoken of in the quote I provided to Don earlier in this thread, and nothing to do with providing a solution to the context of division in which the Church finds herself in today in terms of ecclesiology/polity.

Because of human nature, the works of the flesh, I am convinced that it is a lost cause for any to attempt to bring unity between the divided churches in Orthodoxy today, from the top down, just as it would be for those who would attempt to bring unity to the RCC, Protestants, Orthodox, and other "Christian" Churches, from the top down.

This is because, again referring to the article I shared with Don above, this has to be a naturally occurring organic process and because of the deep divisions of today, this will be like any other time of awakening or revival that we have seen in the Scriptures or in the history of the Church . . . it will require divine intervention. And, what does any approach (objective or other) have to do with the Providence of God?

What can any one person or group of people do but repent and position themselves for a possible movement of God? If you are up on current events in Orthodoxy Marc, then you know that our so called leaders are modeling not a humbling and repenting which could position us for blessing, but just the opposite. Overall, the leaders are not leading. In even this sense. the hierarchy, what was meant to unite us is what divides us.

It does not take a very smart person to see this.

This is something that cannot be overcome or solved regardless of the approach.

And, this is why I would rather take a nap or do just about anything other than to make a plea for unity between the bishops of the Orthodox churches today.

But, if we are to consider promoting a dialogue between the lay members of the Orthodox Church, as well as the clergy of the Orthodox Church who see the hopelessness of the current situation but would like to subscribe to a theology of hope as it relates to a unity which can be found in the "Inner Kingdom" regardless of whether one is an EO or an OO or a whatever O . . . then this is a different story.

And what about the Roman Catholic Church, as you say Marc? What about the Protestants? What about any who exhibit and follow Christ as His disciples? Are any of these excluded from the Kingdom of God because of their label, or because they do not have their doctrinal ducks in a row? Probably most of these would need to first be educated on the Christological debates so they could even have a chance of participating and choosing a side (which is kind of the point!)

You know, I wonder if we would, if we could take our doctrines of today, if we could go back in time to the beginning days of the Church (which were more simple as you have said) and share with and show the earliest Christians what is so important to us today, and what divides us today . . . I wonder what they would think? Beginning with those who were persecuted in the first three hundred years, and then moving forward from there. I sometimes think that if Martin Luther could have seen how much of his efforts would result in such violence and division that he would have done things much differently.

So, just to be clear, given the choice to lower my head and try to break through the brick wall on my home or to spend my life pleading for unity in the Church from the top down . . . as long as I could wear a helmet, I would choose the run at the brick wall in a heartbeat!

But, when it comes to the "We" or the "Us" as it relates to the "Kingdom of God" then this is a different story. And, in some ways this almost sounds a little gnostic, I understand this, but I really think that for the most part "We" do recognize each other as brothers and sisters in Christ even just through words on a screen or over the internet. Sometimes it is not apparent at first--sometimes words and labels do get in the way . . . but now we are back to the beginning here which is really what I am talking about if anything. There is an expression that I like which is "In the End, the Beginning." It has many applications, but I like it as it applies to this conversation very well.

In Christ,
27-04-2009, 11:20 AM,
I am not sure that I should expect any sort of end point to be reached on our reflections about each of these credal propositions, so perhaps I'll just drop the next phrase into the thread and we can think about it in the same way.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages.

I cannot help switching into Christological Controversy mode here, but I will resist that taking over, and will instead say that what strikes me first is that here in this exposition of the Trinity we find that there is humanity. The basis of our faith, of our life, is that one who could be seen and touched and who walked on our earth as true man, is nevertheless the only-begotten Son of God.

If the relationship of creator-creation is one in which we all find a common experience of the Fatherhood of God, then we also share in this relationship of brotherliness with the Son of God. He truly became as we are, apart from sin, and shared in our life as a brother, even though he is God before all ages.

Father Peter
27-04-2009, 02:12 PM,
I think what I'll do here, is just focus more on the intent of the authors, because as you say father, much of the earlier reflections apply equally to the entire creed.

In this passage, there is an emphasis on "the only-begotten" or monogenes in Greek, or only-nature, only type, lone-nature etc, and is not particularly suggestive of His consubstantiality with us, but rather references the eternal Godhead that is a component (for lack of better terminology) in His nature, thereby expressing that He was not just a simple man as we are but that He was before all ages. Again, like Father said, it's hard not to jump into controversy mode because it is clear that there was specific reasoning for the emphasis of His Godhead at the time of the creed's composition.

So, from this statement, there is an indirect brotherhood portrayed between us and Christ, in that, the Father is also Christ's father, but as the passage also affirms, Christ is related to the Father in a way that we are not, as the only-begotten. We are sons and gods by adoption whereas Christ is Son and God by nature, and indeed the only one.

Substantial components that are left out of the creed are that of Christ's brotherhood with us; but this may have been because it was already assumed or well known at the time and did not warrant emphasis. Such is Christ being the firstborn of many brethren, and the first fruits, and Christ referring to those who are His mother and His brethren as those who hear the Word of God and do it.
27-07-2013, 12:05 AM,
RE: Considering Propositions
Alonsonnk, I would suggest reading and studying them. They are vital in understanding the faith and if your learn to memorise the Creed you will have many clear statements to help understand the faith of the Church.
"The true Christian is a warrior making his way through the regiments of the invisible enemy to his heavenly homeland." - St Herman of Alaska.

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