Saturday, August 8, 2009

From Wikipedia (and Fr. Stephen)...

Wikipedia is somewhat controversial. Nevertheless, I have usually found it to be a reliable source of information (a bit of which, on certain topics, I myself have supplied).

My friend and colleague, Mother Charlie, Archabbas of the Order of Celtic Benedictines (see link on the right), called the following to my attention (and no, I contributed nothing to this particular article):

"Eastern Orthodox Christian theology"

I particularly like the lede paragraph:

"Eastern Orthodox Christian theology is the theology particular to the Eastern Orthodox Church. It is characterized by monotheistic Trinitarianism, belief in the Incarnation of the Logos (Son of God), a balancing of cataphatic theology with apophatic theology, a hermeneutic defined by Sacred Tradition, a concrete ecclesiology, a robust theology of the person, and a therapeutic soteriology."

And then, there is this, from Fr. Stephen:

"The Fullness of Faith"

One caveat: in the above, Father goes beyond a "concrete ecclesiology" to a typically Byzantine Orthodox closed ecclesiology which he then conflates with the doctrine of the Communion of Saints. However, it is better to know one place where the concrete Church actually is, even if one finds it only there, than to either, in effect, deny the existence of that real, historical, continuous Church (Evangelicalism), or (as in the case of Mormonism) to find it where it does not exist.


Joe Heschmeyer said...

I agree with you on the superiority of identifying the One True Church in one of Her manifestations over identifying Her where she is not, or refusing to acknowledge Her concrete existence. However, when it comes to charity, it can be a bit problematic. The Feeneyist assumption that all non-Roman Catholics are assuredly damned isn't just impolite: it suggests that some are damned who are saved.

Also, I wanted to give you a head's up: I'm discussing women's ordination somewhat on Monday. I'd already written the post before I saw your nota bene, and I didn't want you to think I was just flaunting your desire not to get into that debate.

In this case, I hardly what I'm saying debatable. I'm looking (briefly) at a specifically Roman Catholic context, and Ordinatio Sacerdolatis closes that debate. How someone can claim to be (a) a Catholic in good standing, and (b) in open opposition to the Church's dogmatically defined position is a bit confusing to me. The scope of my comments won't directly apply to Anglo-Catholicism (or the ACCA), since they don't pretend to be in full communion with Rome.

fatherstephen said...

Ah, but Father, you would to if you weren't Vagante. :)

Mother Clement said...

Father Bless!!!

Thanks for this post!

In fact, you've inadvertantly stepped into it now with the following phrase: " ... a typically Byzantine Orthodox closed ecclesiology."

I would humbly beg for you to expound more on this as it directly relates to a problem area for a person we both know.
Also, I remember in a few of our conversations you mentioning that the Oriental Orthodox have a bit more of an open ecclesiology.

Also, with said person, church unity figures prominently.
I have given some thought to this and it would seem to me that there are two types of unity - canonical and mystical.

What say ye?

Mother +C.

FrGregACCA said...

Joe, thanks for the heads-up. The question of women’s ordination aside, what you have posted today regarding mainstream Anglicanism, and especially TEC, is spot on.

Fr. Stephen, I see the smiley at the end of your comment, but I do think it deserves a serious reply. “Vagante”, I think, is primarily a functional term, one that is perhaps best contrasted with “mainstream,” and, as such, says little, in and of itself, about one’s theology or the theology of one’s Church.

Joe, above, mentions Feeneyism, a trend within the RC ambit, best known for a very strict understanding of “Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus”. Prior to his death, Fr. Feeney was reconciled with Rome, and one group of his followers today functions within the RCC. Another group, however, remains outside juridical control of the Roman hierarchy. They would certainly seem to be “vagante,” yet theirs is a very closed ecclesiology.

Another example that immediately comes to mind is within the Byzantine Orthodox world, that of Archbishop Gregory of Colorado, who lumps “world Orthodoxy” (the mainstream communion of the “canonical”, patriarchal Churches) in with the “heretical” Roman Catholics, Protestants, and “Monophysites” of the Oriental Orthodox Churches. He also classifies other Old Calendarists, such as the Milan Synod, as “schismatic”. Vladyka Gregory looks pretty vagante to me, and his ecclesiology is also extremely closed, to the point of excluding anyone from the Church who is not in full communion with HIM.

There are also other examples, such as sede vacante RC groups. No, I think the relative openness of our ecclesiology is more about our being within the Indo-Syriac Orthodox ambit than about our being “vagante”. Perhaps there is also a question of being relatively moderate. It seems that, in general, vagante groups are either extremely traditionalist or extremely “liberal”. Perhaps, to modify a bit what I said above, there is a certain logic of being on the margins that both motivates and tends to perpetuate that. However, the ACCA intentionally eschews either extreme, taking seriously the dictum that “tradition is the living faith of the dead, while traditionalism is the dead faith of the living”. We seek to live the Tradition as we have received it by way of our Indo-Syriac roots, but at the same time, to “sort Patristic wheat from Patristic chaff”, as Vladyka Kallistos Ware puts it; the latter, BTW, is simply another way of speaking of “critical reappropriation”.

Mother Charlie, my response to you is coming up next.

FrGregACCA said...

Mother Charlie: M’barek Allahah!

I have to split this comment. Here is Part One:

There are a couple of questions here: first, where is the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of the Creed to be found?

Second, what is the relationship of other Christians (and other Christian communities) to said Church?

Regarding the first question, the Byzantine Orthodox answer is simple: Vladyka Kallistos Ware writes: “The Orthodox Church in all humility believes itself to be the ‘one, holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church,’ of which the Creed speaks: such is the fundamental conviction which guides Orthodox in their relations with other Christians. There are divisions among Christians, but the Church itself is not divided nor can it ever be.”

Regarding the second question, there is a wide range of opinion among the Byzantines. Of the more moderate opinion, Ware writes: “If Orthodox claim to be the one true Church, what then do they consider to be the status of those Christians who do not belong to their communion? Different Orthodox would answer in slightly different ways, for although all loyal Orthodox are agreed in their fundamental teaching concerning the Church, they do not entirely agree concerning the practical consequences which follow from this teaching. There is first a more moderate group, which includes most of those Orthodox who have had close personal contact with other Christians. This group holds that, while it is true to say that Orthodoxy is the Church, it is false to conclude from this that those who are not Orthodox cannot possibly belong to the Church. Many people may be members of the Church who are not visibly so; invisible bonds may exist despite an outward separation. The Spirit of God blows where it will, and, as Irenaeus said, where the Spirit is, there is the Church. We know where the Church is but we cannot be sure where it is not; and so we must refrain from passing judgment on non-Orthodox Christians. In the eloquent words of Khomiakov: ‘Inasmuch as the earthly and visible Church is not the fullness and completeness of the whole Church which the Lord has appointed to appear at the final judgment of all creation, she acts and knows only within her own limits; and ... does not judge the rest of mankind, and only looks upon those as excluded, that is to say, not belonging to her, who exclude themselves. The rest of mankind, whether alien from the Church, or united to her by ties which God has not willed to reveal to her, she leaves to the judgment of the great day’ (The Church is One, section 2)”

Thus, it is possible to be an “anonymous Orthodox”. This, I suppose, would be a “mystical unity”. However, in using such terms, from any Traditional perspective, one possibly gets into the dangerous ground of seeing the Church as being essentially invisible, ahistorical, and even, discontinuous. All Traditional Christians, Byzantine, Oriental, RC (and Anglo-Catholic) would agree that the Church of the Creed is visible, social, historical, and continuous.

FrGregACCA said...

Part Two:

With the possible exception of the Copts, the mainstream Oriental Orthodox are indeed more open ecclesiologically, maintaining a position which is perhaps closer to that of the RCC, which, while certainly seeing itself as “the Church” on the universal level, also recognizes that Christian communities outside the Roman Communion are true “particular Churches.” According to Catechism of the [Roman] Catholic Church, a Christian community is a true “particular Church” if it is led by a bishop in apostolic succession, holds to a “full and complete” profession of faith, and worships according to Traditional norms. This is explicitly applied to the Byzantine Orthodox Churches, but its application is in principle broader. Of course, the catechism goes on to define “full Catholicity” in terms of communion with, and submission to, the Pope, the successor of Peter.

The Byzantine say, however, that the Church, being “one”, can never be divided. We say, “We are all schismatics." The full unity of the Church will not be revealed this side of Parousia” even though it IS realized, even now, despite all division, in the profession of a common faith, in a common, but divided, continuity, in a common structure, and in the celebration of common sacraments/mysteries.

You speak, Mother, of our mutual friend. You say that “Church unity” is important to this person; however, I’m not clear on what that means to them. Given its heterogeneity, Anglicanism always presents a special problem. Thus, within (confessional, classical) Anglicanism, one finds folks of both an Orthodox/Catholic and a Calvinist bent. The Byzantines are correct here: this is a problem. Church unity must be, first, about agreement in matters of faith. This does not exclude differences of opinion on certain matters; however, within classical, confessional Anglicanism, we find at least two different forms of Christian faith, each either presented as the faith in toto, or as matters of opinion, not directly touching on the faith, when in fact they do. Thus, for example, some Anglicans hold to the Apostolic doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, surely a matter of faith, while other Anglicans deny it. One can surely hold to the validity of all trinitarian baptism, as does Rome, without thinking that Christians of all confessional stripes should be united in one institution which is then called a “Church”. At the same time, I have to say that there is an Anglican way of being Orthodox/Catholic; however, it must explicitly exclude, for example, Calvinism and receptionism. These are not distortions of the faith, as with the papal claims, the filioque, or holding that Chalcedon is an ecumenical council, but are indeed heresies.

Mother Clement said...


You are a truly a treasure!

Mother +C.