04 May 2010

A Sober, if Futile, Ecumenical 'Dialogue'


I have recently, and for the first time on this blog, I believe, been called an ‘Extremist’ for my criticisms of the ecumenical movement. But, to be fair, even those mature enough to rise above name-calling—first and foremost, the estimable John Sanidopoulos—appear to suspect that I cannot recognise even the possibility of sober ecumenical dialogue. A perfect way to prove them wrong has occurred to me.

Among the Orthodox delegates to the Anglican-Orthodox Joint Doctrinal Commission, which met in Moscow in 1976, were exactly two of the men that have been pointed out to me as saintly personalities involved in the ecumenical movement—Archbishop Basil (Krivoshein) of Brussells (MP) and Protopresbyter John Romanides. While I can’t say much about the members of the Anglican delegation—the only ones I know anything about are Canon A.M. Allchin and Revd Hugh Wybrew—I still feel that this meeting was largely an exercise in futility. Certainly, the Anglican Communion as a whole only seems farther from Orthodoxy than ever before.

But that having been said, from a perusal of those exchanges chosen for publication from among the discussions of various points of the resulting ‘Moscow Agreed Statement’, it is clear that in many ways we have an ecumenical dialogue carried on as well as it possibly could be in our day, thanks in no small part to the Orthodox delegates I have named. I shall offer two examples. First, from the discussion concerning section I.2 of the Agreed Statement:

Professor Romanides: There is a close connection between the whole question of inspiration and revelation and the distinction between the essence and energies of God. . . . I wish to ask the Anglicans this question: When the Old and New Testaments speak of the revealed glory of God do the Anglicans consider this glory to be created or uncreated? And if they regard it as uncreated do they consider it to be the essence of God?

The Bishop of Truro [Right Revd Graham Leonard]: I am certain that Professor Romanides and I believe the same things. But I wish to ask Professor Romanides: Is it necessary to my salvation to speak about the relation of God to creation in terms of the essence-energies to distinction? Cannot this teaching be expressed in other terms?

Professor Romanides: We can speak, as the Bible does, in terms of the depth of God and of the glory of God. The Holy Spirit searches the depth of God; but can man do this? There is something that man sees, but something else that he does not see. . . .

Bishop [Robert E.] Terwilliger [Suffragan of Dallas]: I am happy about the essence-energies distinction. But how early is it? Is it found in the early Christian sources?

Professor Romanides: The distinction has roots both in Judaism and in the Greek philosophical tradition. The Church uses the distinction not for philosophical but for experiential reasons.

Archbishop Basil: We should differentiate between (i) the fact itself, as expressed in what the Old and New Testaments tell us concerning the glory of God; and (ii) the terminology, which was used in the Patristic period but not fully developed until the time of St Gregory Palamas. It is difficult to require the Anglicans to accept the terminology of the later period. But do they accept what is said on this matter by the Cappadocians, and especially St Gregory of Nyssa?

The Bishop of Truro and Bishop Terwilliger: Yes.

Professor [Eugene R.] Fairweather: The distinction between essence and energies, as made in thesis 2 [of the Truro sub-commission], is radically unacceptable to many Anglicans. They would consider it unbiblical to affirm that the divine nature or essence is for ever excluded from human knowledge. Also the doctrine of the divine simplicity makes such a distinction problematical. The widely-held Anglican (and Western) view is that, in his present state, man does not receive the essence of God; but, although man will never comprehend or wholly grasp the essence of God, he will at the Last Day see the very being of God.

Bishop [Richard] Hanson: I agree with Dr Fairweather. According to the normal Western view, God is incomprehensible, in the sense that God’s nature can never be wholly grasped by man. But in his state of glory, man will see and know God himself. The Orthodox have their own way of stating this; but this way should not be made compulsory for the Anglicans. . . .

Dr Constantine Scouteris: We Orthodox do not seek to force the Anglicans to accept what they find uncongenial; we ask them to express their own tradition in a positive way.

Archbishop Basil: We are faced by a difference between the Cappadocian and the Augustinian traditions. The Cappadocians represent ancient Christian thought. Augustinianism is a deviation from this. The essence-energies distinction is an intellectual distinction, but it is at the same time a real distinction, because based on the reality of God.

Bishop Hanson: The Cappadocians must be understood in the context of the particular historical situation which they faced; they were concerned to answer the virulent rationalism of the Eunomians. In that situation the response of the Cappadocians is intelligible. But the West has its own reasons to adhere to Augustinianism, which expresses the same convictions in another and equally legitimate way.

Professor Romanides: . . . I return to my earlier question: In the Anglican view, is the revealed glory of God uncreated? If it is, is it the essence of God?

Professor Fairweather: It is a revelation of the uncreated through the medium of the created.

Professor Romanides: Here you follow Augustine.

Canon Allchin: I myself prefer the Orthodox to the Augustinian approach. But Anglicans wish to find room for both; they see advantages in both, but each presents certain difficulties. [1]

The insistence here on the importance of the essence/energies distinction by Fr Romanides and Archbishop Basil—culminating in the latter’s observation that Augustinianism ‘is a devition’ from ‘ancient Christian thought’—is greatly to be commended. Here is another exchange, this one from the discussion of section III.10.(ii)—‘The mind (phronema) of the Fathers, their theological method, their terminology and modes of expression have a lasting importance in both the Orthodox and Anglican Churches’: [2]

Archbishop Stylianos: . . . What Orthodox value is not just the terminology but the message and mind (phronema) of the Fathers.

Professor Galitis: Instead of ‘the Patristic period’, we should say ‘the Fathers’. We do not wish to restrict the Fathers chronologically.

Bishop Hanson welcomed the phrase ‘mind of the Fathers’. We Anglicans, he said, do not always admire the hermeneutical methods of the Fathers, but we do respect the conclusions to which the Fathers came.

The Revd Mark Santer: Let us say ‘the Fathers’ method of theology, whereby theology is linked with prayer’.

Professor Romanides: That is precisely what I mean by the Fathers’ theological method. [3]

Now, the Anglicans make some very revealing statements in both of these exchanges, some of which strike me as (perhaps unwittingly) ironic, and the Orthodox allow much to slide. But keeping in mind that all is provisional and preparatory, since Orthodox could not know at the time that Anglicans would deliberately ignore Orthodox sensibilities by introducing the novel practice of ordaining women, this is on the whole an admirable example of theological dialogue on the part of the Orthodox delegates. Because of changes on both sides—for instance, the rejection of the essence-energies distinction by an important Orthodox ecumenist, Met. John (Zizioulas), and the increasing abandonment of any kind of traditional theological or moral standards by much of the Anglican Communion—such a dialogue would be difficult to produce today. But it stands as a witness that in theory, at least, genuine discussion of theological differences can be had.


[1] Archim. Kallistos (Ware) & the Revd Colin Davey, eds., Anglican-Orthodox Dialogue: The Moscow Agreed Statement (London: SPCK, 1977), pp. 46-8.

[2] Ibid., p. 84.

[3] Ibid., p. 56.

18 comments:

The Ochlophobist said...

This idea that ecumenism is a missionary endeavor is quite strained.

First, God did not come to save theologians (in the modern sense of the word) and ecclesiocrats. They are hell fodder.

Second, even in this text, and many others like it (for a spell it was my responsibility to attend to the out-of-print WCC texts that we sold at Loomes) it is clear that the Anglican side is trying to negotiate ideas and terms with the Orthodox. They want to know how much they have to give in order for Orthodox to accept them on some level (this exact same game is being played by the continuing Anglicans in Fort Worth in their dialogues with the OCA). It is this quality of missions via negotiation that results in the ecumenical movement having no serious missiological telos from an Orthodox point of view. Sure, some Anglicans over the years did convert. Sure, some would not have encountered Orthodoxy had they not encountered Orthodoxy in ecumenical circles. I believe Romanides, Florovsky, and even down to Schmemann, Meyendorff, and Hopko in the 70s had nothing but good intentions, and presented the Orthodox faith in a decent manner. It is not that what these Orthodox men did was evil (which is where I disagree with the extreme anti-ecumenist side), it is that as an agenda it is futile and not following the right order of things. Sure, I could wear my Orthodox baptismal cross to a brothel, and a whore could see it and become interested in Orthodoxy and eventually convert. But a better ordo of missions might have had me preaching on the street or something.

Further, the phenomenon of ecumenism as ecumenism does not begin and end with talks such as you transcribe here, especially in our time. It has much to do with EU politics and Orthodox desperation for cultural viability in the West, and bishops who want more public face time and activism associated with them, etc.

The WCC and NCC have gotten to such a point that it is no longer in any meaningful sense Christians talking to Christians. We might as well call it interfaith dialogue, and frankly, I'd rather talk to traditional Buddhists and Muslims, with whom we have more in common.

As for current EOC/RCC dialogue, it all depends on which Orthodox and which Catholics are showing up. The ideological fragmentation of the current RCC is such that speaking in generalities regarding EOC/RCC dialogue is meaningless.

All of this carries that distinctly late modern spirit of doing something for the sake of doing something and putting public spin out for having done it.

aaronandbrighid said...

I completely agree, Owen. I just wanted to indicate an example of Orthodox with good intentions going in and trying to speak the truth. To the extent that they were able to make the Orthodox position clear, I applaud them. But I agree that it is ultimately a futile gesture, a point I chose to reflect even in the title of the post!

Taylor said...

Aaron - while I agree with your general point, that ecumenical dialogues are subject to serious pitfalls and dangers with some few benefits, I think it's important to question the suggestion of Fr. Romanides that Bl. Augustine is not part of the tradition of the fathers. Fr. Florovsky had a different view, as seen in the following words from his review of Vladimir Lossky's Mystical Theology:

But the author seems to assume that the tension between the East and the West, e.g., between the Trinitarian theology of the Cappadocians and that of Augustine, was of such a sharp and radical character as to exclude any kind of "reconciliation" and overarching synthesis. It would be more accurate to say that such a synthesis has never been accomplished or even has not been
thoroughly attempted. Even if we admit, as we certainly must, that the Trinitarian theology of Augustine was not welI known in the East, up to the late Middle Ages, Augustine's authority had never been seriously questioned in Byzantlum even in the times of Patriarch Photius. It is therefore unsafe to exclude his contribution from the Patristic heritage of the "Undivided Church." One should be "ecumenical" rather than simply "oriental" in the field of Patristic studies. One has to take into account the whole wealth of the Patristic tradition and wrestle impartially with its intrinsic variety and tensions.


I think the attitude expressed here by Fr. Florovsky is the key to understanding his own ecumenical 'openness' to new expressions of the truth, and his refusal to engage in hasty generalizations of the West as a monolithic, water-tight system of errors traceable to Bl. Augustine.

However, it does seem that ecumenical dialogues rarely engage in the kind of serious, consequential discussion of doctrines which Florovsky envisioned. The aim seems to have changed - can we venture to say that for Fr. Florovsky, the aim of ecumenical dialogues was either to a) persuade individuals to join the Orthodox church, or b) persuade whole Christian groups (he was rightly hesitant about calling them 'churches') to change themselves in order to be accepted into the body of Christ en masse? The aim nowadays seems to be much vaguer, with some kind of feeling that we are going to get other Christians to pay attention to history or have some new consciousness of the importance of ecclesiology. Forgive me if I misrepresent current dialogues, but that is my own opinion based on observation.

aaronandbrighid said...

Taylor> Thank you for your comment. I certainly agree 100% with Fr Florovsky, and if the Orthodox interlocutors are saying that Bl Augustine himself 'is not part of the tradition of the fathers', then I would part ways with them a bit here.

But, first, I took the reference to 'Augustinianism' rather than to the person of Bl Augustine as significant. To the extent that a consistent system is created almost solely from St Augustine's teachings, I think it cannot but be a deviation (note too that this is Archbishop Basil's suggestion, not that of Fr Romanides--too often opposition to Augustinianism is treated as a Romanidean idiosyncracy!). But St Augustine himself is a Father, even if he is sometimes in error.

Second, I think it is difficult to deny that, however much we Orthodox may value Bl Augustine and much of his teaching, it cannot all be reconciled with that of the Cappadocians and other Orthodox Fathers. Even the Anglicans do not deny that the Augustinian approach is substantively different from the Orthodox one (see Canon Allchin's last comment). The question of God's essence and energies is a particularly illustrative case. I have nothing but veneration for Bl Augustine, but I don't see how there can be any synthesis on this point.

Anonymous said...

A question about Fr. Romanides' question. I realize Fr. Romanides' concern is to maintain the reality of divine human communion, such that, if God's glory is uncreated, then we do not commune with God himself, but something that is created.

Romanides seems to assume that God cannot create something that is fully God. But why should anyone assume that? Why couldn't God create something that is fully part of Himself?

For instance, God was not always the Creator. Now he is. At some point God created the attribute of "being Creator". This attribute is not a creature, but is part of God. In the same way, why could God not create glory that is nonetheless truly God?

~Shawn L

Anonymous said...

Sorry, in the first sentence I meant to write "if God's glory is created..."

~Shawn L

The Ochlophobist said...

Shawn,

The fullness of God is Triune and eternal (in the full sense of eternal, having no beginning or end). As soon as a Triune eternal God creates something that is fully God such a God ceases to be Triune, and ceases to be eternal, and thus was not eternal (in the full sense) to begin with.

God exists outside of time. Insofar as He reveals Himself to man, there are certain attributes which men, via revelation, come to know in time. But there is no aspect of God which God does not at some point in time know concerning Himself. God does not know Himself 'in time' for He is never bound by time. God knows Himself outside of time. Time is created. Both God's essence and energies are eternal, and God's energies enter into time, without being bound to or by time, God's energetic movement in time retains its eternal nature. Thus many of the fathers speak of the Cross as the consummation of time, even though, chronologically, it is not the end of humanly experienced time within creation. Because God is timeless and his essence and energies are eternal, God cannot create an attribute of Himself which He at some point did not know. God knows all of Himself and all things always, unto ages of ages, amen.

The Ochlophobist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Sanidopoulos said...

Thanks for posting this Aaron. I agree pretty much with your whole evaluation, though of course I cannot call the exchange futile, since this exchange gives us the knowledge of how Anglicans were thinking at the time. It's easy to call something futile a posteriori, but we should look at it from their perspective a priori. Personally I find the entire exchange fascinating, so it isn't futile at least for me, and no one was better at getting to the heart of the issues than Fr Romanides, which is why in his lifetime he was probably more respected and honored by non-Orthodox than Orthodox, as was seen when the WCC paid their respects to him.

But from our last exchange I don't want you to think that I thought you were against ALL dialogue. You made it clear you were not. My problem was your misreading of St Justin in light of contemporary Ecumenical dialogue, which takes St Justin out of context and does a disservice to his excellent piece on Ecumenism (which I should also point out was a required text in my Dogmatics class under the "Ecumenist" Fr Emmanuel Clapsis at Holy Cross who praised the work and it is a text I wrote a paper on in 1997 or so). I agree that most Ecumenical dialogue is fruitless, especially these days, and they are very biased and one-sided, as is best expressed in the WCC and NCC. I also agree with your evaluation of Metr. John Zizioulas, though you are kinder than I would be in evaluating his theology. In fact, since you cite Fr Romanides, it should be pointed out that in his writings on his website he clearly reveals when things really started going downhill in Ecumenical dialogue. Anyway, my main problem is with Orthodox extremists who oppose dialogue to the point where they call every "official" exchange between Orthodox and Heterodox a "pan-heresy" (to exploit the term of St Justin) and all that other jargon. Ecumenical dialogue may be fruitless, but it is necessary and will always be necessary if the world is to understand where we are at and we where the world is at from their perspective. It still is missionary in the sense that it gives us a position in the world that we would not have without it, which always bugs me with anti-ecumenists who today are reaping the benefits of the work of Ecumenical dialogue yet altogether criticizing it at the same time. It has many good fruits and it has many bad fruits, and we may not have the best reps out there speaking up for us, but even God can work miracles through these fruitless exchanges (Parable of the Fig Tree anyone?), even if one soul finds Orthodoxy through it. But we should also look at it in light of the culture around us, especially in Europe and those nations where the majority of the population is secularized and reject religion altogether. This is no longer a world which Orthodoxy can stand alone as the only voice of reason in a growing secularized world of Barbarians. This can only be done by all the monotheistic faiths working together despite our endless disagreements, and in doing so we can also try and be the greatest light amongst all in this darkening world and maybe be a witness the right way, but that is up to each of us individully.

Taylor said...

Aaron - Though Archb. Basil seems to make the distinction between 'Augustinianism' and 'Augustine', Fr. Romanides does not: 'Here you follow Augustine.' If to 'follow Augustine' in his understanding of the Trinity is to be unorthodox, it seems that major problems ensue.

Bl. Augustine was always considered a true saint and father of the church in the East, and his Trinitarian theology was never questioned in any aspect until the 20th C., as far as I'm aware. He was defended by St Photios the Great, St Mark of Ephesus, and his works, including De Trinitate are quoted by St Gregory Palamas. There is evidence that Fr. Florovsky knew that Bl. Augustine did not accept the essence/energies distinction (nt. 68 of 'Creation and Creaturehood'), and yet he did not refuse to say what I quoted earlier, that a synthesis is not impossible but has simply not been attempted. I have real problems with Fr. Romanides' approach to Bl. Augustine, not least because he refuses to consider him a saint or father (Ancestral Sin, "Translator's Introduction" p. 11). This seems tantamount to saying that one 'knows better' than the 3 pillars of Orthodoxy, as well as Fr. Florovsky!

Anonymous said...

Hi Ochlophobist,

You wrote "As soon as a Triune eternal God creates something that is fully God such a God ceases to be Triune."

Why? For instance, why couldn't God create an attribute such as "God is Creator" that is equally true of the three persons, and also a genuine part of God? I don't see how that would jeopardize God's Triunity.

Or to return to Romanies question, why does he assume that God could not create a glory that is both expressive of the three persons and properly part of God's being? I don't know where Romanies justifies such an assumption in his writings. Any ideas where I could find such an argument?

You also wrote: "Because God is timeless and his essence and energies are eternal, God cannot create an attribute of Himself which He at some point did not know." Agreed. But why couldn't God create an attribute that was both timelessly known by God and a part of his being? Or are you confusing God being timeless with God being immutable?

~ Shawn L

The Ochlophobist said...

Shawn,

Are you an open theist?

Orthodox belief is that the three Persons of the Trinity are uncreated. The introduction of a created thing (any thing, attribution or otherwise) into the Godhead would be an introduction of some thing which is foreign to the nature of the Godhead itself. If the Triune eternal God is uncreated, then the "created attribute" would not be equal to the Triune Persons, but derivative in a manner that could never be "fully God." It is something other than the uncreated Triunity. Further, the creation of that which was not and now is connotes time, thus such a creation would, if we say that God could create an attribute which is fully God, bind all of the Godhead to time within creation. This is why I ask if you are an open theist, as there are open theists who assert that in the moment of creation God became bound to time.

"why couldn't God create an attribute that was both timelessly known by God and a part of his being?" First of all, you should perhaps define attribute as you use the term. God has no need for abstract categorical constructs, or "ideas" in the non-Platonic sense (if you were concerned with the Platonic sense of 'idea' it seems you would not be concerned with it being a created thing), God creates, He is Creator, but He always knows Himself as Creator outside of time. That knowledge itself within the Godhead is not a creation. If by attribute you infer one of those theologies which suggests that God is the sum of His attributes then Orthodoxy theology is much averse to this. In Orthodox theology, what can be attributed to God's essence? God does not create His energies, for if He did, then according to the Orthodox logic the revelation of God to man is created, and we head towards Arianism, and the presence of God known by man is a created medium, and thus not an actual direct encounter with God.

It seems to me that perhaps some of the concerns you have are answered in the Orthodox polemic against Arianism. Why can't we say that the pre-incarnate Christ was created, and at some point did not exist, but was nonetheless divine?

Or are you confusing God being timeless with God being immutable? If there is any part of God which is bound by time, which a created part of God would be in some fashion, then God is clearly not immutable. God being eternal and immutable go hand in hand. If a being is not eternal it is not immutable, as it has or will change. Further, I agree with those arguments that state that if it is not immutable it cannot be eternal. For an eternal being to be eternally its being cannot change or be subject to change. To say that the created "God is Creator" is now part of the Godhead is to say that the Triune God prior to "God is Creator" is no longer and the Triune God with "God is Creator" is now. I don't think we can speak of ontologies proper within the Godhead, but your suggested created attribution as fully God suggests that we can, and thus this logic falls in play. A being whose ontology is subject to change cannot be eternal, because a change in ontology is a change in being. A change in being means that the being before is no longer and the new being is obviously not eternal. In such a case the eternity of all of the Godhead is lost, or, if we want to be fanciful, we could argue that there is division within the Godhead, between the eternal and non-eternal fullness of God which somehow leaves God ontologically intact. According to Orthodox Trinitarian thought, such a notion is incomprehensible. You could try going an anti-ontological route, a God without being path, but this will be hard when asserting a created God is Creator into the Godhead.

aaronandbrighid said...

Taylor> Of course I believe Bl Augustine is ‘a true saint and father of the Church’ (have you seen my post on him from last year?). But this does not mean that everything he wrote was Orthodox. Fr Seraphim (Rose) points out how wrong he was about grace and free will, and a simple comparison of De Trinitate on the Old Testament theophanies with the opening paragraphs of the Hagiorite Tome is enough to show they are radically different. Keep in mind as well that his Triadology is that of the Platonist Victorinus (which is not an Orthodox idea, but a fact noted by Western scholars), since he teaches that the Holy Spirit is a bond of unity between Father and Son. The Pillars of Orthodoxy recognise Bl Augustine as an Orthodox Saint, and they do not speak disrespectfully of him as so many do today, unfortunately, but it is widely agreed that the problems I have referred to are not simply apparent, but actual. As Fr Alexander (Golitzin), for instance, who is far from suggesting Bl Augustine is not a Saint, has written:

‘It is, of course, St Augustine's elaboration and defense of the [Victorinian] double procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son which, long after the saint's death (his writings were not translated into Greek until the end of the thirteenth century), provoked heated controversy between medieval Greek and Latin theologians. No single issue between Christian East and West, including the debate over the nature of papal primacy, has led to such an outpouring of polemic as the Western filioque.’

Furthermore, while Fr Alexander happily observes in another article that St Gregory Palamas used latter portions of De Trinitate, note what he goes on to say:

'It is equally clear to me, on the other hand, as it was to Romanides before me, that St Gregory must have positively rejected the polemics of De trinitate I-IV, which sound a great deal like Barlaam on the question of the biblical theophanies, and where Augustine set his face against and broke with prior tradition in order to deny the visio dei both to the saints of Israel and to Christians on this side of the eschaton (54). Palamas did not then accept the whole of Augustine on the Trinity, but only that (and it seems to have been quite a lot) which he appears to have felt could be enfolded without rupture or strain into the already existent theological Gestalt of the Greek East.'

Taylor said...

Aaron - forgive me if it seemed that I was accusing you of denying that Bl. Augustine is a saint. My criticism was aimed at Fr. Romanides, who explicitly asked that he not be called a saint in the English edition of his Ancestral Sin (ref. above). I also have major problems with Bl. Augustine's teaching on free will and grace developed during the Pelagian controversy. However, these were questioned during his lifetime by a representative of the Orthodox Catholic tradition, St. John Cassian, as well as other monks from Hadrumetum and Provence.

His trinitarian theology, on the contrary, was never questioned directly until the 20th C - surely evidence that it was considered, in large part at least, to be Orthodox. Bl. Augustine never suggested that the filioque be added to the creed - and, he admits in his own work on the Holy Trinity that much of it is speculative and not to be considered dogma.

I like the quote from Fr. Golitzin (what is the reference, by the way?), but it seems that if St Gregory found Augustine in disagreement he did so in silence, without the need to question an established saint and father. Shouldn't we do the same, without continually harping on how Augustine is the root of all Western errors? Again, my criticism is not of you, but of Fr. Romanides' assertion that he is not a saint and his conflation of Augustine with Augustinianism.

John Sanidopoulos said...

It should be noted, as Fr Romanides has said and commended Augustine for, that Augustine himself admitted that he was merely speculating on the Holy Trinity and not following the Fathers, and he was humble enough on a few occasions to admit that he may be wrong...which he obviously was. Fr Romanides instead criticizes the followers of Augustine that took his teachings on the Holy Trinity seriously, especially the Frankish theologians of Charlemagne.

aaronandbrighid said...

Taylor> Thank you for your response, and for the clarification about your concerns. It is very helpful. And yes, I completely agree that we should not 'continually harp on how Augustine is the root of all Western errors'! I am quite fond of St Photius the Great's insistence that we imitate the sons of Noah in covering the nakedness of their father, and you will notice that criticism of Bl Augustine is most certainly not a theme of this blog. But in the context of discussing the differences between East and West at the theological level, I think Bl Augustine can be an important way to begin, provided as I said that we speak of the man himself respectfully. I certainly do believe he is a Saint, and that many if not all of his errors are entirely covered by his humility and willingness to accept the correction of the Church.

The quotes from Fr Alexander are from, first, his article 'Adam, Eve, & Seth: Pneumatological Reflections on an Unusual Image in Gregory of Nazianzus', and second, his 'Dionysius Areopagites in the Works of St Gregory Palamas: On the Question of a "Christological Corrective" & Related Matters'. Both are available online at the Marquette University 'Jewish Roots of Eastern Xian Mysticism' seminar page.

Ari said...

I think the Anglican comment is illuminating: "widely-held Anglican (and Western) view" with reference to Augustinianism and Western Christianity. One, in that they here (for once) admit that it is not the sole Western theology, even more when Canon Allchin admits "I myself prefer the Orthodox to the Augustinian approach. But Anglicans wish to find room for both; they see advantages in both, but each presents certain difficulties."
The 'finding room for both' is a political maneuver - to allow those with the Calvinist/Augustinian leanings to share space with the more ancient Western Patristic view that is contrary to both (but of the same stuff as the Eastern Orthodox.)

What this shows to me, that even as the 'Ecumenical experiment' went horribly awry, it was an Orthodox witness that allowed for what we have now - a growing Orthodox conversion in some parts of the West. Speaking the truth allowed light to be shown on just what Western Christianity was all about in its myriad confusions and obscurations.

That's real Ecumenicism: one Church that includes Middle Easterners, Eastern Europeans, Western Europeans, Africans, Far Easterners, Native Americans... a whole Oecumene of mankind. If the Ecumenicism isn't of the type that defends Orthodoxy, and leaves the door open to all men of good will that believe - then I'm not sure how 'ecumenical' it can be. (Syncretism should be called for what it is.)

Νίκος Κοσμίδης said...

Thank you all for sharing your ideas and concerns. As a member in one of WCC’s commissions I always enjoy reading ideas and deferent opinions regarding the ecumenical movement and our involvement as Orthodox, especially if they are well presented as yours. Two weeks ago I was requested to present in a postgraduate Conference in the Theological Faculty of Thessaloniki whether the ecumenical movement and especially WCC can be a place of honest dialogue. In my opinion we have to be open to the Holy Spirit. If WCC has ended its circle of life then it is up to the member Churches to find a new way to communicate with each other or to spend a time of contemplation. In my participation I always try to remember what Christ said to the Disciples when He predicted His Crucifixion: “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” (St Mark 8:36).
As I was reading your comments regarding Bl Augustine a question came to my mind. A few years ago I was participating in a summer Orthodox youth meeting and one of the speakers said that Bl Augustine is not really a Saint and we should remove his memory from our calendars. But Bl Augustine is not the only Saint who believed in wrong theological ideas(I dare not to say heresies without an official Church statement). I could also refer another Saint whom I honor very much, Saint Gregorios the Dialogos and his believes about purgatory. We know that Eastern Fathers also expressed ideas which are not accepted by the Church, like Saint Gregorios of Nyssa on the general restoration (Apocatastasis). My question is this; is it right or worthy to search the catholicity of the Orthodox Catholic faith in the face of one person, even if he is a Saint, or is it more right to say that the catholicity of Christ’s faith is expressed by the whole Church? Of course when the Theology of a Church is based in the writings of one Saint, like in the case of the Roman Catholic Church, then I do understand that it becomes a serious problem…