My thoughts on Eastern Orthodoxy

Discussion in 'Navigating Through Church Life' started by Stalwart, Feb 16, 2022.

  1. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    I thought I'd give my 2 cents on my experiences there, and what people should know.

    Most people who don't know much about EO think it's just like the Western Church, just a bit cleaner from modernism. Well let me tell you, it is very different from the Western Church; in some ways cleaner, but in other ways far more alien; much more toxic, and very, very hopeless. Reason, human thinking, on a fundamental level is dead in Eastern Orthodoxy; it is impossible to be as fully human there as in western christianity, which promotes faith + reason. You are never allowed to ask questions; and nothing ultimately has any reasons; those who ask for reasons, or try to use their minds are inspected suspiciously: "are you one of those dirty western christians? Don't you know that thinking and reason leads to gay marriage and apostacy? Better to not ask any questions and do as you're told."

    The EO also doesn't have a history of philosophy. Despite sitting on tomes of Aristotle and Plato in their byzantine libraries, it was left to outsiders (ie us, westerners) to properly restore the study of philosophy; the Byzantines sat on Aristotle for centuries and couldn't give a whit about his thought. The abortive school of Palamism is not only anti-Aristotelian, it is also a paltry effort and ultimately stillborn, compared to hundreds of incredible Western Christian philosophers that capably plumbed the depths of existence, the riches of reality, the truths of human nature, and the principles of morality. The byzantine East simply has nothing compared to the western philosophic thought. In short, the byzantines on a fundamental level forbid their people to think about the big questions of life. Once you go past the early Byzantine history of Maximus the Confessor and John Damascene, the number of people who simply engage in thinking dwindles more and more; by the 10th, 11th, 12th centuries there is a veritable desert of human thought in all of the Byzantine empire.

    And thus in byzantine history there is no large-scale tradition of thinking about life or faith. The Christian beliefs are mostly not defended rationally. Either you accept what they tell you without questions, or you are a dirty western christian, tainted with your reason, with your "thinking". That's why historically EO has only won by force, by brute subjection; get a local king to support you and execute those who oppose you. When the state went against them, as in the 1917 russia, they literally didn't know how to defend their faith against the Bolsheviks. When they came to power in 1999 under Putin, guess what: back to suppressing by state force all those who opposed them. They sat in Africa for thousands of years, and converted almost no one; while the Protestant missionaries in just 100 years (whether of good doctrine or bad doctrine from my point of view), have converted practically the whole continent to Christianity. That's just one instance of the incredible inertness and helplessness, hopelessness, of the E.O. approach to life.

    The toxicity and irrationality in E.O. culture leads to there being an incredible turnover in EO converts, who jump right back out after a few months in. It's easy to idolize what is unknown, little understood, and far away. The grass always seems greener on the other side. But I was blessed with an early and deep exposure to Eastern Orthodoxy, which helped to inoculate me from ever casting a second look in that direction.

    It's Anglicanism or nothing for my Christian faith.

    The Anglican tradition is the best and possibly only option left in Christianity, for anyone who wishes to have the church of the Church Fathers. For those who want to look around and still have the Christian worldview of John Crysostom, Ambrose, Augustine, Cyril, Justin Martyr, and Theodoret (as well as the Anglican Divines, who consciously shaped themselves after those great exemplars). We may have our problems just as anyone, but we also have all the tools necessary to fix them. We have reason and philosophy. We have scripture at our very core. We have the church fathers. We have the Anglican divines and philosophers. No one else has more than 1 of these; we have them all.
     
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2022
  2. bwallac2335

    bwallac2335 Well-Known Member

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    Now my area of study is not Eastern Orthodoxy but it is Byzantium in general. I generally focused on the politics, military and cultural trends. I generally left the church alone unless it came into one of those spheres. I can tell you that your category on the intellectual thought of Byzantium is outdated and just plain wrong. It reminds me of Edward Gibbeons. Maybe the modern EO life and parish is like this but the characterization of Byzantium is just wrong. Byzantium we owe a great debt. The Islamic tide would have swept into Europe a long time ago. They defended the West by blood, sweat, and tears for literally 1000 years. We owe them a debt and at least we can be honest about them.
    https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/byzantine-philosophy/#LitForByz That is a good intro.

    If you will listen and follow this scholars work on Byzantium you will see that Byzantium gave alot to the world in Engineering also. https://oyc.yale.edu/history/hist-210/lecture-18
     
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  3. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    That's not the only lens through which to look at Byzantium. If there was a pagan tribe between the Latins and Islam, would you be just as thankful to them? We can similarly say that were it not for the Mongols sacking Baghdad, the West would have fallen also, but it's not exactly right to sing praises to the Mongols.

    So no, I'm not going to praise Byzantium excessively. Sure, they were still Christian, and sure they were a buffer state, so they helped us simply by being closer to the fighting. And I can give them a small amount of credit for that. But that's all they can get credit for. If we just think of culture and not of religion, whose culture was richer and deeper in the 10th century -- Byzantium or Islam? It's not even close. The Muslims of that era looked like some sort space-faring futuristic inventors and designers by comparison.

    Here are all the Byzantine inventions listed in Wikipedia. It's comical, if it wasn't so tragic:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Byzantine_inventions

    But I don't want to rely on Wikipedia, so I'll be glad to have an in-depth discussion. And I'll tone down the polemic so that we can have a rational discussion.

    By the way, speaking of rational; here is a podcast that lists the entire course of Byzantine philosophy, for their entire thousand years. I've listened to all of the episodes, and philosophy is my hobby-horse. Again it would be funny if it wasn't so very sad:
    https://historyofphilosophy.net/series/byzantine-philosophy
     
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2022
  4. bwallac2335

    bwallac2335 Well-Known Member

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    I am not sure this is the place to debate the merits of Byzantium or not. I would love to hear more about your time in the EO. I like them a lot better than Rome and they are one of the few churches to maintain apostolic succession is why I would rather be them than Rome.
     
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  5. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Yeah Byzantine history probably deserves its own thread. And just to touch on having to choose them over Rome: if it comes to that, then Christianity is well and truly over, because the EO culture does not have within itself the tools needed to grow or spread. It can only grow ethnically through children; or, by violent military imposition. Its biggest proponents on YouTube (Jay Dyer etc) are big “presuppositionalists”, a mode of arguing which basically means, “You either believe us or you don’t. There is no persuading anyone”. So classical Western culture, the Western way of thinking, is well and truly dead in E. Orthodoxy, and I argue has never truly lived there.

    As for me personally, I basically spent a large chunk of my childhood in E. Orthodox circles, through my parents (long story). You guys here see how inquisitive I can get. Imagine a 10-year old me, peppering Orthodox priests with questions. Just like Jay Dyer tells his adherents today, I was told, look you either accept or you don't, there is no explaining it. Anything. My deepest questions about life as a young boy growing up were left unanswered, and in fact I was told it is sinful to have too many questions. In short when I grew up I knew that I couldn't be a Christian if this is what Christianity meant. I had to spend many years wandering in the wilderness before I found Western Christianity, and especially the Anglican tradition.
     
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2022
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  6. bwallac2335

    bwallac2335 Well-Known Member

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    That is odd about them not being able to grow because they are ethnic enclaves. I thought I had heard rumors of pretty convert heavy parishes and some groups being much more convert friendly like Antioch and the OCA but then again I have never been a member of the EO.
     
  7. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    The OCA has been in existence for around 100 years. After all that presence, E. Orthodoxy today accounts for merely 2-4% of American Christians. There is the entire poverty of Eastern Orthodox culture in a nutshell.

    The only reason anyone joins them today is because of Western Christian issues; not EO virtues. People are fleeing out, rather than streaming in. Then they join and are shocked to hear of OCA advocacy of women’s ordination and the whole panoply of progressive secular agendas. The only reason ROCOR is better is because it’s ethnically majority-Russian. But there is zero apologetics in ROCOR. Zero apologetics in OCA.

    Also don’t forget that the microscopic size of EO in America means that any tiny influx of converts yields headlines like “50% More Converts into EO than Before!” There’s a book out, “How To Lie With Statistics”.
     
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  8. bwallac2335

    bwallac2335 Well-Known Member

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    Well t here is a reason I read myself into Anglicanism and not EO. I just prefer them to Rome
     
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  9. AnglicanAgnostic

    AnglicanAgnostic Well-Known Member

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    I still get annoyed about our minister of finance saying "The rate of increase of inflation is going down" and no one picking him up on it.
    Inflation may have been 4% then next year 8% (a 4% increase) then 11%( a 3% increase),then 13% (a two % increase). It's all bad news really, if you consider inflation is bad news.

    Would it be bad news if my actions increased the number of people dying of heart disease?
    Of course not if it was because I found a cure for cancer.

    Another interesting stat. If there was a horrible disease (we'll call it the dreaded lurgy) that affects 1 in 10,000 people, you test positive for it with a test that is 99% accurate, how worry should you be. Ans= not overly worried. If all 10000 people were tested, 100 would test positive as it's 1% inaccurate, but off those 100 positive tests only one would be truely positive.
     
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2022
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  10. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    I also was EO before.
     
  11. bwallac2335

    bwallac2335 Well-Known Member

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    What is your take?
     
  12. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    Much of what @Stalwart has said resonates with me, though some of my experience has been different. (I didn't spend any time in the OCA, for example.) On the positive side, the liturgy is incomparable and the overall ethos of Orthodox spirituality and the balance between public and private devotion is unique. However, what you see in Orthodoxy is not the liturgy in its fullness but rather an abbreviated version of it. Orthodoxy never reformed its medieval elements, so the solution for parish use was to simply cut out the lengthiest parts of the liturgy - the Psalms - so that the bulk of what the average parishioner is actually exposed to is 2nd millennium hymnody. Pretty, yes; ancient, no. Orthodoxy's own "prayer book" tradition is only about 150 years old and based on Western models; prior to that, daily prayer for the laity was just based on oral tradition, whatever quality that was. Knowledge of the Scriptures was practically nonexistent in most places (and still is). Institutionally, education is not a priority, and Orthodoxy has not produced any systematic theologians or biblical scholars of note. There is only one Orthodox college in the U.S. At neither the parish level nor in seminary is biblical instruction a central focus. Basically once you go through a few liturgical cycles and you're done being overwhelmed by the beauty of the worship and the rigor of the fasting rules, you realize there's nothing lying beneath all of that except bare obedience. Nothing is questioned, goofy scholarship is presented as learning, and there are no solid intellectual resources for apologetics, evangelism, etc. Retention among both cradles and converts is abysmal, so parish membership is often a revolving door. The hierarchy is also highly dysfunctional.
     
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  13. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    There's all kinds of mythologies spread around in Orthodox circles, I mean incredibly ludicrous ones, such as that St. Luke was an icon painter, and the EO icon tradition is actually the style originated by St. Luke in the 1st century AD.

    Most people also don't know that in the 1700s, the entire EO Church in Russia was disbanded, and re-organized on the model of German Lutheran consistories. So if you were an EO in 1910, for example, your church would operate like a Lutheran consistory.

    Also people don't that most current prelates of Russian Orthodoxy have been documented high-ranking KGB officers, including Patriarch Kyrill. They became EO in the era of the Soviet Union, and their function as KGB officers was to infiltrate the russian church (such as it was under the Soviets).

    Most of this is unknown because there is no critical thinking in EO culture. You're simply not allowed to engage in that kind of thinking. That's dirty, western. No, you do as you're told. Asking too many questions is "against God". Snitches get sitches. Etc.
     
  14. bwallac2335

    bwallac2335 Well-Known Member

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    Anyone have experience with oriental orthodoxy
     
  15. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    In light of the recent Russia/Ukraine war, I present to you this picture. It as another example a deeply rooted corruption at the very heart of the Eastern Orthodox understanding of divinity. It alone is easily as bad as any of the ills plaguing Western churches. This image is simply impossible to imagine in Anglicanism:

    IMG_4877.PNG
     
  16. Mockingbird

    Mockingbird Member

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  17. youngfogey

    youngfogey Member

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    I was Orthodox for 16 years, including nine as a tonsured reader in ROCOR. Moscow Patriarchate the first two years. Lots of singing in choirs too. I do know a little Russian and can serve in church in Slavonic.

    In my own way I'm still in this tradition, still with a higher regard for it than some here have. I respect the integrity of rites - a rite is a whole school of Christian thought and living, not just a style of church services. I explain Orthodox beliefs and the Orthodox phronema, including a sacramentology that receives other Christians by baptism, as honestly and fairly as I can. After leaving and some time to detox, for the past three years full time I've been living in the rite again.

    I'm not trying to individually convert, split, or replace born Orthodox.

    All that said, Stalwart's and Invictus' accounts of the Orthodox' problems resonate with me; why for 11 years I've been Catholic again.

    Under the bonnet (hood) my moral theology is traditional Latin, including on contraception and remarriage after divorce. The Orthodox are wrong on those, yet they're super-strict about just a rule, fasting. Guys, economy is just for rules, not morals. I don't want to latinize the Orthodox but those issues are not negotiable.

    I get Orthodox sacramentology but I couldn't make myself believe that the Latin Mass has been a fraud for 1,000 years. The Orthodox have their token Western rites but especially in ROCOR they're a byzantinized joke: https://www.rocor-wr.org/. Catholics have the same problem latinizing the Eastern rites they use.
     
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  18. Fr. John Whiteford

    Fr. John Whiteford Member

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    This image is photoshopped.
     
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