The Spectrum of Orthodoxy

Discussion in 'Non-Anglican Discussion' started by Religious Fanatic, Oct 3, 2019.

  1. Religious Fanatic

    Religious Fanatic Well-Known Member

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    Liturgyworks, I wanted you to let me know if my understanding of Orthodoxy is correct, as there are no penultimate Catechisms of the Orthodox Faith.

    1. Orthodoxy is a spectrum of beliefs. Like most spectrums, there will be minor disagreements in a few points between individuals, but they generally do not breach outside the boundary of being largely Orthodox in some way.
    2. These beliefs contain distinctly Orthodox doctrines, the most notable of all being the rejection of the filioque and the differing view of how original sin is understood, and the rest being early apostolic and catholic beliefs.
    3. The Orthodox do not generally define them in catechisms like the Romans or Anglicans do, since they believe in apophatic theology, which says it's better to define what God isn't rather than everything he CAN be. Hence why Catechisms seldom exist, all related to a rejection of western scholasticism and an emphasis on mystery.
    4. Orthodox may respond to the accusations of division between them as an obedience to one's conscience at the time of their spiritual journey. For instance, if I want to understand an Orthodox's view of prelest, he is entitled to explain to me the extent that he knows it even if another gives a very different explanation, because there is no linear way to approach God, all will eventually come together as one picture for the inquirer so long as he's genuinely trying to understand it. Again, another rejection of the systematic western scholastic attempt to explain God or theology.
    5. Experience is understood as better than rationalist argumentation because, after all, "Truth is stranger than fiction". Also the biblical verses which warn of how the natural man finds things of God foolish without a spiritual mind or obedience in humility to faith, and that humanist reasoning, like communism, ends up proving that "it's easier to fight for principles than to live up to them" done by so many philosophical systems rather than the reimbursement of the holy spirit.

    Is this a good summary?
  2. Liturgyworks

    Liturgyworks Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Christian Orthodoxy
    No, I think it is overly simplistic and shaped by Eastern Orthodox convert-literature; it ignores Orthodox like myself who do not object to the filioque if understood correctly, it ignores the extremely large number of catechisms produced by the Orthodox, which also vary between the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox and in some cases show a degree of stealth Latinization, but in other cases are true and accurate reflections of Orthodox doctrine, on point 4, that’s completely wrong; prelest is prelest, schism is a sin worse than heresy, and Orthodox theologians have used systematic theology; indeed although we consider him a Church Father and do not reckon a “scholastic age”, the methodology of St. Gregory Palamas was similiar to that of Thomas Aquinas OP, in that both used Aristotle rather than “ecclesiastical Platonism” as their underlying philosophical position, and in several cases were of the same opinion, the sole difference being the Eastern Orthodox rejection of the idea that grace is created; it is understood rather as the uncreated energy of God by which he is perceived, through the Holy Spirit and through the Divinity of the Incarnation of the Word, since the essence of God is incomprehensible in Orthodox theology (absolute divine simplicity is rejected).

    The information about the Orthodox faith on websites is misleading, just as someone would be mislead about traditional Anglicanism by reading an ECUSA website, or the website of that parish in San Francisco which dares call itself after the saintly Cappadocian younger brother of Basil the Great; someone reading the website of that Episcopalian parish might conclude we traditional Anglicans practice liturgical dance like Shakers, paint frescoes various enemies of Christ in a Byzantine iconographic style, incorporate Shinto and other Pagan worship into our services, have a Holy Communion service themed in support of the UN Millenial World Development Goals, and another one dedicated to Cain the proto-murderer, and are also mostly homosexual or otherwise perverted. Some “Orthodox” websites will cause the same confusion.

    To truly understand the Eastern faiths, one should read The Orthodox Church and The Orthodox Faith by Metropolitan Kallistos Ware, Orthodox Dogmatic Theology by Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky, the Philokalia, a collection of Patristic texts on monastic prayer, the Pedalion, by a co-editor of the former, which is a collection of Eastern Orthodox canon law (but first one must understand the idea of oikonomia), on the Prayer of Jesus by St. Ignatius Brianchaninov, and if you truly want to understand Prelest, the Arena, a manual for monastics by the aforesaid saint (who was a bishop; almost all Orthodox bishops are monks, and all are celibate, unlike the parish priests, who are usually married; a celibate non-monastic priest is a rarity), and two Patristic texts also valued in Anglicanism: the Sayings of the Desert Fathers and the Life of St. Anthony. These are available together with the Lausiac History and the defining doctrinal work of St. Athanasius, On the Incarnation.

    All modern Orthodox writings deal with the current liturgical arrangements; everything else that is theological is simply a restatement of the Fathers. So by reading the corpus of Fathers, especially Greek and Syriac fathers and Latin fathers other than St. Augustine, you can understand the faith from the foundation it shares with Anglicanism, which I reccommend. This is also why there are Western Rite Orthodox Churches which exist mainly to cater to disaffected Catholics but which are using largely Anglican-derived liturgical material, and conversely, why you have a Society of Eastern Rite Anglicans.

    To understand the Oriental Orthodox churches, this is simply an appendix as it were; the Christological controversy is dismissed by Orthodox Christology by Fr. Peter Farrington, and then if you read the hymns of St. Ephrem the Syrian, the Syriac Orthodox and Coptic liturgical texts, and the hymns of St. Gregory of Narek; that will get you into the mind of the Syriacs and Armenians (the Coptic approach is contained in their liturgy and monastic practices combined with The Sayings of the Desert Fathers and The Life of St. Anthony, all set in Egypt, and where those early hermits lived, monasteries blossomed which remain until the present). As far as the Ethiopians, they are too obscure and complex for a layman to understand; all I can say about them is their piety and devotion is astonishing. I know of no other people who will stand, packed in a parish church for 16 hours or so during a parish feast, with only minimal food beforehand in most cases.

    As far as the Church of the East is concerned, there is a lack of good books on it, save two, but I will have to look them up.

    Also, Western scholars are incredibly bad when it comes to the Eastern churches. Only those who have converted and lived in the Orthodox church have anything to say on it. Even works like the Oxford Handbook of Christian Worship and the Blackwell Companion to Eastern Christianity, that recruit local experts, on occasion make elementary errors. And as for non-Orthodox peering in from the outside, like Daniel Clendenin, his work is worthless. Actually, while as an Anglican I do not much care for Rowan Williams, he did closely contemplate an Orthodox vocation to the priesthood following in the footsteps of Metropolitan Kallistos Ware, and has some competence, but his work is thwarted by an academic arrogation and a liberal tendency to reinterpret tradition which marred his Archepiscopacy in Wales and Canterbury.