Sunday, August 10, 2008

A Response to Dr.Carson--Thoughts on the Orthodox Catholic Faith-- Part III

Part III(of III)

by Sophocles Frangakis

I have over the last several years observed many ecumenical conversations between Orthodox Catholics and Roman Catholics . Usually very little if any resolution is achieved on either side trying to convince the other of the merits of their points. In fact, because the conversations tend to impassion both sides each side solidifies behind its already a priori held beliefs and walks away from the exchange further angered and frustrated. Previously held prejudices are given renewed creedence and so in this state inroads to the exchange of ideas are deterred and given a rough going.

I perceive that on the Roman Catholic side the perception on "Orthodox like me", meaning those who are Orthodox Catholic and do not believe that the faith Rome confesses is the same Faith as confessed by those Churches who make up the One Church which calls itself Orthodox(again because of the substance of the Faith held, the Orthodox Catholic Faith of the Undivided Church), is that we out of sheer obstinacy and anti-Papist sentiment are naturally inclined and wont to reject Rome's overtures of reconciliation. This perception on "Orthodox like me" further precludes the notion that somehow this rejection of Rome is a manifestation of an inherent quality and personality trait of the "Orthodox like me" who choose to not conform to the ecumenical formulae presented by those seeking unity between us as the avenue to proceed along towards rapproachment between the Orthodox Catholic Church and the Roman Catholic Church.

Simply stated, Roman Catholic people who hold such a view of the position of "Orthodox like me" seem to believe, whether consciously or unconsciously, implicitly or explicitly, that because we are Orthodox who reject the ecumenical formulae presented we are naturally held bound to laws(spoken and unspoken) within this profession.

Please bear in mind that with stating here profession I am not speaking about the actual substance of the Faith we hold but merely the outward court, so to speak, of this Faith in which many Orthodox, as believed by the Roman Catholic people I am addressing here, hold anti-Roman Catholic beliefs simply and only because they are Orthodox; and that to be an "Orthodox like me" rejecting unity as it, unity, is proposed in the ecumenical camp with the a priori assumption that that which separates us is not of the content of the Faith but the differences are of other factors of a far more "superficial" sort including but not limited to: language(Greek vs. Latin), praxis(married priests vs. unmarried priests, leavened vs. unleavened bread in the Eucharist, etc.).

Simply, we are cast in the mold of one who by virtue of his "Orthodoxy!!" profession must also be anti-Roman Catholic. This mold's great seal requires anti-Roman Catholic sentiment for the sake of the sentiment itself because with this sentiment the real proof of being Orthodox is evident to the one being Orthodox(himself) and to everyone else. (Go team!)

And the filioque(*sigh*). Many are proposing that this is not an alteration in the substance of the Faith but for the sake of rapproachment the filioque may be understood merely as a theologumen.

I will speak briefly about the filioque because I will not attempt to get bogged down in the filioque controversy except to point out that in the attempt for unity the original intent and purpose of the filioque as it was first promulgated we would seem to have under our noses shuffled in another revision in history but of course called "development of doctrine" to make congruous two antithetical uses of the filioque; the ancient and original purpose with the modern.

The ancient and original purpose being that of speaking about the nature of God for the sake of combating a heresy and with the addition "and the Son" Rome felt the heresy was put under.

And the modern whereby the "necessity" of the filioque has outlived its purpose in combating the heresy it was designed for yet because of the size of the baby that would have to be thrown out with the bath water, it is retained by Rome. But, it would seem that for the sake of "unity", it may be discarded or at least consideration might be given the removal of the clause to move along towards unity. So in exchange for its ancient, designed for purpose it can now be used as a bargaining tool. The clause has left its true purpose. I am of course not speaking of it in fact being "true" in its original formulation but rather saying it had a designed for purpose and for that purpose the clause was added.

Of course, the astute observer of such a hypothetical scenario would have to at least recognize that by the holding forth the perogative to keep or shed the filioque, though by this Rome appears to be generous and magnanimous, in actual fact the Orthodox Catholic Church is still being called on to play by the predetermined rules set down in the exhange whereby Rome holds doctrine as a trump card in a poker hand, to be kept or discarded depending on the situation as Rome sees fit, not according to long held Tradition common to the entire Church, East and West.

Tradition is not a thing strictly but entails a "living substance" of the Presence. Much as we read in the Book of Leviticus that such and such sacrifice and offering was to be offered exactly as prescribed with no deviation. In this exactness God made Himself known to Man and under penalty(even of death) would the priests offer anything strange before the Lord as in the case of the "strange fire before the Lord" (Leviticus 10:1) offered by Nadab and Abihu.

To know Him as He is is the Goal and Source of Tradition and this knowing once again does not necessarily denote solely a knowing in a linear, textual sense but also involves a knowing as well involving "atmosphere" or "ambience" wherein the one knowing God may not possess academic knowledge per se yet nonetheless knows God every bit as well(maybe better) as the learned one who knows all the facts, history and doctrine there is to know. The Faith is egalitarian in this sense, not excluding the village peasant nor the scholar as both suffer from one and the same fallen condition I spoke about previously and both need one and the same union-salvation- with Christ.

To sever Tradition is not only to change words, but with the changing of words comes as well the changing of atmosphere or ambience within which God as He is may be found and experienced. And the most dangerous element to the altering of Tradition is not the changing of words but pouring new meaning into the words, even when they, the words, are exactly as before. This is another example from the second part of my essay when I spoke of the taking of "Father X of the Church" and placing him within whichever "framework" or "system" one wishes. "Father X", as well as words and as well as Tradition are not negotiable commodities to be wielded to bring about our own ends.

I cite the following by way of example.

I recently became involved in a conversation on Eirenikon with the title "On Original Sin and the Immaculate Conception". This blog states its purpose in it's header as "Towards Orthodox-Catholic Reconciliation". Now, without here addressing what problems are inherent within an Ecumenical framework, I would like to use this as an example to illustrate what happens with infromation: whether it be historical, religious or whatever. The information itself is neutral, in a sense. It sits "Out there" waiting for someone to pick it up and wield it(much in the same way I have been speaking about the Faith in this essay).

During this conversation on Eirenikon, that blog's operator put up a second post during the time of the first one titled "More on the Immaculate Conception in Eastern Orthodoxy" . In this one I really opened up a bit on why I felt that the Ecumenical Agenda had much to be desired. Many unquestioned things are assumed about the Christian Faith under Ecumenism's Umbrella.

Now over at Energetic Procession , following this, Perry Robinson, one of that blog's operators put up a post "Bernard of Clairvaux on the Immaculate Conception". One of this post's objectives was to juxtapose the views held by those sympathetic on Eirenekon's post, namely that the Immaculate Conception as held by Rome today is compatible with what the Orthodox Catholic Church holds to be true about the Virgin with the traditional Orthodox stance that no, as formulated by Rome today, the Orthodox Church holds no such view of the Theotokos. Why the Church(Orthodox) does not is not my objective here except to point out that the quote by Bernard of Clairvaux was jostled back and forth a bit to give it, the quote, in the sense I am employing it for the sake of my point, in other words, neutral information, a meaning and context.

Perry stated in the combox that the quote need be placed within its context in order to most fully guage what Bernard is saying. In other words, Bernard, upholding and living within Tradition regarding the Thetokos in Her birth, fears for what he sees as inovation in regards to Her, being promulgated by those he tries to call to reason gently by asking them, "Are we really more learned and pious then our Fathers?" Bernard clearly stated that Her birth is not immaculate in the sense our Roman Catholic friends say it was. Read the Energetic Procession post , "Bernard of Clairvaux on the Immaculate Conception" above.

Returning to the filioque and the adding of the offensive clause.

This is foreign to the Truth of the Faith as the once again the Faith is not something concocted at the will of man but man, in debate and conciliar fashion through illumination, arrives at truths of the Faith as primarily revealing Who God is in opposition to Who He is not. And once having wrestled for the sake of combating heresy, that which God allows us to "see" is irrevocable. Not irrevocable in the sense of a vote taken at the Council determines dogma, but that the dogma formerly defined in the Council makes known that about God which emanates from God and the Council formally delineates, defines and enforces that which is true about the Divine Persons that humanity may find and know Him as He is. The dogma of the Church is there precisely to guard and protect the Path into salvation, union with Christ. This path is exact and narrow. And Tradition also encapsulates the "knowledge" that humanity may only find this path first with the "knowledge" of it, humanity, as it is, Fallen. God as He is and Man as he is. The two form an indissoluble bond.

Never mind that in the original stating of the Creed the reason for the Creed even coming into existence was to forever, for all times and all places, make known, in as much as it could be known in words, Who God was and the relations of the Divine Persons one with another and the stating that the One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church would theryby make Herself known by Her holding to this Faith which correctly holds and expresses this relation between the Divine Persons as its expression and as its Life; which Life may only be had and held in Truth as an emantation and expression from within the Holy Trinity which the one wishing to know Him as He is would hold and live in.

In other words the Creed as given made known(better put kept known) God as He is. The Creed was not created ex nihlio but merely made manifest that which the Church had at all times and in all places believed. It didn't simply seem like a good time to create this Creed but was created, as it were, from necessity; straining the attendees' wisdom and use of words and concepts to most fully capture the framework of Who God is in relation to Who He is not. And this was done of course because Arius was promulgating his own view of who God was; the Creed was not formulated because it was a good, pleasant and convenient time to sit down and philosophize on God.

With this, and with every heresy the Church was forced to deal with, the very nature of the Godhead- the true path into which Fallen Man could find union with Christ(Christ as He is within the "context" of the Holy Trinity as the three Divine Persons are in their Being and relation One to Another, in other words, the Trinity as it is) and be saved-was at stake. With the loss of the path into the Godhead Fallen Man was in danger of being lost.

In other words, with the Arian heresy, if Jesus Christ was only a creature, if there was indeed a time when the Son was not, then implications followed that would alter completely the substance of the Faith and if the Faith be altered, it would no longer be the Faith. It would be something else but not the Faith.

Again, if the Son was not of the same substance(homoousios) as the Father but of a like substance(homoiousios) to the Father, then Christ had no divine True God from True God energies permeating and penetrating his human nature. And not having True God from True God energies penetrating and permeating His human nature, whereby Fallen Man could be joined to Christ, healing the broken and fallen humanity, gone is the pathway to Union with Christ, which Union is Salvation itself. To be found in Him as He also is found in the Father and the Father in Him is our hope. Our only hope.

Again, being in communion with Christ as He is in communion with the Father and the Holy Spirit is the Faith, as God-the Three Persons in their nature and in Their relation within themselves, each Person fully God and these three Fully God Persons in relation to One Another - is its, the Creed's, source and goal.

Pausing now I would like to add another observation. We moderns, because we have become accustomed to the knowledge that the Church existed before us and will, we believe, exist after we leave our bodies, do not I feel understand with the gravity necessary the cosmic implications those Fathers wrestled with at those Councils.

They saw in their illumined vision the implications of a skewed Faith with the same foreknowledge that say, an architect might see in foreknowledge if his perfectly laid out plans for a building are not adhered to.

If a measurement is off so much as an inch, the "going out" from that misplaced inch has very real implications as the mis-measurement proceeds out from that misappropriated inch in the dimensions of height, width and lenght.

The Holy Fathers filled with the Holy spirit were illumined in their combatting these heresies and foresaw the implications proceeding forth from the heresy not in spatial terms solely as the architect foresaw but in time/space/cosmic terms. In other words, just as in the Fall the sin of our parents echoes and reverberates throughout the Cosmos so every sin, that which does not hit the mark finding its end in God, causes an effect in its "ripple" upon the created order. Of course the creation is ultimately moored within God Himself Who is outside (though immanent in) the creation and the creation is established forever without danger of something overtaking and overcoming it and shaking it loose from its intended order and consummation. But for those of us inhabiting the creation, being part of the creation, these ripples have real effects and possibly dire consequences.

So the wording was exact for a reason and not to be altered for a reason. The reason being once again the Path, Christ Himself, the Way the Truth and the Life(John 14:6), the narrow way to enter in by(Matthew 7:13 and 7:14) may be found as He is within these boundaries set down once and for all by the Church in Her Scriptures and Her Holy Fathers as they lived and breathed and had their being within the Tradition of the Church in which Tradition is to be found the atmosphere and ambience of the living experience of the Faith.

Now before I attempt in my own fashion and time to speak to this held view by Roman Catholics who hold this stance on "Orthodox like me", that those like I manifest an anti-Roman Catholic character for the sake of being exclusive and showing forth our Orthodoxy, I would quickly like to direct the reader of this post to the previous parts of this article, especially the first post in which in my own weak and sinful fashion I have attempted to speak about this Orthodox Catholic Faith.

Note please that I have in these posts spoken of a Faith to be had and held that in one very particular sense(for the sake of this dialogue between Scott and I) is independent of myself and anyone who may hold it. I am of course not fully delving into the explication that this Faith is not simply a thing but is incarnational, needing persons to hold and believe it.

Just as our Lord is the Logos of God, manifesting in His divine/human hypostasis the totality of the logoi of the creation and the logoi of the Father(His energies which again are not things but emanations from His essence which He shares with the Son and the Holy Spirit-they are undivided from His Person yet are distinct from His Person) in like manner this Faith is not an end in and of itself, exisiting in a vacuum somewhere(in fact this Faith has always been because it speaks of and energizes the manifestation of the Divine Persons-it, the Faith, emanates from the Trinity as it, the Faith, is the energy towards and into the one living and moving and having his being in God(Acts 17:28) who would know God as He is), but "requires" to be held and had by persons to manifest itself. Not to mention that the person holding and manifesting the Faith is found within a communion or community of persons holding and manifesting the Faith whereby and thereby incarnating The Community of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit-the Three as One into the singular person holding and manifesting the Faith who also is in a communion of persons holding and manifesting the Faith.

One last point on the filioque. A question actually. What in the original Creed was deficient that with the adding of the clause "and the Son" made it more complete? What was it lacking?

And a similar question put forth to those who have found their way home to the Orthodox Catholic Church but feel that through Ecumenism and joining with Christians of other communions they will acquire something which they feel the Church they are now in lacks. What in the Church is deficient that unity with Rome as Rome exists today- of a distinct mind in regards to the Faith, ethos and praxis maintained and preserved by the Orthodox Catholic Church- is mandatory to complete the healing of their broken humanity? What does the Orthodox Church lack?

These are serious questions to ponder and I think from my observations in Ecumenical discussions such questions are not asked; namely in regards to the content of the Faith all parties involved generally move forward without first determining what traditionally(notice lower case "t" for traditionally) each party involved has believed about any given issue. In other words the "traditional" content is not discussed, is unknown or worst case scenario is purposely withheld because to adhere to it would hinder the Ecumenical progress sought.

So the hermeneutic is applied in the Ecumenical Agenda which states(implicitly) that the previously held tradition is "wrong" if holding onto it hinders unity.

This in my estimation is not good grounds to proceed on.

Returning to my destire to answer Roman Catholics who hold to a view on "Orthodox like me", that I belong to a class of people that defines my Orthodoxy by my anti-Roman Catholicism, I would like to just point out again, especially if it has not been made clear by me.

Because the Faith is separate and distinct from me, in other words, in one sense I wield it as in stewardship, I am obligated to know what this Faith is. I am obligated to know its culture. I am obligated to always return to the Tradition from which it emantes from. I am obligated to believe this Faith's Holy Fathers. Obligated, not under penalty of the "Orthodox Police" somehow finding my Orthodoxy deficient and inept, but obligated insofar as if I wish to truly live Christ, to put Him on and put off my old man, I obligate myself to immerse myself in the Church and Her Tradition and in humility defer to her when I would prefer to exalt my own reason and agenda. I need to change to fit in the Church not change the Church to fit me. All I need do is bring myself to Her and live Her Life which Life is the Life of Christ Himself.

This includes if necessary not seeking union with those not prepared to humble themselves to Her. The path to know Christ is the same "Yesterday, Today and Forever"(Hebrews 13:8). Again, the same human condition encountered by Christ 2000 years ago is the same human condition I am possessed of. It, the human condition, has not changed in the least, not one iota.

The Church's Faith remains pristine and beautiful. Perhaps it has not developed as has happened in the West. But here too I would like to add one observation.

It is perhaps believed by many that this lack of change is a mark of a deficiency of some sort, a refusal to change with the times indicating a sort of backwardness. By way of question I would like to put forward that could a lack of change perhaps indicate power? Does not changing perhaps not indicate a tremendous power which may not be recognized by those who believe that power is only indicated by growth and activity in doctrine and conceptions?

What the Orthodox Catholic Church holds out to those who are without Her, those not in Her fold, is this authentic Faith which has not been altered.

I would like to conclude this series of posts with a very blunt statement.

Scott, If I believed the Roman Catholic Church to be the Church still, holding to that Faith held in common by all, I would switch over right away.

Because if she is indeed the Church I would be a fool for not wanting to be in a communion which has its own distinctives but also makes pronouncements in minute detail about other communions' distinctives and ostensibly, in theory at least, would allow me to remain "Orthodox".

Rome, in speaking to the Orthodox, in essence says:

"Only acknowledge these distinctives we(Rome) hold which you heretofore have not.
"And even though you Orthodox ceased to develop alongside us, we're telling you, we are the same. Join us."

And yet I remain Orthodox.

Scott, in concluding your post " 'Real Catholics' " , you speak of the need to move towards the middle together, to enact Christian unity. You speak of the middle as that which can be determined through a process of dialogue and I believe you may have perhaps overlooked that the hermeneutic you employ to determine "the middle" is that of Ecumenism which takes all our apparent differences and renders them as that not necessarily pertaining to the substance of the Faith but of such a nature that the differences really only signify minor flavors added to the Faith theryby not altering its content but only altering its expression. And when all parties involved simply come to their senses and recognize that the differences during this last millenium or so are only of such a nature but that the Faith itself remains the same, voila! Problem solved.

I hope that with the previous installments of this essay I have at the very least shown the situation to be otherwise. I hope to have at least raised to a conscious level for anyone reading at least the possibility that what we are handling when it comes to the Faith is something very profound, something very exact. Something which has as its context God as He is and Man as he is.(Something as I use it in this sentence can be misleading because the Faith is He Himself, Person).

You, rightly, as a member of your church, believe that I, lacking communion with the Bishop of Rome, lack something. That something being of a nature which cannot be put into words exactly. And perhaps in this sense you and other Roman Catholics may even have a type of sympathy for your Orthodox brethren who are estranged from you and you wish nothing more than that we should all be together.

Rome offers this seemingly outstretched hand which only asks of the Orthodox "Earth and Water", a token really. Of no cost except a simple submission and acknowledgement.

It is broad, this way, Rome's way, so much more all encompassing it seems.

The Orthodox Way, by contrast, is so narrow and old fashioned to boot. Restrictive it seems.

Scott, we have walls and doors to our homes for a reason. They define our space in which to roam within and experience the freedom of our own space and home. But they also keep out that which is "not of the home" because to allow that which is "not of the home" into the home, I lose the substance of the home and that "presence", that undefinable something would be altered.

Those coming afterward into my home, after I let that which was "not of the home" become part and parcel of my home, would not know that original presence because they would have become accustomed to the home's present ambience and to them, it would be the only ambience they have ever known.

Orthodoxy holds precious and maintains the original ambience of the Church. That ambience within which a man or woman, broken by this world's pain and anguish, may enter into and roam and become whole and healed by the Lord as "He walks in the garden."(Genesis 3:8)

Communion with that which is not of that ambience, namely the culture and ethos of the Roman Catholic Church as she is today, would alter that ambience; even if in such an "Earth and Water" way the ambience would be altered and perhaps at first undefinably, yet so.

Are we not altered even in our personal relationships with others, whether friend or foe? Is not my person forever changed by whom I break bread with?

In like manner as an individual is altered and incorporates effects and changes to his person through friendship/communion with another would I be too forward in suggesting that in like manner the Orthodox Catholic Church would be altered if She indeed broke bread with the Roman Catholic Church?

There is so much more to say but as always, it can be that I have said too much. The Lord knows.

I pray and hope that offense would not be taken by what I have written in this essay. I did not write to hurt or wound anyone and if I have hurt, wounded or caused offense, I ask for your forgiveness. I too desire unity amongst us but I seek it in a different fashion.

Let us return to the Fathers. Let us know our predicament. We know so little of what may be known. Our bodies die. We will all appear before the Dread Judgement Seat of Christ. Let us love Him as He is and each other as we are; fallen, broken, self-centered, unable to love apart from Him and encased in mortality until He appears to swallow up our mortality.

The Cross beckons.




Anonymous said...

I think you need to give theology a break, have a beer, glass of wine...cold milk, whatever. A bit of personal reality is always good!

Sophocles said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sophocles said...


Clarify your statement for me a bit so I can understand what you are telling me. Sounds like you might know me?

Nadir Martello said...

Dear Sophocles Frangakis,

I just finished reading your three parts, A Response to Dr.Carson--Thoughts on the Orthodox Catholic Faith-- Part III. At the start in reading your posts, [] I was intrigued by your eloquence and knowledge but more so by your consideration towards your interlocutors (or readers). I admired those qualities, indeed. I am not writing this to flatter you. I am only stating how I feel after reading the content of your posts.
I am a Roman Catholic married man with three grown up children and living in Australia for 32 years, but an Italian born.
I came across your blog only recently. For some time, since I read the book, Fr Seraphin Rose biography, I become interested in the history of the Russian Orthodox Church.
So that is why I am writing to you now: I find most what you write very interesting.

God Bless and keep up with the good work.
Nadir Martello

Sophocles said...


God bless you and thank you for your kind words.