"I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history." -Cardinal Francis George

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Catholicism or Orthodoxy?

A few months ago I had my sola Scriptura world crushed. I’ll skip past the soul searching and hair pulling to the acceptance of the facts. Protestantism cannot possibly be part of the church Christ founded. Wonderful, Jesus loving people, absolutely. Will they be throwing stacks of crowns at His feet in heaven? Absolutely. Do they have the slightest credible claim of being the church Christ gave to the world, no way. Even before I accepted this fact, I knew that if I did I would be forced into one of two rival churches both claiming to be the one and only church on the face of the planet. Those two communions are Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. The reason these are the only two in the running is that they are the only ones that have a plausible claim to succession from the Apostles. If sola Scriptura is false, which I became fully convinced of, then a tangible measure of orthodoxy in the form of submission to a particular leadership is needed. Rome and Constantinople are the only serious options. So where to go? First, my qualification. This decision between Catholicism and E. Orthodoxy was not a huge question for me. By that I mean that I was following the assumption that if Christ founded a single, visible church, then He made it easy for even a layman to find. If I ask for wisdom, do some looking into history from various sources on all sides of the question, I will be able to easily identify the true church. I really believe God gives us BIG, knock you on the head clues about the identity of the church. For instance, the disunity in Protestantism is a biggie. It is as inescapable as air, and it points the Protestant to look elsewhere. Also the lack of the sacraments in varying degrees pushes them away. So whatever the answer, the answer must include the element of simplicity infused through it. So that was my starting point: For me as a layman who can only spare an hour or so a day to reading Scripture, history and theology, I have to assume that the question “what is the church?” must be one of those big questions like “how am I saved?” that is both easy to answer initially, but also has depth. It must be a question that a child could answer easily, and a scholar could study for a lifetime. Knowing myself pretty well, I went for the “child could answer easily” half of the equation! I have no stomach any longer for the pompousness of scholars and theologians that come up with elaborate “systems” for simple things like the gospel that supposedly just can’t be understood without more and more study. This is the failure of Dispensationalism, which takes what it sees as contradictions in the Scripture and comes up with an either/or rather than a both/and hermeneutic. I am fully convinced that concerning Divine revelation, the most important things for humans to understand will be simple enough for a human child to understand. That doesn’t mean they can’t also be complex enough for a brilliant mind to spend a lifetime on, but when the brilliant mind can’t seem to coherently explain their “system” to me, I get suspicious that it is the thoughts in the brilliant mind itself being promulgated, and not Divine revelation. To answer the Catholic vs. Orthodox question, I quickly turned my sights on Rome, because it is the bigger target. Not because it is the larger communion, which it is, but because it’s claims are so audacious. To claim infallibility is to invite investigation. Also it has a unified hierarchy by having one Bishop claiming to be the measure of unity. These two aspects give it what appear to be big weak spots ready for prodding. Orthodoxy does not claim infallibility in the same sweeping and targetable way that Catholicism does, and has many “autocephalous” heads that although sharing a surprising amount of common belief, have no single unifying head who is himself the measure of true doctrine. So I set out to cut the Achilles heel, to show that the Catholic magisterium has contradicted itself, to prove to myself that they are just as autonomous in their doctrines as Protestants are. I was humbled by the 20 centuries of what could only be divine protection from contradiction. I sought out the best Protestant examples of where the Magisterium has shown itself to be fallible, and found their best arguments to be but straw in the face of 2000 years of stalwart protection of the faith that is the Catholic Church. For me this recognition came while watching an online debate on the infallibility of the Papacy between Protestant apologist James White and Catholic apologist Robert Sungenis. White’s best examples of a Pope contradicting previously defined doctrines were so minor, so petty, so infrequent, and ultimately very explainable, that I literally was flooded with an emotional feeling of discovering what must be the biggest miracle in history: that the largest (1.1 Billion adherents) and oldest institutional organization on the planet has never contradicted itself. The claim is huge. Papal infallibility of hundreds of Popes for two millennia. It is so huge it is dismissed outright as being impossible by Protestants and Orthodox. And in a way they are right, it IS impossible for a mere human institution to be infallible. IF, that is, it is merely human. But the next step is rarely taken by the naysayers, please show where it has failed. Please show where there has been even the slightest contradiction between one infallible statement and previous infallible statements. Once this is attempted to a reasonable degree, the biggest miracle (other than the Incarnation) in the history of mankind is revealed, and it points to the claim of infallibility being true. It is common at this point in the search for truth for Protestants to get hung up on the “yeah, but” argument. “Yeah, but Purgatory is false doctrine, so the Pope is fallible.” Or “Yeah, but Catholics believe in salvation by works, so the Pope is fallible.” These are important topics, but completely beside the point. All I wanted to do at this point in my journey (and what I challenge anyone to do) is show where a Pope has preached as true doctrine something later defined as heresy or vice versa. It is shocking how Protestants never seem to get around to actually attempting to show this. It is assumed that the very claim of infallibility itself can be dismissed outright, because after all the Pope is just a man, not God, and has to be fallible. Or the Galileo argument is put forth or some such nonsense. What is rarely attempted is to try to show where any one of these 265 men have contradicted each other in the last 20 centuries. Seems easy right? Go ahead and try. You will end up Catholic. As a Christian in the Reformed camp, I was always a staunch postmillennialist. Basically that means I think the millennium is now and Christ is here with us in his Church. Things will progressively get better and better until we wake up one day, and look around to find out history is over and sin has been eradicated for good. So for me to see this miraculous example of infallibility within recorded history of an organization that claims to be THE Kingdom of Christ, how happy that made me! I felt like a modern day Jew who has been waiting and hoping for the messiah who first hears about Jesus. Something he thought could never happen in his lifetime has already been going on for 2000 years! For me, Postmillenialism is no longer a doctrine to be studied, but a church to submit to. The Catholic Church IS Postmillennialism! Now after reading* a sufficient amount on this issue of the Papacy to convince me of its protection from error, the arguments for Eastern Orthodoxy became hollow. Strangely, their arguments against Papal infallibility were the same old Protestant ones that seemed to be “after the fact” arguments. For instance, when the Protestant Reformation happened all of a sudden Luther and Calvin were in the position of believing in the authority of the “church” as they defined it, but at the same time having removed themselves from the way true doctrine has always been measured by the church. i.e., communion with those Bishops in succession from the Apostles. So instead of submitting to the Bishops in succession, they conveniently denied the need for succession. “Apostolicity” (as defined by them of course) was to be the measure of true authority. In the same way I see ample patristic evidence of the primacy of the Bishop of Rome from very early on in Church history. The 7 ecumenical councils from Nicaea I (325) to Nicaea II (787) were all ratified by the Pope for goodness sake! When I first heard that I chuckled out loud. Not only were they ratified, but the ratification was seen by everyone as necessary for those councils to be binding. Many Orthodox still would say that the Popes ratification is still a necessary criterion for an Ecumenical council. Is it any wonder the Orthodox have not had an Ecumenical council since Nicaea II? There is disagreement amongst themselves as to how one would even occur! WAIT. HOLD ON. I can hear the gears grinding in the Orthodox heads with the objections to what I just said. Save it. I have had enough of the disunity and excuses of Protestantism for a lifetime, and I don’t want to further examine Orthodox disunity and excuses. Here is the undisputed fact: there is disagreement between leaders within Eastern Orthodoxy as to:
1. How an ecumenical council would be called. 2. If it were called how it would be ratified in a definitive way without the signature of the Bishop of Rome.
The fact that individual Orthodox Christians feel they have an answer to these questions is about as impressive as a Protestant who feels he has the correct interpretation of John 6. That is to say it is not an authoritative opinion. The only point I need to know is that there are a variety of views on this question within Orthodoxy and they have not had a council since 787 A.D. Does anything more need to be said? I don’t see how someone leaving Protestantism because of a lack of Divine authority would then go to a church that is so fundamentally emasculated. The Catholic Church is under no such fog of confusion when it comes to defining doctrine and holding ecumenical councils. Another reason I rejected Orthodox claims is what I recognize as a Protestant smelling circular reasoning in regard to identifying the church. The church is composed of those who believe the true doctrine, and true doctrine is that which is believed by the whole church. Hmmm, sounds very similar to the “bootstrap” theory of Protestant church identification I just left. Orthodox believers will have complaints with what I just said above. Keep in mind that your intricate explainations fall utterly flat for a Protestant tired of the subjectivity and self rule of sola Scriptura. I want simplicity, and I know that Christ must have made it simple. Here is simplicity: How do we find the true doctrine? The churches in communion with the holder of the keys to the kingdom (the Bishop of Rome) have the true doctrine. See how there is no circularity? Here again you Orthodox will complain, but there you go again, sounding so Protestant by trying to convince me of your interpretation! "But the Pope said X!... that can't be right!" This attitude sounds like the self serving authority of Protestantism I am fleeing from. I have discussed the Filioque issue with Orthodox people and it was shocking how Protestant they sounded, trying to convince me how the Orthodox view makes more sense from Scripture, etc. That’s not the point! The point is WHO DECIDES what the true doctrine is. Is it the church or me and you? When Bishops disagree about the Filioque, who do I follow? Orthodoxy has the same answer Protestants do... "follow us." Well that's not good enough. So in the end, Catholicism just makes sense to my mind. How best can unity be kept in the church? The answer is obvious to me: one, single, visible beacon of unity. Outside of communion with that beacon is something else than the one true church. How can multiple heads function if there is no ultimate uniting force? This is the point that a child can understand but is often lost on the “wise” and highly educated. Just the idea of multiple “autocephalus” “heads” is an oxymoron. A body has one head. Only a hydra has multiple heads. “Christ is the head” you retort. Yeah, but on earth as in heaven there needs to be a single head. Ask a child which system works better and they will tell you what you already know in your heart. Other reasons I rejected Orthodoxy that I would categorize as “intuition” are:
1.There have been times in church history where the Pope was alone in his holding to the true faith. This fits with Christ supernaturally protecting the purity of the church’s doctrine. During these times, the patriarchates that now comprise “Eastern Orthodoxy” were (by their own admission) an utter heretical mess. Again, smells like Protestantism. 2.Orthodoxy is still comprised of regional churches which strongly identify with the nations they are in. 3.Numerically, Catholicism is way bigger. This means something to me. It seems to me to be something we should expect 2000 years after Pentecost. 4.The Catholic understanding of the Filioque fits better with a proper understanding of the family as a picture of the Trinitarian relationship. From man comes woman, from man and woman comes child. Again, makes sense. 5.Orthodoxy is more likely to side with mystical experience than intellectual. I don’t trust mystical experience unless it is firmly rooted in the intellectual. I see Catholics as doing both, while Orthodoxy seems to distrust the intellect. 6.Orthodoxy does not have a well defined, universal dogma on some very important issues like contraception and divorce. This is a clue to me that they have stagnated theologically. Christians need firm guidance from the church on these issues. 7.I see more variety in the modes of service of laity and Catholic monks and nuns than Orthodox. (this touches on my #4) 8.Catholicism has objectively produced better art. To me this is a sign of better theology, and a sign of God’s blessing. 9. I get the feeling that Orthodoxy is a "step behind" Protestantism. My money is on Protestantism disolving within half a millenia. Orthodoxy has more momentum from having all 7 sacraments and from true succession, but if the Orthodox churches remain in schism from Peter, they will eventually dissolve. I want to leave my descendants a legacy of a christendom that is true and lasting.
I don't expect to amaze anyone with my critique of Orthodoxy here. These have just been the reasons I personally found totally compelling in favor of Rome. I hope the Orthodox can give up the autonomy soon and just come back into full communion with the key-bearer. Imagine the witness to the world that would be! *The Early Papacy To the Synod of Chalcedon in 451, by Adrian Fortescue and Studies on the Early Papacy, by Dom John Chapman were very eye opening for a Protestant unfamiliar with the early church.


  1. Thanks a lot for the post, David! I'm sure our Eastern Orthodox brethren will take issues with your reasons for not choosing their church (which is fair enough.) I wasn't as much interested in hearing a precise theological defense of why you chose Catholicism over Eastern Orthodoxy; rather, I just was interested to hear some of what went in to your thought process on a complicated question. You explained yourself well and I was edified by your post - thank you :-)


  2. Orthodoxy has a problem because we don't have some very precise canonical procedure for calling an ecumenical council? I don't see the issue. The Church, if and when it calls one, will do it however it chooses to do it. This is like a Protestant argument that the Church of Rome is false because they have yet to definitively determine some minor point of doctrine. Did the early church have the supposedly clear cut definition you claim? Nope. Were they the true church? Yep. Did they always call and recognise councils the exact same way? Nope. That blew that argument apart.

    Everybody always thought you needed the Pope's sign off to have an ecumenical council? Is that why they didn't bother to invite a Roman delegation to the 2nd council? Is that why the 2nd council affirmed the 1st council before they had yet heard anything from Rome about the 1st council? Is that why the 3rd council revisited an issue that a Pope had already formally issued his own judgement on? Is that why the 4th council at least attempted to define that the See of Constantinople has equal privileges to Rome? Is that why in the context of the 5th council, Pope Vigilius was held in chains until such point as he was willing to repent and agree with the council? Is that why the 6th council defined a Pope as a heretic? Is that why the East called the 7th council and determined it as authoritative despite the fact that as late as the 9th century Pope Nicholas I still only recognized the first 6 councils? If the East had to wait for Rome to promulgate the truth it would still be iconoclast.

    Finding true doctrine is simple because you have a Pope? You have no "fog of confusion" when it comes to very central issues of defining doctrine? Is that why Scott Hahn believes that there have been only 2 ex-cathedra pronouncements by popes which are infallible, Tim Staples believes that there are 4, Adam S. Miller 11, Fr. Leslie Rumble 18, and so on and so forth?

    Rome has never contradicted itself in infallible documents? Yes it has: give me the exhaustive list of infallible documents and I'll show you where. Can't give me the list? Then its a bit of a nonsense claim. Certainly the Roman church seems to have contradicted the Roman church from earlier times, but since its infallible documents are so rubbery in both enumeration and interpretation, there is constant appeal to loophole.

    You define Churches in communion with "the holder of the keys" as the true church - VOILA, no circularity! Except, who said the Pope in Rome holds those keys? OOPS. Because of ONE possible exegesis of the bible about the keys? Oh, except it disagrees with the exegesis of like 90% of the church fathers. Just because Rome is Peter's see? The early church celebrated the feast day of the "Chair of St Peter" on the 22 February, recorded in the document known as the "Martyrologium Hieronymianum" , and all the manuscripts assign the feast to Antioch, not to Rome. Because Peter died in Rome? Firstly, so what? Secondly, do we know that for sure? The tradition of the Assyrian Church is that Peter preached and ultimately died in Babylon. Sorting out one unsubstantiated tradition versus another one in order to determine God's TRUE CHURCH, doesn't seem like your trumpeted "its all plain an obvious" claim. Oh and by the way, how do you know which is the true church when you guys have 2 or 3 competing claimants for the Pope? When the mere fact of political intrigue can result in multiple claimants for the position that defines the unity of the true church, then the true church's unity is subject to the vagaries of politics. And how exactly is it all "plain and obvious" to pick between the claimants, all madly anathematising each other?

  3. Orthodoxy has "regional churches"? Do you mean, like in the old country, or in the US? I presume you mean in the US, because that is the only rational argument you could make. Oh, except that Roman Catholicism has the exact same thing. You've got your Melkites, and your Greek Catholic churches, and your Ukrainian Catholic churches and so on and so forth. Major foot in mouth error complaining about that.

    Filioque makes more sense to you? (a) how Protestant of you. (b) the problems of the filioque theologically speaking are well documented, and complex. They certainly don't fit your clear and obvious initial claims.

    Mystical/intellectual. Mystical always precedes the intellect. First the trinity was experienced. 300 years later a council said something clear and intellectual about it. There is a logical priority to the mystical, in that first God is experienced, then much later someone defines something about it.

    Universal dogma about Catholic hot topics: (a) Yes we do have dogma about divorce. It was defined at the Council of Trullo, which the Pope didn't complain about at the time. Concerning contraception: there is a certain degree of leeway and difference of opinion, yes. Does that mean we are not the true church? How about Keenan's Catechism, which in the 19th century said that Papal infallibility was a "Protestant invention". Or what about Purgatory which was universally believed to be a place you spend lots of time in, thus indulgences for X years, but now nobody is even sure it is temporal? Or how about Limbo which was taught by not only many Roman Catholic popes, saints and bishops as a fact, every Catholic schoolboy up till relatively recently was taught it as a fact. However in recent times it has fallen out of favour, with popes going so far as to express the opinion it should be abandoned? Apparently when you guys have some variation of opinion, it doesn't matter?

    Variety in modes of service of monks? Errr, been to Russia ever?

    Better art? Your supposedly "best" art was produced by the worst and most corrupt Popes. Michelangelo was painting while the Pope donned armour to fight battles. St Paul's Basilica, whilst no doubt a great work of art was funded by the corruption of medieval indulgences, and its birthchild is Protestantism.

    Orthodoxy "will dissolve"? So now you say you rejected Orthodoxy based on your personal prophesy of what will happen? Wow, that's way more personalised and subjective than even your average Protestant.

  4. Mr. Meyer,

    I'm hesitant to enter this conversation. I doubt anyone will exit with a changed heart, except perhaps for the worst given the vitriol that inevitably flows during such dialogues. I will try to tread lightly, and beg your prayers.

    Why is simplicity of such high value? Why is consistency a guarantee of truth? The Trinity is completely beyond any of us. Sure, schoolchildren can recite the approved formulas but do they really know what it means. Do I? Do you? Does our ignorance before the depths and heights of divine mystery make God any less Trinitarian?

    In one of his homilies, St. Gregory the Theologian used the story of Moses climbing Sinai to explain our spiritual ascent towards God. It is a profound and existential matter that ends not in propositions but in silence and awe before the bright darkness of Divinity.

    As for consistency, I agree with John above that Rome has been demonstrably inconsistent on dogmatic issues. Leaving that aside, how has Orthodoxy been inconsistent?

    Turning to your other points:

    1. Quite right, but that proves nothing given that, from an Orthodoxy perspective, Popes have frequently been on the wrong side of matters of faith.

    2. That's partly a consequence of little things like the Ottoman Empire and the rise of nationalism throughout Europe in the 19th century. It's a problem, thought there's nothing wrong with a Church having local concerns as long as it remains katholicos, according to the whole.

    3. Islam? Numbers mean nothing. The population of the Eastern Empire, which was Orthodox, may have been higher at times than that the Catholic West (perhaps even centuries) given a number of factors, but why is that at all relevant?

    4. It might make sense to you, but it's backwards theology from an Orthodox perspective. We shouldn't use our understanding of man to better understand God. Rather, the Trinity should illumine our understanding of man. I will say that, though error, it's at least a step in the right direction from Augustinian metaphors for the Trinity which didn't even focus on the communion of family but rather on a single man (and therefore no person at all).

    5. St. Silouan the Athonite used to say it takes years for us to properly assimilate mystical experiences (which is to say, actual experiences of the living God) before we can share them with others. Even then, the experience has priority. If God can be reduced to intellectual propositions and grasped, then He is no longer God but rather a poor idea. Not even man can be grasped in such a way.

    Orthodoxy distrusts the intellect, yes, but it distrusts mystical experiences to the same extent. The devil misleads people in different ways, depending on their weaknesses.

    6. There is plenty of guidance on these issues. Whether people are familiar with that guidance is a different question. Sadly, the last several centuries have created a climate of willful ignorance of the Faith by many Orthodox. But they are being "reevangelized," so to speak, as we speak.

    7. There are as many modes of service to the Church by laity as there are laity. And these are all ultimately redicable to participation in the Eucharist. If Orthodoxy isn't quite organized about having different monastic orders (though every monastery is unique) or lay orders, I can't see that as a problem. Orthodoxy has always been personal rather than institutional.

    8. That's fine. Orthodoxy isn't concerned with producing art. Temples aren't art. Icons aren't art. Chant isn't art. Why Orthodoxy doesn't have this concern is an interesting issue in itself.

    9. Orthodoxy has sacraments and succession. What else does it need? How can anything that has the Body of Christ be anything but the Body of Christ? And how can it dissolve, like a merely human thing?

    Forgive me.

  5. John and Steven,

    Wow, thanks so much for your responses. I will try to respond tonight, but may not have time. I will respond when I can, and I will try to keep it fruitful Steven. If I can ask ahead of time, if it is not to intrusive, have you guys converted from Protestantism as well? What are your reasons for becomming/remaining Orthodox?

    In Christ,

    David Meyer

  6. Yes, but the other problem is they can't get their act together and no two hierarchs can agree on anything!
    This IS the problem in Orthodoxy. There really is no unity...as they claim.

  7. Mr. Meyer,

    I'm cradle Orthodox, and currently in the seminary. I first had the thought when I was about 10, pushed it aside, began reconsidering in college, and finally acquiesced some years later.

    I'm not sure I can adequately articulate reasons for why I remain Orthodox, anymore than I can explain why I love my mother.

    I went through a stereotypical period of doubt and alienation from the Church when I went away to college, and only began returning junior year. For a while I was seriously intrigued by Catholicism and thought about what conversion would mean.

    As I've learned more about Orthodoxy, I realize just how different it is from anything else. It has a relevance other traditions don't, in that it seems to understand the fundamental problems of our existence and offer solutions for them. No other religious tradition intrigues me in the least now.

    It's been amazing reading about lives of Saints and the works of Church Fathers, both removed and contemporary, and seeing with my own eyes that my own Church down the block isn't just figuratively but really IS the Church.

    More importantly, the Church just seems to be full of grace. I've been blessed to know my spiritual father. I've been blessed to get to know so many Athonite monks. I've been blessed to know so many clergy and laypeople living in Christ with such joy and peace.

    I can talk about experiences of the miraculous and so forth but those seem like cop outs and unhelpful as they're idiosyncratic.

    I imagine this was a completely unhelpful response, but perhaps that was the point, I'm not sure what to say.

    Forgive me.

  8. John and Steven,
    Thanks guys for your thoughtful responses. John you brought up soooo much stuff, and I can't respond adequetly to it all. But for both of you, I just want to say that I wish you could have been in my shoes a few months ago as someone trying to decide between the two communions! Believe it or not, I had more reason to go to the Orthodox side. It is more tempting for many Protestants to do so because of issues like the Papacy and the marian dogmas etc. A friend from my Presbyterian church converted to Orthodoxy last fall, and I work with a very devout wonderful Orthodox guy. I had no bias going into this, believe me! See if you can try to put yourself in that position.

    That is why my MAIN reason for choosing Rome is a continuation of the authority questions that I left Protestantism for. I need to know with certainty the identity of the church, and to an unbiased outsider, Catholicism seems to provide a more solid (rock!) on which it is built. The developments in the doctrine of Papal infallibility, for instance, seem to be what I would expect to see after hundreds of years of humanity questioning authority in new ways. That doctrine seems to limit Papal authority while at the same time increasing unity. Can you see how that can be seen as a mark in Romes favor for someone searching for the true church?

    Much of your responses focused on the things I clearly catagorized as "intuition" on my part. They were side reasons for rejecting Orthodoxy, some of them based on nothing more than conversations with Orthodox people. (A friend at work has 2 brothers who are Orthodox monks, he has been to Russia and the middle east and is a very knowledgalble craddle Orthodox guy). It was him who confirmed the "distrust" of intelect I had noticed in Orthodox critiques of Catholicism. I agree with him and you guys that mystical/intuitional/experiential is important and nesessary, and even that it precedes the intelect in many ways. CCC 1124 affirms "lex orandi lex credendi" or "the law of prayer is the law of belief". I get it. But my complaint against Orthodoxy is it seems much less intelectually developed. Now i'm no intelectual, so perhaps i'm a bad judge. But many Orthodox will even admit this lack of developement. Perhaps the church doesnt need to be more developed? Perhaps Catholicism has overdone it? These are posibilities. After all the Gospel does not change, right? So why does the church need to change as much as Catholicism seems to have changed? These are good questions. But when I read Sts. Augustine and Aquinas, I am blown away by the obvious hand of God in their work. It is the same impression I get reading St. Chrysostom. From what I have seen, Orthodox people IN GENERAL distrust these guys and say they are over doing the "intelectual" side of things. Defining things that should remain mysteries. But what I see in catholicism is an extreme depth on BOTH fronts. I have read about Catholic religious orders that are hermits and such that sound a lot like Orhtodox monks. From what I have seen Catholic AND Orthodox have good examples in the "mystical' and experiential" category. But, on the intelectual side, I have seen an Orthodox theology that is not as developed and sometimes outright dismissive of the intelect. Certainly I have seen disdain for Augustine, which shocked me.


  9. I see theology developing in the early church,(Trinity) and continuing to develop in Catholicism, but not in Orthodoxy. The Trinity, for example. Talk about doctrinal development and use of the intelect! I see Transubstantiation in the same category as the Trinity. The doctrine developed. It was more mysterious for the ECF's, and it developed later.

    The difference is the schism had taken place already so the Orthodox have remained in mystery. Still the same beautiful truth, just not as well defined and developed.

    John said:
    "Better art? Your supposedly "best" art was produced by the worst and most corrupt Popes. Michelangelo was painting while the Pope donned armour to fight battles. St Paul's Basilica, whilst no doubt a great work of art was funded by the corruption of medieval indulgences, and its birthchild is Protestantism."

    What is your point. The doctrine of Papal infalibility is completely compatible with Popes doing the above antics. Or with them having brothels, or denying Christ three times, or refusing to obey their own decree by not eating with gentiles.

    Also it was St. Peter,s basilica that was paid for by selling indulgences, not St. Pauls.

    I'm glad you guys seem to agree about the art, that is an obvious one, and one I include on the "mystical" side of my decision for Catholicism.

    Theres alot more to say, but can you see that from my position, the decision is certainly not obviously decided for Orthodoxy as perhaps you wish it were?



  10. Well said David. Btw this attack on Augustine phenomenon is a relatively recent development, of the past 200 +- years.

    Even during the Palamite controvery, you can catch one of the "Pillars of Orthodoxy." copying from Augustine's works sometimes verbatim. If you have time check out this article (LINK)
    Or better yet buy the book if you have the time/money.

    As far as statements like;"produced by the worst and most corrupt Popes." you will see the phenomenon(i.e protestant style apologetics), depending on the sort of Eastern Orthodox person you encounter online.

  11. Hi all,

    Just discovered this blog; great stuff. I'm a recent Catholic convert myself and have just been starting to try to get involved in the Catholic blogosphere. This was a very interesting post to me, because I've had a basically similar idea about why Rome instead of the Eastern Orthodox. The pastor at the PCA church I used to be a member of *loves* the EO and chided me for not even considering them as a serious option. What I would say is simply, suppose I wanted to join the EO. Then, the question would be, WHICH EO Church? Each of them is ethnically rooted with their own distinctives, AS churches, that's what distinguishes one from the other. But if I want the Catholic (i.e., universal) church, what's the choices? There's just The Church. Okay, now wait a beat... it's *the papacy* that makes that possible. We can see that in contrast with the case of the EO churches. John tried to draw the parallel between "regional" churches and various ethnic churches in communion with Rome, but this is beside the point: it's the communion with Rome that makes for the catholicity. Subtract the Russian Orthodox Church from the globe, and that whole church is *gone.* Subtract the Armenian Catholic Church from the globe, and the Catholic Church still remains. So, it seems to be clearly NOT "the same thing."

    I'm not at all knowledgeable on all the historical details that John brings up. But, in response to observations like that pope was bad or what about antipopes or competing claimants, etc., we can just ask: is there more than remotely plausible claimant to being the visible catholic, apostolic church, assuming that there can only be one such church? When you look at the lunatic fringes where alternative popes are to be found today, the answer is bloody obvious. So, with respect to such observations as John made, as ugly and deplorable as those episodes were, the Church endured all the same, and would not have done so without the papacy. The point is the office, not its various occupants at different times, although we are very blessed to live in times where the seat of Peter happens to have been occupied by great men of God like Wojtyla and Ratzinger.

    Also, the fact remains unrefuted, so far as I can tell, that the EO have not had an ecumenical council since before the schism. That says something, and it's beside the point to say that IF they happen to do so, they'll do so however they do so.

    Also, if I understand him correctly, John raises a dilemma: either there are statements by popes that contradict others on points of doctrine, or you have to go the ad hoc route of pruning away the "incorrect" ones just because they don't agree with what the church says now. But this dilemma needn't arise, because as I understand it, "papal infallibility" needn't require each pope to actually be doctrinally correct. Although Protestants like to quote outlandish statements by some of the less upstanding popes for shock value, it's not as though you can just cite *anything* some pope at some time said and assume that that represents church doctrine. But all this just requires a basic understanding of what papal infallibility does and doesn't entail.

  12. Micah,

    Thanks for the great comment. "it's the communion with Rome that makes for the catholicity."
    Boom. Not only does this seem to work in theory, and make sense logically, it apears to have worked for Catholicism for centuries!
    I have had the same experience with Protestants somewhat enamoured with Orthodoxy and Anglicanism not "getting" why people choose Catholicism. The conclusion I have come to is that they are just seeing them as "episcopal" governments that seem to provide more unity while not having the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. They don't seem to understand that for the unbiased seekers like you and me, the root problem of not having a single unifying head is devastating for Orthodoxy's case.

  13. Mr. Meyer,

    I used to be concerned with questions of visible Church unity, but then I began to perceive it as an uninteresting question. The Church is Christ's Body. The Holy Spirit, in the economy, resolves our differences and brings unity in diversity. Yet we must be co-workers in humility and love.

    To the extent I see a need for the Bishop as a point of unity, it is on the local level, where each Bishop is head of the Eucharistic assembly.

    But, as I noted earlier, we just see the Church, both locally and universally, in different ways, so I can see why our questions would differ. You see the lack of a single unifying head in Orthodoxy, I see a Body which necessarily has a Head and which is permeated throughout with the Communion of the Holy Spirit and the Grace of the Father.

    As for the intellectual side of things, there are and have been many Orthodox theologians doing very important work from the beginning until now. Those that are worth listening to are men of prayer first and foremost. I don't see the intellectual vacuum you point to.

    As for your specific examples, transubstantiation may be intellectually interesting, but from an Orthodox perspective it's actually heretical. The Eucharist doesn't have the accidents of bread/wine while being substantially Christ's Body and Blood. Rather, it both is bread/wine and Body/Blood at once, as Christ is both fully God and fully man. Chalcedon took care of this centuries ago.

    As for the Trinity, yes Catholics have presented interesting theories but the Catholic view that has developed is fundamentally at odds with the contributions of the Cappadocian Fathers and Mothers. Not to mention it contradicts past Ecumenical Councils.


    The picture you paint shows how we're speaking on different terms. You say that it's possible for the Russian Orthodox Church to disappear, while it's impossible for the Catholic Church to disappear. Of course, it's possible for local Churches to disappear; it's happened many times. But the Orthodox Church will always be around, even if there's only one Parish left in the entire world. Every Eucharistic assembly is the Church in all its fullness. It just seems like we're talking past each other.

    You say the Catholic Church would not have survived without the Papacy. Orthodoxy wouldn't make such a claim. We would say the Church lasts because God is always with it. It's weird, the language used to describe the Papacy is very similar to that used to describe the Holy Spirit in the economy.

    Further, the Orthodox have a completely different understanding of offices altogether. Our theology is inherently personal, abstractions like offices have little to no meaning.

    As for Councils, first we're not quite sure how to date the Schism. Was it 1054? Was it in 1489 (I think?) when Florence was refuted and the Orthodox first said that Catholics need to be chrysmated to enter the Church, thus actually acknowledging schism? Councils are ecumenical because they preach the true Faith. Arguably, the Palamite Councils are ecumenical. If none happened since, it may partly because the Church was spared troubles like the Protestant Reformation and the theological upheavals that took place in other traditions. In any event, as I've stated before, a new general Council is in the works as we speak.

    As for your final point, that's one of the maddening thing about discussing infallibility with Catholics. Certain statements, no matter how unambiguous, are carved out when they don't fit into the meta-narrative. That goes for statements and actions by Popes, conciliar canons, etc. Frankly, it's hard to know how infallibility works when so many exceptions are made and the lines drawn seem so arbitrary at times.

    Forgive me.

  14. Even thought this quote bashes the Catholic church, it pretty much refutes any claim of a so called Palamite Ecumenical council:


    "The other sources, which are the decisions of synods which took place after the eighth century, are of secondary significance, but very important for the historical evolution of the teaching of the Orthodox Church, especially the teaching against the innovations of the Catholic Church, which was separated in 1054 from the Orthodox Church, and with reference to Protestant Churches dating from the 16th century. These are secondary sources, pending ratification by an Ecumenical Synod, and may be accepted, corrected or not accepted. The utterances (primary sources) of the Orthodox Church are mainly part of the Sacred Tradition of the Church, which is of the same validity as Scripture.

    The decisions of the Seven Ecumenical Synods include the Regional Synods, Saint-Apostles and some Fathers which have been ratified by the Ecumenical Synods, especially the Sixth in its Canon 102. So the faithful member of the Orthodox Church should thoroughly study the primary sources, then read the secondary sources herein listed. The distinction between the primary and secondary sources is important, because the primary 'sources were found in the life and teachings of the One Undivided Church of the first thousand-years of Christianity and were adopted and kept as such through the centuries, excepting innovations such as the filioque phrase in the Nicene Creed."

  15. Mr. Dean,

    Indeed, some Orthodox are overly concerned with the idea of Seven Councils, as they are with Seven Sacraments, both of which are odd superstitions to say the least.

    The fact remains that the Palamite distinction between God's Essence and Energies, etc. is something that is basic Orthodox dogmatics that I've been able to trace back at least to St. Basil the Great. Hesychasm is also at the heart of Orthodox monasticism and has its roots at least in the Egyptian and Syrian deserts.

    This is why semantic quibbling is unhelpful. The Councils state what is universally believed by the Church, which is what matters, not any procedural formalism. Therefore, it's ecumenical.

  16. Steven,
    Out of curiosity, what is your view of St. Chrysostom? I was blown away by the constant references to Peter's primacy and his extending that Primacy to the whole church. Do the Orthodox say this was for just at that time and now the Primacy of jurisdiction is not necessary? Do they say Chrysostom was just plain wrong when he makes these constant statements about Peter?

  17. David,
    Can you supply the reference for those quotes? I would like to read them. I am way more RC than Orthodox and think they would be helpful.


  18. Mr. Meyer,

    I'm not sure to which quotes you're referring, specifically. I've yet to read all of St. John's works. Based on what I've read, he does make references to St. Peter and St. Paul as the "first pinnacles" (protokoryfaioi) of the Apostles.

    As a more general matter, it's very easy to read isolated quotes out of context and proof-text (not to accuse you or anyone of that, I just raise it as a possible temptation to be aware of). Plus, we have to keep in mind that St. John has plenty of problems in Constantinople and perhaps had reason to appeal to an external authority to aid him against imperial meddling.

    We Orthodox would say primacy of jurisdiction is not only unnecessary but also against the traditions of the Church. The Bishop is the icon of Christ in his jurisdiction, and other Bishops should not meddle in his local Church. That's another reason why the Church has always addressed problems in councils rather by the imposition of one Bishop over his peers.

  19. Do you want to know the the "best anti-Catholic apolegetics" from the Orthodox perspective, but if you are catholic, do you want to provoke the nerves a little bit? Hear this podcast, and see the straw arguments, which just are aimed to stimulate the emotions toward the RCC. All is directed to the pope and no serious argument is rasied. I was tempted to stop playing it. He refers to non-official documents, presenting so Catholicism in the worst light. As for doctrinal development it is worst then protestant arguments. And the most disgusting is when he mentions the stale argument that Peter cannot be the first pope or vicar of Christ since he was rebuked by Peter! Have a check for yourself!


  20. Yeah, I listened to this guy a few weeks ago, unbelievable! He sounds like a strict Presbyterian who became a strict Orthodox guy.

    Not a good apologetic for Orthodoxy.

  21. Anonymous,

    To be far, that's Ancient Faith Radio, which doesn't exactly have a stellar reputation among many Orthodox.

    Indeed, it's disappointing to hear straw arguments shot down. It's even more disappointing to note that that's a generally human rather than strictly Orthodox phenomenon.

    Forgive me.

  22. Steven and Newman,

    I started to write out some of the quotes from St. Chrysostom from Chapman's Studies on the Early Papacy. I googled one of them and discovered the whole chapter is available online! The quotes I have below are pulled from the Chapman book as quotes on that site.


    The internet rocks. The book I have is from 1928 and is literally dusty (can't read it in bed!)and I wish I had known it was available online.

    Steven, I understand the "prooftexting" that happens where quotes are machinegunned from one side to the other. I am guilty of it for sure, but I will try to keep things narrowed down here.

    The quotes Chapman provides can not really be taken out of context, however, as St. Chrysostom explains his meaning himself, or goes to pains to point out Peter's primacy of jurisdiction. In some quotes he goes way farther than it seems necessary to point out Peter.

    Steven said:
    "he does make references to St. Peter and St. Paul as the "first pinnacles" (protokoryfaioi) of the Apostles."

    Yeah, you can say that again. Just like Jesus makes reference to the Kingdom of Heaven sometimes!

    Refering to Peter he does say things like:

    "The first of the apostles, the foundation of the Church, the coryphaeus of the choir of the disciples."


    "This holy coryphaeus of the blessed choir, the lover of Christ, the ardent disciple, who was entrusted with the keys of heaven, he who received the spiritual revelation."


    "Peter, the base, the pillar...."


    "The first of the apostles, the foundation of the Church, the coryphaeus of the choir of the disciples."


    "Peter the coryphaeus of the choir of apostles, the mouth of the disciples, the foundation of the faith, the base of the confession, the fisherman of the world, who brought back our race form the depth of error to heaven..."


    "Peter, that head of the Apostles, the first in the Church, the friend of Christ, who received the revelation not from man but from the Father....this Peter, and when I say Peter, I mean the unbroken Rock, the unshaken foundation, the great apostle, the first of the disciples, the first called, the first to obey."


    "The foundation of the Church, the vehement lover of Christ, at once unlearned in speech, and the vanquisher of orators, the man without education who closed the mouth of philosophers, who destroyed the philosophy of the Greeks as though it were a spider's web, he who ran throughout the world, he who cast his net into the sea, and fished the whole world."

    Chapman says these references to being the "choirmaster" are merely representative and Chrysostom's homilies and other writings are filled with similar statements. I am taking his word for that.


  23. continued...

    Chrysostom's comments on John 21 were for me the most amazing. he seems to go out of his way to show Peter's universal jurisdiction.

    "After that grave fall (for there is no sin equal to denial) after so great a sin, He brought him back to his former honor and entrusted him with the headship of the universal church, and, what is more than all, He showed us that he had a greater love for his master than any of the apostles, for saith he: 'Peter lovest thou Me more than these?'"

    headship of the universal church?. Yes he actually says those words. Wow.

    But wait, theres more!

    "He saith to him, 'Feed My sheep.' Why does He pass over the others and speak of the sheep to Peter? He was the chosen one of the apostles, the mouth of the disciples, and the head of the choir; for this reason Paul went up to see him rather than the others. And also to show him that he must have confidence now, since his denial had been purged away, He entrusts him with the rule over the brethren; and the fervent love which thou hast shown throughout, and in which thou didst boast, show now; and the life which thou saidst thou wouldst lay down for Me, give for My sheep."

    (Chapman says:) As if St. Chrysostom was prescient of some future critic who would wish to explain that any of the apostles might be said to preside over the brethren, and that what is said to Peter as head of the choir is meant for all, he adds further on:

    "If anyone should say 'Why then was it James who received the See of Jerusalem?' I should reply that He made Peter the teacher not of that See but of the world."

    Reading this was huge for me. St Chrysostom is very well respected by Orthodox and Catholic, and to read his comentary on John 21, and then his further ANSWERING of objections from the Orthodox position on Petrine primacy.

    Chrysostom clearly states that what is said to Peter as head of the choir is not meant for the other Apostles.

    Steven said:
    "We Orthodox would say primacy of jurisdiction is not only unnecessary but also against the traditions of the Church."

    Would you say that Chrysostom was teaching against the traditions of the church on this matter?



  24. I don't think there's anything incompatible with Orthodoxy in these statements. We would agree that St. Peter occupied (historically and, more importantly, in the Kingdom eternally occupies) a special place. His confession of Christ's divinity is at the heart of the Gospel. We can call him the teacher of the Apostles, and thus the world. At the very least, we see him as Apostle to the Jews, while St. Paul is Apostle to the Gentiles.

    Where St. Chrysostom says St. Peter was given headship of the "universal Church," I'd be very interested to see what word is translated as "universal." On a related note, it's interesting to observe that the Church of Cyprus was granted autocephaly at the Third Ecumenical Council in 381, I believe. So it's interesting to consider this phrase knowing that the Church had clearly indicated the propriety of the self-rule of certain parts of the Church (following the tradition, at least, of the self-rule of the various Patriarchates that had developed by that time), which is contrary to the "universal" primacy, as we're discussing, of any Bishop.

    If we take this Petrine idea a step further to infallibility, we have to account for the clash between Sts. Peter and Paul over how Gentile converts should be treated, as St. Peter clearly seems to have been wrong.

    Even once we sort out what St. Peter's role is, it takes more work to conclude that this is a charism that is extended to the current occupant of the See of Rome.

    First, cities had multiple Bishops in the first 2 or so centuries of the Church. The idea of a monarchical episcopacy, where an Archbishop has jurisdiction over Bishops in his diocese, didn't develop till about the time of St. Athanasios the Great in Alexandria.

    Further, we have to sort out why, if we can make such primatial claims, they inhere in the Bishop of Rome rather than that of the other sees also traditionally acknowledged as Petrine (Antioch and Alexandria, which were initially of very great importance in the Church, and according to some may have even chaired the first few Councils, until Constantinople was elevated to a higher rank by certain Councils).

    So, in short, I wouldn't say St. Chrysostom was speaking against the traditions of the Church. Perhaps we differ as to what he was saying.

    Forgive me.


  25. David, have you read Luke Rivington's The Roman primacy A.D. 430-451 (1899)?

    If not here it is: The Roman primacy A.D. 430-451

  26. (Chapman on Chrysostom:)He next asks, why did Our Lord pray? "For He Who built the Church upon his confession, and so fortified it that ten thousand dangers and deaths should not prevail against it, He Who gave him the keys of heaven, and made him lord (possessor) of so much authority, and Who needed not prayer for this (for He said not 'I have prayed' but with authority 'I will build' and 'I will give'), how did He need prayer that He might save the soul of one man?" The answer is, to give confidence to the disciples, whose faith was weak.

    But elsewhere he says:

    "Again, that coryphaeus Peter, after a thousand wonders and signs and so much warning and counsel, did He not rebuke him when he had fallen this grave fall? Nay, He passed it over, and appointed him first of the apostles. Wherefore He said: 'Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to sift thee as wheat, and I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not'." (In Psalm 129, 2, vol V, 375[369])

    (Chapman:)And yet more plainly:

    "God allowed him to fall, because He meant to make him ruler of the whole world [Greek], that, remembering his own fall, he might forgive those who should slip in the future. And what I have said is no guess, listen to Christ Himself saying, 'Simon, Simon, how often hath Satan desired to sift thee as wheat, but I have prayed for thee that thy strength fail not, and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren'." (Hom quod frequenter conveniendum sit, 5, vol XII, 466[329])

    (Chapman:)Another quotation to the same effect will be given when we come to the election of St. Matthias. The same intention is attributed to Our Lord when He rebukes Peter's boasting by prophesying his fall:

    "When he is told, 'Thou canst not follow Me now,' he says, 'Though all should deny Thee, yet will not I deny.' Because, then, it appeared likely he would be puffed up even to madness, since he practiced contradicting, He warns him not to rebel. This is what Luke refers to when he says that Christ said: 'And I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not,' viz. that it may not be lost to the end, throughout teaching him humility, and proving that human nature is nothing by itself. For since his great love made him contradictory, He moderates him, that he might not in the future have the same fault, when he should receive the government of the world, but that remembering his fault he might know himself." (Hom 73[72] in Joann 1, vol VIII, 395[429])

    Steven you said:
    "Further, we have to sort out why, if we can make such primatial claims, they inhere in the Bishop of Rome rather than that of the other sees..."

    I don't think much sorting is necessary. I have read so many things from the ECF's right down to today that make it plain that Rome is the See of Peter. I thought the Orthodox accepted this fact? Do you deny that Rome is the one and only chair of Peter?


  27. continued...

    I'm sure you have read this from St. Irenaeus Against Heresies Book III, Chapter 3

    “…the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its preeminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere.
    The blessed apostles, then, having founded and built up the Church, committed into the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate. Of this Linus, Paul makes mention in the Epistles to Timothy. To him succeeded Anacletus; and after him, in the third place from the apostles, Clement was allotted the bishopric. This man, as he had seen the blessed apostles, and had been conversant with them, might be said to have the preaching of the apostles still echoing [in his ears], and their traditions before his eyes. Nor was he alone [in this], for there were many still remaining who had received instructions from the apostles. In the time of this Clement, no small dissension having occurred among the brethren at Corinth, the Church in Rome dispatched a most powerful letter to the Corinthians, exhorting them to peace, renewing their faith, and declaring the tradition which it had lately received from the apostles, .....
    To this Clement there succeeded Evaristus. Alexander followed Evaristus; then, sixth from the apostles, Sixtus was appointed; after him, Telephorus, who was gloriously martyred; then Hyginus; after him, Pius; then after him, Anicetus. Soter having succeeded Anicetus, Eleutherius does now, in the twelfth place from the apostles, hold the inheritance of the episcopate. In this order, and by this succession, the ecclesiastical tradition from the apostles, and the preaching of the truth, have come down to us. And this is most abundant proof that there is one and the same vivifying faith, which has been preserved in the Church from the apostles until now, and handed down in truth.”

    Steven, do the Orthodox agree with St. Irenaeus on this point:
    "For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this (Rome)Church"

    So to sum up some of my questions:

    1. Do you deny that Rome is the one and only chair of Peter? I truly did not know people actually denied that.

    2. Would the Orthodox say with St. Irenaeus: "For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church"(Rome)

    3. (Big one) do you think Orthodoxy and Catholicism will ever unite? Should they?

    4. Under what circumstances whould this union be most likely to happen?

    a.)Catholicism renouncing Papal primacy of jurisdiction and infallibility and joining Orthodoxy or

    b.) Orthodox churches gradually coming into full communion with Rome? or

    c.) Some other option.

    To my mind option B seems the obvious inevitability. Why not just let it happen now instead of waiting? Then the world will have a unified church again! Thanks for the discusion, and I pray that in our own small way we are helping further Orthodox/Catholic reunion.

    Excuse any offense given, none is meant. ;)


    David M.

  28. James Dean:

    Thanks for the link to the PDF. I might kill a tree and print it out sometime!

  29. Mr. Meyer,

    How far do we take the "government of the world" concept?

    The passage from St. Irenaeus you cited is important, but frequently misinterpreted. He is laying out apostolic succession, which is a safeguard of apostolic preaching, as we can trace the same dogmas back through the generations to the Apostles.

    Notice that St. Irenaeus does not simply say that we must all agree with the Church at Rome. Rather, we must agree with that local Church because it has preserved the preaching of Sts. Peter and Paul, ie the Apostles. The source of authority is not the hierarchy of Rome, but rather the Apostles, and Rome is tested just like any other See to see if their preaching is apostolic.

    It's like the famous Tome of Leo which was part of the proceedings at Chalcedon. Catholics like to bring it up as an example of papal primacy. What they fail to state is that, before it was accepted, the Tome was first compared to the teaching of St. Cyril, an undisputed Apostolic Father. It was only accepted after the Council established its contents were apostolic.

    To your questions:

    1. First, do you deny that there are at least two other "Petrine Sees?" Also, "Chair of Peter" isn't really a category in Orthodoxy ecclesiology, as far as I know. All Bishops are of equal dignity because they are all icons of Christ in the Eucharistic assembly, though some have been granted administrative and honorific prerogatives. That has never been inherent in the hierarchy of the Church but changed over time, as we see in the diminished importance of sees like Alexandria and Antioch and the increasing importance of Constantinople over time.

    2. Yes, but like I said the test is not whether we agree with Rome but whether Rome (and any local Church) agrees with the Apostolic preaching. At the time, Rome did. Obviously, the Orthodox would say that changed at some point.

    3. I really doubt it. The more I learn about Orthodoxy, the more I see how much we disagree about. We differ in Theology, Ecclesiology, Pneumatology, even Christology (transubstantion, etc.), and the list goes on.

    4. I'm not sure how to answer this question. I doubt (a) will happen, since the Catholic Church will have to give up a lot in renouncing so much of its prior thought. (B) is also very unlikely, since if anything this past century has seen a renewed freedom in Orthodoxy and a conscious awareness of the influence of non-Orthodox thought since at least the 16th or so century. If the Orthodox didn't capitulate to Rome in the shadow of the Ottoman threat, I doubt that will happen now.

    Further, the Church has always been united. Though some groups may have left the canonical Church, the limits of the Church are the limits of creation itself. Whatever choice you make, you are and will remain a surer part of the Church than I ever will.

    Forgive me.

  30. Steven, you said: "you are and will remain a surer part of the Church than I ever will."

    What do you mean by this, you can't be abandoning the faith? Why do you say I am a surer part of the church?

    As far as the idea of Rome being the test of orthodoxy, I guess we both hear St. Irenaeus saying different things. If it was just him saying what he does, I would agree with you I suppose. But when I add Chrysostom and all the rest... I just can't avoid the conclusion that the Bishop of Rome as Peter's heir has the primacy to which other Bishops should conform their doctrine.

    You said:
    " Rome is tested just like any other See to see if their preaching is apostolic."
    As a former Protestant, I cring at the notion of having all the Bishops keep each other doctrinally orthodox. To my mind can you see how that puts personal judgement back into the equation? I mean, if Bishops A,B,C, and D are heretics (in God's eyes) and Bishop "R" is not, then Bishop R's doctrine is "tested" and judged to be not Apostolic by the other Bishops. From a human perspective, (you and me in the pews) how do we know that Bishops A,B,C,D are wrong? I am guessing we would side with them, because they are a majority. But we would be wrong!

    So do you think I am being reasonable to think it makes sense that one of them should be the measure? I think it has happened in history where Rome was the only Orthodox See. (Arianism I think?) How were Christians of that day supposed to know if they were holding to the true faith if their Bishop was a heretic? This seems to be the same methods of judging orthodoxy as when I was a Protestant. A subjective measure of "Apostolic preaching" is used to measure what the true doctrine is. But as soon as that subjective foot is in the door, one cant be sure if he has the true doctrine of the Apostles. If I define what the meaning of "Apostolic Preaching" is, sure enough, I will hit the mark every time. I am just so wary of this subjectivity, and I need to KNOW without doubt that my belief is Apostolic. Catholicism has a SINGLE measure of Apostolicity. Orthodoxy has multiple Bishops that are the measure. Do you see how this looks to a Protestant tired of multiple sects all claiming to have the one, true, Apostolic teaching?

    Peace to you and yours,


  31. I mean that I am quite sure that I am a canonical member of the Church. However, during the past few years, as I've wrestled with the idea of going to seminary, I've discovered that I am the least of all, distinguished only by my vice. Each and every person that I've had the blessing to meet has proved more Orthodox than me. So no, I'm not abandoning the Faith. I just betray it (rather, Him) constantly.

    I can see where you're coming from, based on your Protestant background. But I would caution you to not let it lead you to another extreme. You're concerned with certainty about the Church. The trouble with certainty is that it's in tension with freedom. If we could be certain of the Church and its claims, we would be compelled to accept them rather than freely accept them in love and humility.

    Similarly, there can be no certainty about God's existence. Or rather, God seems to want to avoid that and prefers to ask us to approach Him freely.

    As a consequence, we are all asked to pray and fast. We are all asked to be humble before one another, and to love each other. In the event of disagreements, we are asked to come together in a spirit of humility and thus, eventually, put aside our errors. You do not find it palatable because you see it in the seeds of subjectivism. I respectfully disagree, and simply see in it the way of the Holy Spirit.

    Indeed, Catholicism has a single measure of Apostolicity. This is simple and user-friendly, but the clarity of an answer does not guarantee its truth.

    In a sense, Orthodoxy also has one measure, in that the measure if the Apostolic preaching. The Church has been blessed with Father from the beginning down to our own time who pass that teaching down to their contemporaries in their own way. We can trace an unbroken line of preaching (the Apostolic succession) from our own day back to the Apostles. Just as that satisfied St. Irenaeus about the See of Rome, that satisfies me about Orthodoxy today.

    Is it difficult? Yes. Does it demand constant vigilance? Yes. Does it demand ascesis and union of the entire human being rather than simple intellectual recognition and assent? Most certainly.

    If I may say so, I think I understand your concerns. But, and I say this with the utmost respect, I do not find myself sympathetic to them.

    Forgive me.

  32. The linked PDF file deals precisely with the Claim that somehow, St. Cyril is the authority by which we judge doctrine. Obviously, Steven's argument has a couple of flaws.

    1. If he claims that St. Cyril is our measure, he will be claiming for Cyril, something he never claimed for himself, which is infallibility.
    2. Most Eastern Orthodox would readily admit that the Church fathers were not infallible, so we have St. Chrysostom saying some things about the Blessed Virgin, that we wouldn't say now knowing what the Church teaches.
    3. If he insists on Cyril being the doctrinal measure. Then he will have to convert to Oriental Orthodoxy. Because they claim that St. Cyril never taught the doctrines that were approved at Chalcedon. And since they were his direct successors, they are in a better position to know what St. Cyril taught and what he didn't teach. I submit that Steven or any EO who claims infallibity for St. Cyril is not ready to do that.

    4. Read Luke Rivington's work linked above. It goes into great detail about both councils. Including St. Cyril view of his own authortiy vis-a vis the bishop or Rome.

  33. Mr. Dean,

    You misunderstand me, rather severely.

    1. I'm not claiming that St. Cyril is the measure of Orthodoxy. Rather, I'm trying to explain that, throughout history, various Fathers have been the ones to expound the true Faith. This was even memorialized in at least one Ecumenical Council, which said something along the lines of "those who believe correctly are in agreement with Sts...." I'll have to look it up in my notes.

    2. Similarly, I'm not saying any of the Fathers were/are infallible. Rather, some have been recognized as preaching the true faith, at least with regard to specific topics, and we can trace an unbroken line of teaching through them back to the Apostles.

    3. St. Cyril agreed to the statement of Ephesus as memorialized in the Formula of 431. Chalcedon followed and reaffirmed Ephesus, despite what some may claim. If anything, St. Cyril was what we may call a "linguistic monophysite." He spoke about the one incarnate nature of Christ but, when he sat down to discuss this with the rest of the Church, he realized his confession was in agreement with the rest of the Church, even if expressed differently. Though some are true doctrinal monophysites, some Oriental Orthodox remain linguistic monophysites; one of my professors is involved in dialogues with them to see if reconciliation is possible, and he seems positive about their progress.

    4. I'd like to flip through Rivington's work if I can. I can cite a few (and more recent) historical studies which support the claim I'm making.

  34. Steven,
    There is a new post over at Called to Communion that you may be interested in reading.


  35. Hi David....the end times theology which states we are now living in the millenial reign is known as Amillenialism, which is the view held by most Reformed Presbyterians.

    Only a handful of Reformed are postmillenialists, including of late, R.C. Sproul I believe, along with Doug Wilson and most of his followers.

    I appreciate this post, as I've come close to becoming an OC catachumen in the last year.

  36. Hey Jim,

    "Hi David....the end times theology which states we are now living in the millenial reign is known as Amillenialism, which is the view held by most Reformed Presbyterians."

    That also describes Postmillenialism. (As it's very name suggests, that Christ comes AFTER the millenium which we are currently in) The main difference in practice is the optimism of Post-mil compared with pre- and a-mil. (Things are and will get better and better before the end.)

    If you were to really dig I suspect it is more like 50-50 now for Reformed people being a-mil/post-mil. The only A-mil guys at my old PCA church (as far as I knew) were all older gents. The couple of pre-mil youngins were not studied in the topic and had all come from more evangelical backgrounds. I have found these trends to be near universal in Reformed circles. These facts lead me to the conclusion that most Reformed people are Postmil. Certainly they are mostly partial Preterists concerning matt 24 and Revelation. (as I am) I hope I can maintain these beliefs as a Catholic. I think that I will be able to, as my beliefs are close enough to the Amillenialism I have seen in Catholicism.

    "I appreciate this post, as I've come close to becoming an OC catachumen in the last year."

    I'm sorry but what is OC? Orthodox Church I am guessing? Or Orthodox Catholic Church? If so, and if you are currently Reformed, then that is great! Just be sure to give Catholicism a fair shake. Check out Called to Communion.