Two Rights Declare a Wrong-on Appeals to Orthodoxy

Mar 11th, 2010 | By | Category: Blog Posts

Throughout the past year on Called to Communion, the various blog posts and full-length articles by the contributors have been met with objections of various stripes and sizes. It has been a mixture of excitement, hope, prayer, frustration, and calls for mercy for me to read many of those posts and the dialogue that has followed-my hope is that this venture has led us all to grow in learning more about one another and where we come from in our understanding of the Christian Faith. One comment which I have observed that seems to be repeated with an ever-growing frequency by some of our Protestant readers goes something like this: “Well, you Catholics argue for X but so do the Eastern Orthodox!”

Be it Apostolic Succession, opposition to Solo/Sola Scriptura, a Canon that is based more on the Septuagint than the Hebrew Scriptures as collected in Jamnia, or what have you, it seems that the essence of this argument is that because other Christians apart from Catholics assert something about our faith, that something does not argue for the particular correctness of Catholicism. Well, yes and no.

Yes, Catholics adhere to X, and yes, so do other Christians of the Apostolic Churches. Does it then logically follow that the common voice of Catholics and the other Traditional Christian Churches should not be heeded? Not by any means. As I recall my own days of searching and wrestling with Tradition as contrasted to my former Reformed Protestant home, I knew that the variety of options before me did not make their common voice any less persuasive, or fearful to consider. I recall saying with much trepidation that God had clearly called me to become Catholic or some flavor of Orthodoxy (Eastern, Oriental, Coptic, Armenian, etc.). It was a huge change that I knew would come to my life, and while I did not know where I would end up exactly, I knew without a doubt that the arguments over Apostolic Succession had me needing to leave Protestantism.

And so I write this post in dedication to the ones who make this sort of argument–realize what you are saying when you say that the Orthodox Churches also advocate a particular doctrine being supported by the writers on Called to Communion. The Catholic and Orthodox Churches speak in unison about so many things. That we differ on important matters like the nature of the episcopacy, particularly the successor of Peter, is worthy of reflection for Catholics, Orthodox and those Protestants who see our common message. But despite our differences, we are so close. We make the same call to communion with the Church Fathers. We venerate the Holy Mother of Our God (on this note, I want to parenthetically state that devotion to the Blessed Virgin is more full and flowering in the East than the West in terms of during the liturgical services, but my point is that Protestants should feel less at home in an Orthodox or Eastern Catholic Parish than they would in a Roman Catholic service, if Marian devotion is troubling). We beseech our Lord and King to have mercy on the souls of those who have gone to their eternal Rest. We view some of God’s faithful saints who lived lives of exceptional holiness as those to whom we may call upon in prayers on earth. We see the laying on of hands from the Apostles and their successors as something integral to ordination. We proclaim that we partake of the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord in the Holy Eucharistic Mystery. We call upon Christ’s representative to hear our confessions of weakness and trust in his priestly prayer to absolve us of our sins, not through his own power, but through the grace of the ministry of Christ our high priest which has been passed down through that laying on of hands. We are anointed with oil for a fuller reception of the Holy Spirit in confirmation/chrismation. When we see our frailty of human illness, we are anointed again and partake of the body and the blood of Our Lord if possible, confident that the words of St. James will be true for us, and that any sins we have committed will be forgiven, again through the prayer of the elders who pray to God for us. We join ourselves to history with a liturgical calendar that reminds us of the rhythm of life. We fast on a regular basis. We see sacred art as a help and not some idolatrous hindrance to our spiritual life. In fact, we were together at an Ecumenical Council where iconoclasm was not only thought to be bad aesthetics–it was declared to be heresy.

Doctrinally, we do have our differences. But for my part as a Catholic, I am taught to thank God for the fullness of the sacraments that exist in Eastern Orthodox Churches that are not in communion with the Pope. In fact, as of the time of this writing, I have two good friends who are catechumens in the Antiochian Orthodox Church. When I have heard of their departure from Protestantism, I did not hesitate to express my joy at this growth in union with the Church that has existed since the time Our Lord’s ministry.

This joy is not something that I do of my own analysis or affections. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is even more joyful than me when it speaks of what we share in common with the Eastern Orthodox. Let’s examine two key points from its discussion of the Orthodox Churches.

838 “The Church knows that she is joined in many ways to the baptized who are honored by the name of Christian, but do not profess the Catholic faith in its entirety or have not preserved unity or communion under the successor of Peter.” Those “who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in a certain, although imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church.” With the Orthodox Churches, this communion is so profound “that it lacks little to attain the fullness that would permit a common celebration of the Lord’s Eucharist.”

And later in the Catechism we read:

1399 The Eastern churches that are not in full communion with the Catholic Church celebrate the Eucharist with great love. “These Churches, although separated from us, yet possess true sacraments, above all – by apostolic succession – the priesthood and the Eucharist, whereby they are still joined to us in closest intimacy.” A certain communion in sacris, and so in the Eucharist, “given suitable circumstances and the approval of Church authority, is not merely possible but is encouraged.”238

All of the sacraments that the Orthodox Churches celebrate are viewed by Catholics to be entirely valid. We are separated, yes, but we are united in sharing the holy mysteries. This may be something that some readers do not know. One friend of mine who left evangelicalism for Orthodoxy had no idea that we as Catholics accept all of the sacraments of the Orthodox, but yes, our affection goes beyond smiles. It goes to the center of our spiritual life in the Church. If I were on my deathbed and there were no Catholic priests around, I would beg an Orthodox priest to say the last rites to me, and I would be faithful to my devotion to the Pope as the Bishop who is first among equals.

In contrast, the Catholic Catechism is clear that while our Reformed background is worthy of some admiration, it is simply not on the same ecclesial footing as the Orthodox Church.

1400 Ecclesial communities derived from the Reformation and separated from the Catholic Church, “have not preserved the proper reality of the Eucharistic mystery in its fullness, especially because of the absence of the sacrament of Holy Orders.”239 It is for this reason that, for the Catholic Church, Eucharistic intercommunion with these communities is not possible. However these ecclesial communities, “when they commemorate the Lord’s death and resurrection in the Holy Supper . . . profess that it signifies life in communion with Christ and await his coming in glory.”240

Here we read that there is a deficiency in the sacramental life of the Protestant ecclesial communities, as compared to that of the Orthodox Churches. The same words of closeness and sacramental fullness that were uttered regarding the Eastern Churches are not poured out by the councils and catechetical writers when thoughts turn to Protestantism. Forthcoming discussions here on Called to Communion will flesh out our understanding of the sacrament of Holy Orders, but for now I simply want to emphasize that Catholicism sees Orthodoxy as something far grander than Protestantism. Therefore, if one sees these arguments as a Protestant and feels called to communion vis a vis a conversion to Orthodoxy, this is not something that I as a Catholic bemoan. It is not a nudge in the right direction. Leaving Protestantism for Orthodoxy is to possess the fullness of sacramental life, despite not being in communion with Rome.

In a forthcoming post, I will explain the qualifications to my joy. But before qualifying my joy, I want to embrace and celebrate it. I thank God so much for my Orthodox brethren, and am truly happy to hear of God calling people to Himself through growth in the sacramental life that occurs when one leaves Protestantism for Orthodoxy.

May we all be faithful to His call to growth in faith, hope, and charity. May the divisions that scandalize the Lord and His Church end, so that they may no longer be causes for excuses to consider Tradition.

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  1. […] Two Rights Declare a Wrong-on Appeals to Orthodoxy | Called to Communion. […]

  2. Speaking of the author’s joy and the joy expressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, both of which I share wholeheartedly at news of any conversion, look again at the photograph you’ve selected (Bravo, by the way–both on the photo and the article), Benedict XVI could not appear more joyful if he were a child at Christmas! And I suspect there’s a broad grin just beginning to crack wide under the Holy Patriarch’s beard as well. Here is Peace and Joy if I’ve ever seen it. Perhaps welcome news will be soon forthcoming.

  3. Per the Pontificator’s Laws:

    “First Law: When Orthodoxy and Catholicism agree, Protestantism loses.”

    I wonder what happens when Catholicism and Protestantism agree?
    Or when Protestantism and Orthodoxy agree?

  4. Jonathan,

    When I was converting, Marian devotion was a major stumbling block for me because of my Puritan background. It wasn’t so much the reasoning behind dogmas like the Immaculate Conception, although those were trouble at first. It was more of a deep-seated resistance to Mariology because I (wrongly) felt that it interfered with Christocentric worship. It is nothing short of providential that I never stepped foot in an Eastern Church until after surrendering my reservations up to Christ regarding His mother.

    You are absolutely right that the Marian devotion in the Eastern liturgies far outshines the devotion in Western liturgies. I would not have been able to handle it early on in my conversion process. Those Protestants who appeal to the East against the Catholic Church re: Marian dogmas speak out of ignorance. On that note, I highly recommend the Orthodox blog Eirenikon, especially his posts on Mary, for anyone who thinks the Eastern Churches are essentially Protestant when it comes to Marian or other dogmas.

  5. Jonathan,

    Beautiful post and as has been remarked an even more beautiful picture. I love what the late Father Neuhaus said about communion between East and West, “All that remains is…full communion.” I do agree with what Tim says, those who seek to use the Orthodox as a hammer against Rome should refrain from doing so, not least of which because I believe the day is coming when we shall be one once again. To be sure much prayer is still needed but it is astounding with what is going on with Patriarch Kirill, a dear friend of Pope Benedict before both were chosen by God to bear the burden of authority, publishing the Holy Father’s talks in Russia.

    And for our Protestant brethren we yearn, just as we do for the East and West, to be able to share with you at one altar, the one holy food given by Christ.

  6. Just a word of warning that you probably all know about. The Eastern Orthodox Church does not accept our validity, and historically in some cases prefers Anglicanism to us (I’m a Protestant convert to Catholicism). While we view their sacraments as legitimate, Vatican II and the Catechism still state that anyone who knowingly and willingly refuses to remain in, or join the Catholic Church under the Pope, is in a state of schism. So I know if I was dying, I wouldn’t take communion from a priest who is knowingly in schism from the Vicar of Christ, as that act would put me outside the ordinary means of grace, even if they have sacramental validity. The Anglican Church remember maintained sacramental validity in the eyes of Roman Catholics until 1896 and yet it was still a church in schism and heretical.

    I know it helps our case to pretend that the Orthodox and us agree on alot, but you’ll find many of them saying things like St. Augustine of Hippo was heterodox, etc. They’re not all the friends of Rome. Granted we seem to be anxious to commune with them, but they still hold dogmatically that we are in schism from the True Church of Christ (them allegedly) and thus heretics. They deny the assumption, purgatorial fire, the immaculate conception, communion under one kind, etc.

    BUT I will say you are quite right in your criticism of Reformed folks who think Orthodoxy is helpful to their case. Many Protestants convert to Orthodoxy thinking that because they don’t have Trent, they can still hold to imputation and sola fide (as it seems that some converts like Pelikan did), but the real situation is that Orthodoxy is further from Classic Protestantism than Roman Catholicism will ever be. The Orthodox hate Augustine, call predestination a heresy, and venerate images to a degree unparalleled in the Latin rite. It is no ‘safe haven’ to Puritans.

    Anyway, I’m not trying to anger anyone, just trying to clear some stuff up. Keep up the blogging on this site, I really enjoy it.

  7. Great stuff, J. Deane. I had never seen those parts of the CCC until reading this. Thanks for that. And as I have heard you say before, the only thing left to heal between the East and the West is an accord on governance.
    By God’s grace and providence we will be healed soon.

    Here’s an interesting point, what do you suppose would happen in the minds of fundamentalists and anti-intellectual futurists if the Catholic and Orthodox Churches reunited? About a year or two ago I heard one say, “Now, wouldn’t that be the one world order of the antichrist?” Lord have mercy. I hope that all of Christendom, or all who profess to be apart of Christendom, will be able to see the love of God moving; come a reunion of East and West. One can only hope…

  8. Andrew,
    Thanks for your thoughts.
    Perhaps I should have made it clear that my opinion about receiving the last rites from an Orthodox Priest was something that I was once instructed to do if such a hypothetical situation occurred, and that this instruction comes from Canon Law, 844.2.

    Whenever necessity requires it or true spiritual advantage suggests it, and provided that danger of error or of indifferentism is avoided, the Christian faithful for whom it is physically or morally impossible to approach a Catholic minister are permitted to receive the sacraments of penance, Eucharist, and anointing of the sick from non-Catholic ministers in whose Churches these sacraments are valid.

    Now with that being said, you are correct that there is a sin in knowingly and willfully refusing to be in communion with Rome. Ultimately, God will judge us for all of the good that we knowingly and willfully refuse.
    Thankfully, He is merciful.


  9. p.s. Everything you have said about what some Orthodox say and think about Catholicism is really out of our hands. We are called to communion and love, and despite the fact that some of our brethren who have valid sacramental life but no communion with us deny our sacraments does not mean that we are called to anger or hatred in a tit for tat manner. The truth of this sacramental fullness is seen even in the most angry opponent of Catholicism. It’s mysterious, but so is everything that is truly wonderful in this world.

  10. Steven,
    Regarding ecumenism being viewed as a harbinger of the end times, this is something we can’t avoid. But we can fight against it, by showing that we are One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. We can show that the Call to Communion is not a call for the Orthodox to abandon Tradition. We can beg for forgiveness for the sins we have committed as Catholics on our separated brethren and ask the Orthodox what it would take for reunion, as Pope John Paul II of blessed memory stated in Ut Unum Sint and elsewhere. Just to quote from that encyclical:

    As Bishop of Rome I am fully aware, as I have reaffirmed in the present Encyclical Letter, that Christ ardently desires the full and visible communion of all those Communities in which, by virtue of God’s faithfulness, his Spirit dwells. I am convinced that I have a particular responsibility in this regard, above all in acknowledging the ecumenical aspirations of the majority of the Christian Communities and in heeding the request made of me to find a way of exercising the primacy which, while in no way renouncing what is essential to its mission, is nonetheless open to a new situation. For a whole millennium Christians were united in “a brotherly fraternal communion of faith and sacramental life … If disagreements in belief and discipline arose among them, the Roman See acted by common consent as moderator”.154

    In this way the primacy exercised its office of unity. When addressing the Ecumenical Patriarch His Holiness Dimitrios I, I acknowledged my awareness that “for a great variety of reasons, and against the will of all concerned, what should have been a service sometimes manifested itself in a very different light. But … it is out of a desire to obey the will of Christ truly that I recognize that as Bishop of Rome I am called to exercise that ministry … I insistently pray the Holy Spirit to shine his light upon us, enlightening all the Pastors and theologians of our Churches, that we may seek—together, of course—the forms in which this ministry may accomplish a service of love recognized by all concerned”.155

    96. This is an immense task, which we cannot refuse and which I cannot carry out by myself. Could not the real but imperfect communion existing between us persuade Church leaders and their theologians to engage with me in a patient and fraternal dialogue on this subject, a dialogue in which, leaving useless controversies behind, we could listen to one another, keeping before us only the will of Christ for his Church and allowing ourselves to be deeply moved by his plea “that they may all be one … so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (Jn 17:21)?

  11. Andrew C,

    Thanks for the comments and I understand where you are coming from, but a couple of corrections are in order. First, the Eastern Orthodox do not at all deny the Assumption of Mary. There are even many Eastern parishes named after the Assumption. (e.g. Assumption Greek Orthodox Church in Chicago) Further, the earliest records indicate that the Feast of the Assumption was celebrated in the East (Palestine and Egypt) before the West.

    Next, the East does not use the word “purgatory,” which is a Western word (purgatorium), but they have the same concept in their teaching, and they pray for their dead, which is unintelligible without a doctrine similar to purgatory. Many modern theologians from the East deny the Immaculate Conception but this is largely a phenomenon of the last 150 years or so. In fact, while the dogma was being debated in the West during the scholastic period, even while many Western theologians denied it, the dogma was upheld by many Eastern theologians. See the Eirenikon blog I linked to above for an excellent resource on that. You may also want to check out the book “Mary Through the Centuries” by the (converted) Eastern Orthodox patristic scholar, Jaroslav Pelikan. Also, they do not reject communion in one kind as a dogmatic error; they merely have a separate tradition (lower case t).

    My point is, don’t take everything you read on the internet to be the actual Eastern Orthodox position. Many contemporary Eastern theologians have also diverged from their own history as an over-zealous attempt to distance themselves from Rome. The fact is that the East and West are much closer than you make them out to be, and the talks coming from the Patriarchs and the Vatican are far different in tone from some of the contemporary theologians that are no doubt the source of what causes many to believe the types of things you mentioned.

  12. Andrew C.,

    You wrote:

    The Anglican Church remember maintained sacramental validity in the eyes of Roman Catholics until 1896

    That is not accurate. The fact that the Church definitively ruled on the nullity of Anglican orders in 1896 does not entail that the Church acknowledged the validity of those orders prior to that time. Evidence cited in Apostolicae Curae itself proves otherwise; e.g., Anglican clergy (who had maintained the titles of “bishop,” “priest,” “deacon”) who converted to the Catholic Church prior to 1896, and after Catholic orders had lapsed in the generation after the Reformation, were ordained to the Catholic priesthood absolutely, as opposed to conditionally, as would not have been the case if there was at least a strong suspicion of the validity of their Anglican orders. Hence, when a question arose on the matter in the mid to late 19th century (due to the teachings of the Tractarian party within the Anglican communion), Pope Leo XIII dogmatically confirmed what the Catholic Church had always supposed about Anglican sacraments: they are invalid (with the exceptions of Baptism and Marriage).

    Among the Orthodox, at the beginning of the 20th century, there was some consideration of the validity of Anglican orders. A few Orthodox churches published letters tentatively suggesting that something like “validity” could be affirmed in the case of Anglicans who shared the Orthodox faith. The Patriarch of Alexandria was, for a brief time (c. 1930), more positive, but his assessment was not generally shared among the Orthodox churches.

  13. Tim,

    While it is true that there are many Orthodox Churches named after the Assumption, it doesn’t follow that what the Orthodox mean by that is what Catholics mean. We believe Mary died as part of the tradition, which is why the more usual term is “Dormition.” And we think Mary died because she, albeit purified after her conception, because she inherited corruption, even if she never personally sinned. All of the earliest iconography and texts indicate that Mary died. I know clergy at Assumption parishes both in Saint Louis and Chicago and they deny the Catholic doctrine.
    Your remarks are also mistaken that the denial of the IC is limited to the last 150 years. There have been a variety of theological views in the East on this. Some held that Mary was purified in the womb like John the Baptist. Some that she was purified at the Annunciation and some that this was begun earlier but completed at her death. And others that her ancestors were gradually purified by God through the Law and their obedience to produce a more purified (not absolutely pure) “seed.” The view was held by a number of later Russian theologians, so that it wasn’t opposition, but advocation of the view that is only about 150 years old. If as Catholics object, the Orthodox have no magisterium and no definitive teaching, where do you believe you have located the official teaching of the Orthodox Church on this matter?
    As for purgatory, your remarks are not accurate. There were at Florence significant points of convergence but also differences that remain as articulated by Saint Mark of Ephesus. (
    It is true that polemicists often try to exaggerate the differences, but it is also true that ecumenists try to minimize them as well. With all due respect to Patriarch Bartholomew his attitude has more to do with his situation than with theological conviction and analysis. (If you saw the recent 60 minutes piece you know of what I speak.) He hasn’t been dubbed in Orthodox circles “Black Bart” for nothing. The monks of Mt. Athos didn’t call the Pope on his recent visit a “two horned Satan” because they were reading popular polemical literature.

  14. Perry,
    Thank you so much for your comments.

    The Dormition is integral to our prayer life as Eastern Catholics. I don’t think that would be a hindrance to union between East and West. Regarding opposition to His All Holiness (and our Holy Father Benedict, Pope of Rome) by the holy monks of Mount Athos, the real question is how Orthodoxy can settle the disputes as to who is following the Tradition with faithfulness. Without a principium unitatis, Orthodoxy is left to do what many aspects of its history testify to – it forms a litany of accusations of one holy father being viewed not holy by another holy father. One priest is ordained a second time because he views his first ordination as meaningless. One convert from Catholicism is told to be baptized again, another is told not to do so.

    Therefore, I think it’s not germane to this discussion to really deal with the matters that divide East and West. Let’s think about the focus of the article, which is that Protestants who are responding to Catholicism by appealing to Orthodoxy need to either embrace Orthodoxy or stop doing so. As I tried to convey in my writing, I am truly overjoyed by one who leaves Protestantism for Orthodoxy.

    In the next week or two I’ll try to flesh out this notion of subjectivity and mutual condemnation that can be summarized with the title to the sequel blog post: I love Orthodoxy too much to be Orthodox.
    For now, I wish you the deepest blessings as we venture through this Great Fast.

    Through the intercessions of our Holy Father St. John Climacus, may we climb the ladder of divine ascent, preferably in communion vs. out of communion. :)


  15. Jonathan,

    As for Eastern Catholics and the Dormition, Rome permits the view that Mary died as a theological opinion, but not as official teaching. Consequently that would be a bar to reunion just as it would with conservative Anglicans who hold such a position on assumption or her perpetual virginity.
    The examples you pick out require a good bit of analysis and explication to give a clear picture of how Orthodoxy settles such matters. I doubt this thread allows such an opportunity, any more than it does to explain how to settle a dispute between multiple rival claimants to the papal office when the seat is vacant or how to deal with near uniform tradition on the death of the Theotokos when ones theology seems to dictate otherwise. I don’t think the Orthodox lack a principle of unity and I think reasons like the ones you give show that such thinking conflates unity with simplicity. Unity can be said in many ways. The doctrine of God trickles all the way down.

    As for this father viewing that as not, such is your position as well. Gregory of Nyssa was clearly wrong on some serious points of theology, as was Augustine. These are not witnesses like Origen or Tertullian. I can’t see how your position on that score is superior to the Orthodox. Any serious engagement with say the controversy over the Three Chapters bear out that there have existed various factions and Rome wasn’t in a position to settle them. That settlement came by another route. Hence I think history here as messy as it is bears witness to the Orthodox position.

    I was responding to Tim’s remarks on what really separates East and West. If my remarks aren’t on topic, then neither are his. My only point was fundamentally the same as the post. Using Orthodoxy to score apologetic points is not appropriate. Catholics on the one hand wish to minimize or paper over serious matters when it serves their apologetic goals and do the exact opposite when it serves those same goals. This is done at different points. When a Protestant is arguing against Rome it is said that we are divided by so little but when he is thinking of becoming Orthodox then the Orthodox are “ditheists”, lack a principle of unity, etc. If such claims were true I consequently can’t see how you would be overjoyed at someone becoming Orthodox if they lack a principle of unity and hence the true faith. Frankly, I find such attempts to paint Orthodoxy as some kind of Protestant free for all as indicative of a lack of significant first hand experience with it. And so lets be fair, Protestanism is a mess created in and by the West.

    More to the point with Tim’s remarks. If we lack a principle of unity and there is no definitive teaching in Orthodoxy, how then can one argue that the differences are minimal or identify what the differences are? Either we lack a magisterium and there is no authoritative teaching or there is and we do have authoritative teaching. If on the first things are as you claim, Tim’s remarks about the new attitude from Constantinople don’t mean much at all.

    May our holy Father Maximus among the saints guide you into all truth.

  16. Let’s think about the focus of the article, which is that Protestants who are responding to Catholicism by appealing to Orthodoxy need to either embrace Orthodoxy or stop doing so.

    Hello Jonathan,

    I have certainly referenced Orthodox arguments to make points to my Catholic friends. But then I have also referenced arguments that Catholics would resonate with to respond to Orthodoxy (i.e. filioque, icons). My reason in both cases is that firstly I am betting that Catholic and Orthodox are more likely to listen to each other’s points than they are to mine. And then secondly I am indirectly pointing out the challenges to both faiths in appealing to “infallible” traditions to prove their points. Both of these branches of Christianity have a history of brilliant theologians looking at the same set of data and coming to quite different conclusions on a number of important matters. So maybe the problem is not the different interpretations of the data, but rather the data itself. What do you think? Do you understand what I am getting at?

    I am always glad to recite one of the historic creeds of Christianity in church. They speak to the essential unity of the three major branches of Christianity. But I have to admit that I find it tremendously difficult to understand how Rome can claim that it was through her guidance that the Church came to recognize these truths given the limited role that Rome played in the councils that systematized these core beliefs of Christianity. It would seem to me that this consideration alone would give Catholics some serious intellectual and spiritual prodding to move East.

  17. Andrew,

    Putting the gloss on the Protestant use of Orthodoxy aside for a moment. The Reformed do not adhere to the historic creeds of the church and I do not mean here formally but materially. They reject Nicene-Constantinoplian Trinitarianism as well as what the authors of that Creed meant by katholikos and apostolos along with the baptismal regeneration that they endorsed. (And this leaves aside the Filioque which the Reformed endorse strangely enough.) The same is true with Chalcedon since the Reformed have taught that Christ is the product of the union of two natures. So as far as the historic creeds go there is no shared essential unity in major areas of theology between the Reformed and Orthodoxy (or Rome).

  18. I am diving well out of my depths among the minds at work on this board, but this won’t be the first time I’ve made a fool of myself… still, it is with some trepidation that I offer the following:

    Regarding Perry’s posts, perhaps he wouldn’t mind briefly elucidating just what such a “principle of unity” might look like among the Orthodox? I have been (admittedly somewhat casually) studying Catholicism and Orthodoxy for the past five years, after having been convicted as an evangelical seminary student by study of the first millennium of the Church that Protestantism was in grave error. About half of that time I leaned Eastward, but two or three years ago began to go the other way. Part of the reason is the (very apparent from the outside) divisiveness among the Orthodox, and (to be frank) the clear deficiency of charity in their dealings not only with the Catholic Church, but with each other. I have never in that time read a cogent account of any Orthodox principle of unity, so if I have missed something in my pursuit, I would be happy to be directed toward it.

    But my hunch is as follows: Perry is right to point out the incoherence of talking about working out our differences with “The Orthodox Church” if there is no authoritative voice that unites all of Orthodoxy. Such discussions, and the unity toward which they aim, can only be had piecemeal. The monks of Mt. Athos, in all of their charming felicity, might never commune with the Pope; and a wholesale reunification with “The Orthodox Church” would be impossible anyway because there is no juridically singular Orthodox Church–there are many Churches, and any one Church who joined in communion with the Catholic Church would be immediately excommunicated by the others. I suspect some of the Orthodox Churches will in time reunite with the Catholic Church, but as there has ever been, there will remain outliers who will continue to claim that the others have all added to the Apostolic faith. I imagine an optimistic Orthodox account would have the Catholic Church humble itself and admit its errors and be folded back into the true Church. Given the apparent lack of even the capacity for an authoritative unitive voice speaking over and for all of Orthodoxy, though, I don’t see how that could ultimately work out very well, since there can be no authoritative list of just what those errors are. It would have to be an Ecumenical Council, but could there even be one without the Bishop of Rome? If not, how many among the Orthodox would reject such a Council out of hand precisely because it included the Bishop of Rome? Even a humbled Pope is still the Pope, and some large arms of Orthodoxy would almost certainly tear away in the process. But such is the nature of schism, isn’t it? Once begun, it takes a miracle to heal it.

    I say all of this not to be pessimistic, and I seriously, seriously intend no affront to anyone. For years I’ve resisted being involved in online theological discussion precisely because the utter lack of subtlety in such communication invites easy misunderstandings and combativeness. I intend all of the above in charity, even where I fail to express it well. I earnestly pray and hope for the full unity of the Church, East and West, and believe that such a miracle is by no means impossible for God. The problem is our pride. Lord, have mercy.

  19. Scott,

    My point was that to argue that the Orthodox in fact teach such and so with or against Rome on the one hand is inconsistent with arguing that the Othodox have no definitive or normative teaching mechanism on the other. Those who put forward these lines will have to pick one or the other. Second, imputing problems intrinsic to Protestant ecclesiology to Orthodoxy is entirely out of place.

    I’ve done some of what you are after already at my blog under “Emperichoretic Ecclesiology”. I’d look at two particular historical cases to see what the church’s theology was regarding the principle of unity. First, the case of the Three Chapters and the Fifth council, then what Maximus has to say at his trial when he is presented with the situation of all of the patriarchates east and west now professing monothelitism/monoenergism. What is really necessary is a grasp of the divine energies and their relation to enhypostinization.

    Some of what you say is true with respect to reunification. It has to be a long and slow process if it is ever to succeed. As to having an ecumenical council, that would be a neat trick, since canonically, those accused of schism and heresy can’t be seated as delegates at such a council. The charges of heresy go in both directions mind you. Just read what Martin Jugie has to say about the essence/energies distinction for example. It is also true that Rome risks schism as well with reunification. I can’t think a fair number of liberals wouldn’t be ticked. Reunification with the Orthodox would spell bad liturgical news, not to mention other sorts, for them. I can’t think that those who have maintained that the East is heretical would be happy either. You could get rival popes. It has happaned before and there is nothing in the concept of development of doctrine that implies a kind of postmillenial optimism in ecclesiology either.

    I am sorry if you’ve been treated in an uncharitable fashion. I know such things happen, on both sides. I try (but do not always succeed) to stick just to the issues in my exchanges. I wish you well and hope you find some peace of mind.

  20. Andrew,

    You said: “But I have to admit that I find it tremendously difficult to understand how Rome can claim that it was through her guidance that the Church came to recognize these truths given the limited role that Rome played in the councils that systematized these core beliefs of Christianity. ”

    But we have already corrected you on this front, in particular regarding Chalcedon. You never responded to the correction, as far as I have noticed. Thus, it would be better if you either responded or stopped making the claim.


    K. Doran

  21. Perry,

    You said: “I’d look at two particular historical cases to see what the church’s theology was regarding the principle of unity. First, the case of the Three Chapters and the Fifth council, then what Maximus has to say at his trial when he is presented with the situation of all of the patriarchates east and west now professing monothelitism/monoenergism.”

    And I’d add to your list the council of Chalcedon and the things Maximus had to say before his trial. Why not be a little more complete?


    K. Doran

  22. Doran,

    By all means, read all the sources, but I was trying to focus on a few crucial points. I think Gray’s work, among others, show that Chalcedon doesn’t support Catholic claims. Have you read Gray’s work or no?

  23. Perry,

    I just had the misfortune of reading the passage from his trial where Maximus supposedly denied his pro-roman ecclesiology so clearly expressed elsewhere. Good heavens. To think that that is what all the fuss is about in so many of your comments. Well, I wouldn’t recommend that passage to anyone seeking to understand what the church fathers taught about ecclesiology. Sorry if that took us off topic (and I am happy to say no more) but I stand amazed at how little that passage says.


    K. Doran

  24. I have to agree with K. Doran, i just read the passage by St. Maximus, and it really is underwhelming, esp. in light of his other much more definitive statements regarding the Bishop of Rome & the principle of unity.

  25. K. Doran,

    Please help me to understand you. Are you speaking of when at his trial he is asked what church he is in communion with since now all of the patriarchates (Rome is included explicitly) agree against him, to which Maximus replies that he will commune with Rome if it professes the right faith? That citation? So it isn’t significant that when he can no longer get around what the individual sees have agreed to he says that what trumps that is the right faith? Is that what you mean? If so, I’d ask you to consider the following, why then doesn’t he appeal Roman primacy and just acquience to Rome and all the other sees? What was missing in his mind such that mere agreement among the patriarchates is not sufficient?

  26. Perry said: They reject Nicene-Constantinoplian Trinitarianism as well as what the authors of that Creed meant by katholikos ….

    So Perry, you think that your interpretation of what the ECF’s meant by katholikos is correct? Well if you are right and Rome and Geneva are wrong then we all better join an Orthodox communion. But then we all have different understandings of all that being catholic entails, don’t we?

    Do you see the reason for my question to Jonathan in #16? Both Catholic and Orthodox trace their pedigree to the early church and both are sure that what their tradition concerning what it means to be catholic is infallible because they are both teaching what is holy tradition. But they cannot both be right. So we Protestants stand outside looking in and we ask our EO and Catholic friends what we should now think when two holy traditions teach something at odds with each other. And as I said to Jonathan, maybe the problem is not different interpretations of holy tradition, but the tradition itself. In other words, maybe your problem with Rome is insoluble and you are assuming something more about this tradition than what those who penned it assumed. That would seem to us to be the most obvious conclusion.

    On the filioque, I’m not sure why you think it strange. I think there would be as much and perhaps more reason for Protestants than Catholics to hold to such a doctrine assuming that it could be grounded in Scripture. The EO often castigate Catholics on this matter for adding to the words of the pronouncements of a council that had the official blessing of the Church on it. But this procedural matter is no deal breaker for us Protestants.

    The filioque is a rather abstract matter within the Western tradition. The only issue comes when we have to convince the EO that we don’t mean what they think we mean. There is no two sources of divinity being posited here. We mean nothing more nothing more than what the Scriptures explicitly say. The Spirit comes with power in the NT, but He comes with power because He (and the Father of course) send Him. We mean to pose no peculiar ontology here.

  27. But we have already corrected you on this front, in particular regarding Chalcedon. You never responded to the correction, as far as I have noticed. Thus, it would be better if you either responded or stopped making the claim.

    K. Doran – Last time I aswered you, you wrote back telling me not to bother to respond anymore. But you think you have “corrected” me on this facet of Rome’s ecclesiology? OK, then have you also corrected the EO as well?

    Rome had only slight representation at the ecumenical counciols which gave us the great counciliar statements of Christianity. These councils were largely Eastern in genesis and oversight. I cannot imagine that you would try to correct me here.

  28. Andrew,

    I am not sure how your remarks touch the dissent among the Reformed from major Christological and Trinitarian doctrines. So it seems the thrust of my remarks remain untouched. There is no shared essential theological unity. What is more, your subsequent remarks only further that point.

    As for katholikos, it surely isn’t what Protestants reinterpret the phrase in the creed. Any serious analysis of what the Fathers of Nicea meant by catholic and apostolic even by Protestant scholars bears this out. Protestants aren’t even in the running for what the Fathers of Nicea meant by catholic and apostolic. And that was the point-the Reformed reinterpret the creed so that there is no shared essential theological unity.

    I most assuredly think that you had all better convert to Orthodoxy, but that is just to say that I am Orthodox but you knew that already. :)

    I see your reason and it is predicated on the common though superficial Protestant assumption that there is no principled way to find out which side is correct. (I used to think much the same when I was a Calvinist). I think there is. If you don’t think so then I am all ears for an argument to that effect. But this is something you need to prove rather than assume on the basis of a lack of clarity on the part of Protestant observers. If the problem is the tradition then this creates problems for the Protestant position since a big chunk of NT authorship and reliability is built off that very same tradition-I think you need to take seriously that Gospel authorship is anonymous prior to about 250 AD and that those texts are ascribed their authors on the basis of tradition from people like Ignatius, Ireneaus, et al and they certainly don’t look very Protestant. I can’t see why what you claim, that I am attributing more to the tradition than is warranted is the “obvious” conclusion. It is by no means obvious to me, especially in light of the fact that those very same councils that Protestants claim theological adherence to speak of themselves as “Spirit-inspired” and “infallible.”

    I think its strange that Protestants adhere to the Filioque for two reasons. First, because of all the doctrines justified by claims to papal supremacy that had the widest impact on Christianity the Filioque is it. If one were to protest anything from the Pope, that would be it. Second, the Filioque simply cannot be justified on the basis of Sola Scriptura as a good many Protestant exegetes and theologians admit. Protestants seem unwilling or unable to remove this teaching from a major area of doctrine which fails their own standard from their confessional statements. Without the philosophical backing from metaphysics and natural theology the Filioque cannot be justified exegetically. And the doctrine of the Trinity is no mere “procedural matter.”

    And no the Filioque is not an abstract matter despite your asserting so as even defenders like Congar admit. ( I wonder what the Covenant of Redemption would look like without it.) The sending of the Spirit by the Son in the economia is not the doctrine of the Filioque, but it has to do with his eternal and hypostatic generation so here I can’t help thinking that you are somewhat confused. Consequently the Johannine passages cannot be used to support it without certain extra-biblical philosophical assumptions since they speak of the economia only. The Scriptures do not explicitly say anywhere that the Son generates with the Father the person of the Spirit. I am quite sure that Aquinas or any other defender of the Filioque didn’t mean to say that there were two sources in the Trinity, but Nestorius didn’t mean to teach a Two Son theory either and in fact denied it to his dying day, but his theology implied it nonetheless and so he was rightly condemned. As Cyril made quite clear, parties are responsible for the implications as well as explicit statements.

  29. Andrew,

    You said: “Rome had only slight representation at the ecumenical counciols which gave us the great counciliar statements of Christianity. These councils were largely Eastern in genesis and oversight. I cannot imagine that you would try to correct me here.”

    Dude, I corrected you on this very point regarding the council of Chalcedon. The emperor forced the council to adopt a position amenable to Rome’s legates, who (perhaps along with the emperor, if you insist, Perry) presided at the council. You and I went over all of this in a previous thread. The legates presided. It doesn’t matter than there were only two (or three, I can’t remember). They presided. And the emperor threatened the council fathers with a new council in the West if the eastern fathers at Chalcedon continued to insist on points which the papal legates found to be so objectionable that they could not consent to. At which point the eastern fathers made a miraculous discovery that they could agree with the papal legates after all. And thus the formula of the council was born. This is Roman influence on doctrine if I have ever seen it.

    We talked about Chalcedon in a previous thread. Why do I remember this, but you don’t?


    K. Doran

  30. Perry, I’m speaking about the words on page 62 and 63 of “Maximus the Confessor and his Companions: Documents from Exile (Oxford Early Christian Texts) (Hardcover)” at

    or, in another translation, on page 23 of “Maximus Confessor: Selected Writings (Classics of Western Spirituality) (Paperback)” at

    I’m no expert at Greek, but the english translations, especially the latter one, don’t look much like what you described above (nor does what you described above mean as much as you seem to suggest it means). If there is another passage, please refer me to it. But if this is the passage that you have been referring to, then: wow. There ain’t much “there” there.


    K. Doran

  31. Perry said – As for katholikos, it surely isn’t what Protestants reinterpret the phrase in the creed. Any serious analysis of what the Fathers of Nicea meant by catholic and apostolic even by Protestant scholars bears this out. Protestants aren’t even in the running for what the Fathers of Nicea meant by catholic and apostolic.


    And who are these Protestant scholars? There are all sorts of Protestant scholars who will deny even the most basic of Christian doctrines. In the West liberals of Protestant and Catholic varieties are everywhere. Since the loop here focuses on the Reformed, maybe you could address your comments within this constriction.

    And you want to say that the Orthodox interpretation of what it means to be catholic is the correct interpretation as against the Roman Catholic and Protestant version of what it means to be catholic? You are Orthodox so you interpret catholic in this way. So what do you want me to say to that? Are you saying that your interpretation is obviously correct, end of story? You are not bringing anything substantive to the discussion that I can see.

    If the problem is the tradition….

    Well the problem is not the tradition, but the way you are using it. You are assuming that tradition is holy and perfect and it is that assumption I am questioning. The way I am questioning it here is to point to the fact that two traditions (Catholic and Orthodox) have their brilliant scholars who for many centuries have been interpreting the same tradition of the Church but yet coming to different conclusion on some important matters. Now it could be that your interpretation is correct and the Catholics are wrong, or vice versa. But maybe the problem is that the tradition you are interpreting was never meant to be an infallible standard. This would seem to me to be an obvious possibility.

    When I use the term “abstract” I am speaking of the debate, not the doctrine. We Protestants just don’t care to get to involved in the debate too deeply. And we take this posture because we are not speaking of an ontological reality concerning the relationship between the members of the Trinity. If someone was positing a distinction in divinity between the members of the Trinity then we would have big problems with it. Now this is not to say that no theologian in the Middle Ages ever meant anything ontological when they spoke of the filioque. I really have never researched it and don’t care to. The term at least as used by the Protestants is economic rather than ontological. I’m not saying this is the case, but if we have allowed the term “filioque” to evolve then so be it. It’s just a term after all. And the economic relationship between the Son and the Spirit is quite clear in Scripture. The Son is never sent by the Spirit, the Spirit is sent by the Son.

    I don’t want to speak for the Catholics on this matter, but I will add that I just read the short summary of the doctrine of the filioque in the Catholic Encyclopedia. If in this summary of Catholic doctrine there is any attempt to defend something ontological I don’t see it. But please, read it yourself and comment. There is a concerted effort in the article to defend an economic procession of the Trinity from Scripture and then to make the case that this does not mean that there is any subjugation ontologically of one person to another. Do you see anything here that would suggest that? Does the article represent historic Catholic teaching on the matter?

    To the Reformed (and maybe Catholics as well) the crux of the matter is Orthodox telling us what we mean by “filioque” and us telling the Orthodox that this is not what we mean.

    I think that one of the reasons that Orthodox have some skepticism that the Reformed are not saying that there are two sources of divinity comes from discussions over the Reformed understanding of the person of Christ in the Sacraments. Our argument against the ubiquity of the human Jesus partly comes from our care not to ascribe a divine attribute to the human nature. The one time I remember having an in depth conversation with an Orthodox priest over this he ended up defending a version of Christ which to me was a sort divinized human being. He accused me of Nestorianism on the matter, but to me his understanding of Christ was somewhat of a mixture of the divine with the human.

  32. Dude, I corrected you on this very point….

    You made the statement as per above and then you told me not to respond back to you. Do you remember telling me this? This is a peculiar way of correcting someone – making a statement and then telling them not to respond.

    You did not answer my question as to whether you have also corrected the EO in their mistakes concerning Rome’s oversight of the early ecumenical councils. Is it obvious to you that the EO are incorrect concerning The Bishop of Rome’s claimed role of overseeing and blessing the pronouncements of Nicea, etc?

    I’m really not sure what there is to disagree with concerning the historical statements I made. The balance between Eastern and Western bishops to the councils of the Early Church (not just Chalcedon) is heavily weighted to the East. This is just a matter of historical record. The question I then posed to Jonathan was what do we make of this? The RCC wants to say that the Bishop of Rome places the dogmatic stamp of approval on the pronouncements of the early councils. And my point is that this is a very tough case to make given the historical facts I mentioned. The Councils were of Eastern rather than Western origin. And even as late as Chalcedon, the Church puts the Bishop of Rome in his place by declaring the Patriarch of Constantinople has equal primacy to the Bishop of Rome. This canon demonstrates that in the Early Church the title “first among equals” was purely titular and not functional.

  33. K Doran,

    No I am not talking about that text, but it is interesting nonethless since Maximus invokes Gal 1:8 as a response to the query that what will he do now that Rome agrees, even if an apostle or an angel should bring another Gospel…The implication is fairly clear.

    Maximus has a number of dialogs in his exile. I am referring to the Disputation with Theodosius. (CCSG 39) Theodosius says, “Which church do you belong to? Byzantium? Rome? Antioch? Alexandria? Jerusalem? Look here all have been united aloong with the provinces under them! So if you belong to the catholic church be united, lest devising a novel and alien path by your way of life you suffer what you least expect.”

    To which Maximus replies “The God of all declared the catholic church to be the right and saving confession in him when he blessed Peter on account of the terms with which he confessed him rightly.” Then he continues to say in a few different ways that it is the confession of the true faith that constitutes the church in its catholicity and not even councils stand above this. Theodosius concedes and says “It is as you say: the rightness of the dogmas judges the synods.” (CCSG 39. 97)

    This is always mentioned in the secondary literature on Maximus’ eccleisology whether its Larchet’s major work or others like Cooper or Thunberg. Strangely enough it never makes it on the copy/paste lists of various apologetic websites. (Not to mention that the other two citations from Opusculum 11 and 12 have a fair chance of being inauthentic.)

  34. Andrew,

    Thanks for the response. As for Protestant exegetes try D.A. Carson for example. In his commentary on John he is clear that the Filioque can’t be justified from the economic sending in the Johannine corpus. This is pretty much the case for most conservative Reformed exegetes for quite some time.

    As for apostolos and katholikos, what the Fathers of Nicea and Constantinople had in mind precludes Reformed ecclesiology and theology at various points. What they say is logically incompatible with Reformed theology. With Rome and the East, its possible to give a plausible gloss of what they say. So at that point it doesn’t matter what side I think is right since I also think that the Reformed gloss isn’t even capable of being rendered consistent with the data.

    Second, if I am Orthodox and so interpret the data that way, this leaves unexplained how I ever came to that view. And even if this were so, it then is equally so that you are Reformed and so interpret the data according to your theological presuppositions. Then it will follow that what we need to do is find a way to discriminate between presuppositional models since the facts are interpreted by them and so don’t discriminate between them. Consequently an internal critique of sorts is necessary and not an appeal to bare facts since there aren’t any non-theory laden facts to be had. (This goes for biblical exegesis too.) There is commong ground, its just not neutral ground. Somebody is a squatter.

    As for tradition, I think you are either inconsistent or equivocating. When I speak of tradition I have in mind a divinely guided and empowered ministry and you seem to be taking tradition in terms of what is more or less customary practice and belief. Hence you are assuming the falsity of my view in order to make the point and hence begging the question. If on the other hand, you take tradition in the sense I take it, then to proffer the thesis that the tradition is not what I take it to be is inconsistent with the previously agreed sense.

    Further, if the tradition isn’t meant to be an infallible standard, then scripture as part of it isn’t meant to either. Scripture is just as much part of the tradition and tradition as any other part. Second, if either side is right, there is a mechanism for adjudicating the claims in a normative way but it doesn’t follow that those on the other side do not recognize it aren’t thereby morally obligated to adhere to the judgment. I can be obligated to adhere to something even by authorities I reject as such. So in this sense there isn’t the kind of normative stalemate you propose here.

    And as I noted previously, a good number of the ecumenical councils which Protestants claim to accept speak of themselves in their doctrinal definitions as “Spirit-inspired” and “infallible” so on your thesis we would have to conclude that the councils were wrong also about the nature of tradition in the very doctrinal definitions. This seems to blow open the correctness of those very doctrinal definitions and I don’t think you want to go there.

    As for interpreting the same tradition, this isn’t necessarily so. The East had little exposure to the theology of Augustine except in some books of De Trinitate and his anti-Manichean writings and the West either didn’t have or didn’t grasp a fair number of theological texts or points made in major controversies-the monothelite controversy and the iconoclast controversy are two prime examples. Just take Orange2 as another example, which was lost till the time of Trent in the West. Aquinas and others more or less had to carve out that position all over again and the lack of Orange made the neo-semi-pelagianism of the Ockhamists (and some Scotistic thinkers) possible in the first place.

    As for the debate being “abstract” it is no more so than Protestant debates over the nature of justification. The recent row over Enns on inspiration or the Federal Vision stuff isn’t any less “abstract.” Consequently, I can’t see how that adds anything or moves the discussion.

    Noting biographical habits of Protestants in terms of not wanting to get involved in the debate does nothing really to address the point that the doctrine of the Filioque they profess can’t be justified by Scripture Alone. It may explain why in terms of psychology they don’t address it much but it doesn’t justify the doctrine. That has to be done on exegetical grounds. So if Protestants don’t care about it, that is beside the point and doesn’t remove their self imposed burden that all doctrines that they profess require exegetical warrant. Sola Scripture doesn’t amount to the thesis that Scripture is the only infallible rule of faith and practice, except for those doctrines Protestants profess but don’t care to investigate much.

    And Protestants have historically chided the East for not accepting the filioque as any review of Hodge, Turretin, Calvin, Bavink, et al will show. They certainly thought that they were on the right side of the doctrine of the Trinity and it mattered enough to condemn the East for this supposed error.

    The attitude of not seeming to care also seems problematic all by itself since it seems to give weight to the accusation of functional Unitarianism in Protestant theology. The Trinity isn’t that important, except as a backdrop at most. It doesn’t have any real significant practical value. There is no shortage of Protestant academics, liberal or conservatives running around like decapitated chickens trying to show how “practical” the Trinity is since somehow Protestants have “ignored” it for generations. I guess more bible reading is to be prescribed.

    If you’re not speaking of an ontological reality concerning the relationship between the members of the Trinity in the doctrine of the Filioque, then please explain how this is done when speaking of the eternal generation of the person of the Spirit from the Father and the Son. Again you seem to be confusing the idea that the Son sends the Spirit in the economy with the eternal generation of the Spirit from the Father and the Son. The Orthodox quite agree that the Son sends the Spirit at Pentecost. If that is proof of the Filioque, then either the Spirit is created at Pentecost or then the Filioque isn’t teaching an eternal procession and all of its advocates for a thousand years have been wrong about the very concept.

    The term as used by Protestants has not been limited to the economical. This is so if you read Lutherans like Gerhard and Pieper to the Reformed in Calvin, Turretin, Kuyper, Hodge, Bavink, Ursinus, Bullinger, Bucer, Owen, Knox, and the rest of the crew. It is the same among the Reformed and Free Will Baptists as well. Just start reading say John Gill. So historically your claim is just a howler. If you personally allow the term to “evolve” that’s surely up to you, but that leaves what your confessions teach untouched. And the evolution you proffer is a negation of what those same Confessions teach since a mere economic sending would entail the negation of the previously taught concept of an eternal procession. Consequently, if you are going to negate the former teaching of your confessions, I’d think you’d need to formally amend them in that way rather than perform some kind of confessional legerdemain. I can only image what argumenative space that line would give FVers-“oh yes, the terms in justification have ‘evolved!'”

    As for the Son never sent by the Spirit, I’d point out that the “sending” wouldn’t be the relevant term, but begotten. In either case, I’d recommend taking a look and thinking a bit more about the virgin birth, the baptism of Christ, etc. since both Protestants and Catholics have since the time of Augustine toyed with the idea of Spirituque (the Father and the Spirit generate the Son) on the basis of those texts in order to help complete the explanatory circle-The Father and Son are distinguished from the Spirit through Filioque and then the Father and the Spirit are distinguished from the Son in Spirituque. And this isn’t some dead matter either as it has been recently revived and starting to be taken more seriously as a case of theological development.

    If you read the article in the CathEncy and didn’t see anything ontological then you didn’t read it since the article makes clear that the doctrine is the generation of the hypostasis of the Spirit from the Father and the Son as from one principle. That is obviously metaphysical. Just as the Son is eternally begotten from the Father qua hypostasis so the Spirit proceeds qua hypostasis from the Father and the Son. If that isn’t metaphysical then neither is the eternal generation of the Son. But it is and so via modus tollens…QED.

    What the doctrine requires in part is a certain gloss on divine simplicity such that the economic and the ontological are the same or mirror each other licensing inferences from the former to the latter. This is easily discerned in say Karl Rahner. That’s fine for Catholics but for Protestants we need an exegetical reason from Scripture alone to take simplicity in the way Augustine had in mind and that doctrine has even less biblical support than the filioque, namely none. Simplicity and unity can be said in many ways and so all the biblical language about God being “one” and “Spirit” doesn’t pick out simplicity as more or less understood by middle and late platonism. Exegetically, you can’t get there from here.

    As for your question on subordination, I do not want to take this whole thread in that direction but only to point out that both sides seem to me to “use” Orthodoxy for their own apologetic purposes and rather inconsistently. That said, what follows is just for purposes of illustration rather than detailed argument. If the distinction operative in the doctrine of the Trinity is between person and nature, then what the Father and the Son share as “one principle”, is that according to Person or according to Nature? If the latter then the Spirit should have it. If the former, then what distinguishes the persons has been removed since what distinguishes them is unique to them. There then must be some third category other than person and nature that the Father and Son share, which seems problematic at least. This is all par for the course in the discussion of the Filioque. The point being that if you don’t care to study the matter then you might be blinding yourself to either a very important doctrine (the Trinity) or a very important error in that doctrine. If the Reformed don’t care to investigate the matter then I am not sure why you’d find it problematic when the Orthodox inform them as to what historically it has meant. But we shouldn’t need to do this anyway since the Reformed in their own sources agree with us and Rome on what the doctrine in fact is. In any case I can’t see why Protestants accepted the doctrine from the Papacy without question and I can’t see how they can justify it from Scripture alone.

    And no, the Orthodox do not ground their worries about two sources in the deity in Reformed Christology since that worry was expressed by St. Photius in his Mystagogy in the 9th century and ever onwards after that. Second, Reformed Christology as I pointed out is non-Chalcedonian in positing that Jesus is a human and divine person. (WCF 8.2) That all by itself is problematic. The reason why the Reformed object to the Lutheran view is because the person of the mediator (“Christ”) is a product of the union and as such a product is mediator in both natures and so can’t be either imaged or omnipresent lest it cease to be one effect. That is, the hypostasis is a product of the union of two natures and hence mixed. Chalcedon and following is sufficiently clear that the person of Christ is not a product of the union but is always and only the divine person of the Logos. So as I said before there is no shared essential theological unity in Christology.

  35. Perry,

    OK, so you’re not talking about the trial of Maximus. I thought that you were talking about his trial because you said: “then what Maximus has to say at his trial when he is presented with the situation of all of the patriarchates east and west now professing monothelitism/monoenergism.” I will look up the passage in the Disputation with Theodosius, then. But I doubt Maximus meant what you said. I have seen too many manglings of his meanings in the course of controversy to believe it without looking it up.

    Andrew, I said “save your fingers from writing any further” in a previous thread in reference to your questions about my willingness to apostatize. Not in reference to your writing in general. In this thread I later asked you to either address the points I made about Chalcedon, or cease making the same bad argument. I never asked you to stop writing in general.

    You are making a ridiculous argument about Chalcedon. The number of bishops determines the influence? Not when many of the bishops were only admitted to the council after having been forced to sign Leo’s tome in advance, not when Leo’s legates presided at the council, and not when the emperor forced the bishops to agree to something that would be amenable to Leo’s legates. You never addressed these points, but only reiterated your bad arguments, such as: “The balance between Eastern and Western bishops to the councils of the Early Church (not just Chalcedon) is heavily weighted to the East. This is just a matter of historical record.” There is a difference between numbers and authority, and between numbers and influence, for the reasons I explained above. Similar (though distinct) statements as I made above regarding Chalcedon can be made of several of the key theological controversies of the first millennium. Rome exercised influence through authority, not through numbers of bishops at the councils nor through numbers of key theologians. This is my argument. You have not addressed it. Address my points about Chalcedon if you dare to, or save all of us trouble and cease writing arguments that refuse to address these points. I will be happy to address any points you raise once you take the trouble to address mine.

    In the meantime, I’ll say one thing about your reference to the 28th canon: there are two ways of interpreting it. One is that Constantinople is made 2nd place in authority but equal in honor (the canon phrases it one way that Constantinople is 2nd place after Rome), the other that it is made equal in all respects, including authority (the canon says in another place that Constantinople is equal with Rome — what an idiotically written canon). Given that the bishops who voted for the canon begged Rome to accede to the canon, given the way the bishop of Constantinople cringed when Leo imperiously overruled the canon, and given the important role played by Rome over and above Constantinople in later theological controversies (even in geographical areas that had de facto made use of the local authority granted to Constantinople by the 28th canon, and were thus familiar with that canon), I suspect that the subset of bishops at the council who were orthodox meant it in the former way (and many of these were not present for the vote on that canon anyway, as it appears). As for what the subset of bishops at the council who were heterodox, violent, vaguely cowardly and openly jealous of Rome thought: who the hell cares? The latter subset of bishops couldn’t be trusted in their christological doctrine, or their moral behavior, so why should we trust them in their ecclesiological doctrine?

    Incidentally, Leo taught that all bishops were equal in honor, but not equal in power. This seems to me to be an utterly honest appraisal of the actual ecclesiological affairs of the first millennium. If you want to talk about the infinite details that prove that assertion, (too many for one combox, to be sure), feel free to email me.


    K. Doran

  36. Perry,

    You said: “No I am not talking about that text, but it is interesting nonethless since Maximus invokes Gal 1:8 as a response to the query that what will he do now that Rome agrees, even if an apostle or an angel should bring another Gospel…The implication is fairly clear.”

    I don’t think the implication is clear in this text, and neither does Tap. This text is talking about communion, not doctrine. Receiving communion in any particular instance is a question of discipline and moral duty not doctrine per se, and the focus of the last line seems to be on the pope’s legates, not the pope himself. That makes it two steps removed from the question of Rome’s doctrinal authority.


    K. Doran

  37. Perry,

    You seem to be misunderstanding me to say that the Reformed don’t believe in the eternal procession of the Spirit. I’m not saying this, OK? I’m saying that they do affirm this, but they don’t derive anything ontological from it. They do derive something economic from the doctrine. I’ve just picked up Hodge, Calvin, Cunningham, and Schaff to see if I could find any hint of an ontological conclusion that is to be drawn from the eternal procession of Father and Son. I can’t find it and actually I cannot find it in the Catholic Encyclopedia article either. Ontologically the matter is just relegated to mystery. And any ontological theory that might come out of the filioque is not going to be something that can be rigorous derived from Scripture. Perhaps this is what Murray gets at. There are no shortage of matters that someone Reformed might hold to that are not comprehensively derived from Scripture, and were they to speculate, as some particularly scholastic sorts of Protestants are won’t to do on matters where the Scriptures do not speak with sufficient clarity, they might say that they hold to a belief on logical or epistemological grounds rather than as something formally derived from Scriptures. Some matters concerning the decrees and eschatology come to mind here. One can, for instance, hold to supralapsarianism without being able to derive everything that is held by such a belief from Scriptures.

    So again you are trying to get us to say something we don’t believe. There is no dual center of divinity and we are not undermining the Father’s role.

    On being catholic, the denotation of the term points to the universality in scope of the NT Church in contrast to the particular focus of God’s Church in the OT. The Church in the NT is universal in that it extends to all peoples. The first century Church would not have disagreed. But relatively early on in the history of the Early Church the concept of “catholic” took on certain administrative connotations that had not been present in Apostolic and sub-apostolic times. For Rome this meant one highly centralized institution with its HQ at Rome. For the East there was a more cyprianic and decentralized administrative role. So which one of the administrative models was more “catholic?” This is the first question for you that logically precedes taking on the Protestants on the matter. Later the Protestants looked at the EO/Catholic debate and wondered why the both sides assumed that the Early Church and Medieval Churches (East and West) were held up as standards of truth on the matter. Where we Protestants disagree on what it means to be catholic, we do so not on the central Apostolic definition of “catholic,” but rather on the different spins that Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism place on the ecclesiological dimensions of what it means to be catholic.

    You are missing the point when you speak of the different theological contexts of Eastern and Western churches. The point is that now both sides have access to the same data and yet come to different conclusions on a number of pivotal matters.

    WCF 8.2 does NOT teach that Christ is “a human and divine person.” It says no such thing. And no reformed theologian believes that the natures are “mixed.” In case there is any question about this, WCF 8:2 states that ”two whole, perfect, and distinct natures were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion. Now tell me how, with this statement, you could possibly come to the conclusion that the natures are “mixed?”

  38. K. Doran,

    Either I misspoke or I was unclear. I am willing to take either fault you attribute to me since it is my understanding that there were a number of dialogs that took place either in his cell or before the tribunal that constituted his “trial.” I should have been clearer.

    That said, there are no translations that I know of so either you need to find the text translated in the secondary literature or read Greek. But all of the academic literature that I know of on this citation translates it this way and take it to mean what I presented here. That is uncontroversial. But check for yourself. The scholar who is most familiar with this text and Maximus’ views on ecclesiology, is Claude Larchet. He has an essay on it in Cardinal Kasper’s The Petrine Ministry. Larchet has a good presentation of Maximus’ ecclesiology.

    As for the trial reference that you brought up. I am unclear and so I wish to ask a few questions to allow you to clarify your position. In Gal 1:8 is the apostle speaking of communion, moral or prudential matters or doctrine? Did Maximus invoke it correctly and aptly or no? When you speak of receiving communion in any particular instance being a question of discipline and morality and not doctrine, do you mean for private individuals or in terms of whole bodies being in intercommunion? Can communion be a sign of sharing the same faith? With Athanasius communing with Arius or Aetius be private or corporate? Perhaps you can also explain why Athanasius and other Nicenes would not commune with the Arians or the Cyrillians with the Nestorians as a moral matter and not a question of doctrine? And is intercommunion with Protestants a matter of discipline with Catholics or is that a matter of doctrine too?

    And do not the papal legates represent the pope whose legates they are, so that refusing to commune with them would be tantamount to refusing communion with Rome? If this is not so, on what authority do the legates operate?

    For my part and I’d say for Athanasius, Cyril and plenty of others, to commune with open heretics makes you one. This is why canonically we are prohibited from even praying with schismatics and the heterodox.

    As for your remarks to Andrew, to be fair, I think you overstate your case about Chalcedon. Leo’s Tome was not the touchstone of Orthodoxy at Chalcedon. Cyril was and Cyril alone. This is why the council appointed a special commission that took a number of days to study and examine Leo’s Tome to make sure it taught what Cyril taught. This was so given certain theological weaknesses in Leo’s Tome that sounded quite Nestorian or betrayed an inadequate understanding. (Natures performing acts for example.) Leo was under the scrutiny of the council not the other way around. Only after it was established that Leo taught the same as Cyril was the Tome taken to be a benchmark for admittance and not before. This is beyond dispute as any reading of the proceedings of the council or any of the major secondary works (Catholic and non) in the last thirty years will show. This is why I had suggested that you read Gray’s monograph on Chalcedon and its defense in the East.

  39. Andrew,

    So please help me to understand you better. So the Spirit is eternally generated from the Father and the Son “as from one principle,” but that isn’t a metaphysical notion or claim? As for the Catholic encyclopedia its quite clear in the article so let me cite it for you.

    “Now the “mission” or “sending” of one Divine Person by another does not mean merely that the Person said to be sent assumes a particular character, at the suggestion of Himself in the character of Sender, as the Sabellians maintained; nor does it imply any inferiority in the Person sent, as the Arians taught; but it denotes, according to the teaching of the weightier theologians and Fathers, the Procession of the Person sent from the Person Who sends.”

    Now that sure sounds like a metaphysical claim about the inner life of the Trinity. As for Hodge and co. here are some references. Hodge, vol. 1, p. 477ff. Hodge speaks of it picking out something eternal about God. It concerns the person and operation of the Spirit, particularly his mode of origin. That the persons are relations and Father and Son are relational terms so that the Spirit is also a relational term to both. And so on. All of that is pretty metaphysical. The notion of relation is taken out from Aristotle’s Metaphysics.

    Turretin vol. 1 pp. 308-310. He makes it clear that it constitutes an “emanation” from the Father and the Son. ‘…the question concerns the eternal and internal procession (which is terminated inwardly and is nothing else than the mode of communication of the divine essence, i.e., that by which the third person of the Trinity has from the Father and the Son the same numerical essence which the Father and the Son have.” Then he has a significant section explicating how procession is metaphysically different than being begotten.

    To be clear I am not arguing for metaphysical conclusions drawn from the doctrine. Rather I am claiming the doctrine is itself or rather entails a good amount of metaphysics. It is a doctrine about the inner life of the Trinity and not the historical workings of the Trinity.

    I am not claiming that the doctrine cannot be derived comprehensively from Scripture. I am claiming that it cannot be exegetically derived from the texts at all as Carson and others admit. The doctrine as it states claims about the inner life of the Trinity is not justifiable on sola scriptura.
    Katholikos was used by the Fathers of Nicea and Constantinople in opposition to sects or views limited to one area. It is better rendered “according to the whole” than universal. And by “whole” they meant the episcopate. Consequently the Reformed aren’t even in the running for what the authors of the Creed meant. (The same goes for baptismal regeneration or the Father alone being autotheos) Katholikos as evidenced in Ireneaus and others meant the faith deposited by the apostles in the Episcopal sees. That isn’t an administrative development.

    As for what Protestants wondering why the early church was upheld as normative, that would occur to them given the belief that the teaching of a given Protestant body is only pen-ultimately normative and hence in principle always revisable. If there are no infallible interpretations or judgments, then all theology is a human reconstruction process and all doctrines are revisable. Once one gives up the idea of Apostolic Succession, that pretty much follows. This piggy backs onto Bryan’s perceptive ecclesial deism.

    True now they have access to the same data, but the Latins tend to interpret that data through the lens of Augustine and later scholasticism. Second, some of that data has caused serious re-evaluations of Catholic thought. Lubac was influenced by Zizioulas for example.

    As for WCF 8.2, I think you should have finished reading the section. Here is the relevant part.

    “Which person is very God and very man…”

    Uhm, Jesus is not a human person. Jesus is not a human and divine person. Jesus is the divine person of the Son always and only.

    And I never wrote that on the Reformed view the natures were mixed. Here again is exactly what I wrote.

    “That is, the hypostasis is a product of the union of two natures and hence mixed.”

    The remark here is relative to the hypostasis as a product of the union, which from Calvin onward almost without exception is professed by the Reformed. The person of the mediator is “out of” two natures, as Calvin says in the Institutes. Just read Muller’s Christ and the Decree. He’s quite clear about it and that it dissents from Chalcedon. And Muller’s not alone either. Bruce McCormack among other Reformed authors say the same thing.

  40. Jonathan, thank you for this perspective. I agree: any movement toward unity is cause for joy.

    I can still remember when I was hit with the sheer clarity of Luke 1:48, and that was a great aid to me when I visited an Orthodox church. Even still, I found the invocations to her a bit overwhelming.

  41. Perry Robinson said: So please help me to understand you better. So the Spirit is eternally generated from the Father and the Son “as from one principle,” but that isn’t a metaphysical notion or claim?

    Andrew then replies: Perry, sorry for the delay in replying, it’s been a very busy weekend. Yes, there is a metaphysic behind the statement. The fact that the Spirit works through the agency of the Son says something about the ontological relationship between the two. But what is this relationship? The Reformed in general ( and I think the Catholics in general) have not spent too much time theologizing about it (at least, they have spent a tiny fraction of the time that the Orthodox have dwelling on this matter). It always seems us Reformed to be potentially dangerous to be creating theologies of the inner life of the Trinity so we (again in general) relegate such matters to mystery. Now of course there are Protestant theologians and philosophers who will try to speculate on these things. I have no issues with this as long as they don’t try to create dogmatic statements that go beyond what can be reasonably deduced from primarily Scripture and secondarily tradition. And perhaps this underscores the observation that you have made of Reformed theologians wanting to make certain metaphysical speculations concerning the Trinity but not wanting to say that they can derive these directly from Scripture. This can be analogized to the aforementioned example of the logical order of the decrees. It’s just a mistake to be overly dogmatic on a defense of, for instance, supralapsarianism, but that does mean that it is wrong to raise philosophical points about this issue. There is nothing inconsistent with a Protestant theologian or philosopher positing a theology that cannot be rigorously derived from Scripture since there are some things that we cannot know for sure.


  42. Dear Andrew,

    I don’t want to interfere with your discussion with Perry, but I wanted to make a few points if the two of you don’t mind.

    First, even if it were true that both Reformed and Catholic did not spend as much time as Orthodox dwelling on this aspect of Trinitarian theology, how could that possibly be a measure of the importance or theological significance of this aspect of Trinitarian theology? It seems to me that we can’t ever move from the premise that “I don’t think much about X” to the conclusion that “X does not really matter all that much.” This seems to be the purest form of empiricist reductionism. Even if you are right that Catholics and Reformed haven’t given this issue a lot of attention, why doesn’t that just mean that we haven’t given it the attention actually due it, instead of meaning that the Orthodox are wrong to pay attention to it? (The point I’m making here is quite similar to points I’ve made in the past on other issues; e.g., you’ve repeatedly argued that because evangelicals don’t ever worry about whether their canon is accurate or complete, or how they know it is, this implies that there just isn’t any problem for evangelicals about where you got your bibles or how its contents were fixed. This is another case of empiricist reductionism.)

    Second, you note that it’s a dangerous matter trying to speculate upon or dogmatize about the Trinity. But of course. “Christian theology is by its nature a dangerous enterprise,” as Peter van Inwagen has rightly said. Speculating and dogmatizing about, say, justification is just as “dangerous,” if we measure degrees of “danger” by the impact such speculation/dogmatizing might have on our theological understanding. To be sure, you’re supposing that your particular opinions concerning the metaphysics of justification (and a lot else related to it) can be “derived directly from Scripture,” and evidently you don’t think that your particular (dogmatically received?) views on the Trinity can be clearly “derived from Scripture” in the same sort of way. But I think this is precisely the stance that you are being pressed about just now.

    I’ll let Perry respond to your analogy about supra/infralapsarianism, but my guess is that he won’t view the “metaphysics of the Trinity” as being on par with these in house disputes among Protestants, if for no other reason than that Protestants have aligned themselves with a specific view on the Trinity the Biblical support for which he’s right now questioning.



  43. Andrew,

    No need to apologize about the delay. Its kewl. The Filioque isn’t that the person of the Spirit works through the agency of the Son, rather it is the thesis that the person of the Spirit is generated from the person of the Father and the Son. The Reformed have followed Rome in this teaching and in claiming that they in fact know that this is true of God ad intra.

    I’d argue that while the Reformed have seemed to have been cautious about creating theologies of the inner life of the Trinity, this at the end of the day isn’t so. Calvin for example is just as much an advocate of De Deo Uno as Thomas, though Thomas by fair is the greater intellect and at least explicit about it. ( )

    Even if this were not so, the point is that the Filioque entails certain metaphysical claims and has metaphysical import. Second, the doctrine cannot be derived from Scripture without certain extra-biblical metaphysical assumptions and concepts. Third, all of the major Reformed and Lutheran confessions contain the doctrine within their gloss of the Trinity thus putting it at a dogmatic level even though its fairly clear that the doctrine can’t be justified by an appeal to scripture alone. There isn’t a major theological text on Reformed or Lutheran doctrine of the Trinity in the last five hundred years that doesn’t castigate the Orthodox for rejecting this “scriptural” doctrine. As for secondary tradition, this is trumped by Scripture in your view and even that aside, the tradition isn’t uniform in terms of the patristic tradition. John of Damascus and Augustine clearly do not agree. If you’re Catholic that’s fine since you’ve got a trump card in Rome and even Thomas was wrong on the immaculate conception of Mary.

    I don’t think the analogy with infra and supra actually works and here’s why. First because those to my knowledge aren’t enshrined in the Reformed confessions while the Filioque is. Second, there isn’t the variety of interpretations of the Filioque in the Reformed tradition as there is on say infra and supra so as to allow leeway. It isn’t one way of glossing how the persons are related, but the way. Consequently the Filioque isn’t a theological speculation or theologoumenon. And that’s the problem, the idea that the Father and the Son generate the person or hypostasis of the Spirit can’t be justified via Sola Scriptura. Second, the question is not if this or that view of the Filioque is derivable from scripture alone, but if the doctrine itself is derivable from Scripture alone. So I am not talking about what theologians put forward, but what bodies confess in terms of their official and formal theological statements. Besides, all of the Reformed theologians I know of for the last five hundred years have pretty much uniformly followed Augustine here on how they understand the Filioque.

    I think Neal is correct and as I pointed out before, how much time the Reformed have spent on their own Trinitarian theology is irrelevant. They are, on their own principles, responsible for the doctrines they profess, regardless of how interesting or boring the doctrine of the Trinity might strike them aesthetically. Yet for five hundred years simper reformada hasn’t managed to touch this doctrine. It just strikes me as ironic that the Reformed howl about this or that doctrine that they deem to be unscriptural or the product of philosophical reasoning in Rome, but when it is pointed out in their own confessions, they play down the doctrine of the *Trinity* like an error there is like a flesh wound. I think something more is at work than just concern for being biblical. Rather there is a good pit of psychology here. I am not trying to put you on the couch personally, but dismissing an error in the doctrine of the Trinity as not a big deal seems to me to be more akin to Freudian denial than zeal for the Lord’s house.

  44. For interested readers, Dr. Liccione has written a lot on his blog Sacramentum Vitae regarding the Filioque. And here is the Catholic Encyclopedia on the same.

  45. Perry – Back after a few long days on the road. Hopefully you are still around.

    The Filioque isn’t that the person of the Spirit works through the agency of the Son, rather it is the thesis that the person of the Spirit is generated from the person of the Father and the Son.

    You have made this kind of statement more than once. Do you really think that there are no economic aspects to the doctrine of the Filioque? You state that the doctrine is all about metaphysics, but what I really think you mean is that this is that this is what it is all about to the Orthodox. To me the core of the problem is that the Orthodox are trying to tell us what we mean by “filioque” and in reality we don’t mean this. Hence my reference to the Catholic Encyclopedia article which I see that Tim referenced above. Again, the CE article says quite a bit about the economic aspects of the relationship between the Son and the Spirit, but it does not try to make the kinds of metaphysical judgments that the Orthodox take from the matter. So maybe the EO have taken too much from the statements of Catholic and Protestant sources on the filioque? You have made statements about what you believe about Nicean and Chalcedodian orthodoxy (note small “o”) and I agree with them. But then you tell me that in reality I don’t agree. At this point I throw up my hands and say OK, whatever.

    You do raise a good point about the fact that the filioque survives in Reformed confessional statements and I think this underscores the importance that the Reformed place on the relationship of the Son and the Spirit. There is a mystical strand of thinking in the history of the Church which attempts to access the Spirit directly without reference to the Son and the Reformed react strongly against this. Again this underscores the economic aspects of the Trinity without necessarily referencing any ontological matters.

    And don’t look to the dogmatic status of the respective doctrines when I compare the filioque to the infralapsarian debate. The analogy rests in the relationship of these doctrines to Scripture. The analogy is meant to comment on your observation that Reformed will state something as theological verity but not ground it in Scripture. I use the analogy to point out that there is no undermining of the Protestant principle of sola scriptura here. If you hear someone from the Reformed camp saying that they believe something that cannot be derived from Scripture I would take this as a cue that they are stating that this is not of preeminent importance to the faith. And the ontological implications of the doctrine of the filioque are just in this category. The lack of emphasis on such matters is underscored by the paucity of commentary on the matter in the Reformed corpus. Take a look at a modern systematic theology like that of Berhkof. You will find quite a bit in their about the Trinity but precious little if anything at all about the ontological considerations surrounding the filioque. The reason for this is that there is no attempt to formulate a theology of the ontological inner life of the Trinity. Again, what the Orthodox hear us saying is not what is meant at all. If it were, then you would find a comprehensive discussion on it. We do not countenance any sort of dual source of divinity.

  46. Neal J said – First, even if it were true that both Reformed and Catholic did not spend as much time as Orthodox dwelling on this aspect of Trinitarian theology, how could that possibly be a measure of the importance or theological significance of this aspect of Trinitarian theology

    Neal – I agree with you that we cannot say that it is not important because we don’t think about it. My point to Perry is that the Reformed (and I think the Catholics as well) don’t respond to the EO position because the EO position is not what we hold when we use the term “filioque.” We thus don’t defend something that we don’t recognize as our position. We don’t mean to say the sorts of things that the EO hear. The lack of any sort of systematic treatment of the inner life of the Trinity in respect to this doctrine is a reflection of this. We don’t think about what we did not try to defend in the first place. If the EO want to tell us what we mean by filioque well then what can we do?

  47. All,
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. As we journey to the Paschal season, may our steps come closer to that oneness to which Christ has called us. In that spirit, I wrote this post. The matters of understanding the distinctives regarding the filioque, the role of the Pope, and the like are worthy of our thoughts. But for the moment, let us fix our eyes on the One who became man that we might become partakers of the divine nature.

    Glory to Him for His Annunciation-this brief interlude in the midst of our Lenten road to Golgotha.

    p.s. I will most likely not comment on my issues with Orthodoxy until after Pentecost.

  48. Andrew,

    Yup, I am still here.

    I am simply stating what the doctrine is. The relations of the encomia fall out of the theologia on that doctrine. I stated that the doctrine has metaphysical content, which is something distinct from your gloss on what I wrote.

    Second, your remark about what it is all about for the Orthodox seems to border on an ad hominem. As I have represented the teaching, I don’t think any faithful and philosophically informed Catholic would find fault with it. If you think I am mistaken in how I am representing the view, then please point out where I have done so. Besides, I had problems with the doctrine when I was Anglo-Catholic.

    I am not trying to tell anyone what they mean by the term. I am simply noting what it has meant historically and theologically out of the mouths of its advocates. I do argue that the doctrine has problematic implications or entailments, but that doesn’t imply that I am misrepresenting the doctrine. Again, if you think I am doing so, then please point out where.

    Now I know Mike Liccione and we have gone through this issue for nearly four years now. I don’t think Mike would deny the doctrine has metaphysical content and posits a kind of metaphysical relation in and as deity. If you subscribe to the doctrine, these metaphsical claims require justificaiton on Reformed principles. As I noted above, the economia is not relevant for two reasons. First because that is not controversial material since everyone agrees with it. Second, because the Filioque isn’t per se about the economia but about hypostatic generation. That is the point of the language of “as from one principle” which the Reformed use as well. I understand where Anselm Albert, and Thomas get it from but I don’t think you can justify it on from Sola Scriptura.

    As for Nicea and Chalcedon, I am not sure how you could agree with them. So please clarify. Do you think that the Son is “God of God” or do you think that all three persons of the Trinity are autotheos as Calvin taught? On Chalcedon, do you think Jesus is a human and divine person, that Christ qua person of the mediator is “out of” two natures as Calvin thought or that Christ is always and only the divine eternal person of the Son? If you take the former of the two options then you dissent from the Nicene Creed and Chalcedon. These are well worn paths and I believed the Reformed on these when I was Reformed and so did my Reformed ministers and Reformed ministers that I knew in the PCA and the OPC as well.

    As for some “mystical strand of thinking” that attempts to access the Son apart from the Spirit, I have no idea where you got this idea as far as primary sources. I know Bavink, Kuyper, Van Til, Rushdoony and a few others try to make this argument against the Orthodox, but it is baseless and absurd. The Orthodox posit an eternal energetic relationship between the persons of the Son and the Spirit which is then manifested in our doctrine of the baptism of Christ. This is wonderfully exemplified in say Cyril’s (of Alexandria) explication of Christ’s baptism. (See Keating’s explication in his, The Appropriation of Divine Life in Cyril of Alexandria.) Second, we have never said that there is no relation between the economia and eternity, we just deny that it implies hypostatic generation. The problem posed would only have the implication if there was nothing between hypostatic generation and the workings in the temporal sphere. This just ignores the doctrine of the energies and so anyone who makes this claim just isn’t informed on Orthodox Triadology at all and suffers from an impoverished two-place theology-an eternal hypostatic generation and a temporal working. This just implies that the Orthodox don’t share a common view of the Trinity with the Reformed, but we knew that already. What Kuyper, Van Til, Bavink, Rushdoony and Co. have done is simply trace out the consequences of rejecting the Filioque on their Platonic structuring of Trinitarianism and then concluded that this grounds Orthodox “mysticism” where “mysticism” picks out something like hating the mind, reason, etc. and being absorbed into the divine essence-that is, it’s a curse word. But none of this follows since we don’t accept the Platonic structuring of the Trinity in the first place. The supposed separation between mind and will that they posit is absurd. Orthodox apophatic theology isn’t grounded there in the first place but in a denial that God as intra is self subsisting being. What is more, this objection is a product of philosophical theology and not biblical exegesis. And if the Reformed maintain the doctrine to stave off this supposed “mystical strand of thinking” then it seems that the doctrine is important, highlighting again the need for an exegetical justification. In the same article the author argues via Reformed sources that the denial of the Filioque opens the door to not only the idolatry of icons (one wonders why Rome has icons then), statism, pantheism and horror of horrors, Pelagianism! This is just absurd written by people in fear trying to use bogeymen to keep the faithful in.

    Why shouldn’t I look to your confessional standards in comparing the infra/supra positions and the filioque or simplicity? Where else do you propose I look? The analogy as I pointed out is weak. There certainly seems to be some undermining of SS here since if it were to be used rightly, you’d think that the doctrine would be removed by now, but its not. The same goes for doctrines that have even less, as in zero, biblical support like simplicity. I think it points out that the Reformed are operating by tradition and not SS. This is manifested with the recent rows over Enns and the Federal Vision. The tradition trumps appeals to scripture. Appeals to sola scriptura operate in evaluating external bodies where as the tradition operates to structure and corral scriptural exegesis and models.

    Here is the problem with what you offer. I do hear Reformed folk making the kind of claim about the Filioque, but the Filioque (and simplicity) are in fact quite significantly placed. First, they are located within a major doctrinal head. Besides, its not like screwing around with the Trinity is not likely to have serious consequences. Second, the reasons for it structure the Reformed doctrine of the covenant of redemption. Without those assumptions the covenant of redemption is in serious trouble. Third it is used to distinguish the persons as relations such that without it, it is argued by Reformed theologians, that it will be impossible to distinguish the persons and so the Trinity will collapse into modalism, the Klingons will invade and cats and dogs will start living together. Third to play down the doctrine just motivates the other end of the problem. If it is minor, remove it from the confessions. If its position is that attenuated why raise it to or retain it at the level of confessional doctrine?

    I grant that you do not countenance any kind of dual source in the Trinity but that doesn’t help your position. Rome doesn’t countenance any kind of Pelagianism or semi-Pelagianism either and yet the Reformed seem to take themselves as licensed that by implication they do. I am not therefore clear on why I am not licensed to take Reformed denials as inconsistent with what I argue their theology implies or entails? This is special pleading. As I noted before, Nestorius denied a Two Son Christology but his teaching implied it nonetheless.

    If I am getting the Reformed view of the Filioque wrong, then please show exactly where I have done so. You repeat this but so far I haven’t seen any demonstration. The doctrine makes claims about the inner life of the Trinity as the persons as relations and distinguished by relations of opposition. This is uncontroversial across the board. And the Reformed do defend those two theses explicitly, so here I think you are mistaken.

    The point of this is once again that there is no shared essential doctrinal unity between the three parties. The Reformed are not genuine inheritors of Nicene and Chalcedonian theology.

  49. […] learned to stop worrying and love the atomic bomb of Holy Orders)“. It begins: In a previous blog post, I wrote about the joys and similarities which bind together the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. As […]

  50. Again, as a new CTC reader, I hope to revive a great-but-dormant discussion.

    As a new inquirer into Apostolic (non-Protestant) churches, I went through a familiar process. Step 1: choose a discrete issue, freshly evaluate the Scriptural evidence, and find yourself surprised that the Catholic/Orthodox interpretation involves just as much exegetical rigor as your Protestant position, or more. Step 2: Learn that, oh, by the way, the earliest Christians overwhelmingly accepted the Catholic/Orthodox interpretation. This was an unsettling process to go through, and each issue had so many smart commentators, each coming to a different but well-supported conclusions.

    After realizing that there are far too many issues and well-researched opinions to comprehensively evaluate in a single lifetime, I began to address the one issue that would answer all the others: “Which church’s teachings are authoritative (if any)?” I soon found sola scriptura untenable and saw the need to ground our faith in apostolic teaching.

    If one limits their options to Apostolic churches, the Catholic and Orthodox traditions are the only things on the menu. Because my journey to Apostolic churches largely involved an evaluation of sola scriptura and a desire to depart from the disunitity it has created, here’s my question:

    If the Orthodox Church does not affirm a primacy of authority among one of the apostolic successors, does it not fall victim to the same logical inconsistencies and practical dischord that befall the Protestant position? Where Protestantism suffers the effects of sola scriptura without tradition or magisterial guidance to adjudicate between differing scriptural interpretations, doesn’t the Orthodox Church similarly stand to suffer the effects of “sola scriptura-and-tradition” without any authoritative guidance to adjudicate differing interpretations of not only scripture, but also tradition?

  51. Greetings in Christ.
    I can see the analogous nature of sola scriptura and a lack of primacy of authority with Orthodox Christians, but the key qualification would rest on whether there is any sense of primacy that is maintained in the absence of communion with Rome. In some senses, this has been deferred by the Orthodox to the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, or Moscow, but you do touch on a point where authoritative guidance is somewhat harder to grasp in the absence of Christian unity. However, the point of my post was simply to point out that the common witness of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches on important matters like Apostolic Succession, the Eucharist, and the like is indeed a common witness. And it is very much true that sacramentally speaking, the Protestant who leaves Protestantism for Eastern Orthodoxy has moved far closer to the Catholic Church than he would were he to remain Protestant. For sacramentally, we profess that the Orthodox faithful receive the Body and Blood of Christ in the mystery of the Eucharist, just as much as do faithful Catholics. May God eliminate what stands between our reconciliation as Catholics and Orthodox, so that Protestants (and the world in general) may see this common voice more clearly than can be currently seen at present.

    In XC,
    J. Andrew

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