Monday, December 11, 2006

17th Century Orthodox Confessions - A Rejoinder to Christopher Orr

In a recent post on Orrologion, Christopher Orr wrote the following:
There are some in Orthodoxy that seek to give greater weight to those documents in Orthodoxy that can be read as being more "western" than one is normally used to hearing in the Orthodox Church. This is an unfortunate, but well-intentioned and interesting, misunderstanding of authority and witness in Orthodox doctrine and practice.
He goes on to post a quotation from Bishop Kallistos (Ware), one which is certainly worthy of all approbation. The relevant portion of this quotation is:
In the 17th century, as a counterpart to the various "confessions" of the Reformation, there appeared several "Orthodox confessions," endorsed by local councils but, in fact, associated with individual authors (e.g., Metrophanes Critopoulos, 1625; Peter Mogila, 1638; Dositheos of Jerusalem, 1672). None of these confessions would be recognized today as having anything but historical importance. (Emphasis Orr's) When expressing the beliefs of his church, the Orthodox theologian, rather than seeking literal conformity with any of these particular confessions, will rather look for consistency with Scripture and tradition, as it has been expressed in the ancient councils, the early Fathers, and the uninterrupted life of the liturgy. He will not shy away from new formulations if consistency and continuity of tradition are preserved.
I must say that I have never come across anyone in the Orthodox Church who uses these documents in the way that, say, a Presbyterian uses the Westminster Standards. I, however, have referred to these confessions from time to time. Just so that there is no confusion in the matter, I feel compelled to say that I have done so not because of any "unfortunate, but well-intentioned and interesting, misunderstanding of authority and witness in Orthodox doctrine and practice", but rather as a witness to the historical fact that certain teachings that Christopher characterises as "more 'western' than one is normally used to hearing in the Orthodox Church" were once normal fare therein. Of course, I have never restricted my historical examination of these issues - namely Original Sin and Substitutionary Atonement - to the Confessio Dosithei and the Confession of Peter Mohyla. I have documented my argument that such doctrines have been part and parcel of Orthodox dogmatics from the Ante-Nicene Fathers to current works from Orthodox scholars who do not buy into the semi-Marcionite consensus of a certain segment of American and European Orthodox scholars who militate against said teachings. The unfortunate thing, in my book, is the popularity of the Our-God-is-Nicer-than-Your-God apologetic which is so often presented as authentic Orthodoxy in our day.

1 comment:

Ben said...

[Originally posted 2006-12-13 @ 6:12:32 pm]

Came here from Pontificator, love the site!!

Thank you for clearing up some of the caracatures of the Western church. I don't know how many times I've been told that I believe in a mean-judge-God, where as in the East "the Chuch is a hospital for sick souls." I guess my (RCC) priests have always been crypto-Orthodox, cause I've always been taught the Church-as-hospital metaphor since I was a kid.