Augsburg and Constantinople

It’s a really interesting thing when someone introduces a book in a particular way which a reading of that book proceeds to demolish. I found this to be the case in reading Augsburg and Constantinople: The Correspondence between the Tübingen Theologians and Patriarch Jeremiah II of Constantinople on the Augsburg Confession (Holy Cross Orthodox Press: 1982) by Fr George Mastrantonis. As the lengthy subtitle describes, this is a translation of the collected correspondence shared between various early Lutherans and the Patriarchate of Constantinople between 1574 and 1581. This translated correspondence consisted of the following: Preliminary correspondence ― 1.) a cover letter from Tübingen for the Greek translation of the Augsburg Confession; 2.) a letter from Tübingen acknowledging the Patriarch’s acknowledgement of receipt of the above; A First Theological Exchange ― 1.) From the Patriach, a cover letter and lengthy, detailed treatise in response to the various articles of the Augsburg Confession; 2.) A response from the Tübingen theologians to the Patriarch’s treatise; A Second Theological Exchange ― 1.) A second letter and treatise from Patriarch Jeremiah presenting the Orthodox position in attempting to correct the first response of the Tübingen theologians; 2.) A second response of the Tübingen theologians to the Patriarch, in which they persist in their positions; A Third Theological Exchange ― 1.) From the Patriarch, who breaks off the fruitless theological dialogue, seeing a willful persistence in heretical opinions in the Tübingen theologians, and requests only personal letters of friendship, if any; 2.) A response from the Tübingen theologians, protesting their rectitude; and lastly, a series of a few personal letters of correspondence between individuals and the Patriarch.

Now, among Orthodox familiar with this correspondence, the last paragraph of the Patriarch’s last letter to the Tübingen theologians, the letter breaking the correspondence, is quite familiar (p. 306):

Therefore, we request that from henceforth you do not cause us more grief, nor write to us on the same subject if you should wish to treat these luminaries and theologians of the Church in a different manner. You honor and exalt them in words, but you reject them in deeds. For you try to prove our weapons which are their holy and divine discourses as unsuitable. And it is with these documents that we would have to write and contradict you. Thus, as for you, please release us from these cares. Therefore, going about your own ways, write no longer concerning dogmas: but if you do [write], write only for friendship’s sake. Farewell.

This is in noted contrast to the conclusion of the first treatise sent by the Patriarch to the Germans (p. 103):

O most wise German men and beloved children of our humble self, since, as sensible men, you wish with your whole heart to enter our most Holy Church, we, as affectionate fathers, willingly accept your love and friendliness, if you will follow the Apostolic and Synodal decrees in harmony with us and will submit to them. Form then you will indeed be in communion with us, and having openly submitted to our holy and catholic church of Christ, you will be praised by all prudent men. In this way the two churches will become one by the grace of God, we shall live together hereafter and we will exist together in a God-pleasing way until we attain the heavenly kingdom. May all of us attain it in Christ Jesus, to whom belongs glory unto the ages. Amen.

It must be noted that throughout the correspondence, many various quotations from Patristic and Synodal sources are included in the Constantinopolitan writings, all dealing with the subjects at hand clearly and without ambiguity. The German quotations of Patristic sources, however, are not as numerous, nor are they as well-handled. Indeed, the Patriarch criticizes the Germans for essentially “cherry-picking” quotations from the Fathers that, out of context, fit their own ideas, in direct contradiction to explicit statements from those very Fathers, in the context of discussing the Filioque (p. 289):

And you decide that the Holy Greek Fathers agree with you in the matter of the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Son, even though they differ in literal expressions. They are Athanasios in his treatise, The Incarnation of the Word; [etc]. We wonder, then, if indeed by abandoning the obvious and explicit passages of Scripture and the Fathers, which distinctly state and submit that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone, which may have another meaning and have been understood by [the Fathers] in another way, you might have changed [them] to your own purpose! … For you have quite plainly altered Holy Scripture as well as the interpretation of the above-mentioned holy men according to your own will.

And in the very next sentence, the Patriarch reveals his evaluation of the entire correspondence and where he thinks this dialogue is headed (pp 289-290):

We have Paul to exhort us: “a man who is factitious, after admonishing him once or twice, have nothing more to do with him” [Titus 3.10]. However, since by silence it might appear that we agree with you and that perhaps you correctly hold and understand these matters, we run the rist of having it thought that Holy Scripture and these holy men agree with you on the subject. By defending them we reiterate these matters again, although we have been well informed by your letters that you will never be able to agree with us or rather, we should say, with the truth.

In reality, it is indeed the case that, following the words of the Apostle, the Patriarch has admonished the Tübingen theologians twice (in his first and second treatises), and in this lenghty letter, he ends the correspondence.

In light of all the above, and particularly in light of a reading of the correspondence in full, a section at the end of Fr Mastrantonis’ Introduction is therefore somewhat puzzling (p. xviii):

The three Answers of Jeremiah cannot be fully understood without relating them to the Augsburg Confession of the Lutheran Church and to the three Replies of the Lutheran theologians. Jeremiah’s discourses are important in that they ware the first contact of Orthodoxy with the Lutheran Church and are, at the same time, a well-prepared presentation of Orthodox teachings. They are especially important today when a movement toward better understanding among churches is taking place, requiring that one knows the views of the other. It is imperative that problems be faced with a clear mind and feelings of brotherhood.

Somehow, I don’t think Fr Mastrantonis had in mind that all dialogue should end with the third meeting if after two meetings the non-Orthodox partner in dialogue has not admitted the superior truth of the Orthodox position, and effectively converted to Orthodoxy!

Now, after all that, it must be said that this correspondence is an excellent resource for Orthodox readers, particularly for Patriarch Jeremias’ very clear explication of the reasons for Orthodox rejection of the Filioque and double procession of the Holy Spirit. If an Orthodox Christian doesn’t understand the reason that the Filioque is an issue, he or she should read this correspondence. The Patriarch’s is a masterful refutation, in fact. In fact, all the subjects he covered were done in complete and perfect line with Tradition, explicitly stated as such, and thereby showing us really what “Tradition” is: the witness of the Apostles in Scripture, the Oecumenical Synods recognized by the Church, and the Fathers and their writings which were approved by those Oecumenical Synods. These evidences are brought forth in the Patriarch’s three responses to the Lutherans, teaching us how such things should be done by Orthodox theologians, rather than through recourse to syllogisms and using the logical categories, arguments, or any of the scholastic-influenced approaches based in Roman Catholic methods of theologising. The Lutherans, however, are explicit in their selectivity from the Synodal and Patristic sources (see esp. p. 113) and in their reliance on human reasoning in their examination of the Scriptures, but without any other source to secure their reasoning from coming unmoored from the Truth, which is what the Synods and Fathers provide for the Orthodox (and apparently only for the Orthodox!).

You know, there were times in reading this correspondence, particularly in the denseness of the Lutherans simply not at all grasping the Patriarch’s careful distinction of proper terminology in the discussion of the Procession of the Holy Spirit, that it seemed as though I were reading a blog discussion! Here is a careful and exceedingly well-crafted and erudite writing in response to a piece of rather superficial theological thinking, and what is the response to it? A simplistic restatement of the original inanity, completely ignoring the careful refutation. This happens all the time in blogging.

Patriarch Jeremias of blessed memory, following the Apostle Paul, gives Orthodox Christians an example for any theological discussions: if your interlocutor is not convinced in the superiority of the Orthodox position after two excellent presentations of it, then you should end that theological dialogue and discuss only other matters. In addition to that, and immediately after having read Patriarch Jeremias’ writings, I would caution anyone at all in thinking that their own presentations of Orthodox theology might actually be excellent. The arguments and presentation of Patriarch Jeremias were indeed stunningly excellent, yet they accomplished precisely nothing. We should be under no illusions that we would fare better than did Patriarch Jeremias!

Indeed, as various elders have said, laity simply should not have theological discussions with heterodox, in any case. It’s not our job! Such things are in the hands of our bishops and those with their blessing to do such things. And yet, if one is challenged, one needs to be prepared to give an answer for one’s faith, as well. We are not, however, to initiate some lengthy theological discussion without qualification or blessings to do so.

22 Replies to “Augsburg and Constantinople”

  1. Hi Teresa,

    The Patriarch meant that the scholars he was corresponding with altered the meaning of Scripture through their interpretations, just as they did the same through selective quotation of the Fathers. In the case of the writings of the Fathers, they selected quotations and applied to them meanings that the Fathers absolutely did not hold. A particularly clear instance (I don’t have the book before me right now) is in their responses regarding the value of Tradition and the Synods. They quote some passages from several Fathers as supporting their position for the exclusive authority of Scripture, when we know through their writings and their lives that these Fathers were actually wholehearted supporters of the Synods and Tradition. That kind of selective quotation or “cherry-picking” is common to these early Lutherans’ usage of Scripture, as well.

    These two practices show a particularly strong self-will, an intransigence in the face of the Christian heritage, and this is why the Patriarch insists upon discontinuing the correspondence. When people treat the evidentiary documents so, what can you do? There would be no resolution, as they would continue to use them in the same manner as they have throughout the correspondence, as described above. The Patriarch’s (and a modern reader’s!) exasperation with such behavior is therefore completely understandable.

  2. behavior is therefore completely understandable.

    Absolutely. It can be painful to see revered texts misused or misapplied.

    OK, that was the sense I had of the Patriarch’s words, that Lutheran interpretation had, in effect, altered Holy Scripture.

    I bookmarked the bookstore. 🙂 Peace.

  3. Not only that, Teresa, but there’s the worry about their souls, which is much greater.

    It seems in those kinds of situations that there are just always going to be some people who have to be right in their own particular way, even in the face of valid criticism and correction. That’s why it’s called αἵρεσις, “a choice”, or more familiarly “heresy.”

  4. Patriarch Jeremias’ correspondence with a clear refutation of Reformation Theology is a gem and cornerstone of Orthodoxy. Unfortunately, as the German Theologians were not willing to listen back then the Modernist Theologians are not willing to listen now.

    Reformation Theology has reached its logical conclusion, self-interpretation of Scripture, instead of the Church. What is implicit and explicit in the Orthodox refutation of Reformation Theology is the sustained refutation of the the Human self as the final authority on Scripture. This reliance in Reformation Theology that the individual, not the Church, knows best is the very first “Original” Sin that that persists to this day.

    Why Reformation Theology cannot regonize and acknowledge this most fundamental flaw in its theology is truly beyond me, but goes to show why it is heretical and not of True Christianity.

    So today God is not the final voice on right and wrong, but Man! This has always been the “Sin” and “Heresy” of Reformation Theology.


    1. Peter you stated: “self-interpretation of Scripture, instead of the Church. What is implicit and explicit in the Orthodox refutation of Reformation Theology is the sustained refutation of the the Human self as the final authority on Scripture. This reliance in Reformation Theology that the individual, not the Church, knows best is the very first “Original” Sin that that persists to this day.”

      Me thinks this is a misunderstanding on your part of reformation theology much as reformers have misunderstood the Catholic doctrine of tran-substantiation and the sacrifice of the mass as one continual mass transcending time and not a multiplicity of sacrifices ocurring within time. so ill give you a pass on some of your remarks as a LCMS Lutheran.

      Sola scriptura is not antro-centric at all despite your insistence and misunderstanding of it. While I agree with both western and eastern Christianity – Rome and the Orthodox that God speaks beyond his scriptures but through the experiences aof his people, through history and in so doing through the traditions of the church. Sola Scriptura is a clarion cry against antro-centric teaching and at time sole de ecllesium has ventured into anthro-centric forms.

      As a former Jehovah’s Witness I am quickly foamiliar with those who claim to rely completely upon the scriptures and yet this is given lip service because what they mean by their version of sola scriptura is the scriptures in so far as much as we interpret them to be. I also understand the trepidation of the church as I recall in the film Martin Luther as his mentor feared what would become with the scriptures as they fell into the hands of every milk maiden and farm boy and that answer would come haunting the Lutherans quickly in the form of the Anabaptists, a Lutheran radical sect which was born from the union of a nun and a farm boy’s interpretations ironically!
      So, I understandd the errors that can come from an entirely sola scriptura perspective. But what did the Lutherans and reformers mean by sola scriptura? Was it as you have stated one that led to the reliance of interpretation by every individual who came into contact with the scriptures? Was it this view that has led to the amalgamation of thousands of denominations with even more thousands of cultic albeit modern gnostic sects?

      Yes, I am a former cultist, a Unitarian, who belonged to a modern Arian Gnostic sect, the Jehovah’s Witnesses. And Yes, my beliefs as a protestant are varied not entirely Lutheran though prone to a Lutheran albeit a more liturgical sacramental form of worship thanks to our Catholic and Orthodox cousins or brethren. My soteriology tends to a more Anglican Augustinian view of course some would say John Calvin was no Augustinian but I would say Calvin was a shadom of what Augustine would have become possibly if he lived long enough to reach the final conclusions to his views on election.

      Now back to Sola Scriptura. The reformed view is that scripture is self-interpretive not privy to the interpretation of the individual but in the scriptures has a clear message that is obtainable SOLELY through the power of the third person of the triune God and his ability to spiritually appraise man to the mysteries of God. That means a man who reads the scriptures based upon his OWN understanding will not arrive at the conclusions of the church universal and the Apostolic traditions passed through the centuries.

      That is why the cults like the one I belonged to though weilding the bible in their hands reject the teachings of the whole of Christendom even admitting that the clear reading of the bible will only lead to the teachings they reject that are taught within the whole of Christendom. The Jehovah’s Witnesses official publication declares:
      The Watchtower, August 15, 1981, p. 28-29
      “They say that it is sufficient to read the Bible
      exclusively, either alone or in small groups at home.
      But, strangely, through such ‘Bible reading,’ they
      have reverted right back to the apostate doctrines
      that commentaries by Christendom’s clergy were
      teaching 100 years ago…”

      So, Sola Scriptura actually agrees with the Watchtower’s assesment minus one thing. Only by reading the scriptures with the guidance of the Holy Ghost who gives us the gift of faith can we understand God’s word because apart from faith we are unable to hear God’s voice. I know this to be true for I have heard the testimonials of many who have come out of the cults and share the same conversion experiences. They cried out to the Lord and he gave them what they sought, faith in the Risen God, the ability to discern the mystery of the Godhead as true, the recognition of their own blasphemies, the trepidation of Hell as an authentic place for the unredeemed and their need to be broken falling at the Savior’s feet for forgiveness of their rebellion!

      Time and again I have heard these stories which mimick my own. Now I do recognize that after this happened to me I began to fall to the teachings of the apostles by heeding the voices of the past. By reading the fathers of the faith who within themselves we can learn from but were fallen. That’s why we have an Origen who falters to subordinationism and a Tertullian who falls to the Montanism. Sola Scriptura relies completely upon the power of God to save those whom are his rather than rely upon the words of men who can fail and falter and do so often. Scripture is God breathed, infallible while those who follow after can fall to pits like pelagianism, arianism, and gnosticism in its many forms.

      Who is the church that I should heed his words as some infallible letter? All you would do is point me to men who can fail. Here is why i remain a protestant and not Catholic or Orthodox. Too often you both confuse uniformity with unity and I dont believe we have to resort to one at the sacrifice of the other. I call you my brother, will you do so as well? being Apostolic doesnt necessitate a genealogical common denominator but rather a philosophical one. When I read the Catholic canons of Orange and Trent I see a dichotomous inconsistancy. The writers of Orange anathematize the Trentian gospel and the writers of Trent anathamatize the ancient Catholics of Orange! The further we move from the cross the more difficult it becomes to have a heriarchal structure of absolute authority because the propensity of the corruption of that authority increases, this is what the history of what Ive seen at least from western Christianity i.e. Roman Catholicism.

      Sola de Ecclesium or reliance on the church i.e. CHURCH leadership lets cut to the chase. Is this not man centered rather than a position that allows God to move on his own in the lives of believers and to work in the conscious and spirits of men. No doubt heresy will come but not despite or because of a doctrine that allows God’s word to be the final authority. Heretics and heresy has always existed and that is because as scripture says, there is a devil, he is the god of this age/world and he is a roaring lion knowing he has a short time before his reign and destruction come to fruition.

      1. Augustin,

        I cannot accept your argument that Sola Scriptura uses the Holy Spirit as a safeguard. There are numerous times in history where people have actually believed they were guided by the Holy Spirit and lead to very nasty and horrific things. There is no such thing as “Church only”. Rather, the Churches rely on Scripture and the interpretations of those scriptures by the early Fathers to understand and implement Scripture as dogma. Now you may feel it unfair that some select group of people receive deference while the rest of humanity is told to not think or at least not talk. But there is a very understandable reason, at least from the Orthodox perspective, most of the great interpreters, or Theologians, have manifested an extremely close relationship with God, i.e. they are Saints. Now they did not become Saints through pure luck but through a constant annihilation of their egos, whether they retreated to the wilderness to live a very austere life focused on prayer, they struggled against the temptations of life to be people of virtue or because they found courage and grace to speak truth to power. The bona fides of their interpretations, or more accurately God’s revelations to them, are bourne out in their lives. The Church accepted interpretations are not some arbitrary self-aggrandizing choice, but the the reported revelations of God’s will to his Church. Therefore these ancient interpretations act as a safeguard, they act as (to borrow a legal phrase) stare decisis on what exactly Scripture means. Later members of the Church cannot re-interpret scripture out of whole cloth they have to build on the works of those before them, with special attention given to the Saints. Of course, I am sure most Protestants would argue their own dogmas are based on generally accepted interpretations from theologians, but what have those theologians done to prove their connection to God. Anyone can be clever and create a set of first principles to interpret scripture but it takes a true lover of God to work, literally struggle and even die to learn God’s first principles.

        Now, to the extent Sola Scriptura means or should mean the Church should only have rituals and hold dogmas that are explicitly stated in scripture (or are based on an interpretation consistent with God’s first principles), that would be both an interesting discussion and also narrow the issue significantly on the differences between the several Protestant sects, Orthodoxy, and Western Catholicism.

  5. Exactly, Peter! The original sin was the result of reliance on personal evaluation:

    And the woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was pleasing for the eyes to look at and it was beautiful to contemplate, and when she had taken of its fruit she ate, and she also gave some to her husband with her, and they ate. (Gen 3.6 NETS)

    Eve was led into sin not simply by the serpent, but ultimately through reliance upon her own judgment in distinction to the directly-revealed judgment of God. She saw, and found it pleasing and beautiful, and that was that! Personal judgment then trumps the childlike faith of full, awe-inspired trust and faith in God. This rationalization of Eve’s is the poster child (so to speak) of Patristic critique of logismoi, “rationalizations.”

    Thank you for your comment! It’s always good to know we’re on the same page!

  6. You honed in on exactly my problem with this volume. I loved reading the correspondence and think the book is most worthy of recommending, except for Fr Mastrantonis’ preface. If I do recommend it I give a stern warning that the views he is expressing seem to me very liberal and not in keeping with the consensus of the Church Fathers because he seems to strongly express the idea that ecumenical activity among Orthodox Christians is for the restoration of lost unity between the Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant bodies and not for the reconciling the those bodies with the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church which in the mind of all Orthodox Christians is identical and exclusively the Holy Orthodox Catholic Church.

    The correspondence itself is superb. I love the Patriarch’s summary of the Faith by way of short commentary on the creed and his salutation, “O most wise German men and beloved children of our humble self” showing his catholic ecumenism as a father first and foremost, a lover of their souls.

    But this interchange brings to mind another. When the Evangelical Orthodox Church was seeking to enter into the fullness of canonical and eucharistic communion with the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church they were denied even an audience with the Patriarch of that time. Though they were eventual brought into the One Church, perhaps a bit hastily, by the Antiochene Archdiocese of America, their dismissal and even rejection by the Ecumenical Patriarch, whom they flew to see, seems un-ecumenical. What could be the explanation.

    1. The explanation for the Patriarch’s decision is twofold: 1.) there was no obstacle to “Evangelical Orthodox Church” individuals converting to Orthodoxy, but there was no question of an incorporation of their group structure into the Church; 2.) it was determined by all the Greek bishops with whom the “Evangelical Orthodox Church” people first spoke that the latter were actually not yet ready for conversion, and needed more catechesis. Remember, they were “book Orthodox” and had not yet been properly catechized by actual Orthodox. Faced with this, the “Evangelical Orthodox Church” turned to the Antiochians. (This was a childish reaction: if daddy says no, ask mommy?)

      I think subsequent events proved the Greek bishops’ decisions to have been correct.

  7. Right. I already admitted that they were made Orthodox too hastily. This did lead to spiritual problems and a lack of “good order.” But so did the adoption of the new calendar. This is neither here nor there.

    You say they needed “more catechesis” and I certainly agree with you. This is what I see the most wise Patriarch Jeremiah doing in his dialogue with the German theologians. My question is why this catechism was not administered in the case of the EOC by the Ecumenical Patriarch or at least one of his eminent bishops or theologians?

    It seems to me, from reading Fr Gillquist’s account that they approached Antiochene Archdiocese because they were essentially told to get lost. There was no warm greeting or promise to catechize. Which seems even more egregious because, unlike the obstinate German theologians, they came in person rather than send a letter and they were entirely open to being taught and to change whatever needed to be changed in order to become Orthodox Christians. I have only read the one account, so I admit there may have been other reasons they were not welcomed.

    Even so, it is not as if daddy said “no.” It is as if he said “never” when we should have said “soon.” So I don’t find their actions at all childish. They wanted to be Orthodox Christians very baddly. After being left in the street they went to find a Master who would take them in and show them some kindness. They did not give up. I admire them for this. Would I have given up after encountering a rude priest?

    It reminds me of the story about Met. Jonah. When he first inquired about Orthodoxy at the local OCA parish a man answered the phone and asked him if he spoke Russian. When Jonah said that he didn’t the next thing he heard was a dial tone. I find this heart breaking and thank God that when I went in search of the Ark of Salvation the phone wasn’t hung up on me, or the door shut in my face. I am very glad that God put in my path wise and generous and fatherly men like His All Holiness Patriarch Jeremiah.

    Thus I rather agree with Fr Mastrantonis’ Introduction where he says that Patriarch Jeremiah’s correspondence should be a model of Orthodox involvement in ecumenism while disagreeing with Fr Mastrantonis’ own definition of ecumenism. The Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church is one and undivided and lacking nothing and all Christians aught to be reunited with her. Thus good Orthodox bishops should kindly and hospitably welcome all who find themselves outside the Church to join her and not put up obstacles to their most necessary conversion.

    1. Hi Ryan,
      Fr Gilquist’s account is not quite as full as it could have been. In fact, it’s rather self-serving. I’ve heard more from people involved. The leaders of the “Evangelical Orthodox Church” first approached the Greek Archdiocese, and were told by the bishops here that there would be required an extended period of catecheis, and that they could individually convert after that. But the EOC people were in more of a hurry, and didn’t think they needed such an extended period of catechesis (at least a year), because they thought they’d done a good job making themselves Orthodox (something that is common to “book-Orthodox” conversions). More importantly, the “Evangelical Orthodox Church” wanted to retain its bishops and priests, their whole organization as it was, intact, and just move everything into the Church. They insisted upon this with the local Greek Orthodox Archdiocese bishops, who relayed this to the Patriarchate, but this was of course rejected. The local bishops told them that everyone was welcome to convert individually after catechesis, but that a corporate conversion was not something that was done, and under no circumstances would their bishops and priests be automatically ordained in the Church. The EOC people then tried to do an end run around the Greek Archdiocese bishops by appealing to the Patriarch. Thus the cold shoulder. The Patriarch had already said no through his bishops here.

      As it turned out, the Antiochians were more flexible, for whatever reason, and they did the corporate conversion as desired and in the timeframe desired. Likewise, they ordained the priests, though the EOC bishops were not retained as bishops, being busted down to priests themselves. This happened about a year after their request to the Greek Archdiocese bishops, so the timing ended up being the same in any case, and we can only assume that they were involved in some kind of catechesis (though, from what I’ve heard, self-administered!) during that time. But events certainly proved that they could have used more time in catechesis. The Ben Lomond mess was a direct result of this hastiness.

      So, there are certainly two sides to every story! The point is that the “Evangelical Orthodox Church” wanted (initially) to be Orthodox on their own terms, rather than on the terms of the Church. And in this they succeeded to a large degree, despite the concern of the Ecumenical Patriarch and his bishops in the Greek Archdiocese here that would have had them experience a genuine and fully Orthodox formation.

  8. When you say that “subsequent events proved the Greek bishops’ decisions to have been correct” are you referring to the Orthodox Study Bible? Because I rather agree with this as well, despite the fact that this almost makes me an outcast among most American Orthodox. I push the NETS and the HTM Psalter on people as much as I can.

  9. I actually wasn’t thinking of the OSB at all, but what occurred in Ben Lomond, a kind of schism in the former “Evangelical Orthodox Church” church. It was very messy, and still a by-word around here (San Francisco Bay Area).

    And I was thinking of the wider aesthetic that the “Evangelical Orthodox Church” brought in and established in various Antiochian ventures, including but not limited to the OSB.

    We, of course, agree on the OSB! I recommend the NETS and the HTM Psalter as well. And the Eastern Orthodox Bible for the New Testament.

    Also, in a comment here by Peter Papoutsis I recently heard of a bilingual New Testament that’s about to come out from the United Bible Societies: the Patriarchal Text of the Greek New Testament and the Revised Standard Version English adjusted to match the Patriarchal text. That’ll be VERY nice to have. It should be released soon.

  10. Very interesting reading in both the post and the comments. Thank you, Kevin. Regarding the comments at the end of your post…I am so weary of debating Orthodoxy with my “Protestant spiritual father.” For one, I am definitely not capable. Secondly, it is impossible for him to understand. Orthodoxy is a combination of experience and understanding, and I don’t think one can understand until he experiences. I keep telling him I don’t want to argue about theological matters, but he keeps roping me into debates. I will try harder to resist, as it is fruitless. I’ve definitely passed the two-attempt limit! Better for me to avoid this sort of discussion completely as your last paragraph points out.

  11. Sometimes that’s all we can do, Todd, even if it seems rude. We simply have to tell the people involved that under no circumstances will we have this kind of conversation anymore.

    That said, I was happy to see that you understood the import of St Paul’s “work out your salvation with fear and trembling”. Salvation is not an event, nor is it a theoretical concept: it is a process. We are being saved, and will always be so as long as we remain faithful. And someday, after a change, things will continue on in the same way, with us progressing in spiritual growth forever and ever, ever moving closer and closer to God, yet never even coming close! This is why some of our theologians say that this life is a training ground for eternity: what we do here is how we are going to be for eternity. All people are going to live forever, but those ones who were so focused on the temporary things of this life which won’t exist anymore will be suffering from their lack. Those people who have directed their lives toward growing closer to God will rejoice because that is exactly what eternity, what existence itself, is actually for. But we have to make that choice now, cooperating with our Coach the Holy Spirit to train our souls properly for victory, a victory over the tendency towards having our focus on everything temporal and doomed to fade.

    Somethin’ like that.

  12. Thanks! “…ever moving closer and closer to God, yet never even coming close!” So true.

    St. Peter of Damskos writes, “The more we act and the more we give thanks to our Benefactor, the more we are His debtors…the more a man is found worthy to receive God’s gifts, the more he ought to consider himself a debtor to God.”

    It seems the Protestant mindset is one that proclaims “the debt has been once and for all paid!” And in one marvelous sense this is true, but it is only one side of the coin. On the other side is the great debt we owe our Savior and can never repay but must give all that we can to repay. God did His part, now we must do ours. Like you said, it is the difference between an event vs. a process or journey.

  13. “Reformation Theology has reached its logical conclusion, self-interpretation of Scripture, instead of the Church. What is implicit and explicit in the Orthodox refutation of Reformation Theology is the sustained refutation of the the Human self as the final authority on Scripture. This reliance in Reformation Theology that the individual, not the Church, knows best is the very first “Original” Sin that that persists to this day.”

    That is required for a biblical conscience: just to name a few passages that prove the individual conscience must understand and be persuaded of something to please God:

    Rom 14:14 I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.

    Rom 14:23 And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.

    Luk 1:3 It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus

    Orthodox are very clever Philosophers but their works are scripturally bankrupt. In order to believe the scriptures one must be convinced in the conscience that something is true.

    The problem for you is that the bible calls all believers priests
    “”Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (I Peter 2:9)”

    Yes I have authority, yea, a responsibility to interpret the Bible for myself just as you interpret history for yourself and the developments in the Church. Let me ask you a question and maybe a Patristic will actually answer this: Patristics say that the Church interprets the scripture because it gave us the scripture and therefore determines the sense of the scripture. Cunningham asks you this: the Jews gave us the OT therefore should we receive the sense of the OT from the Jews and reject the messiah?

  14. No, the Jews did not give us Scripture. The Church is the remnant of the believers from out of Israel, and is Israel. There was no separation between them, but organic development, with an inflow of Divine Grace in order to accomplish more. This indicates a lack of knowledge about early Christian writings and their heritage in Orthodoxy, one with the Deformers rejected except where they found quotations that were easily twisted to their purposes.

    The Deformation is a tragedy. Don’t try to put lipstick on that pig.

  15. Sorry for replying to an old thread.

    To what extent could Constantinople’s rejection of Lutheranism be attributed to being under Ottoman rule?

  16. That’s okay, Ingemar, as I can still see when comments come in.

    If the discussions had been couched in more cultural and ethnic or even economic terms, I think there would be more cause to investigate that particular thesis. As it is, however, the documents are clearly purely theological. And while the Ottomans were quite oppressive in various ways, they didn’t interfere with the theological issues amongst the Christians in their midst. As private correspondence, however, these documents were likely completely unknown to the Ottoman authorities.

    So I would hazard a guess that the Ottoman influence really wasn’t present in this dialogue. There’s no sign of it.

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