Monday, May 16, 2011

The Theological Ghetto Of The Eastern Orthodox

When my wife was a Protestant, she initially was going to pass on Catholicism and instead opt for Orthodoxy. It wound up being a good experience for both of us. The exposure to the Eastern side of things was (and still is) very enriching.

Please note that the following is derived from encounters with the Greek and Antiochean churches we attended during this time, as well as discussions with Orthodox believers on multiple internet message boards which I realize might not be all that good of an indicator for a majority opinion.

Anyways, during that time, one of the things that really jumped out was the lip-service paid in honoring saints from the West. When I say lip-service, I am basically meaning that, while these folks would be venerated as saints, the Orthodox in question were completely allergic to any sort of theological writings from Latin saints, even going so far as to call many of them heretics.

Augustine, of course, is the primary bogeyman for the East, but as Karl has pointed out here, here, and here, this is basically because polemic has subjugated fact.

You simply don't see this sort of thing in Catholicism. We've mentioned here before that St. Thomas Aquinas's top references for citations in the Summa are Augustine, John Damascene, and Pseudo-Dionysius. Consider the Doctors of the Church. There are 33 of them. Of those 33, seventeen could also be regarded as Church Fathers. Of those seventeen, eight are Easterners: St. Basil, St. Gregory Nazienzen, St. Athanasius, St. John Chrysostom, St. Ephrem the Syrian, St. John Damascene, St. Cyril of Alexandria, and St. Cyril of Jerusalem.

My point in all this is to demonstrate that Catholic theology is truly universal. The Eastern hostility to the Latin Fathers is palpable and was a big red flag in examining the two faiths. Where were all these criticisms of Western saints before the schism? Not saying they don't exist, but I haven't found any trace. Of course, this was when the East was worried (filioque aside) about important stuff like azymes and such.

I guess I just don't get it. I hear all the time from Easterners that there won't be union until the West repents of all its myriad heresies (the list of which varies depending upon the Orthodox person I'm hearing from). Lots of these alleged heresies are derived from above guys. It seems more and more that any union in their eyes would mean the destruction of anything Latin in the Church at all. Sort of a weird mirror image of Latinization problems in Catholicism.


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Throwback said...

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