Posted Wednesday, March 28, 2012
► The Filoque Controversy
► Jurisdiction Of The Pope of Rome
► Even Worse Objections
“For an Evangelical discovering more traditional forms of Christianity, accepting certain Catholic beliefs (purgatory, indulgences, papal infallibility, the Immaculate Conception, the Assumption, etc.) is very difficult.”
This is a very popular tactic among Roman Catholic apologists. If an Evangelical chooses Orthodoxy over Roman Catholicism, it must be because they were still attached to their former Evangelicalism. Actually, Roman Catholicism and Evangelicalism are two sides of the same coin. The foundational presuppositions that underlie Evangelicalism underlie Roman Catholicism, because ultimately, Protestantism is a child of Roman Catholicism. For example, in both Protestantism and Roman Catholicism, sin has incurred the just wrath of God so that He might preserve His own honor. Roman Catholicism solves this problem with Anselm’s satisfaction doctrine. Protestants solve this problem with the doctrine of penal substitution. For an Orthodox Christian, this “problem” isn’t the issue at all, so we don’t even have a variant of the satisfaction doctrine. The whole system of papal infallibility is centered around the assumption created by the Scholastic mindset: namely, that Christianity is a set of doctrines which are deduced from a collection of data. For a Roman Catholic, this data is Scripture and Tradition, and those doctrines which may be deduced from this data are considered dogmatic. The Pope and his magisterium exist to guarantee absolute dogmatic certainty. For Orthodox Christians, this assumption is thrown out the window. Christianity is a way of life, the path to deification in the incarnate Logos. The experience of the deified Saints are the witness to this end, and by acquiring the mind of the Saints, one acquires the mind of Christ Himself.
From my own personal experience, undecided Evangelicals tend to at first be more inclined to Rome because it allows them to retain their foundational assumptions. Many of them are unaware that they even hold these assumptions.
When I began looking at the issues separating Catholics and Orthodox, it turned out that a lot of them were more semantic than substantive.
Again, a common claim, but one not backed up by facts.
If I became Orthodox, I would have to accept more Catholic things than I at first thought: purgatory, for example. Orthodox don’t traditionally use the word purgatory for the purification that happens after death, but they acknowledge that such a purification happens.
Actually, the two concepts are not at all similar. Purgatory for a Roman Catholic is the place where the temporal wrath of God for sin is satisfied. According to Roman Catholic theology, when a person sins, he incurs the wrath of God. For a mortal sin, this incurs both eternal wrath and temporal wrath. Eternal wrath will send a person to hell, while temporal wrath will send them to purgatory for a set amount of time. One removes eternal wrath by the sacrament of Penance, and temporal wrath is reduced by the acquisition of the merits of the Saints through indulgences. Upon death, if temporal wrath remains, it is satisfied by spending a set amount of time in purgatorial fire. Once the person has completed their term of punishment, they may enter Heaven.
For Orthodox, there is a special period of forty-day prayer set apart for a soul reposed in Christ because for forty-days, the demonic powers attempt to persuade the soul to forfeit the grace of God by falling into despair. This has been illustrated in Orthodox Patristic writings (both pre and post schism) by the image of the toll-houses, where the demons test the soul for remaining sin. Though this image has been overliteralized by the critics of the doctrine, the literal meaning is simply that the demons continue to attack the soul after death, desperately trying to persuade it to abandon repentance and give into its own passions.
It is important to note that the toll-houses are an illustration of the particular judgment of Christ (taking place before the Final Judgment on the Last Day), rather than a period of purification before the particular judgment. Prayers continue to be offered for the reposed soul after this period of forty days so that it may continue in its path of deification. As God is infinite, so union with God in Christ is infinite and continues to all eternity. This is not something that occurs before one can enter the presence of God, but only occurs because one has entered the presence of God. There is no parallel to the Papal doctrine of purgatory in Orthodox Christian theology.
Rather than using the image of fire for the purification (cf. 1 Cor. 3:10–15)
Although Roman Catholics often use this passage to demonstrate the doctrine of purgatory, this isn’t what the text is talking about at all. The context (1 Cor 3:10) is discussing not works in general, but a particular type of work, that is, the work of spreading the gospel. If one does this in vain, then one can still be saved, but that worthless work will be burned up. If Paul were discussing ALL works, then one could be saved by faith alone, but simply pass through purgatory.
Orthodox often picture the soul passing through a series of “toll houses” on its road to heavenly glory. It’s a different image, but it points to the fundamental reality that the saved soul may have to undergo some form of ordeal before it is admitted to full heavenly glory.
We may agree that the soul must undergo “some form of ordeal” before being admitted to glorification, but doctrine is more precise than “some form of ordeal.” Are Islam and Roman Catholicism the same because they both teach that man must be judged “in some manner?” Do Mormons and Roman Catholics believe the same thing because they both believe that Jesus is God “in some fashion?” Of course not. So, yes, we do agree that the soul must undergo “some form of ordeal” before entering Heaven, but the nature of the purgatorial ordeal is completely different to the Church’s doctrine and it is founded on theological foundations foreign to Orthodoxy.
This seemed to put the question of purgatory in the category of the “word fights” that Paul warns us against (cf. 1 Tim. 6:4–5; 2 Tim. 2:14). It doesn’t matter if the word purgatory is used to describe a particular post-death reality or if precisely the same image is used to allow us to imagine it. The fundamental reality is the same,
No, it isn’t, as we noted above. The reason that Roman Catholics so desperately seek to reduce differences between Orthodoxy and themselves to word-games is because if a distinction is demonstrated (as it has been), Rome would be completely unable to defend its doctrinal distinctives.
as is its most obvious practical implication in this life: prayer for the dead. I would have to accept that whether I became Catholic or Orthodox.
According to Roman Catholicism, once a person leaves purgatory, there is no reason to pray for them any longer, as the only reason for praying for the dead (in Roman Catholicism) is because they are in purgatory. According to Orthodoxy, by contrast, there is no reason to ever cease praying for a brother or sister in Christ, whether they are alive on this planet or reposed with Christ.
“And the Son” isn’t in the original Greek version of the Creed. It was inserted later by Western Christians and eventually authorized by the pope.
A more accurate description of the Filioque’s history is this: The ancient Church, both East and West, confessed that God the Father is the fountain of the God-head and source of the Trinity. The Son is eternally begotten of Him and the Holy Spirit eternally proceeds from Him. While these are the essential (substantial) relations between the Persons of the Trinity, there is another set of relations known as energetic relations. These are the relations of action between the Persons of the Trinity. For example, God has the power of creating essentially (as He is omniscient), but He became a Creator through actualizing this power in the act of creation. Some actions are eternal. God never began to do good, but doing good is an action, so that God energetically does God from all eternity. Likewise, the Holy Spirit energetically proceeds from the Father and the Son in the sense that the Father sends the Spirit through the Son as a manifestation of the unity of the Trinity. All ancient Christians, East and West, confessed this doctrine.
However, St. Augustine was unable to grasp the essence/energies distinction. Instead of making the visible appearances of God a disincarnate appearance of the Divine Word (as all the other Fathers had), St. Augustine made these “theophanies” symbolic representations of the untouchable and invisible essence of God. Because there was no distinction between the essence and energies of God, St. Augustine taught that the Holy Spirit eternally proceeded from the Father and the Son in essence. The Franks used St. Augustine as the framework through which they would read the rest of Christian theology and included it in the Creed at various Synods of theirs. Numerous times they attempted to accuse the East of being un-Orthodox for not having the Filioque in the Creed, to which the Orthodox Popes responded definitively. Pope Leo III of Rome had the Creed inscribed without the Filioque in three languages and erected it in the Roman Church, saying that he refused to add the Creed “for the protection of the Orthodox faith.” At the Fourth Synod of Constantinople (regarded by Orthodox Christians as an extension to the Seventh Ecumenical Synod) in 879-880, any addition to the Creed was condemned in the presence of Papal legates, who accepted it. The decrees of the Council were then accepted by Pope John VIII of Rome. Tragically, in 1014 AD, Pope Benedict VIII, who had just received Frankish military help, added the recitation of the Filioque to the Roman Mass and the seeds of the schism were irreversibly sown.
Orthodox often criticize this on various grounds:
Including the word makes the Creed inaccurate.
This is the criticism that was leveled by the Saints of the Orthodox Church and should be regarded by all Orthodox Christians as the “official” position of the Church.
The Creed is inviolable and cannot be changed.
This isn’t quite true, as the Creed recited in the Liturgy today is itself a revised version of the Nicene Creed. Having said this, the Nicene Creed was revised with the authority of an Ecumenical Synod. Hypothetically, a new Creed could be recited in all the Churches if this was an act of an Orthodox General Synod.
The pope doesn’t have the authority to change the Creed.
It would be more accurate to say that the Pope of Rome does not of himself have the authority to change the faith, which of course ties into the first objection listed.
If the Creed is to be changed, it should be done in union with the East (meaning specifically the Orthodox).
This all, again, ties into the first objection. If the Filioque is doctrinally accurate, all of these other objections are a tempest in a teapot. If, however, the Church is right and the Filioque is heretical, then all of these other objections carry weight.
But the inclusion of the filioque in Latin versions of the Creed is a historical fact, and the question of whether it was prudent to add it in that way did not tell me anything about whether the Catholic Church had the authority to do it.
Note here the subtle equation of “the Catholic Church” with “the Pope” or “the Magisterium.” This is a subtle but very significant point. For Orthodox, “the Church teaches” means “the Saints teach” because it is the Saints who are most excellently the body of Christ through their deified union with the Holy Spirit. The Church is not a government, but a People. The Church is the People of God. For Roman Catholics, the Pope, whether He is united to Christ in salvation or not, is infallible. Roman Catholics have separated the work of the Holy Spirit in guaranteeing the infallibility of the Church from the work of the Holy Spirit in salvation. For Orthodox, in the same way that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit produces good works, so also it produces good doctrine.
(John 14:16-17) And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Comforter, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
(John 16:13) When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.
The Lord promised to send the Holy Spirit- the Comforter, into the Church. “Acquire inner peace”, says St. Seraphim, “and thousands around you will be saved.” The one who has acquired the “inner peace” or “comfort” which the Holy Spirit gives, is a Holy Father. This Comforter is the same one who is called by Our Lord the “Spirit of Truth” and is said to “guide into all Truth.” It is for this reason that the Holy Fathers (the comforted ones) are our doctrinal authority. The Holy Spirit who gives them comfort is also the Holy Spirit who gives them Truth. John 14-16, the central text teaching the infallibility of the Church, combines the work of the Spirit in preserving doctrine with the work of the Spirit in salvation. To rend these two works apart is profoundly anti-Scriptural.
If the Nicene Creed was sufficient to meet the theological challenges of its own day, changing circumstances might call for the creation of new creeds or even a revision of the Nicene Creed itself—for example, if heretics found an insidious way of misinterpreting some of its clauses.
The strange thing is that this is not at all the situation that Rome found itself in when the Pope changed the Creed in 1014 AD. In fact, Rome had a long history of opposing the addition. The only reason that the Creed was recited in the Roman Mass was because Pope Benedict VIII was in bed with Frankish military leaders.
I recognized the force of the Catholic arguments concerning the subject. Various Bible passages taken together suggest that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son as well as the Father (cf. Matt. 10:20; John 15:26; Acts 2:33; Gal. 4:6).
The careful student of theology must keep in mind the distinction between God’s essence and energies taught by the Cappadocian Fathers and marvelously defended by Saint Gregory Palamas. It is true that the Spirit proceeds energetically from the Father and the Son as a manifestation of the unity of the Trinity. Thus, St. Maximus the Confessor teaches that the Spirit “shines through the Son.” The question is whether the Holy Spirit actually finds a particular type of origin in the Son. While Roman Catholics will insist that origin is not found in the Son, this is a wordgame. Rome teaches that the Holy Spirit is the “love of the Father and the Son.” (one can see this in Mark Bonocore’s defense of the filioque, for example) While the Father initiates the action, the Son is needed to complete the action. Thus, as the Son is necessary for the hypostatic existence of the Spirit, one may quite accurately say that Rome teaches a double origin of the Holy Spirit. With this in mind, let’s look at the passages in question:
(Matthew 10:20) For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
This has nothing to do with the Filioque.
(John 15:26) “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.
This teaches, as the Orthodox Church teaches, that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Person of the Father, but sent through the Son into the world.
(Acts 2:33) Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.
Again, there is no issue with this passage. The Church believes and teaches the procession of the Holy Spirit into the world through the Son.
(Galatians 4:6) And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
This has nothing to do with the Hypostatic Procession of the Holy Spirit from the Son. Of course, the Spirit may be said to be “of the Son” in a particular sense because He manifests the unity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is not the question. The question is whether the Holy Spirit can be said to find His hypostatic existence in the Son.
When I was an Evangelical considering Catholicism—and previously, even when I was quite anti-Catholic—I recognized that there is a certain logic to the office of the papacy.
Note how Akin contradicts his first argument- that the only reason there is to choose Orthodoxy over Papism is because Orthodoxy is more “Protestant” than is Papism. Here we see that Mr. Akin has affirmed exactly what we argued- Papism and Protestantism are based on the same foundational set of assumptions.
Organizations need leaders if they are to hang together, and if Christ’s Church is a “visible” Church, then it needs a single earthly leader.
Mr. Akin has assumed more than he knows in this phrase. He has assumed the fundamental disunity of the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant. If the Pope is the head of the Church, then why is he not the head of the Church Triumphant? Why does Rome create this arbitrary division between the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant? As we said in our reply to James Likoudis:
“What is meant by visibility? The Orthodox Church teaches that the One Church established by Christ is the fulfillment of what the ancient Jerusalem Temple pointed towards, a the temple of Christ’s body (cf. John 2:19-21, Eph 2:22, etc.), constituting the fullness of the People of God presided over by Christ as the High Priest. This People of God is mystically present with Christ as He presides over the Heavenly Liturgy. This mystical reality is visibly manifested in the Eucharistic Community, headed by the Bishop as the Eikon of Christ’s High Priesthood (the presbyters are extensions of the Bishop into parish communities.) The entire People of God is mystically present in each Eucharistic Community (or local Church) so that the local Church constitutes the fullness of the Catholic Church, needing nothing outside of itself to be Catholic. Though the entire Church is manifested in many local Churches, these local Churches together do not constitute the ‘One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church’, because every person in each local Church is mystically present in every other local Church. As a testament to their unity in the Temple of God, these Churches are in sacramental communion with each other, and for the sake of good order, they organize themselves into structures of authority, with the local Bishop holding immediate authority over his local Church, while the Archbishop (or Metropolitan in Russian terminology) holds mediate jurisdiction (the degrees of mediate power depend on the policy of the local Communion) over the Bishops sitting on his Synod. Having said this, theses structures of hierarchical authority are for the sake of good order, and are not necessary for the Church to be the Church. As Saint Ignatius the God-bearer said ‘Where the the Bishop is, let the people gather, for wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.’”
The reason that Mr. Akin thought there was a certain “logic” to the Papal Supremacy is because he assumed that the Church is a global society of believers divided into regional states (dioceses.) This assumption is what Orthodoxy challenges.
The absence of a pope from Eastern Orthodoxy clearly had negative effects. With no pope to call or recognize ecumenical councils, the Orthodox haven’t had one in centuries.
Unfortunately for Mr. Akin, Ecumenical Councils were never called by the Pope of Rome, but by the Roman Emperor. While Orthodox do not have additional Ecumenical Synods (though the Fifth Synod of Constantinople is considered a second extension to the Seventh Ecumenical Synod), we have continued to hold local and general Synods of the Churches of Christ. The word “ecumenical” in the ancient world had the connotation of “imperial.” Thus, the Patriarch of Constantinople sought the title “Ecumenical Patriarch” because he was the Patriarch if the Imperial City. Though I’ve been accused of caesaropapism for saying this, the following is simply a historical fact. All Seven Ecumenical Councils were convoked by the Emperor. The idea of a general council itself comes from the pre-Christian Roman Empire, where the Emperor could summon all the government officials to Council to discuss a particular matter.
With the Christianization of the Roman Empire, this model was applied to the bishops of the Church. Thus, we speak of Seven Orthodox Imperial (Ecumenical) Councils. However, even after the schism, councils of the Church have continued to be held for the good order of the Church, and they are binding upon the Church if they teach the faith of the Fathers, even though they are not called “ecumenical councils.”
this concerned me very much as I recognized the need for Christ’s Church to have a functioning teaching authority capable of settling new theological controversies.
The teaching authority for the Orthodox Church is the witness of the deified Saints. As discussed above, the Holy Spirit drives the Saints to confess the Truth just as He drives them to confess correct doctrine. The question of ecumenism, for example, has been discussed by many Saints of the Orthodox Church, and there is absolutely no disagreement among them that ecumenism is a heretical teaching. This is the “magisterium” of the Orthodox Catholic Church in action.
I also recognized that if Peter were the rock Christ speaks of in Matthew 16:18, this would make him the earthly leader of the Church in Jesus’ absence.
This is a non-sequitur. The Holy Fathers of the Orthodox Church recognize that St. Peter is the Rock on which Christ built His Church, but they also recognize that the Petrine office is fully realized in every local bishopric, so that every Bishop is a successor to the Apostle Peter through his presidency at the Eucharistic Assembly.
“It emerged in my reading that many Orthodox were prepared to make two key concessions regarding the papacy: that Jesus did give Peter a form of primacy over the other apostles (though this was conceived of ‘first among equals’ role)”
Not exactly. The Church teaches that Peter is the Icon of the Episcopate in that Christ gave Him this office before He gave the other Apostles this office. Thus, St. Augustine says, “He has not the primacy over the disciples but among the disciples. His primacy among the disciples was the same as that of Stephen among the deacons.” Because Peter was given this office first, he would preside at the Eucharist when the Apostles came together. The Bishop represents Peter and the Presbyters represent the Apostles, because the Bishop presides among the Presbyters when they come together in the Eucharist.
and that the bishop of Rome is in a special sense the successor of Peter, though other bishops also may in some sense be Peter’s successors.
The Bishop of Rome is the historical successor of Peter and is granted a mediate primacy of “Senior Hierarch” because of this, but this Petrine primacy among the Churches is shared by the Bishops of Alexandria and Antioch. Furthermore, the Bishops are not “in some sense” Peter’s successors. The succession of Peter primarily refers to the general succession of Peter in every Bishop, and only secondarily refers to the historical succession in the Churches of Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch.
Mr. Akin then spends several paragraphs attacking a straw man of the Orthodox position (that Peter is only leader in the sense of being a figurehead.) Mr. Akin then misrepresents the facts and makes it seem as if Orthodox teach that the Pope had primacy among the Churches solely because of his Petrine office. This is false. The Petrine office of the Pope was one among many considerations made by the Churches in granting him the position of Senior Hierach. Indeed, there were three other reasons, (1) Succession from the Apostle Paul, (2) The Authority of an Ecumenical Synod, and (3) Rome’s position as an Imperial City.
As I learned more about Orthodoxy, another set of factors seemed to weigh against it.
But the Orthodox communion has an issue when it comes to being “one.” I’m not referring to the dissent and division that has been part of every Christian community since the beginning. I’m referring to the fact that not all Orthodox churches are in full communion with each other. There are situations in which church A is in communion with church B, and church B is in communion with church C, but A is not in communion with C. For example, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia is in communion with some Orthodox churches but not others (notably the Russian Orthodox church).
Because Mr. Akin has no concept of Eucharistic Ecclesiology, he assumes that oneness refers to a constant holding of Eucharistic Communion between all local Churches. Actually, the oneness of the Church means that all local Churches ascend to the One Temple presided over by Jesus Christ as High Priest. One may find examples parallel to ROCOR’s (though ROCOR is now in full communion with all Orthodox Churches) in the ancient Church.Anciently, the Meletian Schism led to a ceasing of communion between the Churches of Antioch and Rome. However, the Churches of Antioch and Rome continued to hold communion with the other Catholic Churches holding the Orthodox faith. The reason was that the Bishop of Rome had requested Paulinus as bishop of Rome, but the Church of Antioch sought Meletius. Meletius won out, and Paulinus presided over a small community in Antioch who sought his leadership. The Church of Rome (and Alexandria) held communion with Paulinus, and ceased to hold communion with Meletius, even though the other Churches recognized Meletius. Meletius ordained St. John Chrysostom and is himself recognized as a saint (St. Meletius), in both the Roman Catholic and Orthodox communions. What this shows is that even though two local Churches can be out of communion with each other, they can both continue to manifest the Church of Christ.
The Eastern Orthodox also have an issue in the degree to which they display catholicity. Compared to the Catholic Church, the Orthodox tend to be confined to a few ethnicities (Russian, Greek, etc.). The Catholic Church, by contrast, embraces far more ethnicities.
Mr. Akin finds Orthodoxy difficult because it has mostly been embraced by Easterners such as Slavs and Greeks. What he seems not to recognize is that the Papal Church is in the exact same situation, except “Slavs and Greeks” are replaced with “Western Europeans.” Roman Catholicism is very European, and an Easterner will find as much cultural difficulty integrating into an Irish Catholic parish as Mr. Akin might find integrating into a Greek Orthodox parish. However, as a person who just left Kenya and found an Orthodox Church which worshiped in all forty local tribal languages, this objection wears a little thin.
But Christ gave the Church a mandate to preach the gospel to all peoples (cf. Matt. 28:19–20), and it is worth noting that the Catholic Church has fulfilled this mandate more effectively than the Orthodox church has.
As noted above, this is simply not true. The Papal Church has simply been embraced by more people of the same ethnicity as Mr. Akin.
It was also worth noting the size difference between the two. A little over half of all Christians are Catholic, while a little under a quarter are Orthodox. Again, this is not an argument by itself
The vast majority of those counted in the one billion Catholics are simply those baptized as babies who have become for all intents and purposes secularists. Regardless, this isn’t an argument at all. When Christ founded the Church, it composed less than a quarter of one percent of the world’s population, and yet, it was still the true religion.