Perry Robinson has been busy these days plugging away over at the combox of Green Baggins. His basic objection to the Protestant rule of faith, which he reiterates ad nauseum, is that Protestant church structures can’t render “normative” judgments. And in the absence of “normative” judgments, Protestant theology is inherently unstable. Everything we dearly believe is provisional, revisable, and up-for-grabs.
A precondition for a church to render normative judgments is apostolic succession. The Orthodox church has it, but we, unfortunately, do not. So goes the argument.
But what happens when the ground shifts from underneath the principle of stability? What happens when the principle of stability is unstable? What happens when the bedrock turns to quicksand?
Recently, Robinson had a very public and very acrimonious falling out with his longtime co-blogger, Daniel Jones. According to Perry’s version of events, this was the nub of the dispute:
Mixed in with the charges that the canonical churches were “pseudo-churches,” were charges of “institutional apostasy,” found among Old Calenderists…
I have no idea exactly where Daniel will go as far as church but it seems entirely ironic given the rhetoric that one would flee the canonical bodies for groups focused around a handful of bishops, most of whom trace their orders back to vigante bishops from the Nestorians or other heterodox groups.
I suspect Daniel will need to spend some time in whatever group he ends up in, long enough for the honeymoon to wear off so he can begin to see things as they are and not according to some ideology. I know how this goes. I have been there before when I was in the Continuing Anglican churches. It takes a few schisms and power struggles for you to realize that you three heart attacks and a bad cough away from having no “bishops” at all and somehow that can’t be anything more than a sect.
Now Daniel and Perry are both sophisticated, well-educated Orthodox laymen. As I recall, each of them is or was in a doctoral program. And Energetic Procession is a top Orthodox blog.
Yet, at the end of the day, they couldn’t agree on the identity of the apostolic successors. They couldn’t agree on who speaks for Orthodoxy (at least, if you read Perry’s side of the altercation). Where can we find the viva voce of the apostles?
Give directions to living tradition. Is it here? There? Anywhere? What's the right map?
Yet the identity of a normative judgment is no better than the identity of the normative judges. So what does the Orthodox alternative to the Protestant rule of faith really amount to, anyway? Just another game of hide-n-seek. Now you see it–now you don't.