Friday, December 18, 2009

On tipping a losing hand

I’ve been pointing out for a long time now that Perry Robinson rarely makes even a gesture towards presenting a positive case for Eastern Orthodoxy. And when you encounter an opponent like that, it’s hard to shake the suspicion that he’s not very forthcoming because there’s nothing in the bank.

Just read through his halting, fumbling, groping, hedging, question-begging, half-baked, ad hoc attempt to field the concerns of one commenter and ask yourself what makes the Orthodox rule of faith superior to the alleged deficiencies of sola Scriptura. I’ve bolded some statements for emphasis.


Perry Robinson Says:
December 19, 2009 at 12:51 am

I have no doubt that the whole thing is messy, but such is the case with a historical religion. That I don’t think implies that it is impossible from the get-go to make sense out of it. So I hope what I offer will move us in that direction.

From what I can discern in the history, there is a difference between pentarchial ratificaiton and pentarchial ratification in a council. The former is of great weight, but not the highest degree of authority. This secures I think in part against the worry of five popes. Moreover, if we have to have five altogether that helps to secure against any one of them being supreme in a subordinating way. It also helps address the matter of monothelitism.

As for Patriarchs and monothelitism, not all fell into it with respect to specific occupants and not all at the same time. So I don’t take it to be a defeater for the model I am proposing. Maximus argues along these same lines.

The apostolic lineage of Constantinople is obviously not from any direct founding. I can’t recall the sources at the moment but my understanding was that Ephesus was transferred to Constantinople. If so, we know that John and Paul play significant roles in founding the church there. This explains well the patriarchal references to Peter and Paul when conflicts of like the Acacian schism were remedied. Constantinople took itself to be Pauline.

It’s true that the Pentarchy is in one sense convention, but it is a convention of the Church which means that it isn’t convention in any common sense of the term and so doesn’t necessarily lack the kind of normative weight that say local custom does. Secondly, it also materially is not a custom, in the sense that it is a manifestation of apostolic authority and power.

As for Constantinople and Moscow, this is something that requires some further thought and investigation, specifically in what way and what understanding was Moscow elevated by to a Patriarchate and what relation such sees have to the ones with an original apostolic deposit. That said, whatever claim Constantinople can make, it is significantly older and certainly that part of the world bears a number of churches that were founded by the Apostles from which it has drawn in a way that Moscow can’t. So there is some potential here to tease out. Part of the problem is that there is a fair amount of literature in Greek on this but my Greek isn’t good enough to reliably access it at the moment.

At present I only offered up what I garnered from 2nd Nicea. I thought it worth discussing as it generally doesn’t show up in Catholic apologetic materials, from the most sophisticated to the more popular. Certainly with Rome leaving the Church we don’t have that pentarchy as such now, but since it was constructed by the church as a means in part of manifesting the power and authority of the apostolicity of the episcopate, it seems to me that it can be and was adjusted. Perhaps there are principles that will allow us to expand it or explain the adjustment. That said what I am doing here is offering lines of discussion and investigation, which just points out that this is all far more complicated than the pop apologetic arguments really make it out to be. I think it is important to interact with the best works a position can offer, which is what I try to do in so far as I am able.

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