Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Unreasonable, Contradictory Eastern Orthodox Claims About Church History

Orthodox wrote the following in another thread. Keep these comments in mind whenever you see Orthodox claiming that the early church agreed with him on an issue or claiming that something is an apostolic tradition:

"There is no contradiction whatsoever between claiming that something is and always was an apostolic tradition and recognizing that the church fathers held a variety of views. I could in theory hold the position that say, only 10% of fathers held my view, and 90% didn't. It doesn't mean the 10% were wrong when the church was led to recognise the truth. I wouldn't generally argue this was the case, but it matters not if that's how it played out. You keep failing to recognize that I don't need all the early church to agree with me."

Here's what I wrote in response:

You keep ignoring some of the factors involved when addressing this issue, since explaining all of the factors wouldn't allow you to dismiss the evidence I've cited. In addition to claiming that the veneration of images is an apostolic tradition (a claim you've never proven), you've also said that the church always practiced it (citing sources like Clement of Alexandria and the catacombs, even though they're only relevant to the use of images, not their veneration), you contrasted your view with the view of other Eastern Orthodox who argue for a gradual development in understanding the concept, you argued that the Eastern Orthodox hierarchy would settle a misunderstanding of an apostolic tradition like the veneration of images once that misunderstanding arose, you argued that we should agree with any consensus the early church had on a doctrine (no later consensus can overturn an earlier one, according to you), you argued that all Christians of the first millennium were members of your denomination, and you contrasted their unity with the disunity of Protestants (defining even minor disagreements among Protestants as unacceptable). When we take all of those factors into account, your suggested scenario in which 90% of the fathers disagreed with you on the veneration of images doesn't make sense. Instead of selectively defending portions of what you've said while ignoring other portions, you need to defend the entirety of your previous claims. You can't do it. Your initial claims were false.

If 90% of Christians were opposed to the veneration of images, as in your scenario above, then wouldn't such a consensus prove that such opposition is correct, according to your standards? How could a later popularity of the veneration of images overturn a 90% agreement against the practice in earlier times?...

And why do Eastern Orthodox hold such contradictory views of church history? If one of you will argue that thousands of Christians around the world practiced the veneration of images in the earliest centuries, while another Eastern Orthodox will argue that these early Christians hadn't yet developed an understanding of veneration and in some cases even opposed the practice, those are two highly divergent, contradictory views of the nature of church history. That disagreement is relevant not only to "the details of history", but also to the nature of revelation, how the church leads its people, and other significant issues.


  1. The issue again comes back to whether you believe in smorgas board Christianity, or whether you're willing to humbly accept the religion as is.

    If I'm accepting the religion as is, I don't need to prove that every single doctrine was believed exactly as it is now in the 2nd century. History's records are incomplete, I can't go back in time and know everything that was going on.

    All I've got to do is prove to myself enough things to satisfy myself I have the true church. Proving everything isn't feasible nor practical. Proving enough of the important things is all I need to do.

    We've seen already the problems of smorgas board Christianity: no basis for a canon, no agreement on the basis of unity, a thousand schisms, different understandings of the evidence that are never resolved, contradicting Paul's command to hold to the traditions etc.

    My guess is Jason has a very poor understanding of traditional Christianity. Sure, he knows a lot of facts, but he doesn't have a lot of experiential knowledge of seeing the world through the eyes of traditional Christians. Because of this, his apologetic is rather ineffectual, and he doesn't know why. And he's probably too wrapped up in his own little world view to go out and find out why. Jason, go get to know some Orthodox Christians, attend some services, get to know a priest. Then you won't be wasting so many words. Is your life so busy you can't find out more about what Christians have been up to for 2000 years?

  2. Orthodox,

    Your post fails to interact with what I've said in this thread, but instead repeats arguments from other threads that have already been answered.