Saturday, January 04, 2020

Why I'm not Eastern Orthodox

1. Recently I was asked why I'm not Eastern Orthodox. I've studied Roman Catholicism in far more depth than EO, and I have a clear bead on what Catholicism represents. I find it harder to get inside the conceptual world of EO. That's in part because, in my reading, the exposition is often metaphorical. So the question is what the picture language stand for.

2. That said, even if I'm unclear on what something is, I can be fairly clear on what it's not. Whatever EO represents, it's not NT Christianity. When I compare the two, these are different and divergent paradigms. 

3. EO rejects the pervasive penal forensic concept of salvation in Scripture. That's not all there is to Biblical salvation. There's also sanctification. But EO rejects a key plank of biblical soteriology. This isn't confined to Pauline theology or sola fide. The sustained model of the atonement in the NT (presaged in the OT) is penal and sacrificial. Sin violates divine justice. Sin is culpable and blameworthy. That's not all sin is. Sin is moral corruption as well. But in my reading, EO blanks out the primary model of NT atonement.

4. The alternative is the EO concept of theosis. I'm not entirely sure what that means. As I understand it, EO salvation is a metaphysical category. Sin involves alienation from the life of God. Salvation involves participation in the life of God. We're delivered from sin when we are taken up into very life of God. We share, not in his essence, but in his energies. 

5. Now, there's a sense in which NT salvation also has an ontological dimension: sanctification and glorification. And there's a roundtable sense in which Christians participate in the life of God. But God and man don't range along a common metaphysical continuum. There's a qualitative, categorical difference between God's necessary, incomparable, transcendent mode of subsistence and the existence of contingent, finite, timebound, embodied agents. Our mode of subsistence never intersects with God's mode of subsistence. God shares his life with us in the sense that he's the source of our being and well-being. All the goodness flows from him. 

6. It's my impression that EO creates a buffer by positing the essence/energy dichotomy/distinction. That strikes me as an ad hoc, unstable distinction. Are the energies God or not God? Identical with God or something other than God? If other than God, then the energies are part of the world. They fall on the side of creation. 

7. In NT soteriology, the Incarnation is a necessary precondition of the atonement, but not atoning in its own right. It's the sacrificial death of Christ's that's redemptive. And the necessity of moral/psychological renewal is supplied by the agency of the Holy Spirit.

8. From what I've read, OE theologians sometimes speak as if the Incarnation is not only a relation confined a unique individual (Jesus), but that somehow the Incarnation unites God and man at a universal level. As if all humans are plugged into the life of God by virtue of the Incarnate Son.  

9. On the face of it, that stands in tension with the particularity of the sacraments. Presumably OE theologians have strategies to finesse that tension, but can it be squared? 

10. Apropos (9), 5. there's the smothering sacramentalism, where salvation is channelled through the sacraments. That, in turn, necessitates priestcraft. Like Catholicism, EO operates with a priest-sacrament paradigm whereas evangelical theology operates with a Word-Spirit paradigm. 

11. Then there's the superstitious role of icons, which seem to function as projections or extensions of the Incarnation. 

12. On top of that is the fiction of an infallible church. 

The whole system is far-removed from NT theology and piety. Of course, EO theologians try to prooftext their position from Scripture, but in my observation their exegesis is meager, strained, and circular as they appeal to the authority of the Greek fathers to leverage their interpretations of Scripture (e.g. the Tabor light as uncreated light). 

13. I have other objections, not unique to EO. I'm predestinarian whereas EO is libertarian.

14. I disagree with the EO doctrine of God. I reject its hierarchical concept of the Trinity, where the Father is the primary God and metaphysical source of the Son and Spirit.

It might be objected that traditionally, many Protestant denominations have inherited a hierarchical concept of the Trinity, so why is that a reason for me to reject EO but not Protestant counterparts? One reason is that you can't be EO in good faith unless you affirm EO dogmas. You can't be EO in good faith if you reject the EO doctrine of God.

By contrast, there's more freedom within evangelicalism. I can be a Protestant in good faith without reaffirming every reflexive carryover from Greek Orthodoxy or Latin theology 

15. Finally, I adhere to a two-minds Christology. Their interrelationship is asymmetrical. The Son is independent of the human soul whereas the soul is contingent. The Son controls the human soul. The Son has complete access to the human soul. The soul has no access to the mind of the Son except when the Son shares his knowledge with the human soul of Christ. I'm not sure that a two-minds Christology is compatible with Cyrillian Christology, and I don't really care since I'm not accountable to the Greek Fathers. 

1 comment:

  1. I think you need to strengthen your notion of hypostatic union.

    1. The humanity that the Logos took from Mary is a real and perfect humanity.

    2. The whole point of the incarnation is HE who is God has truly become Immanuel- God with us as man.

    3. For HE to be truly man, he must truly make his own that humanity that is common to the elect.

    4. Therefore, the Logos neither displaces the human mind of Christ (Apollinarianism) nor is he separated from the mind of Christ (Nestorianism). Rather- The Logos, the second person of the trinity, has taken and made, as HIS OWN a full and complete humanity. So the flesh of Christ is the flesh of the Logos. The soul of Christ is the soul of the Logos. The mind of Christ is the mind of the Logos- not in a fusion of mixing, but in a unity of person. “The Logos became flesh.”

    5. Therefore, the human mind of Christ always had the infused vision of his divinity- the divinity proper to the Logos.

    6. If the Logos can hold two natures in connection, but not union- then the he who died on the cross cannot save us- for he dies solely as man, not God-made-man, and he rises solely as God, nor God-made-man.

    7. Therefore, for the sake of the elect, it is necessary to proclaim that Immanuel is truly God, having made his OWN that humanity conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary from the first instant of its conception.

    You’re perilously close to Paul of Samosata and Nestorius. Tread carefully.