American Orthodox

June 21, 2006

Aristotle: The difference between East and West

Filed under: General Orthodoxy — americanorthodox @ 3:16 pm

If I had to identify the single most fundamental distinction between East and West, the one thing so basic that it underlies nearly every difference, it would have to be Aristotelianism.

This one factor is so fundamental, in fact, that you could devote many books to it. So I’ll pick only one of the many ways in which it surfaces.

Liturgy in the West, like everything else, is its own clearly defined category. Western Christians, Catholic and Protestant alike, believe that liturgy is separable from everything else, and that liturgy has no necessary connection to any other aspect of Christianity (the West was like this long before the Reformation, which is why Protestants share it).

Therefore, you can have wide variation in liturgics in the West, and it isn’t a major issue. You can revise the translation, if the context is Catholicism, or you can have a guitar service, and as long as you include the essential elements (these will differ from group to group), it’s not monumental. And if your approach is that liturgics have no necessary relationship to theology or belief, then it’s much easier to propose and accept liturgical changes (it’s also why some changes can be accepted, even though they violate orthodox Christian theology).

In Orthodoxy, we don’t cut up Christianity into nice, neat, seperable categories. Aristotelianism doesn’t underlie Eastern Christianity (this is also true of the Byzantines). To the East, lex orandi, lex credendi (the rule of prayer is the rule of belief) is the very principle of liturgy and worship. We do not draw clear, bright lines between worshipping at Vespers or Divine Liturgy, prayer alone, theology, or the Faith of the Church. You can’t separate them out from one another.

This is why the Divine Liturgy has remained unchanged for so many hundreds of years. Going to Liturgy isn’t just “going to church,” as the West sees it. Liturgics are the theology of the Church. Everything we believe is expressed liturgically, because we don’t see a distinction between faith and worship. A Synod would never cut out part of the Liturgy to shorten it, or make it less “offensive,” or whatever reason, because the Liturgy is the Faith, the theology and belief of the Living Church.

It’s the distinction between philosophical approaches: a rational, definitional one versus a mystical, holistic one. And that is the most fundamental distinction between East and West, as I’ll point out in the future.


The Anglican Puzzle

Filed under: General Orthodoxy — americanorthodox @ 12:17 pm

Understand that I am not, and have never been an Anglican. I was a Roman Catholic before I became Orthodox. I have known many Anglicans, however, and have had at least as much exposure to them as other Protestant groups (most notably Campbellites of all three brands). Mine is an external perspective, though formed after a great deal of exposure.

I don’t want to seem like I’m picking on Anglicans, but of all the Protestant groups, they make the least sense to me. I’ve heard Anglicans say many times, “We’re more Catholic than the Pope!” meaning that they’re more liturgically conservative, yet Anglicanism is boiled down to the Lambeth Quadrilateral, a namby-pamby document that cut 95% of Christianity out of the equation in order to be more “inclusive” of the more Protestant factions.

Okay, so you prance around in church more than Catholics, but it’s perfectly okay to believe in the Mother Goddess instead of Jesus Christ? Explain how that makes you “more Catholic than the Pope,” please.

Anglican bishops don’t look like bishops; they look like Oxford professors. Anglicans don’t even address their bishops like bishops; they call them “Dr.” Yet, they’re “more Catholic than the Pope”? In whose little fantasy world?

At least Baptists are logically consistent. Anglicans like being “Catholic” when they’re at church, but not in faith, and nowhere else, not even when their bishop is present. Anglicanism has always made the least sense to me — I’m not picking on them because of the latest convention — and has always seemed superficial.

Only an Anglican could come up with the “branch theory,” which is their way of claiming Apostolic Succession, despite the fact that they excoummunicated themselves from Rome — and their Orders therefore become invalid — when they declared themselves a different church. In the “branch theory,” your Orders are valid if someone else whose Orders were valid consecrated you, and you’re valid even if you’re an atheist. Branch theory is the ultimate in Anglican superficiality: It doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you had the right person consecrate you. Branch theory allows the Anglicans to see themselves as one branch of a tripartite Church, with Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy being the other two.

The Church is a community of shared faith. When you sever yourself from that faith, you sever yourself from the Church, no matter how many theories you come up with to validate yourself.

That does not mean that there are no orthodox Anglican Christians. But the solution is not to create another body, just as invalid as the Church of England has been since it first formed, but return to the Church. To Orthodoxy.

Pick and Choose Christianity

Filed under: General Orthodoxy — americanorthodox @ 11:54 am

I’d like to say I told you so, but of course, I would never do that. But with all due respect to orthodox (note the small ‘o’) Anglicans and Protestants of other varietals, what has happened in the ECUSA and the Presbyterian Church this week is, well, inevitable.

Protestantism was the first successful “pick and choose” Christianity. When you admit that the individual, and not the Church, has the ultimate authority in terms of faith, which is the fundamental principle behind Protestantism, then abandonment of the Faith is the only possible result.

But before I go on, neither electing a female primate nor consecrating non-celibate gay bishops is really the issue. The issue is that these two things are part of a constellation, a larger movement, toward Unitarian Univeralism in copes and mitres. The ECUSA has been there for a long time now, actually, but the recent convention has highlighted that.

The problem with this is that you can’t take one thing out of the constellation. You get it all. Gender-inclusive language, crane dancing liturgies, drumming seminars, gay bishops, female prelates, these are all part of this constellation. It’s all or nothing.

Allow female ordination, and you get sweat lodge ceremonies and great spirit worship. New Age nonsense masquerading as “inclusive” Christianity. And of course, “inclusive” is the problem — because it is the purpose of the Church to EXclude, and not INclude. It is the purpose of the Church to embody the Faith, not water it down so somebody who is essentially a pagan can play along with you.

And this is the inevitable result of Protestantism, where it must lead, eventually. Because if each individual can decide how the Faith is defined for that individual, if Faith is relativized, as Protestants have been relativizing Faith since the Reformation, then there can be no Faith — just a collection of different faiths, held by the different members of the church.

And the Church exists no more.

The Church of England has been on this path since its formation, by joining with the Reformation, and including the whole spectrum of Christianity at the time. The Anglicans left the Church long ago, not recently, or at this latest convention. And pardon my lack of sympathy, but they have none but themselves to blame.

For no Faith and no Church is the only possible outcome of pick and choose Christianity. If you can believe God is a woman, then you can believe God is a piece of toast, or a crystal, or a big green frog, or a space alien (and that’s as close to Scientology as you’ll ever see met get). If you can abandon the Trinitarian theology that has been with the Church since the earliest days in favor of a less “offensive” and more “inclusive” and say that “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” could be “Mother, Child, and Womb” or “Rock, Redeemer, and Friend,” as the Presbyterians did this week, then why couldn’t the Trinity be “Devil, Demon, and Hell Spirit” or “Igneous, Sedimentary, and Metamorphic”?

I’m glad some will be coming to Orthodoxy over this — but I have to ask, “What took you so long?”

June 20, 2006

American Orthodoxy: The fundamental issue

Filed under: General Orthodoxy — americanorthodox @ 11:34 am

Not that long ago, Orthodoxy existed primarily as an ethnic identity. That’s not to say that there weren’t pious Orthodox; but no matter how pious, the Orthodox church one attended was tied primarily to his ethnic group. The Antiochian Church, due partially to the fact that Arab Americans have traditionally been among the quickest to assimilate in the US, and due to their evangelism and welcoming attitude toward accepting converts, have moved us well away from that ghettoized Orthodoxy. The OCA has also been instrumental in helping to Americanize Orthodoxy. Converts are no longer rare, even among the clergy.

Yet, Orthodoxy still has a long road ahead before we can really speak of American Orthodoxy. For one thing, there are still plenty of ghettoized parishes. For another, there are still a great many clergy in the hierarchy of the various jurisdictions that just don’t understand America and Americans.

We converts cannot bear the sole responsibility. It is not enough for us to understand you; you must also understand us. And the first thing you need to understand is that yes, there is such a thing as American culture, because America is a nation that was founded upon ideas.

Our ancestry may be primarily European, but we are most emphatically not Europeans. Europeans obsess on the past; we do not. We don’t much care what happened in the 12th century, and frankly think anyone who still seethes over something that happened that long ago needs to get over themselves and move on. We distrust monarchy and European class systems. Recall that we fought a war in 1776 to kick the monarchs and lords out.

We identify ourselves as Americans, and not by the ethnicity of our parents. Despite the attempts of PC multiculturalists, most Americans still subscribe to America as a melting pot. Ethnicity just isn’t something we care much about, and frankly, we don’t really understand those who do. What could possibly make any difference where your grandparents were born? Who cares?

Despite popular stereotypes, we’re pretty adventurous eaters. Americans love ethnic food. In fact, ethnic isn’t a problem, as long as it’s not exclusive. Americans don’t much like people who come here to take advantage of what our nation has to offer, but turn around and denigrate us and our culture.

Yes, we tend to be somewhat gregarious and open. We’re generous; Americans give more to charity than anyone else on the planet. Although it would be arguable to call us a religious nation, we’re certainly more religious than most of Europe.

Although historically, faith and ethnicity are linked (Cambellites and Presbyterians in areas largely population by Scotch-Irish; Roman Catholics and Lutherans in areas largely populated by Germans, and so forth), Americans do not think of religion and ethnic group as bearing any relationship to each other. No American church (save still-ghettoized Orthodox parishes) would wonder why a visitor would be there, if he weren’t of the right ethnic brand. That’s just something that would never occur to an American, and it brings many Americans up cold when you ask them why they’re visiting. In other words, you’re not helping yourselves by continuing to tie religion to ethnicity, and not understanding how fundamentally un-American that is.

Fortunately, all that is rapidly changing. As we get more and more native-born American clergy, men who understand in their guts what being an American means, the American church will become more American. And the more American the church becomes, the more converts she will gain.

It Has Begun

Filed under: General Orthodoxy — americanorthodox @ 9:25 am

Episcopal theologian to leave the ECUSA for the Antiochian Orthodox Church. Hat tip to Father Huneycutt (who really needs to get trackback capability on his blog).

Possible Project

Filed under: General Orthodoxy — americanorthodox @ 8:06 am

One thing I'd like to do is create an index of Orthodox blogs, something like the index of Catholic blogs. There is ostensibly an Orthodox index, but it looks like at some point you were allowed to enter your own blog, and the links are mostly spam (insurance, viagra, etc.) So I'll contact the other Orthodox bloggers I know, and Orthodox Wiki, and see if there's any way I can do this.

Create a free website or blog at